Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sorry Dwight, Battlestar Has Jumped The Shark

I had started to write this as a more long form entry, but decided I didn't need it. At this point, the show doesn't deserve it and I don't think that the non-fans are at all interested in the first place. The moment that brought the "jump the shark" phrase to mind was during last Friday's episode, when it's revealed that Hot Dog, not Chief Tyrol, is actually the father of now dead Callie's child. It was amateurish writing, a plot twist out of nowhere serving no purpose than to torture our already tortured characters.

I voiced some concern last winter, in the first half of Battlestar's season four, when character threads were raised and dropped with such reckless abandon that one had to question the show's very plot. But while my concern has been growing for some time now, and the show clearly reached a straining point this past weekend, I'd actually trace the show's problems back to season 3. Starbuck's reappearance after her presumed death may have been the literal jump the shark moment, but at some point in season 3, it's as if the writers began to care more about what they could inflict on the characters than they did continuity. Good writing doesn't sacrifice it's characters on behalf of it's plot, not sacrifice it's plot on behalf of it's characters, but over the past year, the conclusion to Battlestar Galactica has done both.

Case-in-point, the Gaeta story, which now appears to be heading in the direction of outright mutiny. The problem is, since his survival at the hands of the post-New Caprica tribunal, Gaeta hasn't been given the opportunity to develop as a character. He never confronted his new Caprica demons, he went back to work, lost his leg in Season 4, began to sing alot, and just now got so mad he's ready to mutiny. Or to return to last week, we've got Dee just shooting herself, completely out of nowhere.

I can see how the revelation of the final five Cylons was completely unplanned and in some ways nonsensical, but at least Tyrol, Tigh, and Ellen make for an interesting story. The other two, Tori and Anders, make even less sense and make even less of an interesting story. And to go back to my jump the shark moment from our latest episode, there's a difference between fucking with a character and outright sadism. Letting Tyrol know he's a Cylon should be meaty enough to last the rest of the series- piling on the death of his wife and the discovery that his son isn't his, well, that's just torture.

What's a shame is that Battlestar should probably go down as the best television series ever that failed to live up to it's potential. Thematically, the show ran the gamut for it's first few seasons, before it became too tied up in it's soap-ish character twists. It's style over substance, but it didn't have to be that way. I'm one of the few who absolutely loved the New Caprica storyline and the show's problems probably began when 1- they didn't stick to that storyline long enough, and 2- they shortchanged the characters afterward. For two seasons or so the show did an incredible job of balancing the stories of all these different characters, but during season 3, as the plot threads began to narrow, it became more and more difficult to include all of the characters. But instead of finding creative ways to keep the other characters involved, the writers began to take cheap shortcuts- throwing a bunch of characters with Starbuck on the freighter in the first half of season 4 for example. Which is how we get to where we are today. There are less than a dozen episodes left and I'll certainly watch them all, but I can't help but think this show will go down as one big blown opportunity.


Blogger McMc said...

I got a strange satisfication out of this post.

5:05 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Now why would that be?

12:45 PM  
Blogger heightsy said...

i have to say i agree with you wholeheartedly. I couldn't believe that after the caprica storyline, everyone just suddenly went back to work on galactica. The reveal of the final five was so hackneyed, I was in disbelief.

I couldn't and still can't watch the show anymore. The BSG M.O. during season 2-3 was to have a great opening, tons of filler episodes, and then (at least in the case of season 2) a wham-bam ending. Season 3's ending completely ruined the show for me. Who cares about the final cylons? I thought the show was about survival.


3:15 AM  

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