Caprica: The Kindling is Set, Let the Meltdown Begin

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I ended Friday night’s Caprica marveling at how my impressions of just about every major character had changed. I was actually a bit unsettled. So maybe that’s proof enough right there that I do actually care about the people in this series.

Last week I published an essay with some of my theories about Caprica’s struggling ratings, about how I thought the show was growing too insulated, and needed to break out of its philosophical bubble with some more action. Well, in Friday’s episode, we start to see that philosophy being converted into some solid passion. Full disclosure: I’ve already seen this Friday’s episode, something of a mid-season cliffhanger (I’ll post a little more on it as we get closer), and let me assure you: This is just the beginning. (More at Techland: Read our interview with the creators of Caprica)

For starters, there’s Amanda Graystone, and the silly little subplot about her dead brother, who she keeps seeing around town. In previous episodes, the whole thing just seemed weird to me, an arbitrary bit of drama to inject. But I’m starting to appreciate the way that her grieving and torment over her long lost sibling contrasts with the stories of our two central fathers, who are doing anything but engaging the mourning process. They are obsessed with trying to bring their dead loved ones back, and in Amanda’s story, we can again see why the men are being pushed to such lengths: It’s just too painful to lose someone that close. I think Amanda’s lost in that pain; more than that, I think she’s starting to go off her rocker. (More at Techland: Toy Story 3, the New Toy gallery)

Daniel and Zoe: Some of the most subtle, memorable acting of the series. Not only did I find it rather harrowing, to see a father looking up in into the red eye of his robot, pleading with the avatar of his dead daughter to let him know she’s in there, but her response was startling. She really doesn’t want him to find her. It’s not that she can’t communicate; she won’t. There’s a whole lot of bad blood there. And it underscores again for the first time in ages one of the series’ biggest riddles, which I had all but written off: Why was Zoe part of this “terrorist” group in the first place? What was she hoping to accomplish off planet? Why does she want to get her sentience to Gemenon? The relationship between father and daughter is far more complicated than perhaps I give it credit for.

Joseph is starting to lose himself to his obsessions. He’s turning to those virtual drugs, struggling to be the toughest version of his real self in New Cap City. One of this episode’s most provocative themes seems to be that Caprica’s virtual world can indeed change the real-world personalities of those who choose to put on a holoband. It’s not as if you have you real life, and then your virtual life; the things that mold you into a different sort of avatar can change you as a real person as well.  I think we see the somewhat soft-hearted Joseph learning to toughen up, donning a more chiseled façade. If he’s changing this much in the fake world, how does that translate to his interactions with his brother, with Daniel? (More at Techland: Android Apps – 18 to get you started)

Lacy is putting a lot on the line to help Zoe. Flirting with a life dedicated to the STO, and putting herself in a very precarious position of trusting an organization known for its violence, this is starting to define her personality. Her obligation to a dead friend in the past may be forever altering the course of her future.

Unlike most weeks, where I find myself logically breaking down the plot, and its human-virtual implications, this week I got caught up in the emotions. Daniel is losing his temper. Zoe is holding a grudge. Amanda is a ball of pain and loneliness. Joseph is flying off the handle. These characters are starting to feel less and less like debate partners at some artificial intelligence conference, and more like flawed, fearful, fallible humans. Humans who make messy decisions, with big consequences. Characters who make far more compelling dramas (like last night’s Breaking Bad).

I know the show’s had some rating issues, and some false starts when it came to certain subplots, but I thought this week’s episode set the stage for some major league fireworks, all the while posing the heavy question: What does a father owe his daughter, and vice versa, if one of them is not real? Merely the memory, or the imprint of what they used to be? Daniel calls out to his daughter in that robot, and does Zoe’s virtual replica owe him anything at all? Is her only obligation to the real Zoe? Or to the mission that Zoe programmed? To what do we owe allegiance? And more importantly: Why?

I can’t be the only one who got wrapped up in the thing – what did you think of Zoe’s snub, Daniel’s pleading, Joseph’s gung-ho change of face?

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