Saturday, February 06, 2010

Caprica, "Reins of a Waterfall": Boxing day

A review of last night's "Caprica" coming up just as soon as I glue your nose to your ear...
"Balance it out." -Joe Adama
And it was when we got to that line, at the end of the three screener episodes I got in late December, that I knew I was in with "Caprica" for the long haul.

It's a fundamentally different show than "Battlestar Galactica," despite sharing a universe (and Willie Adama) with it, not just because of the earthbound setting, but the elements at play: corporate intrigue, police investigations, corruption, revenge melodrama, teen angst, etc. But "different" does not equal "bad," and so far I've been enjoying seeing these elements of non-sci-fi dramas injected into this world, in the same way I dug the military and political aspects of "BSG."

And, as on the other show, Ron Moore is clearly reacting to the over-reliance on techno-babble over human drama from his "Star Trek" experience. Yes, Daniel Graystone's building sentient robots and we spend a lot of time in a virtual reality space, but Joe makes it clear where the series' priorities lie when he tells Daniel, "Don't give me techno-talk! Just help me find my daughter!"

After the pilot made it seem like these two would be reluctant, unlikely allies, the events of these next two episodes have explained how they've instead become blood enemies, and Esai Morales has been great at portraying the irrationality of grief.

I also really liked the black humor of the scene where Amanda and Daniel come home to find each other bloodied for different reasons (the Graystones are having a bad stretch) and wind up having sex with the poor Zoe/Avatar/Cylon has to stand and watch.

Things are still getting messy in both the real and holo-band world, with more hints about what Sister Clarice is up to (she was meant to use the avatar to help the cause "through apotheosis"), and with Lacy and Zoe releasing Tamara's avatar into the rest of the holo-band world because they don't realize who/what she is.

Still lots of world-building going on, from Patton Oswalt as Baxter Sarno, a kind of 12 Colonies cross between Jay Leno (the style of his jokes) and Jon Stewart ("More than half of college-age viewers say they get their news from Sarno!") to the use of old juke-joint R&B on the soundtrack in the Little Tauron scenes to our glimpses of Agent Dunham and his partner working the case. And after a casual reference in last week's dialogue, we get more explicit confirmation that Joe's brother Sam is gay, and that it doesn't seem to be a big deal for Joe or Willie. (We'll have to wait and see whether that's because they're family, or if the "BSG"/"Caprica" universe has a lack of homophobia in the same way we've seen in the past that there's no real sexism.)

Finally, since I've said in previous writings that you don't need to have seen "Battlestar Galactica" to understand or appreciate "Caprica," it occurs to me that we should try to be courteous to the "BSG" ignorant in case this show inspires them to check out the older one. That doesn't mean you can't talk about parallels between stories on the two shows, or how "Caprica" stories are pointing towards events on "BSG" - just that if we can all be a little oblique about that, I think it would be nice. Those who saw "BSG" will get what you're talking about, and those who didn't won't be spoiled.

I say this because I was too explicit in a reference to the "BSG" finale in last week's review, and I regret that. (I've since changed the reference, and I will say that if you saw the original version, it gave away too much, but still only a small aspect of the whole finale.)

And with that out of the way... what did everybody else think?

46 comments:

ninjawt said...

I'd like to point out that the language that the Adama's use, is a weird combination of Greek and some other language. At this episode when Sam Adama drinks beer with Willie, Sam says " Gia mas" which means "Cheers" in Greek. Another example of this, at the end of the episode when Joe Adama gets in the house, his brothers greets him saying " Adelfe mou" which means "My brother" in Greek , ( the funny thing is the pronunciation of the word is so bad that he actually says "My sister" )
Haven't caught anything else in Greek.
I'll keep watching. I think this is going to be a great show

Billy said...

I love the fact that we're seeing a completely different side of Joseph Adama from the one presented to us in reflection on BSG. Lee almost held his grandfather up as a paragon of humanity and here we're seeing him bribing judges and ordering hits on people. That is more than enough to keep me interested in this show.

Mark S. said...

