Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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Caprica - Season 1 - Episode 03

Caprica - 1x03 - Rebirth - Originally Aired: 2010-1-29

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 4.23

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Synopsis
In the wake of the MAGLEV bombing that killed his daughter, Daniel Graystone plunges himself into work. He tries to figure out why he can only create a single intelligent robot, not understanding that the answer lies within the fact that part of his daughter survived the explosion and is closer to him than he could imagine. Consumed with grief, Amanda Graystone is obsessed with discovering who her daughter really was, and slowly begins piecing together the details of Zoe's life.

Zoe, trapped in the mechanical body, turns to her friend Lacy for help. At the same time, Headmistress Clarice Willow (Polly Walker) - a secret member of the shadowy "Soldiers of the One" terrorist group - is also focused on Lacy, putting the girl under pressure from all sides.

In the episode's culmination, at a memorial service for the victims of the train disaster, Joseph Adama confronts Daniel about the loss of his own daughter. Before they can come to an understanding, they are interrupted by a stunning public announcement from Amanda Graystone, who has become convinced that her daughter Zoe was to blame for the terrorist action. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- Much like Baltar's TV in his house in the BSG pilot, the various television screens depicted in the Graystone house hardly seem practical. For instance, who wants to watch a big TV with window frame bars covering up parts of the picture? And why do all the videos on all the different screens always have different aspect ratios?
- One of the signs at the memorial supposedly symbolizing deep loss misspelled "deepest" as "deapest."

Factoids
- Lacy seems to indicate that polygamous marriages, or "group marriages" are common on the Twelve Colonies or at least Caprica during this time period. However, while common, her statement seems to indicate that it is a minority practice.
- This episode establishes that Caprica has a 52 week year due to the "52 week low" Graystone stock in the Cubits & Pieces TV show.
- The music Daniel was playing on the piano in his lab was the second movement of Nomion's 3rd Sonata, also played by Starbuck's dad in BSG: Someone to Watch Over Me.
- This episode establishes that Daniel Graystone is under contract to deliver 100,000 fully functional Cylon soldiers.
- This episode establishes that Sam Adama is a homosexual.
- The sign over the window smashed by Sam Adama reads: "ποιοτητα εκτύπωσης σε λογικές τιμές" which translates to "quality printing at a reasonable price" in modern Greek.

Remarkable Scenes
- Cylon Zoe's memory flashes.
- One of the technicians' responses to the other referring to Cylon Zoe as a she: "She? Dude, stop feminizing it. It's weird. It's unnatural."
- The gorgeous opening theme. Fantastic!
- The montage of various TV channels on Caprica.
- The technicians' rough handling of Cylon Zoe.
- Amanda: "My daughter didn't have a boyfriend. She wasn't old enough." Oh Amanda. You have so much to learn.
- Cylon Zoe struggling against her restraints.
- Cylon Zoe snapping off one of the technicians' finger tips.
- Amanda: "Lacy? I've been wandering around looking for your house. I thought I'd remember it." Lacy: "Yeah, it's not very memorable." Ouch.
- Daniel: "So, we've made exactly one soldier?" Technician: "Yeah, but, uh... it's a really good one!" Daniel: "Well I'm glad you like it, but our contract is for 100,000 robots."
- Willie hanging out with Sam, being taught all sorts of unsavory lessons.
- Nestor: "Did you know that there are bits of software that you use every day that were written decades ago? You write a great program and it can outlive you. It's like a work of art. Well maybe Zoe was an artist. Maybe her work will live on."
- Amanda unwittingly referring to Cylon Zoe as a horrible monster.
- Daniel making Serge feign cheers for his playful pyramid whimsies. Serge: "The crowd goes frakking wild, sir."
- Sam Adama smashing a window while Willie is with him, much to Willie's bewilderment.
- Sam Adama: "Don't run. You run away, you're guilty of two things. The thing and the running away from the thing."
- Willie preying on his father's guilt using Sam's advice.
- Cylon Zoe sitting on her old bed, breaking it.
- Cylon Zoe lamenting about being trapped in her Cylon body.
- Joseph Adama confronting Daniel.
- Amanda Graystone's surprise confession about her revelations concerning Zoe.

