EPISODE REVIEW: Caprica: An Overview of the Final Five Episodes

Flabbergasted

The last five episodes certainly have more action and energy than the earlier stuff. Some might say that wouldn’t be hard, but I will try not to speak too ill of the dead. More focus in the beginning would have helped this show, but if SGU couldn’t make a run of it, I honestly doubt Caprica ever could have.

The end run is an odd mix of reheated William Gibson, some fantasy riffs, and some surprisingly conventional crime drama. IMO, Caprica remains its essential self to the end: some great moments within a montage of disparate elements that never congeal into a complete story; some interesting technical concepts that are used as throwaway devices instead of being seriously explored; and a frustrating failure to consider the implications of the “cool” bits and shock moments to which Ron Moore and company seem addicted. It’s ultimately pieces of a bunch of other shows stuffed into one.

The successes are generally decent special effects for SyFy, Clarice’s descent into full on psycho, Lacy finally becoming an actual character with a destiny, and the Tauron back story. Add in the final big battle at the stadium if the whole thing doesn’t feel a bit ridiculous to you at that point. As I said earlier, there’s also better linkage and cross-cutting tension between some of the scenes. That makes it easier to watch.

On the down side, the final coda drives home why Caprica was kind of a mess. Basically, we just watched an entire season of back story. You know, the kind of stuff writers may know about their characters but only selectively and intermittently weave into the real story for effect. There’s also one “shocking” moment that is an insult to anyone with a brain. That one boils down to the writers being fundamentally dishonest and twisting their story out of joint just to do something stupid. And the show does share, in common with the latter half of BSG, abrupt character rewrites to fit the whim of the moment coupled with a shallow veneer of religion. I also suspect the creators don’t see the implications of how they’ve presented their God.

Overall, Caprica is an intermittently interesting failure. It plays with neat concepts, but almost seems to lack confidence in itself. It goes for gimmicks too often rather than do the adult lifting needed to become the cutting edge drama it pretends to be. Simply put, it’s lazy.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THESE EPISODES?

Part of me kind of hopes not. I always thought conservatism was supposed to appreciate hard work and coherence.

EPISODE 14: "BLOWBACK"

National Lampoon’s Gemanon Vacation meets Law and Order with a stray episode of The Sopranos playing in the background.

Lacy finally gets to Geminon. The group shuttle to her final destination makes a big deal out of announcing they are going to the Holy Birthplace of Monotheism, where they will become warriors of the One True God if they survive. It’s kind of weird to advertise that in a semi-public setting since this church/cult is blowing up stuff all over the 12 Colonies. I guess it’s a charter flight. Still, I don’t see Al Qaeda doing that kind of thing even if they’re taking off from a Saudi airport.

Amanda is spying on the creepy group marriage terrorist home. The GDD Director is revealed as the V-world guy Clarice talks to, which comes as not exactly a big surprise. They didn’t cast the Highlander guy as him for nothing. So that’s our crime drama tension for this episode of 21 Jump Street: Amanda is the loser detective’s mole in the creepy group marriage terrorist hideout while his GDD boss is the boss/sponsor/associate of the creepy group marriage terrorists.

The mob is apparently stealing Cylons from Daniel’s company and sending them somewhere. Joe and Sam Adama yell at each other about the mob not helping the Tauron people in their struggle against whatever. Daniel sets up his own meeting with the head boss because, well, that’s what people do in mob dramas. Afterward, the head mob boss orders Sam Adama to kill Daniel. So obviously Daniel’s Powerpoint skills aren’t exactly what’s needed to get by in the criminal underworld. He’s really quite bad at this. He tried to get Vergis to team up with him and Vergis made Daniel kill him (“I’ll show you—nobody NOT kills me!”). Now one meeting is enough to convince the mob boss to kill him.

Lacy’s shuttle is hijacked by polytheist terrorists striking back. All the monotheist terrorist wanna bes are bummed. Various kids we never met before get killed.

The loser detective distrusts his GDD boss. He sets him up by falsely claiming one of the group marriage wives is his informant. Clarice personally slits her throat. The loser detective and his boss then glower at each other, but not before the boss delivers Zoe’s STO pin with the avatar program to Clarice. [Law and Order folks: “In the Caprican Criminal Justice System, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the incompetent police who don’t solve crimes, and the corrupt police who commit them.”]

