The series finale will encompass a total of three hours. One would think this is more than enough time to wrap up the vast majority of the plot and character threads and give the series proper closure. The previous episode was a slow but steady prelude, which logically should have set the stage well enough for the finale to move things along. That's not quite the case.
The pace of the finale is surprisingly slow and methodical. A good portion of the episode is devoted to the message that we are coming full circle, and the characters are as well. Some have changed, some haven't. But the real question, at least to the viewer, is why it pertains at all to the series finale. Is this important information? Or is this an attempt to be lyrical at the end? This is but the introductory hour of the final tale, so it's hard to know what the purpose is.
What is surprising is how much is still left to be resolved. Has there been any progress since "Someone to Watch Over Me"? We're still no closer to the truth about Kara, her connection to the Final Five and Hera, and the meaning of "All Along the Watchtower". There's still an enormous suicide mission to conduct as well. One would think that this sets the stage for the end of Galactica itself (rather symbolic), but also for the end of the threat of Cavil's faction of the Cylons.
Yet it's premature to say that this hour is somehow wasted. It's the beginning of a process, and there's still two more hours to go before the picture is complete. It could be that the preliminaries are slow-paced to maximize the effect of the final events. Still, this is the endgame, so anything that hampers the ability to wrap things up is going to make fans nervous.
One major aspect of the episode was Baltar's bid for political power. In an interesting change of pace, he's not necessarily asking out of self-interest, even if he does stand to gain if his people want him to represent their desires. As it stands, Baltar could end up with power as a default, if he does in fact stay behind. After all, if Galactica and her volunteer crew fall at the Cylon colony, Adama, Roslin, and Lee would all be there. The resulting power vacuum, and the size of Baltar's following, would place him in a powerful position.
But Baltar seemed to be wavering in his decision, and if the colony turns out to be the Opera House, he'll be going with them to fulfill his role. If the Opera House dream is prophetic, then Caprica and Baltar will end up escaping with Hera to bring back the future to those left behind. This also aligns with Baltar's vision at the end of the first season, and if anyone else dies trying to get to Hera, it would certainly fulfill the prophecy regarding Roslin.
That still leaves open the question of Kara's resurrection, and how that might intersect with the Opera House theory. If there is going to be a last-minute intervention by some greater power, a look back at the series puts the easy money on the Cylon God. It would be very easy to use the Cylon God, or the personification thereof, to resolve a number of outstanding mysteries. For example, as it stands, the revelation of the Final Five doesn't quite match what was mentioned in "Rapture", but there was an apparent reference to the Cylon God at the time. If the writers realized that a "deus ex machina" solution was a necessary evil, then why not deliver an actual "God"?
All of which amounts to the fact that Ron Moore and company could still stick the landing for this series, if they pull together the bulk of the dangling plot threads. (With the exception, of course, of what will be covered in "The Plan".) But after the past two episodes, which did little to move the story forward, there's still potential for disappointment.