As I mentioned on my review, the way they switch Zoe's looks from robot to girl makes the parent's dialogue more interesting. I wasn't sure about the switching looks, but it looks like they are putting it to good use.

Hoosier Paul said...

I've gotta say, seeing Cylon-Zoe's single red eye shift uncomfortably away from her parents made me laugh harder than BSG seasons 1-4 combined.

It's also interesting to see that certain aspects of Cylon culture can be traced back to Zoe's beliefs and predilections. The monotheism is an obvious example, and in this week's episode, when Zoe made her way back to the virtual world, I wondered if we were seeing the roots of Cylon projection.

I'll stop there, so as not to spoil anything for BSG newbies.

Tom Galloway said...

Re: homophobia in the BSGverse. As I recall, late seasons had a (very understated) same sex relationship between Felix Gaeta and another man who I forget (very much a background character) that I don't believe caused any reaction among the military or others on Galactica. So by that time period at least, it'd seem not to have been a big deal.

Karen said...

Not sure if it's considered out of bounds or spoilery to talk about writers' and or actors' comments on the world of Caprica (namely, in this case, about homosexuality), so I'll just say I've read interesting interviews with Jane Espenson and Sasha Roiz on the subject.

Had the same thoughts as many mentioned already in the comments (totally new take on Joseph than what I got through Lee, wondering if Cylon beliefs all stem from Zoe, etc.). I'm really enjoying the series so far - and Morales is just excellent.

tribalism said...

“Can you be free if you’re not real?”

I’m sure this question will continue to be addressed throughout the series. What I think is really worth exploring is whether you can have free will if you are not real. Will the Zoe Avatar’s religious views change and evolve over time, or are will that aspect of her personality remain static due to her programming?

At least the skinjobs from BSG each possessed independent consciousnesses that were even distinct within individuals of the same model (think Boomer and Athena), whereas the Zavatar is really just a compilation of Zoe’s psychometrics. If the Zavatar is in fact special in a way that makes her distinct from her adolescent archetype, then I may find something I’m willing to invest in.

If anyone is interested, you can click on my username and find a link to my blog where I expand on my thoughts about Zoe's identity and the rest of the episode.

Anonymous said...

As someone who never cared for BSG, I will say that Caprica is doing a tremendous job of taking their science fiction hook and weaving it into fully developed alternative universe. The world stage is recognizable with both plain and pretty buildings. There are streets and alleys with dumpsters, railway lines and posh automobiles for the wealthy. People don’t dematerialize in order to change location. They make phone calls that are either answered or ignored. Businessmen, government agents and criminals play the games of money, power and corruption with which we are all familiar.

The hook is a virtual world of electronic reality coexisting with our physical world of atoms and molecules. If electrons flitting around atomic nuclei can form reality, then why can’t electrons flowing through silicon circuits also create reality? As Zoey tells Tamara in the V-Club, every shared code forms a door and there are millions of doors. Virtual reality reaches a critical mass where it is always in existence. The time when someone can simply pull a plug to shut it down are over.

The Caprica storyline begins with the breach between the two realities. The Holobands Daniel Graystone creates allowing one way human access to the virtual world have been end run by his daughters Avatar. The copy of herself she designs with the intention of bringing it into our universe. So now we have two types of intelligence being brought to bear on all the problems of what to believe and how to act upon what we decide to believe. This is extremely fertile ground and Caprica can and should be enjoyed for itself.

Anonymous said...

when will get a likable character?

Tausif Khan said...

Alan,
I had the exact same thought about the Patton Oswalt character that he was doing Jay Leno type jokes. Patton Oswalt has noted in interviews that Jay Leno when he was a comic was one of his Oswalt's influences. However, he acknowledged as well that Leno's act became hackneyed as Tonight Show host.

The cynic in me is thinking whether making the Sarno character more like Leno's humor because NBC owns Syfy and wants to puff up their late night ratings.

rosseau said...