Lacy’s big drama on the shuttle was all a setup. It would seem Polytheists just don’t have what it takes to be terrorists. The “victims” on the shuttle pretended to die so they could ferret out the terrorist wanna bes prone to begging for their life. They lack adequate faith in whatever. Cylons subsequently execute them at the terrorist training camp. So apparently the Tauron mob is smuggling Cylons out of Daniel’s production line to sell to Gemanon monotheists for policing terrorist training camps. Okie-dokie.

Oh, and Daniel deletes his fake Amanda program. He sleeps with the real Amanda again. Presumably they need them together in a future episode and don’t have time or interest to plot it.

OBSERVATIONS:

Lacy’s adventure is reasonably diverting TV, if kind of a tired trope when it turns out to be a test. The mob stuff is just a watered down, inferior rehash of too many similar movies and shows to name. I suppose the “free Tauron” angle is different. Selling Cylons to Gemanon comes across as a force to make our unrelated plots related.

The Amanda/Daniel thing annoyed me. He admitted to her previously that he’d had people murdered. That so horrified Amanda she attempted suicide. She ragged on Daniel in the hospital afterward. She was so distraught she even hung out in the creepy group marriage thing having a dull lesbian, non-lesbian vibe going on with Clarice. Daniel has since gotten more people killed after joining the mob to get his company back. But, hey, she’s over it now. That’s very reminiscent of the last two seasons of Battlestar Galactica. They simply don’t plot these character shifts and expect you to mentally write it for them offline.

Oh, and this monotheism is one very weird religion. Real religions inform and shape their followers socio-ethical constructs in understandable ways. They have a depth and a texture. Monotheism on Caprica is pretty much just group marriage, drugs, corruption and murder, in no particular order. I could accept that if I thought Moore was trying to make a philosophical point about religion, whether I agree with it or not. But it’s just a confused jumbles of gimmicks.

Couldn’t we at least see one of them pray once? [“Oh, One True God, help me think of new and innovative ways to create a fake heaven in order to enhance the church’s mass murder volunteer base.”] On second thought…

EPISODE 15: "THE DIRTEATERS"

National Lampoon’s Tauron Vacation meets Popular with a twist of Matrix. Stray Law and Order and The Sopranos episodes are playing in the background.

The Tauron vacation is a real drag. Basically, we see one nasty planet where young Joe and Sam Adama go on a killing spree after accidentally getting their parents killed by the bad government forces. This one is definitely not something to have on in the background while children are roaming. The violence is perhaps excessive, but it’s actually a touching enough sort of back story.

Zoe and Tamara are taking over V-world and becoming celebrities in the outside world. They’re the latest fad in the news. People are selling “Avenging Angels” T-shirts with their faces on them. Guess Caprica’s gotten over that whole “Zoe blowing up the train” thing. No need to plot that, either.

After getting beaten up by Joseph in a boxing match, Daniel takes Joseph word’s of great wisdom to heart and promises to give Sam some Cylons of his own. He can send them to Tauron to fight whatever if he doesn’t kill Daniel. It’s amazing how easy Cylons were to make once you quit worrying about the one that was so capable and unreproduceable it won the government contract in the first place.

The creepy group marriage terrorists are working on the fake heaven in their old house. I can certainly see why killing yourself to live in a server in their attic would be appealing to anyone who believes in a One True God that loves you and supposedly has a real heaven somewhere. Hope the creepy group marriage terrorists remember to pay their electric bill on time. Creepy group marriage terrorists are generally trustworthy and reliable, right?

In V-World, impressed by their celebrity like any good teenage girls on TV, Zoe and Tamara turn the city into their own personal fantasy jungle. As a virtual teenage girl with God-like powers, I would have gone for the Pony Paradise myself.

More Law and Order stuff. The loser detective loses his job. Amanda and Daniel end the show determined to find their little Avenging Angel.

OBSERVATIONS:

The Tauron story is actually one of the best sequences this show has had to offer. Something like it was desperately needed in abbreviated form earlier to give substance to Joseph and Sam. Start with that, and you know who these two men are, and maybe you actually have a story to tell about them. Whether that story fits in with all this other stuff, however, is another matter.