My Review
Rebirth delivers a strong continuation of the pilot. The most important question of what exactly will become of Cylon Zoe is given the full attention of the plot and paints a very compelling story. Zoe's artistic creation, as Nestor puts it, has been reborn and exists in the real world for the first time, complete with free will and a relatively fully formed consciousness, capable of fine motor control over her monstrously obtuse body. And she wants her freedom.

The question of how Cylon Zoe could possibly ever obtain her freedom is a difficult one and she seems well aware of the challenges posed by the problem. To her father's corporation, she's nothing more than an incredibly valuable prototype to be studied and reproduced 100,000 times. She withholds both her true identity and her capability of even possessing an identity and consciousness ostensibly out of fear that were this to be discovered, she may lose her freedom forever.

The dichotomy between man (or in this case teenage girl) and machine represented holistically by a single, sentient being is illustrated brilliantly by the abrupt but evenly distributed cuts between Cylon Zoe and the stylized not-really-there humanized Zoe; interlaced delightfully with the differing perspectives of the two technicians assigned to work on her. One technician anthropomorphizes her constantly while the other sees such sentiment as both ludicrous and disturbing. Neither technician is quite right of course, but there's certainly a rewarding sense of poetic justice when the meaner one loses part of his finger.

Unfortunately the episode's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. It boggles the mind to continue to have to swallow the idea that Daniel can figure out neither what happened to the Zoe avatar program nor why his singular prototype is so successful. You'd think the connection between these two problems would be obvious. The only explanation is that Zoe built in some sort of copy protection to her avatar software which Daniel was only able to partially bypass when taking Zoe from the V club and placing her in a Cylon body that effectively rendered the program movable, but not copyable. In effect, some sort of Caprican DRM.

This explanation would seem consistent with Zoe not wanting her avatar program spreading all over the place without her authorization, but it does little to plausibly explain how Daniel was able to make a Tamara avatar. What's worse is Daniel seems to indicate that Tamara has been lost to him as well, claiming that, "it makes sense that Zoe and Tamara would disappear at the same time." No, actually, it doesn't make much sense at all. I fear the writers are letting computer technology be wizardly magic and I hope we get a coherent explanation to this DRM (or whatever it is) nonsense sooner than later.

Still worse, as I alluded to before, is the fact that Daniel hasn't realized that his daughter is still in there in the original prototype. He had all episode to figure it out, but couldn't seem to put two and two together. The "why can't we copy you?" line and the fact that reproducing the MCP by itself isn't enough to create non-moronic Cylons should be enough evidence right there to convince Daniel that his daughter or at the very least the essence of his daughter's original avatar software is very much still alive and kicking in that robotic brain. And yet he doesn't seem to realize that.

Other wrinkles in the plot concern Lacy's curious ability to gain access to the Graystone household after having her clearance revoked by Daniel in the pilot. Did Cylon Zoe order Serge to let her in? Why would Serge take orders from Cylon Zoe? There should have been an establishing scene showing how Zoe did this. Instead, it just comes across as if Lacy just waltzed right into the house without issue. (Update: a deleted scene included on the DVDs indicates that Serge recognizes Zoe in the robot body and follows her commands. It is not clear why Serge failed to communicate this to Daniel.)

The biggest disappointment of this otherwise spectacular episode though is the continuation of Clarice Willow's inexplicable motives. We get to see much more of her life in this episode. She likes unconventional marriages and hookah bars. But these details do little to shed any light on exactly what motivates her involvement with Soldiers of the One, nor does any of her plotting and scheming with regards to Lacy. For that matter, the same can be said of what originally motivated Zoe's, Ben's, and Lacy's interest in Soldiers of the One as well. We get no further clarification on any of that.

Overall, with tighter attention placed on clarifying Clarice Willow's motives and the technical details surrounding Daniel's perceived loss of the Zoe avatar program and its apparent inability to be copied this episode could have knocked the drama out of the park. Amanda's public televised media confession was a fantastic close to the story and its immediate consequences marvelously highlight the perils of public life. Ultimately, this episode is a slight step up in quality from the pilot.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From David on 2010-02-10 at 2:59am:
    I just found your blog and I really like your reviews. I thought your devastating analysis of BSG's finale was spot on.

