I've watched the start of this fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica with mixed emotions. The mystery this season has been slowly unraveled in very much the manner of Lost. Witness the new opening this season, that informs us of the 11 known Cylons, while letting us know "one will be revealed." So far, the mystery aspect of the show has been excellent- Who couldn't love when the hybrid on the Cylon baseship revealed to Starbuck that the "The 3 will reveal the four, who will reveal the one."
The other nice thing about this season- Sci Fi's willingness to abandon stand alone episode in favor of a continuous storyline that's so continuous that nothing introduced to this point this season has really been wrapped up. (Except of course perhaps Cally's death.) But as nice as the willingness to tell a long form story has been, the show has also suffered in it's treatment of characters, probably because there is literally too much story going on for an hour long show. Unlike other hour long dramas with uber-narratives, Galactica doesn't shy away from emphasizing all of it's characters and all of it's plot threads. Just about any of the HBO shows, for example, manage to maintain a sense of structure with the minor plot threads branching out from the main story, weaving their way in and out. But Battlestar this year has been a bit of a mess- not just major characters, but major storypoints dissapearing and reapearing throughout the narrative with far from seamless transitions.
Witness last Friday's episode when Starbuck approaches Adama to warn him about the fleets thinning defenses. It's a fine plot point and it's nice to work her into an episode that's not really about her ... only, she's supposed to be crazy. She went off half cocked looking for earth, and now she's supposed to be a normal, back to business as usual officer now that they've planned a mission with the Cylons? It doesn't make sense. Not only that, but her husband, who just so happens to secretly be a Cylon, literally cost another character a leg in order to help Starbuck advance the plot to hwere it is now. But not only do we not see any emotional fallout from Starbuck, we still haven't even seen what's going on with Anders- is he in the brig, what?
Not only that, but after glimpsing our four secret Cylons in their many meetings of the minds earlier this season, we've gotten nothing the past few weeks, nothing even though several of the original 7 Cylons were brought back into the picture.
I'm one of the few who loved the occupation storyline from season three, but that's mostly because it was just great storytelling. I didn't get wrapped up in the politics, nor do I try to get too wrapped up into whether or not particular plot points were or weren't forced. With Battlestar it's fun to watch the plot flow where it will and watch the characters react organically. And yes, our characters do a great deal of off the wall things, but that's about what we've come to expect from our decimated remnants of humanity. New Caprica proved an interesting storytelling experiment and it also served to push our characters even further over the edge.
This season however, as I've noted with Starbuck, there seems to be so much story and so much mystery that our characters are not really getting the full treatment to which they're entitled. Or in other words, the story is so dense, they could literally slow it to half speed and give us more of these great characters without compromising a thing. Just look at the plot threads and character bits we've got this year:
* Anders, Tory, the Chief, and Col. Tigh as Cylons.
* Starbuck's mysterious reapparance, her quest for earth, and the meaning of her special destiny.
* Baltar's ever-increasing presence as a Jesus-like religious cult leader worshipping the one true God.
* Baltar's relationship with Tory and Tory's spiritual beliefs.
* Callie's death, the Chief dealing with her death, and the Chief dealing with the fact that he has a Cylon child.
* The President's visions and the coinciding visions of the 6.
* And of course, Athena's visions, which led her to literally just kill the leader 6 who was on Galactica.
* Speaking of the 6, There's the Caprica 6, Baltar's 6, who's locked in the brig and has formed an odd relationship with Col. Tigh.
* There's Anders costing Gada his leg and Gada having to deal with his lost leg.
* The Cylon civil war- what it all means and what will come of it.
* The fact that the Cylon Raiders identified Anders as one of the final 5.
* Lee Adama's drift away from the military and into political power. That Lee should be president in Rosalin's absence isn't surprising, nor was Lampkin's analysis of Lee's character.
* The notion of the rebel Cylons becoming mortal.
* Adama's love for Roslin.
* The continued presence of Tom Zarek.
And probably a lot more I can't remember off the top of my head. So we've got a story, but to this point this season I've just got to question the execution.