Thanks Alan for the BSG tact. I know the onus is on me to watch that show and I will but it's nice to watch Caprica fresh without spoilers of the other show. Of course, after a certain point of Season 1 and by Season 2 of Caprica we non viewers of BSG should catch up because it would be more fun and provide greater enjoyment as well as deepening the new show to refer back to the old show. This sort of reminds me of John Updike's prequel to Hamlet; if you don't know what will happen much of the irony and sense of tragedy is missing. As it is, I wonder what choices, misunderstandings, character traits and events will all come together to produce genocide.

By the way, can anyone tell me what the last line of the episode was, the thing Adama told his brother? Was it just that short line you put at the top? What does that mean? Is it a cliffhanger, a surprising bit of information, a game-changer? He said it so fast that I didn't catch it at all.

Number Five said...

rosseau - yes, "balance it out" was the last line...just an emotional capper to his request. As you will see on BSG, the Adamas are certainly an eloquent family!

I really enjoy the show, but the plot bombshells at the end of the last two episodes are worrying. I understand grief-stricken, irrational characters, and definitely have no objection to Joseph Adama turning dark, but both actions were far too premeditated to feel authentic.

Also, I preferred going off the pilot's approach and having Adama and Graystone work together, not falling out until later. They even have a perfect plot device, since the theft of the MacGuffin from the pilot means each side has something over the other.

As it stands, I'm not sure how they're going to move forward. Even if the Tauron mob is apparently all powerful, how do the Bill Gates of Caprica and a defense lawyer go after each other? I suspect we're going to see some separated characters meet up...maybe the Adamas and Zoe/Lacy?

It's very intriguing how they continue to differentiate between the real Zoe and the avatar Zoe. They seem to share memories up until the point she was created, as well as a certain sixth sense connection (severed after the bombing). But the avatar Zoe has no idea what the plan was on Gemenon. If she was created at the same the real Zoe was developing many of her monotheistic beliefs, how dogmatic is the avatar Zoe anyways? She seems to want to go to Gemenon as a matter of discovering her identity, not ideology.

It was horrifying to see the avatar Tamara hunched over the ground, apparently in limbo for days. I hope she reappears, since it would be interesting to see how she develops.

If either the Zoe or Tamara avatar dies in the virtual space, are they permanently dead?

DonBoy said...

rosseau: the context was: "Greystone lost his daughter. I lost my daughter and my wife. Balance it out." That is, he just asked his brother to kill Amanda Greystone.

Craig Ranapia said...

On the whole, I didn't think this episode was as strong as 'Rebirth' but there's an awful lot of pipe being laid -- I loved the way Zoe and Lacey realise that V-Tamara has the Adama family attitude. :)

Am I the only person who is feeling rather sorry for Lacey -- she's getting it from all sides, being shunned at school (even by the other closet monos) because her best friend was a terrorist; Clarice is getting downright stalky; and who could blame her for not really dealing with the fact that her (kind of) best friend in a military robot body keeps demanding what she can't give.

Craig Ranapia said...

(We'll have to wait and see whether that's because they're family, or if the "BSG"/"Caprica" universe has a lack of homophobia in the same way we've seen in the past that there's no real sexism.)

It is up in the air, but I'd suggest the latter. Let me put it this way: If Sam was trying to keep his sexuality on the downlow from the Ha'la'tha and the rest of the Tauron community, do you think getting married to another man was the way to go?

Karen said...

Careful, @tribalism: you just spoilered a big BSG revelation for any newbies.

I was intrigued by the same torqued Greek as @ninjawt was; the "adelphi mou" was very striking, especially in light of the Hellenic gods and planets names combined with the Caprican contempt for Taurons (apparently it's easier to be gay on Caprica than to be a Tauron).

rosseau said...

Ah, thanks DonBoy and Number Five (add one and you gave me the INFORMATION). Wow, the apple seems to have fallen way far from the tree. And I like Paula Malcomson; she's gorgeous and a very good actor. And I guess I see Ron Moore's exasperation with Star Trek: there the police would never have been so corrupt. I hope Zoe or Zooey is cleared soon.

Nicole said...

