Caprica sold this series to BSG fans as a chance to get the backstory on the attacks that sent the last humans fleeing into outer space. By the end of the pilot, Zoe Graystone’s formula for downloading a human personality into a virtual avatar set in motion the inexorable march toward the destruction of the twelve colonies. But now that all of the show’s plates are in motion — spinning from Little Tauron to New Cap City — we’re beginning to realize that there will be a million human follies before the worlds will end. And some serious techno-ethical dilemmas along the way. This episode, the best since Amanda Graystone stormed the set of Back Talk, brings us closer to the next iteration in the Cylon’s development and teases out the possibility that Zoe’s formula could also virtually extend any human life. Isn’t sci-fi the best?!*
*Must be willing to accept some seriously cheese-filled premises.
Amanda sees dead people. For our money, Amanda Graystone is the most fully realized character on Caprica. She’s impetuous, but shrewd. She’s pouty, but capable. She’s insightful, but she can’t see what’s right in front of her. So when they chose to stick her with a creaky flashback trope this week, we groaned. See Amanda chasing a faceless man down the hallway of a mental institution. See Amanda seeing Flashback Boy everywhere she goes. Will they trot out another TV trope and turn the doctor into a patient?
As phase two of the Seduction of Lady Graystone begins, Clarice gets Amanda to confess. Flashback Boy is her brother, Darius, whose death led to Amanda’s mental breakdown and eventual institutionalization. “Trauma and therapy and talking and more therapy and more talking and, finally, some really good drugs.” Well, the girl does like her Scorpion Ambrosia. To the writers’ credit, Clarice seems like she’s buying into their faux friendship as much as Amanda is.
We’ve always found the domestic scenes and unspoken shorthand between Amanda and Daniel captivating, and there’s a great example here when Daniel recognizes that his neglect is edging his wife to the dark side. During a Thelma and Louise drug binge at the Dive, Clarice tells Amanda to have faith in God. Amanda asks, “Which one?” Once she’s sobered up, will she realize she’s been smoking up with an agent of the STO?
Teenagers in love. Philo, the lab tech, chooses a tandem flight simulation for his virtual date with Zoe’s avatar. We thought we were going to get the Paul Verhooven treatment — you know, a futuristic world that’s somehow not that different from the real one (i.e., flaccid Capricans take Vinagro instead of Viagra). But the plane crashes because Zoe (looking fly in a Top Gun pilot’s jumper) refuses to treat the virtual world like a game with instant skill upgrades. In fact, she waxes poetic to a surprisingly buff Philo, the V world could be so much more than a fantasy. If developers would stop cutting corners and use the same generative algorithms used by living systems, the trees wouldn’t look so fake, and oh, life could be extended indefinitely. That line of thinking is her ploy to get Philo to move the Cylon body out of Daniel’s lab and closer to Gemenon, but Philo has other ideas.
This episode draws explicit distinctions between Dead Zoe and Avatar Zoe. For one, Avatar Zoe is a lot less shrill. But she also starts referring to her creator’s dad as “Daniel” and Lacy points out that she might’ve disappointed Dead Zoe, but never the avatar. This could complicate the whole afterlife bit. If the avatars are different from their human analogs, then you’re not really preserving lives, you’re creating new ones.
The ol’ dead-daughter-in-the-robot bit. Ever since the Philo and Zoebot’s impromptu dance routine, the show seems to have gotten itself a sense of humor. A broad, weird, squarely sci-fi kind of humor, sure, but it yields some winks at the absurdity of it all to the audience. In V world, Zoe tells Lacy that Sister Clarice stopped by her dad’s lab. “She looked me right in my eye [singular]!” Lacy responds, “Well, do you think she knows it’s you?” Yes, because people always check to see if they recognize a familiar face lurking behind the façade of a toaster.
There was also the well-played mistaken identity/comedy of errors gag when Daniel walked into his lab to find Philo (on his date) tonguing the air with a holoband over his eyes. Philo doesn’t know that the avatar he’s making out with is living inside the Cylon body across the room. Daniel doesn’t know that his dead daughter is trapped inside his defense-contract prototype — or that she’s getting busy with his lab tech. And Zoe’s avatar doesn’t realize that her machinations will help her father develop more of that technology she’s always hated.
Return to New Cap City. We know we’re in the minority here, but we’re still not feeling Esai Morales as Joseph Adama. In any case, he forces Heracles/Tad to take him back into the game to find Tamara. Heracles warns him that once he’s dead in the game, he can never come back, but it’s Heracles who ends up permanently de-resed. Adama meets a redhead in platform Mary Janes named Emanuelle. She offers to help him around New Cap, but for a price. We have a strange suspicion it’s his secretary in virtual disguise.
While Adama is fumbling through New Cap he walks by a stencil graffiti on a wall with a picture of a girl’s face and the words “This is not me. It’s just my body vehicle.” Is this a sign of a groundswell of kids, like Tad, contending with a virtual world where an avatar can feel dangerously closer to the authentic self?
Cylon 2.0. Daniel still hasn’t figured out how to duplicate the success of the first Cylon. Post-makeout, Philo passes along Zoe’s idea about the generative process to Daniel. “What if there’s something in the MCP that’s analog, like a person?” While Daniel is brainstorming about how to apply a human system to a robot, he notices his dog keeps playing fetch with the Cylon, as if the dog knows it somehow. Daniel walks over, looks into the Cylon’s eye, and asks “Zoe?” WHOA. Will she respond? Will they work together to build a killer army or a virtual afterlife? Zoe, what madness have you wrought!
PopWatch thinks Caprica is “the weirdest, smartest, and most consistently surprising show on TV” and suspects the dialogue on Philo and Zoe’s date was the key to understanding all of Caprica.
Television Without Pity thinks “talking fluent Geek” made Philo even dreamier, and thinks Caprica is establishing itself as “the most dynamic and relevant show on TV.”
HitFix also loved the street graffiti, and thinks the point of New Cap City is somehow tied to the overarching plot.