The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Just help me find my daughter

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Dear Moth Chase Readers,

Natalie is out of town, so please welcome guest blogger Travis as he covers this week’s episode of Caprica in her place.

Caprica: Reins of a Waterfall

This week’s episode marks an early transition point in Caprica. After the heady themes of the conflict of mono- and polytheism, the puzzle of embodiment with the melding of a virtual avatar and a robotic body, and the ominous portent of the first Cylon charging the first two episodes with tension and high-concept drama, last night’s episode felt like a show settling into the work of establishing a world, and building characters who inhabit that world. It felt similar to the episode “Bastille Day” of BSG* – after the extraordinary epic of the miniseries, and the broad lines of the story arc laid down in “33” (a hopeless war) and “Water” (a mole onboard Galactica), that episode took a step back and trained our eyes on the complicated political world of the exiles. There we got, for the first time, a clear sense that the moral universe that BSG was giving us was going to be far more murky and interesting than we realized. It was also where the depth of some of the characters, like Lee Adama, begin to emerge in ways that would pay off for four seasons (give or take, depending on your reaction to the in/famous finale).

Something like that happened with “Reins of a Waterfall.” We’ve been led to expect an alliance or friendship to develop between Joseph Adams-cum-Adama and Daniel Graystone; this episode, however, finds Adama hissing at his (gay)** brother, “Even the score.” Lacy is not drinking the Soldiers of the One koolaid so readily, and we find Sister Clarice isn’t quite as in control as her placid demeanor has suggested. Our police investigator gets a partner (with benefits?). And, of course, Daniel and Amanda are finding the fallout from last week’s climactic admission about Zoe’s involvement in the train bombing rough going, for both of their careers.  The story was advanced in each of these dimensions, but we got little comment on the social textures of polytheism and its fear of the “One True God,” nor was much discovered regarding the strange corporeality of the Zoe Trinity. Instead, we got drawn a little deeper into the world of the characters.

I’m totally ok with that, and some fascinating details emerged. I’m continuing to love the portrait of the Taurons – a pastiche of Sicilian mafia and expatriate Latino cinematic tropes, though the Tauron mob is nonetheless emerging as a complicated and variegated world that is more complex than its criminal underworld template. All is not well in the social world of the 12 colonies, and the portrait of the subaltern Taurons might prove very fruitful. The talk show host played by Patton Oswalt, revelatory in Dollhouse, is giving us an interesting insight into Caprica‘s entertainment world (and a better commentary on the media than the one-dimensional reporters portrayed this week). The most sluggish storyline so far for me is the fate of Graystone’s company; but I think that’s going to pay off more in terms of his character and family then it is going to be a commentary on our contemporary corporate woes (at least I hope so).

One theme in particular, however, is building the BSGCaprica mythology with amazing nuance. Even though I’m dying to know more directly about the rise of the Cylons, the show is backing up a bit to fill out the picture of just who the Cylons were when they started out, and why they end up the way they do. One of the truly terrorizing themes of last week’s episode was the constant cuts from the proto-Cylon to the Avatar Zoe inhabiting it. This technique, which continued this week, is putting the narrative of the Cylon origin in a completely different light (especially that extraordinary opening montage last week, shot 1st person from the perspective of Zoe/Cylon). While we know about the rise of the Cylon wars, and know how ruthlessly inhuman the Cylon genocide will be,  the Cylon model right now is nothing but a small, confused child – helpless, and yet dangerous. There’s tension being built there that I think the writers can work with fruitfully for quite a while. I, for one, will never hear the hum and see the oscillation of a Cylon’s red pupil without deep dread; but I now see the terror of a lost girl in that roving eye.

Indeed, one of the most interesting themes this week was the strife between parents and children. The children – and, in BSG, the Cylons have escaped the world of humanity only to return home for vengeance – are very much trapped in the worlds of their parents in this show, and it is striking to see the ways in which they struggle to find freedom and understand who they are. Avatar Zoe is in a very real sense an orphan, and Lacy acts like an orphan – I doubt it’s an accident that we have not met her parent(s) (I think?). But the starkest portrayal of this reality is the virtual prison in which Tamara finds herself; this cyber chamber that Daniel has built is both his ingress to the virtual world, and what prevents her from leaving. She’s the victim of Joseph’s inability to connect with a digital representation of his daughter, and Daniel’s insouciance about the sentience of the avatar creations his technology has made possible. BSG is the story of the war of children against their parents; Caprica, in its own way, is following this same Oedipal path. In the BSG miniseries, Number Six intoned these chilling words to Baltar: “Humanity’s children are returning home. Today.” Caprica is still taking us inexorably down that road.

*One of the benefits of guest writing for Natalie this week is we get to try a change of perspective on this show from a BSG fan. One of the early signs of success of this show has been its ability to draw in a new audience, while still tying so well into the narrative world of BSG.

**One of the great things about BSG was how causally, but effectively, it portrayed a world with gender and sexual norms very different from our own. The total lack of condescension regarding Sam’s homosexuality is refreshing, and promising.

-Travis

Written by teables

February 6, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Posted in Caprica

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