Actually, Caprica may end up resembling DS9 only because that show had quite a dark streak and did not have as much of the optimism as TNG. (or at least it was a cynical as Paramount people permitted it to be).

The last moment of this episode was certainly enlightening because up until now, I was trying to give Joe Adama the benefit of the doubt, especially knowing the ultimate nobility of Bill Adam on BSG. Now it looks like there was a lot that Willie Adams didn't know about his father.

Anonymous said...

Its nice that Caprica won't be afraid to go to some dark places as bsg did. The Tauron mob are too cool and Sasha Roiz is an excellent wiseguy.

Its also nice to see some actors from bsg. Luciana Carro (kat) as Pryah the public relations specialist and who I thought was Christian Tessier (duck) as the gangster who complains that little willie is late with the food. Though I can't seem to find him credited on imdb so correct me if I'm wrong.

I was sceptical when this spin off was announced. Very glad that so far my worries are unfounded.

Karen said...

Sure looked like Duck to me! And I kept saying to the husband "Isn't that Kat?" but had to IMDb her this morning to be sure...

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else think the masked voice of Clarice's STO superior sounded like Eric Stoltz? That could be interesting....

Anonymous said...

Where does this show place in time compared to the final five's journey back to the 12 Colonies? Would they have arrived by now and be helping them develop new bodies? If so I can't help but to think the teachers superiors might be one of our precious final five.

Craig Ranapia said...

Where does this show place in time compared to the final five's journey back to the 12 Colonies? Would they have arrived by now and be helping them develop new bodies?

No - far too early. And don't forget that, as yet, there is no "them" -- the Cylons plural are nothing more than a massively over-budget, behind schedule defence project that is on the verge of total failure -- and taking Graystone Industries with it. Daniel doesn't even realise what the U-87 in his own house really is.

Chad said...

I am really liking this show. Besides learning that Esai Morales can act if given a compelling character to play, Caprica has really sold me on its main themes, most notably the humanity behind the machines and the desire to quash grief no matter the consequences. Each character is complex and flawed, and each actor/actress is really beginning to dig into their roles. I'm especially pleased with Sasha Roiz and Polly Walker, and I imagine there is a lot more we have to learn about these two.

I like the dichotomy mentioned by others between the Joseph Adama we heard on BSG and the man we see on this show. This may be a resource the writers come back to occasionally; certainly adds a layer of complexity to those who watched the original series.

Besides the stellar content/substance of the first few episodes, this show is simply gorgeous. The shots in the virtual world are mesmerizing, and the interesting use of lighting by Ronald D. Moore in this episode was eerily effective. The drabness of the Tauron mob scenes contrasting with the empty whites and large spaces of the Graystone scenes -- I love it.

Craig Ranapia said...

The last moment of this episode was certainly enlightening because up until now, I was trying to give Joe Adama the benefit of the doubt, especially knowing the ultimate nobility of Bill Adam on BSG..

Funny that, because in that moment I saw a lot of Joseph in the man his son will be sixty years down the road. In a perverse way, they both deal with inhuman stress and pain by going straight for the denial -- they're all about the job (whether it's commanding a Battlestar or being the Ha'la'tha's consigliere). But when they bow up, it is nuclear -- and you don't want to be on the receiving end of the blast.

Chris said...

What on earth is the title of the episode referring to? A line I missed? I dislike pretentious titles like this.

Also, are the ratings worrying? I've heard they had really low ratings.

Craig Ranapia said...

Also, are the ratings worrying? I've heard they had really low ratings.

Not really -- if 'Caprica' was screening on NBC instead of SyFy, then I'd be saying "stick a fork in this show, it's done'. But it isn't, so I'm not.

srpad said...

I found the final line a shocker as well as I also assumed from the previous shows that the two would be friends.

Ironically this means the Adama family was fighting against the Cylons before they were even invented and they didn't even know it.

I was on the fence with Caprica but now I am in. It almost seems less sci fi than a show about an alternate world which I am finding refreshing.

