You tell yourself it isn’t real
Caprica: “Ghosts in the Machine”
First off, an editorial aside: apologies to our Caprica readers for the missed post last week. Natalie is out of town again this week, so it’s just me tonight. We have one more episode before a long midseason break, so let’s try to pull a few threads together.
Caprica has had a few enigmatic episode titles along the way (“Reins of a Waterfall”?!), but tonight’s title was inspired. The heart of Caprica thus far has been a tale of two daughters and fathers: Zoe and Daniel Graystone, and Joseph and Tamara Adama. This is not to downplay Amanda Graystone’s importance – she was the centerpiece of last week’s fantastic episode, and she was a strong presence tonight as the Graystone marriage looks to be crumbling, as so many do, in the face of the loss of a child – but this is the parallel the show has returned to again and again. Tonight it worked brilliantly. Two fathers, each in their own way searching blindly for the ghost of their daughter, and each in their own way finding their daughter’s memory and presence too elusive to grasp, or really understand. And both found themselves defeated, perhaps even slightly terrified, at what their daughters had become, as ghosts in the machine.
First, Daniel follows up on last week’s “Zoe?” cliffhanger with very Graystone-like pragmatism. Determined to reach the Zoe buried somewhere within the Cylon, he puts the machine through test after test designed to elicit some sign of emotional resonance. These scenes were alternately heartbreaking, shocking and enraging; as he manipulated Cylon Zoe with stories of being stuck inside a burning house, and then literally reenacts this entrapment in flames, you watch Daniel’s motives continually shifting – at times, it seemed he simply acting with cold calculation, but we also saw his grief showing through (why did you have to blow up a train? he demands) to what seems, in the simulated killing of the family dog, as much self-punishment as it was a test of C-Zoe. Alessandra Torresani’s acting was astonishing in these scenes. While most actors would be hobbled by a total lack of dialogue, she communicated so much with her eyes that the contrast with the unblinking steady oscillation of the Cylon’s red beam only highlighted the incongruity of Zoe, the ghost in the machine, all the more.
Meanwhile, Joseph slowly and haltingly is making his way into the life of New Cap City – and kinda letting himself go IRL – to try to find Tamara. Someone somewhere has recently pointed out how like Lee Adama, of BSG, Joseph is; and how much William will come to resemble his uncle, rather than his father. This is, I think, exactly right: Joseph is characterized by the same mix of halting indecision and stubborn resolve, combined in a person who’s not all too self-aware of just how poorly he seems to fit in any world he inhabits (except, in Apollo’s case, the cockpit). So when he slowly starts to realize just what his daughter is becoming (what is his daughter becoming?), he still feels like a total wildcard. I think Joseph is fully capable of any of a number of actions at this point in the story, and we can only wait and see which way his story goes. His little conversation with Sam (“Just how do you casually murder in cold blood? No reason, just wondering.”), from which my title comes, points to just how much of an enigma he is at this point.*
Returning to Graystone for a moment, and thinking about some BSG connections: I can’t help thinking that Daniel crossed a line tonight, with his literal trial by fire. You saw it in Zoe’s face (can I marvel again about Torresani’s acting?) – something had changed, something that was unforgiveable. You just don’t evoke childhood trauma like that and not carve destruction into a person’s soul. Of course, that’s precisely the question – a “person’s” soul – but as our closing scene showed us, even with the last minute balk in the shooting of the dog, Daniel has pushed Zoe too far. Last week, we heard Amanda intone the words that were so important to BSG‘s story: “All this has happened before, and will happen again.” The Nietzschean cycle of eternal return – the sins of the fathers visited upon the children, and upon the children’s children – was the core of BSG‘s mythology, and a central question was the ability of humanity and Cylon to break that cycle. We’re seeing that cycle set in motion here, and I think a big step was made tonight (Daniel’s hope of finding “a more human” body for Zoe is deeply ominous in this respect). Too, Amanda’s visions are looking more and more like the projection that was so important in BSG‘s story. How this will all come together, I don’t know: but I’m pretty sure it will, and in the meantime, Caprica continues to succeed at crafting extraordinarily rich and textured characters who are fully realizing this world. Go ahead – tell yourself it isn’t real.
*I have no idea what to make of the burlesque scenes. Anyone got any insight into what was going on there? It was too fully realized and portrayed just to be thrown together for kicks.
Ok, I can’t resist – I’m on a quick break at my conference, and I have to respond to your one question. Why the elaborate drag show? Because the drag queen plays for the gender bending jester! If you think of the figure of the court jester, he was one who transcended gender – performed both masculine and feminine roles and did so in a humorous way. And in this gender-bending comedy, he was the only one who could speak the dangerous truth that the court needed to hear. The dangerous truth of this episode, as you note, is the idea that the sins of the fathers are revisted on their daughters. We heard that line from the drag queen’s riddle. So, I’ve gotta say – I think that elaborate drag show was meant to evoke the jester at court and his own, very particular mode of discourse.
Ok, and so I think I also just need to say – I hated, hated Daniel with a fury last night! I’m surprised Zoe didn’t turn on him, manipulating her trauma like that. There was pain in his eyes, but there was hate too…and that’s the brilliant acting of Eric Stolz!