Even I was a bit surprised at the degree to which Battlestar Galactica's mystical questions received mystical answers in last night's 2-hour finale, "Daybreak, Part 2." There's been a lot of God-talk (and gods-talk) throughout the show, and the resolution showed that there really was a divine hand behind the show's story. But, as one of the messengers says in the final scene, don't call him God—"You know he doesn't like that name."
As expected, Gaius Baltar, God's favorite broken instrument, played a pivotal role in the conclusion of the human-Cylon war.The final battle comes down to a standoff between Brother Cavil and the fleet's leaders over the hybrid Hera, it's Baltar who convinces the Cylon leader to lay down his arms in an impassioned mini-sermon:
Baltar: I may be mad, but that doesn't mean that I'm not right. Because there's another force at work here; there always has been. It's undeniable. We've all experienced it. Ever one in this room has witnessed events that they can't fathom, let alone explain away by rational means. Puzzles deciphered in prophecy. Dreams given to a chosen few. Our loved ones, dead, risen. Whether we want to call that God or gods or some sublime inspiration or a divine force we can't know or understand, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. It's here. It exists. And our two destinies are entwined in its force.
Cavil: If that's true, and that's a big if, how do I know that this force has our best interests in mind? How do you know that God is on your side, doctor?
Baltar: I don't. God's not on any one side. God's a force of nature, beyond good and evil. Good and evil, we created those. Want to break the cycle? Break the cycle of birth, death, rebirth, destruction, escape, death. Well, that's in our hands, and our hands only. It requires a leap of faith. It requires that we live in hope, not fear.
Cavil, whose righteous anger with his creator I discussed a few weeks back, has never been a fan of the idea of a divine plan, but there's enough power behind Baltar's words to convince him of a truce. (Of course, it all falls apart a few minutes later... but that's neither Baltar's fault nor Cavil's.) In this episode, Baltar finally found his redemption and fulfilled his role as an agent of the divine will.
Oh, and about that divine will? That's what it really was, apparently. The answer to the mystery of Kara's return from the dead is that she did, in fact, return from the dead, and has been some kind of angel, or at least a spiritual body, for the entire last season. More importantly, it turns out the mysterious, possibly-hallucinatory Six living inside Gaius Baltar's mind, and the corresponding Baltar living inside Caprica-Six's mind, were divine messengers after all. Their purpose was to steer these two—without whom the initial Cylon attack couldn't have succeeded—to protect Hera (who, as is fully explained later, really is essential to the survival of both species). Baltar's story is an extended take on the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Mt 18:12-18, Lk 15:3-7), but he's had to work to be found: this is most assuredly not salvation through faith alone. After 4 seasons of guilt, renewed villainy, self-torture, and abuse of power, Baltar finally does something right, thanks to the (at times perplexing) guidance of the voice of God in his mind.
Of course, Baltar hasn't been the show's only prophet. Laura Roslin, whose mystical visions have influenced her decisions for the fleet on more than one occasion, was another heavenly instrument. Her role, as expected, was that of Moses, leading a nation through the wilderness only to die on the threshold of the promised land (Deut 34:1-12). Her death is no surprise—she was diagnosed with terminal cancer less than 15 minutes into the show's first episode—and it's handled well. Just as God shows Moses the Promised Land from a mountaintop, Adama shows Roslin the world to which she has brought her people by flying her around in a Raptor in her final moments. It's a heartrending scene, and a fitting end for the show's other troubled prophet.
And Deuteronomy isn't the only book of Moses to find expression in Battlestar Galactica's final hour. The fleet's final destination is Earth—not the bombed-out wasteland they found a few episodes back, but a new planet to which they give the same name. Not only can the planet support them, it's sparsely populated by independently-evolved humans with whom they can interbreed. Baltar describes the chances of such an occurrence as "astronomical... You might even say there was a divine hand at work." (I sensed the scriptwriters struggling not to use the term "intelligent design" here. I'm glad they didn't, since it would have been misleading; I think this show has a more complex concept of "God's plan" than ID proponents do. But I digress.) And, lo and behold, 150,000 years after their discovery of the planet, it becomes our world: all of this has happened before, and will happen again, but next time it'll happen on TV instead of for reals.
This wasn't exactly a surprising ending, since it was one of the more likely places all of that cyclic-history stuff was pointing, but it does have the interesting effect of turning the entire series into a sort Genesis narrative. It's a problematic creation myth, given the likely-unintentional but nevertheless ugly colonialist overtones of the (mostly white) fleet bringing civilization to Africa, but the real point is much rosier. The idea that our entire species is the result of an effort to end a particularly nasty war is strongly symbolic, and identifying Hera as Mitochondrial Eve was a nice touch. I'd long since known that the show was going to end with some kind of fusion of human and Cylon culture; Hera as a common ancestor identifies the peace that she embodies not only as the point of the show, but indeed of the entire human race.
The final scene, in which the divine-messenger forms of Six and Baltar ponder God's cyclical plan on modern-day Earth, lays things on a little thick. But it also introduces a twist on the show's attitude toward free will when Six predicts that there won't be a war between human beings and their creations this time around:
Let a complex system repeat itself long enough, eventually something surprising might occur. That, too, is in God's plan.
Is the purpose of the plan to produce something that God could not foresee? Or is the idea simply that, this time around, we'll have to figure out a way to peace on our own, without the kind of heavenly prodding the humans and Cylons received throughout Battlestar Galactica's four seasons? The question of our role in the plan is something human beings have been puzzling over for a lot longer than four years. It's fitting that the final episode answered the shows small mysteries, but left the greatest Mystery, as it always must be, unexplained.