Law and Order does nothing for me. I’ve seen the same cop stuff done better elsewhere.

The virtual heaven seems too stupid for words, but that’s a failure that stems from not presenting the show’s monotheism and its adherents as anything other than a plot device. I would say at this point that religion is a big part of the entire BSG universe’s problems. Far from being sophisticated, it’s ultimately just another poorly thought out gimmick.

At this point I’m not convinced that Zoe is anything but a plot device, either. There’s no need for all these meandering turns with her and Tamara from the beginning except to pad out the episode commitments of a show that doesn’t really know why it’s doing what it does.

Sorry to belabor the same point.

EPISODE 16: "THE HEAVENS WILL RISE"

Hogwarts Terrorist Academy meets Parenthood meets Dune (for robots instead of giant worms). Stray Law and Order and The Sopranos episodes are still playing in the background.

The Avenging Angels have made an Alpine Fortress. Still no ponies, though, as I recall. Daniel enters V-world to speak with Zoe. It doesn’t go well. [“He just doesn’t get me! He’s such a trap-me-in-a-robot-body-and-set–me-on-fire control freak!”] Zoe virtually stabs Daniel, he leaves, and Amanda goes off to meet with the loser ex-detective.

Amanda and the loser ex-detective jibber jabber about stuff and how they need to swap out holobands with Clarice. The fate of this holoband figures in every episode left. Still, it’s not really worth a blow-by-blow.

More planning for the virtual heaven. I think I’ve made my opinion of that clear. Clarice wants it to be wonderful, but for some reason, I suspect over time it will accumulate a lot of porn and viruses.

This episode’s big development comes with Lacy. She’s at Hogwarts Terrorist Academy

The pop quizzes here are tough, and one kid winds up about to be shot by a mail order Cylon. Lacy tells it to stop and it gives the whole “By your Command” line. That’s actually kind of cool. The instructor and Lacy countermand each other a couple of times. The Cylon sticks with his new Chosen One. This is a potentially fascinating development, so naturally it’s never explained or even really explored.

Holoband swapping occurs. The loser ex-detective gets shot when he meets Amanda. Amanda gets him to a hospital, but the holoband she swapped for gets lost. Clarice and her creepy terrorist friends figure out their holoband has been swapped. Clarice’s realization that she killed the wrong person is effective.

As if we didn’t have enough characters already, we meet the daughter of the mob boss. She’s figured out that Cylons are being diverted someplace other than Gemanon. She apparently slept with Joseph once upon a time, too. Also, Daniel asks Sam Adama to go into V-world for him. It’s about time someone (I’m looking at you, Joseph), did that.

Lacy sneaks into the storage cathedral for Cylons. They still obey her. The Blessed Mother is not amused and suggests someone whack Lacy. The final scene is Sam, Daniel and Amanda on virtual horses riding through the virtual woods looking for Zoe and Tamara.

OBSERVATIONS:

The Lacy thing is good. Too bad they can’t be bothered to provide even a stab at an explanation for it. I suppose God wants it that way.

Crime, crime, holoband, virtual heaven, holoband mob stuff. Kind of bogs down.

Oh, and Daniel says he knew it was Zoe in the U-87 all along. That makes his earlier decision to wipe the U-87 to have a half-season ending cliffhanger even more deranged.

EPISODE 17: "HERE BE DRAGONS"

The mob stuff moves from background to main course while the Greystone family drama reaches a climax of sorts. And then there’s Lacy. Think The Godfather meets Panic Room while Frodo, Samwise and Gollum get family counseling. Maybe “The Return of the Queen”, too.

Sam, Daniel and Amanda are at the foot of Zoe’s virtual mountain. Zoe turns their horses into dragons, which Sam kills. Not a bad scene. Back in the real world, the mob tries to make a hit on Joseph Adama, but scary old Grandma takes out the hit man with a cleaver. Grandma may be a psycho, but she knows how to play it. So far, so relatively okay for Caprica.

More plans by various monotheistic terrorists to kill Lacy. Clarice and her group marriage flunkies plan an assault on the Greystone estate to get back their holoband. They make their move, killing the Greystone’s bowling pin robot in the process. But the home security system seals off the Greystones where they sit with their holobands on. So Daniel and Amanda are doing their fantasy thing unaware of the danger they’re in while Clarice and company try to break through the security system to get at them. That’s a more compelling set piece than average for Caprica.