My only real complaint is I call shenanigans on the use of video tape in the police station. Even if it was "space tape" that could hold thousands of gigs of information, there is no way a society that can have the virtual worlds they show here wouldn't have a smaller, more compact medium for recording. You know, like our world has had for about 14 years now?

Chad said...

Chris, I found this site on IMDB this morning that possibly may be the origin for the title. Maybe.

Great Waterfall of the Rhein

Craig Ranapia said...
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Craig Ranapia said...
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Craig Ranapia said...

My only real complaint is I call shenanigans on the use of video tape in the police station. Even if it was "space tape" that could hold thousands of gigs of information, there is no way a society that can have the virtual worlds they show here wouldn't have a smaller, more compact medium for recording. You know, like our world has had for about 14 years now?

Srpad: Get the sense that the GDD isn't exactly rolling in cubits, or even particularly well set-up to investigate, let alone prevent, terrorist acts like the MAGlEV tragedy? Unlike their equivalents on 24, the CSI franchise and other forensic/police procedural shows, where they have so much money their offices resemble the bridge of the starship Enterprise?

I'd also note that in our world, VCR tapes haven't exactly vanished because recordable CD, DVD and BluRay discs are on the market.

Anonymous said...

Craig, you must really like this show. You're defending every comment!

Alas, thanks for the clarification about the timeline.

I don't think this show can sustain itself at this rate for an extended period without reaching a point where it will be boring. I wouldn't mind it to jump every couple years ahead with each season.

Does anyone know if they have a point to this show as in an endgame or are they just going to drag it out to see how long it lasts?

Craig Ranapia said...

Craig, you must really like this show. You're defending every comment!

I certainly do, and would even if most of the SF shows shows this year weren't "OMFG! My eyes they burn!" awful (yes, I'm looking at you FlashForward and Stargate: Universe) or frustratingly uneven (Dollhouse, Fringe, V, Kings).

Special dishonourable mention has to go to Heroes (which deserves to be put out of my misery now) and The Middleman -- which was brilliant, and therefore had to be strangled in it's cradle by ABC Family.

Alas, thanks for the clarification about the timeline.

Glad to help, if I didn't actually confuse things even more. :)

Does anyone know if they have a point to this show as in an endgame or are they just going to drag it out to see how long it lasts?

YOu'd think, in terms of internal chronology, the start of the Cylon War would be an obvious kill switch. Though I think you've got a fair point that there's nothing forcing them to hew to to the convention that 1 year of show time = 1 season. After all, the mini-series and first two seasons of BSG took place over a little under nine months, until that crash cut. :)

Anonymous said...

It's hard for me to disagree with you about current sci-fi shows.

I sadly admit I do watch SG-U with some hope that it's stealing of concepts, executions, and ideas will transform itself into a semi-original show. There's been a spark or two that shows promise.

I do enjoy LOST, Warehouse 13, & Venture Bros. I consider all 3 of them sci-fi and love them to death.

When you put it that way, exception of 3 listed prior, this show is heavenly.

Craig Ranapia said...

I do enjoy LOST, Warehouse 13, & Venture Bros. I consider all 3 of them sci-fi and love them to death.

Oh, quite right -- Lost deserves kudos for the best return from the dead since Lazarus (Nikki and Paulo - 'nuff said). Only seen a couple of episodes of Warehouse 13, but did like what I saw. Solid B+, with a lot of potential.

Never seen Venture Brothers though -- yay, something else to put on the list of things to see I'll probably never get around to. Thanks for nothing! :)

Oosaka-san said...

All the people who are surprised at Adama's darkness given Lee's image of him - what I remembered is that Bill Adama didn't get along with his father (not too spoilery... or incorrect given I seem to be the only one to mention this, I hope).

I'd been wondering why, because you can see they're not exactly close but Joe Adama as a person didn't look like a person Bill Adama would dislike... This episode clears that right up. (Aside from the chilling "balance it out" that I hope against hope Sam will have the sense to disregard, I was also underestimating how deep Adama is with the mob)

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

Did anyone else think the masked voice of Clarice's STO superior sounded like Eric Stoltz? That could be interesting..."