    I think you are way too easy on this ep of Caprica. As an initial matter, the miscasting of Zoe is painfully obvious. This is supposed to be a computer genius and the source of epochal events. It should be played by a young actress with gravitas and the potential for evil. Instead the character is played like a whiny schoolgirl. This is rendered even more ridiculous when Zoe speaks in her Cylon form. This is just the latest example of the Cylons being rendered hopelessly uncool. It started with BSG's disastrous Final Five story arc and continued with the retconning of the Cylon holocaust as an acting out of Cavil's parental issues. Now we learn that Cylons came into their sentience via a bubble-headed teenage girl and that their fanatical devotion to a monotheistic God, so chilling when BSG aired in 2003, is actually based on the spiritual leanings of a 15 year old. Nice.

    Also, the Amanda Graystone speech was not fantastic, unless by that you literally mean the stuff of fantasy. No mother is going to get up and denounce her dead daughter on global television and in front of a horde of grieving parents on the basis of a suspicion.

    Finally, not to get all PC about it, but Sam Adama is "gay". He would be "homosexual" if this were 1977.
  • From A. Rust on 2010-02-10 at 4:44pm:
    My tendency here is to split the difference between David's opinion and yours, Kethinov. I think that a distinction needs to be made between weak acting and weak writing. My initial reaction to Amanda Graystone's confession was similar to David's. Upon reflection I realized that there were several scenes which revealed that she was very unstable psychologically. However, the actresses performance made it so I didn't buy it. It was a great cliffhanger marred but a subpar performance.

    And while I agree with David that Zoe is most certainly lacking in gravitas, I don't think that precludes the character being a computer genius. In fact Zoe's shallowness may explain her involvement in a wonky religious cult. Shallow people can be swayed by movements that make them feel like they are more deep than they actually are. I also think the actress playing Zoe suffers from usually playing opposite the much stronger actress playing Lacy.

    And I think David's “gay”/”homosexual” distinction is the height of pedantry. I've talked with gay people who prefer to be called “queer” because they feel that “gay” is demeaning. Keeping track of the PC shell game is a near hopeless endeavor. “Homosexual” is no more offensive than it's opposite “heterosexual” both are just terms for explaining the default biological sex a person is attracted to.
  • From David on 2010-02-10 at 10:04pm:
    Well, I won't dispute that shallow people can also be religious and that they can be book smart as well. I am just saying that it is a poor dramatic choice to have a key character on the show - and the main catalyst for events of civilizational significance - turn out to be a bubble-headed, spoiled rich girl.

    I don't buy her as a tortured soul, as a person of spiritual insight or as a computer genius. To compare to BSG, I completely bought James Callis as a tortured genius; I never bought the idea that the Final Five, and especially Ellen Tigh, were all super-genius scientists. It might be that there are some super-geniuses with the profile and demeanor of Ellen Tigh, but that doesn't make it believable or dramatically compelling.

    I can't put my finger on who the actress who plays Zoe reminds me of. It might be Lizzie McGuire or some character from High School Musical. But whoever it is, it certainly isn't an association that the casting people should have been shooting for. They should have gone with an Ellen Paige-type - brooding, multi-layered, complex, with a hint of menace.

    On the gay/homosexual thing: Look, I am as far from PC as it gets, but "homosexual" to describe an individual is archaic. It is not an epithet like "fag", but it is not the term that gay people use to describe themselves today. I would compare it to Harry Reid's use of the word negro. There can at times be a PC shell game with group names, but this isn't an example of that. No gay people today, whether of the buttoned-down conservative variety or the radical variety, will ever ask you to call them homosexual. In fact, I believe they spent many years and much effort to persuade the New York Times to stop using that term.
  • From A. Rust on 2010-02-12 at 10:32pm:
    I actually think the idea that a self-absorbed, yet intelligent girl could be the tipping point of destruction for a society is quite compelling and dramatic. It says a great deal about the decadence of a society that such a shallow girl could lead to so much death and destruction. While I agree with you that Zoe is not a dark and tortured soul, the show isn't claiming that she is, though I certainly think she thinks she is. There are plenty of intelligent teenagers who think they are emotionally deep and profound when they are not. Some of them spend their time writing tortured poetry. Zoe, it seems, turned to monotheism and computer programming. There are copious examples of emotionally immature childhood prodigies in chess, music, and mathematics. In a world where computer technology is as ubiquitous as it is on “Caprica” an emotionally immature tech prodigy is completely possible. Add the fact that she is the daughter of one of the top programmers of the Colonies with cutting edge computer technology in the basement the probability becomes even higher. While you may not like it, it is certainly believable.