Fantasy land starts to go down hill after Amanda shoots Sam because he wants to kill the Tamara avatar to save Joseph any more pain. It’s another in a long line of abrupt shifts to support forced storyline convergence. The Greystones then decide to wait for Zoe to come to them. Back in the real world again, Sam takes off his holoband and learns Joseph is in trouble. The two brothers make a run for some money and passports with which to presumably make a longer run.

Nestor, the flunky trying to crack the Greystone house security, is pretty bad with basic industrial safety. I’ve heard of people being shocked by electronics, but I’ve never heard of someone actually setting themselves on fire while working with a computer system. It’s just his hand and wrist, though. The episode is stalling for time now.

Someone tries to kill Lacy on Gemanon. She is rescued by fellow students and raises her mighty Cylon army. Looks like things are about to get tense in the teacher’s lounge at Hogwarts Terrorist Academy.

Zoe shows up. In a way-too-fast emotional whipsaw, she calls Amanda a disgusting cow and then hugs her. The Greystones agree to leave but say she is welcome to come visit any time. She says she’ll think about it. Based on events to come, she thought about it pretty fast.

Clarice and the flunkies finally break in and start looking for the holoband. Nestor isn’t exactly convincing with the search as he just randomly starts pulling books out of a book case. Clarice and Amanda have a tedious conversation. Zoe makes a visit in the original U-87 body and beats Nestor to death with its disconnected arm. That’s amusing, and I’m imagining a little ditty called “The Sad Ballad of Nestor.” Clarice and the remaining flunky flee, while the Greystones have a virtual reunion. Daniel promises to build Zoe a body with skin, which seems quite a leap. After all, Bill Gates knows a lot about computers, but I don’t see him doing advanced biological research in his basement. I guess Daniel is Reed Richards now.

Sam and Joseph have the money, but mob thugs show up. A gun battle ensues. Young William Adama runs after them. Sam finishes off the mob thugs while Willy gets shot. He dies. The shows creators think they’re clever and we’ll be wowed. They’re mistaken on both counts.

OBSERVATIONS:

This is one of the better Caprica episodes. It has reasonable flow, or at least as reasonable as a show this convoluted can have. And the storytelling is tighter. Most of it isn’t original, but it’s decently executed. In particular, the panic room set up and the attempted hit on Joseph. The dragons were okay, too.

Unfortunately, it also ends in appallingly silly fashion. They actually warped the entire season, its very starting point in time and all this back story we’ve sat through, simply to pull a juvenile attempt at Got’cha by killing a fake William Adama. That’s some serious creative bankruptcy. I don’t care, but I’m offended by the sheer pointlessness of it in a show that never found narrative focus. Maybe if they’d worked on having an actual story instead of stupid stunts like this they wouldn’t have been cancelled.

I was a little disappointed in myself in my reaction to the Amanda/Zoe scene. As a parent, I suppose I should be moved by their reconciliation. But it’s so rushed with so little plotting, and I’m so aware of the way characters are being arbitrarily moved around the board to make needed events happen, that my reaction was analytical.

Same old same old, I guess. Decent bits in a collection of stuff that’s not an actual story.

EPISODE 18: "APOTHEOSIS" (Season/Series finale)

The Godfather meets Black Sunday in the middle of a Hart to Hart episode. Oh, and fake heaven turns out to be a bad idea. Who could have possibly foreseen that?

Clarice and her flunky are on the run. They run into the corrupt GDD boss played by the guy from Highlander. He explains that he is the corrupt GDD boss who was Clarice’s contact. She explains her plan to blow up the C-bucks stadium in order to demonstrate the allure of a virtual heaven in her attic server. Since he’s apparently an idiot, too, the GDD boss agrees to provide cover fire for her scheme. If I was a corrupt monotheistic terrorist police boss, I would have simply shot them, burned their house down and covered up that. It’s called knowing when to cut your losses.

