I’m a little reluctant to pass final judgment on this first third of the Battlestar Galactica finale too soon–it’s part of a yet-to-be-revealed whole, so can we understand it on its own? This show has always been about the characters, even the ones that pop up in the background to move the plot along (I miss Gunny Mathias), so revisiting those characters at the end of the saga makes sense. If the finale is thrilling and gives us answers that make us gasp and ends that make us sob, the texture this part added by painting in character details will be nothing but beautiful. If the finale is less fulfilling, we’ll wonder why we had to see Lee Adama yell at a pigeon.
Maybe that’s not fair–Lee’s never had much of a point, but the other flashbacks are pretty poignant. Even having grown up with Socrata, there was a time when Kara Thrace wasn’t a razor (does burning–and burning off–Starbuck and leaving her on the Wall of Remembrance mean she’s come full circle?). There’s a reason Laura Roslin was able to suit up and lead the rag-tag fleet after the robotcalypse–she was way ahead of everyone else on the How to Lose Everything curve. If you can watch her suit up again and choose to gain everything–her home–by going to the starboard side of the line and choosing Bill Adama without getting a little teary-eyed, you’re made of pretty stern stuff. After years of thinking that Gaius Baltar’s Penis of Doom had cursed humanity twice, we find that maybe his attachment to Six was deeper than that after all. By having Baltar choose the port side of the line, we’re set up for the finale–and the whole saga, in the end–to be about the redemption of Gaius Baltar, and I am so ready for that to finally happen.
But the thing that will likely stick with me from this episode is Doc Cottle trying to join the suicide mission and Adama sending him back to the port side of the line. Cottle, of all people, knows how much the survivors will need doctors, but he also was the person who treated Athena after the Pegasus sunshine boys got a hold of her. He used Hera’s blood to cure Laura Roslin’s cancer. He delivered Hera and then helped steal her from her parents, even though he really, really didn’t like that. Later, he saved Hera’s life when she fell ill on the Cylon basestar. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he’s on board for storming Dracula’s Castle and getting that kid back.
But it’s more than practicality that demands that Doc Cottle go back to the other side of the line. I hoped for a good long time that Cottle was one of the Final Five, and that after all the dust settled we’d find him puffing away on a cigarette and grouching with a voice of thousands of years of experience that the only way to keep all of this from happening again is to choose to stop hitting each other. He didn’t turn out to be a Cylon, but he’s still that message–just like Hawkeye and BJ and Margaret and Trapper and, yes, even Frank and Charles Emerson Winchester the Third, he’s the place you go to be put back together. I don’t think Cottle’s first name being Sherman is an accident. Cottle is home. All of the characters–not just Roslin and Kara and Gaius, but Racetrack and Kelly and Hoshi, too–once had a home, and they have two more hours to find where that is. Putting Cottle back on the port side of the line suggests there is still hope they’ll do it.
(It also makes me cry a whole lot–but I think that’s because I have my fingers crossed for them.)