    And if gays did fight to get the New York Times to stop using the term homosexual, I hope they don't see this:

    http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/h/homosexuality/index.html

    The first article on the list (“Kenyan Police Disperse Gay Wedding”) mentions the term “homosexual” or “homosexuality” five times. However, there is no comprable subject search tag for “Negro.”
  • From David on 2010-02-18 at 2:30am:
    Again, I never said that it was impossible or unbelievable that a shallow teenage girl could also be intelligent and that this intelligence could lead to trouble. My point is that it doesn't work dramatically. Essentially, the story is that the Cylons, and by extension the holocaust, arose out of the immature spiritual bumblings of a bubblehead. Why, out of all the potential origin stories, did they think that this was the way to go? You say it could make compelling TV drama. I don't see it. Moreover, I might I might accept this approach dramatically if they could have found an actress to pull it off. They didn't.

    The New York Times has a style guide. "Homosexual" and "homosexuality" are proper terms to describe sexual conduct between members of the same sex or the orientation in the abstract. In the article you cited, the use of the term is directed at sexual conduct or the abstract concept of homosexuality.

    Under the style guide, the people themselves are not called "homosexuals". Why? Because gay people felt that the term was clinical and reduced their lives to a sex act, thereby belittling the other aspects of their gay identity. The Times but agreed some 20 years ago to change. I am not going to say that you cannot find a case where they fall afoul of their style guide, but the point is that they make an effort not to.
  • From Michelle on 2010-02-20 at 4:36pm:
    @David: the actress playing Zoe reminds me too much of Eliza Dushku's portrayal of Echo in Joss Whedon's much ballyhooed but underwhelming series "Dollhouse." The same spacey look, same raspy voice (what is it with actresses and raspy voices everywhere now?), same nebulous "I'm a tough girl but I'm kind of vulnerable in a foxy way" vibe that for scifi shows like to portray. Echo's motivations were as flawed as Zoe's appear to be: they have no substance, and reduce a chief protagonist to a snobby schoolgirl with delusions of grandeur. That's not to say it's not realistic (unfortunately and often, such is life), but it doesn't make for great TV-watching, especially if you're supposed to empathize with the character.
  • From Kethinov on 2010-02-20 at 11:30pm:
    David, can you elaborate on your position about Zoe a bit?

    You've communicated all the things you think don't work about her as a character, but what I'd like to know is what would your ideal replacement for Zoe be? If you could rewrite the pilot, what sort of character would you imagine in her place?

    I ask because I personally do find Zoe dramatically compelling. I enjoy the dichotomy between her immature feigns of false profundity and her superior intellect. And I'm having a hard time imagining a better character to bring about the beginnings of Caprica's apocalypse.

    What would you imagine would have been more compelling?
  • From Giuseppe on 2011-12-27 at 7:49pm:
    I've only gotten around to watching Caprica now, almost two years after this episode came out. So I have no idea where the story is going, other than the fact it will come to a premature cancellation. I'm mostly watching it as a set-up for the future Blood & Chrome pilot.

    Onto the show itself... at this point in the show I think Zoe's character is realistic (in that an airhead genious is plausible), but not really compelling. I find her more annoying than anything else, including that raspy voice someone already mentioned. I'm also finding it possible, but quite unlikely that her father, another computer genious, can't put two and two together and realize there's a lot more to his prototype than meets the eye.

    But the one thing that bugs me the most about the Graystones is Amanda's speech at the end. Psychologically fragile or not, I can't buy into the idea that a mother would go out in public and denounce her lost child like that. Again, it's possible, but it doesn't make much sense. So there's too many improbabilities going on to make the whole story very convincing thus far.

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