Or, “We Never Said They Had a Good Plan.”
So last week was the big return of “Battlestar Galactica” (with “Sometimes a Great Notion”) after months of speculation after a huge cliffhanger and the promise that all our questions would be answered. I didn’t really say anything about it at the time, because I was waiting for the second episode to see if I was just disappointed in the anti-climax, or if the series had finally lost me.
After this week’s (“A Disquiet Follows My Soul”), I’m inclined to think they lost me. The problem is basically that now, I can see the strings, and my suspension of disbelief is completely blown. I think Rain nailed it when she blamed it on lazy screenwriting, although I’d say it’s only half laziness/lack of inspiration, but also clumsy self-importance.
From the start, the series has prided itself on being mature and “edgy,” but at least through the miniseries and the first couple of seasons, it earned that reputation. Now it just seems like self-parody at best, or self-delusion at worst. It’s the “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” style edgy; no thought behind it, just “what’s going to shock people?” It’s catering to the type of people who say things like, “Even at its worst, it’s still better than most of what’s on television,” ignoring the fact that television is getting better, and these days shows like “Knight Rider” are the exception, not the rule.
The big reveal of Earth we’ve been building up to? Look how happy they are and psyche! it’s a wasteland! Suck on that, complacent middle American TV watchers! Following the story of a basically sweet, hopeful character? Blam, suicide! Did you jump? Huh? Did you? And now we’ll blow your mind with the reveal of the Final Cylon! Are you astounde— okay, yeah, we didn’t really expect you to be all that excited about that, frankly. It’s a series of cheap shots, and not particularly clever ones at that.
And what’s got me convinced it’s a long-term downturn and not just a couple of not-particularly-inspired decisions, or a couple of episodes that are “off,” is this interview with Ron Moore that basically confirms these writing decisions are just that arbitrary. Not necessarily what makes sense as far as a series-long dramatic arc, but what’s going to go for the quick surprise or the cheap shock or, more often, the “dark” angle. Because we all know that “dark” means “smart.”
I’m still going to watch the final eight episodes, obviously, since I’ve come this far. But I’ve pretty much given up hope that they’re going to pull off a satisfying ending. Even without the cheap semi-adolescent plotting gimmicks, there doesn’t seem to be any solid season-wide pacing, or any weight to the big reveals. Why did they go to the trouble of bringing back Lucy Lawless’s character just to throw it away? Why is the fact that 2000-year-old Cylons were found on Earth just mentioned once and never repeated? Why does Starbuck’s discovery just result in a lot of clumsy scenes designed to look cool, instead of any notion of a real plot development? Is this “BSG” or “Heroes?”
I’ve never liked BSG. I wanted to like BSG, but somewhere about halfway through the miniseries I lost all glimmers of sympathy for any of the characters. As I watched the first season and tried to enjoy it my thoughts mirrored some of your own here about the 4th season; I didn’t think the writers had very good long term planning and much of the episode to episode stuff was “what do you think will shock the audience most?”. I’ve kept watching because I’m supposed to watch the show… so many people that I know love the show and think I should love it… but each season has further felt to me that it’s a (bad) soap opera with a skein of sci-fi on top, written by people that don’t know how soap operas work nor how to write (a good) one. I have to apologize anytime I give my opinion on the show, so at this point I’m glad that at least I’ve found one person starting to doubt…
I felt psychic watching “Sometimes a Great Notion” almost on mute (for whatever reason about half the dialog was undecipherable wash in the music mix, headache and fish tank) and knowing just about what every scene would be about before it happened. Of course, I know that I have not spontaneously generated the ability to see forward 5 minutes of television dialog (although that would certainly be a uniquely irritating power to have) and am either simply awesome at “guess the next ‘curve ball’” or the writing is worse than I feared.
(Also, no fair picking on Heroes… I think the scripting problems in V2 and V3 seem directly derived from trying to emulate BSG emo (by way of the worst sorts of comic book emo, which I guess is a prime source for BSG emo) rather than the course that seemed built into the show in V1… some would call it the “Lost” influence and I think it might indeed be the “Pushing Daisies”/”Dead Like Me”/Wonderfalls Bryan Fuller magic, myself. I’m definitely looking forward to V4 in Feb.)
Well, I’m not sure why you’d have trouble finding people who don’t like BSG; as far as I can tell, the show’s been through several rounds of hype & backlash already. Back when I used to read message boards, I’d see tons of complaints. Besides, this is the internet, where you can find groups of people who’ll hate anything.
I agree that the pacing of the show has always been “unconventional,” to the point where I kept feeling like I must’ve missed episodes, even though I’d seen them all. But I disagree that it was just sloppy or poor planning; I think it worked to the show’s advantage in the first couple of seasons, since it made it seem like we were seeing brief segments of a much larger story. They wouldn’t have been able to get that kind of scope if they’d tried a “Lost”-style pacing; they wanted to emphasize the feeling that something big is always happening. Where it broke down, I think, is that they’d tried to give themselves enough room for a gigantic story that would span over several years, and are now having to deliver the pay-offs.
And sorry, but “Heroes” is just indefensible. It’s like they realized from episode 1 that there wasn’t enough there to work without the gimmicks, and the gimmicks are the only thing that kept me watching through the first season. I’m still baffled when people talk about it as if it’s a real TV show. It’s basically just a bigger-budget, gorier version of “Passions” that because it was in prime time and had super heroes, attracted people who’d never admit to watching soap operas.
I take most of your points, but I really enjoyed the scenes with roslin and adama, Adama and tigh. I still find the central characters interesting so I’m willing to forgive some of these story misteps. Zarek is another character I like and I want to see where that goes.