IGN Reviews Finale IGN Filmforce has reviewed the finale episode for Season 2:
Battlestar Galactica: "Lay Down Your Burdens Part 2"
TV Review: We take a look at the jaw-dropping second season finale.
by Eric Goldman
[SPOILER WARNING: Key episode plot points are discussed in the course of this review.]
The season finale of Battlestar Galactica, AKA "The Best Fracking Show on TV," aired Friday night, and I'm sure everyone else watching shared the same gasp I did about an hour into the 90 minute program. Gaius Baltar had just become President and declared that the fleet would stop searching for Earth and instead settle on the planet discovered a week earlier, now dubbed New Caprica. This was followed by the Number Six model Cylon named Gina deciding to go out in a big way, setting off the nuclear bomb Baltar had so kindly given her earlier this season, destroying the entire Cloud 9 ship, along with a couple of other ships in the process. Soon after, Baltar did the only sensible thing and collapsed on his desk, and when he was woke up a moment (for us) later, on screen text told us it was now one YEAR later. And so began a final half hour that threw the audience for a loop, as we caught up with all the characters in very different places then before.
The ending is understandably getting the most attention, but first, we should take a look at what preceded it. The brunt of this episode focused on the presidential election, as incumbent Laura Roslin found herself suddenly looking like the underdog in her campaign against the ever-shifty Baltar. Things got tricky, as we learned Tigh and Dualla were involved in a plan to rig the election using false ballots so that Roslin would win, conceived by crafty new presidential aide Tory (the latest "Is she or isn't she a Cylon?" candidate), and given the okay by Roslin. Initially told Roslin had won under suspicious circumstances, the corrupt, selfish Baltar was sure that he must have lost the election for real, because he was convinced that the usually morally strong Roslin would never be involved in such a corrupt plan.
This entire plotline was one of those Battlestar does so beautifully, as we find Roslin, who clearly is the far better choice for president (to say the least) on the moral low ground, as a ballot error causes the false votes to be discovered by Gaeta. Learning the truth, Adama speaks to Roslin and convinces her that while he certainly wants her to remain president, they can't allow her to so heavily go against their principals by corrupting the voting process. As Adama points out, the voters may have made the wrong choice, but it was their choice to make. Of course if Adama knew all we knew about Baltar, he would probably help Roslin stuff the twitchy doctor in an airlock himself.
Meanwhile, in a scene that put Kara's negative traits back to the forefront, she drunkenly took turns ignoring and belittling Lee as she made out with new boyfriend Anders in front of him and mocked him for "fracking Dualla." I'm still not as sold on Lee and Kara needing to end up together romantically as some fans (sometimes they seem to have a more sibling-like kinship then anything), but Kara's treatment of him was still hard to watch. And then there was the heartbreaking scene where the brutally beaten Cally forgave Chief Tyrol for his attack on her last week, telling him she knows he wasn't in control or aware of what he was doing when it occurred. There are perhaps some uncomfortable correlations you could make here, comparing Cally's swift forgiveness of Chief to an abused woman forgiving her drunken husband. But considering that we do indeed know that Chief truly was not in his right mind when he attacked Cally, I was fine with their reconciliation, mostly thanks to how beautifully played it was by Nicki Clyne and Aaron Douglas, the latter of whom did an especially wonderful job showing Tyrol's anguish over what he'd done.
If I had a quibble with the episode, it was with how things played out with Gina. When she was introduced in the gripping Pegasus/Resurrection Ship storyline, it was incredibly compelling to see a version of the usually strong and confidant Number Six so defeated and full of despair. However, Baltar, in one of his most compassionate moments, helped give her new resolve, and when we next saw her, she was leading the human peace movement and seemed to have found her confidence again. Apparently many of Gina's scenes were cut from subsequent episodes, and it was jarring when we finally saw her again on the finale, as she had apparently relapsed into her self destructive feelings. Her final moments consisted of a somewhat creepy sex scene with Baltar, before she blew herself and thousands of others into smithereens. Battlestar is filled with great characters, but Gina got shortchanged and had a lot of potential that wasn't explored. However, it is interesting to ponder if she intended for the nuclear explosion to have the effect it did, which was to lead the Cylons back to the humans. My vote is that she knew it would do just that.
But let's get back to that final half hour. And what a half hour it was, as the audience was suddenly thrust into life on New Caprica, where Kara is married to a less then healthy Anders, Tyrol and a pregnant (!) Cally represent the angry workers, Roslin is back to teaching and Tigh and his wife Ellen have just been released from duty on the now barely crewed Galactica. The moment where Kara sees Tigh and warmly hugs him was certainly a shock, given their constant mutual dislike we've seen throughout the series, but I loved it. It's possible that we'll later learn that something specifically bonded them in the past year, but I took it more as a representation of the bond they shared as combat veterans. It's easy to see Kara as having strong nostalgia for her time with the military and as someone who would grab on (literally!) to someone like Tigh who reminds her of that life.
In the closing scenes, the inevitable occurs, as an entire fleet of Cylons arrive. Knowing they stand no chance in a fight, a newly mustached Adam and newly husky Lee decide to jump away with their undermanned fleet, vowing to return. President Baltar is woken from his drunken stupor (complete with presidential groupies no less) and is finally reunited with the original Number Six he fell in love with on Caprica. There is also a Number Eight/Sharon model present, but we're not told just yet if she's the original Sharon we met before; the one who would find the Chief/Cally pairing interesting to say the least, given that Cally shot and killed her previous body. As Baltar sells out humanity once more by surrendering, the humans are forced to watch as the Cylon army enters their town, with Kara promising to once more start fighting.
While the entire episode was strong, I absolutely adored the last half hour. Was it shocking? Certainly. But looking back, it was really the abruptness and the fact that it occurred within the episode itself that threw us all so much. Plenty of shows come back after a summer break and time has passed for the characters too. Battlestar will be off the air for seven (sigh…) months, and if the episode had simply ended with them landing on the planet and then picked up this fall with several months or a full year having passed for the characters, it would have taken a bit of adjustment, but I don't think many viewers would have been quite as jostled.
There are certainly some questions raised by the final scenes, such as what led to an obviously huge Lee/Kara rift that can't simply be about her earlier rudeness. But all of the new romantic pairings or developments made sense with what we saw before, and we'd certainly been given a context for them setting up a new life on this planet. And besides, would we really want to see a season of the show devoted to the humans setting up their new lives on the planet, without the Cylon threat present? The show's entire premise is the search for Earth and I am confidant that Ron Moore hasn't forgotten this and that sooner or later, the Galactica and the rest of the fleet will be crewed up and back on mission again. But for now, it's great to see them taking some time to ask the question of what happens when the majority doesn't want to continue that search. Clearly the answer isn't going to end happily. But seriously, they're gonna make us wait until October to see what happens next?!