The Greystones are at their house consulting with lawyers and private security. The corrupt GDD boss breaks in with the police in tow and arrests them. He wants that dang holoband, too. Daniel’s corporate assistant decides to die for him and pulls a gun on the GDD boss. Daniel and Amanda flee, because virtual heaven knows Daniel has always been more than willing to let others die in pursuit of his goals. It’s a shame Zoe couldn’t resurface and impale the GDD boss with a robotic tibia.

The Willy wake is underway at Casa de Adama. The mob daughter’s boss arrives. Sam is quite rude, but Joseph is ready to start a war. For some reason, he thinks the daughter of the man who put a hit out on Joseph because of what she told him will like that idea. In all fairness though, I suppose any idea looks good compared to Clarice’s virtual heaven. So a meeting is arranged.

Daniel and Amanda are on the run in their private jet. The corrupt police boss has declared them terrorists. They decide to go back to the park where the loser ex-detective was shot and look for the holoband. The clever baseball cap disguise they use works and they find the incriminating evidence. They act cute while realizing Clarice’s dastardly plan to blow up C-bucks stadium. It pretty much is an episode of Hart to Hart.

Joseph’s meeting with the mob boss occurs via Holoband. Midway through, we see the mob boss start to struggle wildly. Back in the real world, his daughter has let Sam Adama in to stick a plastic bag over his head. He dies, the daughter becomes the mob boss, and everything is swell again for the Adamas, absent one fake Willy. And we all know they’ll get another.

The grand bombing scheme progresses. Hart to Hart are on it. Daniel gets a gizmo from Graystone Industries he can use to control the Cylons. Clarice puts on her holoband to greet the soon-to-arrive losers in virtual heaven. The bombers are in place in C-buck stadium when suddenly a flock of Cylons arrive in jets. They shoot almost all the terrorists before they can detonate their bombs. They jump on Clarice’s flunky and shield everyone when his bomb goes off.

Zoe shows up in virtual heaven. So do the dead losers. Zoe is concerned that if people believe they can get into heaven no matter what, they will have no self-control. That leaves aside the fact that monotheistic terrorists blowing themselves up for mass murder probably already believe that to any degree that matters, or that anyone who wants to live in Clarice’s attic server is a moron to begin with. But okay, so Zoe isn’t really great at profound theological debate. The important thing is that she destroys this lame idea of a heaven once and for all after shouting “I am God.” So score one for Zoe.

The final few minutes occur several years into the future. Cylons are everywhere. Daniel talks about people realizing how much the monotheists hated Caprica, which galvanized acceptance of “our” heroic Cylons who will do whatever anyone with the right gizmo tells them. Then we see a new little Willy with blue eyes. Joseph married his administrative assistant Evelyn and she gave birth to the real William Adama. Although actually, there’s no reason they can’t kill this one, too, and have yet another. Clarice is preaching psycho to a bunch of Cylons, echoing BSG’s lines about the children of humanity rising to crush those who gave them life. Cute. A Zoe, apparently the Head Zoe from the earlier episode, is smiling in the congregation.

Lacy is now the Blessed Mother. She’s snooty to Clarice but lets her live. A Cylon Zoe with skin rises out of a tub of goo to be received by Daniel and Amanda. A skin job. I guess that visual connection to Battlestar Galactica is supposed to thrill us.

And that’s all, folks!

OBSERVATIONS:

I can’t say I’m all that sorry to see it go. Enough with the cheap gimmicks already.

Virtual heaven was always stupid. Killing people, joining the mob and creating the Cylons who would destroy billions of lives was just a nice little family therapy vehicle for those wacky Greystones. Adama’s year meant nothing.

Clarice echoing the lines from Battlestar Galactica is hollow, a connect-the-dots exercise devoid of real insight. Head Zoe smiling as she preaches genocide simply makes the whole God thing worse. Not only did God’s angel prompt Zoe to create the Cylons, but now she’s watching over them as they curdle into an instrument of genocide. All in God’s Plan, I suppose. So far from being a neutral observer, God is actually directing these cycles of destruction. What’s worse, I don’t think the shows writers give that any thought. It’s just another cool bit to supposedly thrill Battlestar Galactica fans.

And this whole year of episodes was essentially pointless. It’s a story that could have been told in 1/3 the number of episodes, or told in a completely different way without affecting anything. It was filler on air, made up as they went along.

So long, Caprica.

Don’t write.

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