Oddly enough, the first thought that came to mind when I heard the concealed voice was "Brother Cavil." (I don't think it's spoilerish to post that when it's only an opinion, and only a BSG fan would understand the reference.)

david bushman said...

Lots of really provocative things going on. I agree with Hoosier Paul that is is really fun and interesting to try to track the evolution of the humanoid Cylons from "BSG" all the way back to "Caprica," and that Zoe's zealous monotheism is certainly a huge connection. How much of the BSG humanoid Cylon culture will eventually be rooted in Zoe? I think this is one of the most interesting aspects of "Caprica." I also agree with Billy that Joseph Adama's descent into darkness is a fascinating thing to watch -- this is a character who appeared at the outset to be functioning as the soul/moral center of the show, and the fact that he is an Adama only raised our expectations for him. This show is unpredictable and compelling, and who cares that they are no spaceship battles?

Anonymous said...

My first though when hearing the concealed voice was that it sounded an awful lot like James Marsters

dez said...

Special dishonourable mention has to go to Heroes (which deserves to be put out of my misery now) and The Middleman -- which was brilliant, and therefore had to be strangled in it's cradle by ABC Family.


Shouldn't the dishonourable mention go to ABCFam for throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

Craig Ranapia said...

Shouldn't the dishonourable mention go to ABCFam for throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

Quite right, Dez -- grief does strange things to us all, but at least I'm not ordering my assassin brother to "even it up" or getting my arse kicked after denouncing my daughter as a murderous cult fanatic. :)

Anonymous said...

My Observation and questions:

1. I was greatly disturbed by the "downgrade" in technology at the police station, until I realized that a) Police would probably use some technology that would make it nearly impossible to digitally alter (such as VHS tapes) kind of like how Polariods are used in crime scences. That way there are no digital copies (hence him destroying the tape)

2) Question, why did Adama senior change his name from Adams? Could it be a Tauron marriage thing, as Adama is his Maidem name? Now that he's a widow that name goes back?

Craig Ranapia said...

2) Question, why did Adama senior change his name from Adams? Could it be a Tauron marriage thing, as Adama is his Maidem name? Now that he's a widow that name goes back?

In the pilot there's a scene with Joseph and a corrupt politician who is quite happy to take bribes from the Halatha, but isn't shy about telling a Tauron that his people are scum who "have deceit in their DNA."

I think Joseph and Sam embody the same tensions that exist in many RW immigrant communities: Do you respond to bigotry and discrimination by "assimilating" into the majority culture (ike Joseph & his family) or forming a tight knit enclave where you assert the old ways (like the Halatha).

1. I was greatly disturbed by the "downgrade" in technology at the police station, until I realized that a) Police would probably use some technology that would make it nearly impossible to digitally alter (such as VHS tapes) kind of like how Polariods are used in crime scences. That way there are no digital copies (hence him destroying the tape)

Certainly, but it also makes pretty clear that before the MAGLEV bombing nobody was taking the Global Defence Department particularly seriously -- least of all Durham who is better at covering his butt than his partner was at doing his job properly a year ago.

cgeye said...

Just pointing out the taped interrogation echoes back to the arrests and interviews police conducted with the Columbine killers 2 years before; a lot of things were obvious, in hindsight.

Despite my disdain of the I Was A Teenage Cylon subplots, I admire the writers for taking the perspective of a teen terrorist's parents and running with it. Normally American TV does that just prior to the parents confessing all and turning their kid in on a police procedural.

Caravelle said...

Question, why did Adama senior change his name from Adams? Could it be a Tauron marriage thing, as Adama is his Maidem name? Now that he's a widow that name goes back?

His name was Adama when he immigrated from Tauron, he changed it to Adams to assimilate in Caprican society, and after the terrorist attack he had some kind of "go back to your roots" epiphany (see the grandmother talking to him early in the episode, and his conversation with William at the end). I presume he changed his name back between this epiphany and the next episode.