Caprica: “Reins of a Waterfall”

Caprica City's Beautiful Anachronisms

Caprica City's Beautiful Anachronisms

This week’s episode, “Reins of a Waterfall,” feels like we’re laying more groundwork for upcoming stories. For the second hour of a series that needs to build and explain twelve planets’ worth of new material, though, this is fine.It’s not unusual for soaps, like Caprica, to have episodes that further the stakes and add complications without having a strong, self-contained story, and I feel like that’s what’s happening here.

Here we go with bullet points for the episode. I know I’m skewing mostly towards the world-building aspects of the show and away from the storytelling, but as episodes unfold, it’s clear where a lot of my interest in this series lies. I’m hoping to get more enmeshed in the narrative as things go on, but I’m not here to predict what will happen next, but to look at how the show is put together and what sort of creative choices (and dramatic questions) are made along the way.

Spoilers ahoy.

• If this episode has a self-contained story, it seems to be about Joseph Adama’s effort to see the avatar of his daughter again (though it meets with failure), and Graystone’s arc from defensive silence to a decision to engage the press for damage-control purposes.

• Ah, they still have publishing in the Colonies. So publishing can endure even electronic paper and virtual entertainment.

Things are getting ugly fast between the Adamas and the Graystones. Can this kind of antagonism continue? Adama shows us just what kind of demand we can expect from the world if Zoe Graystone’s avatar-creating program gets out. Considering that program is a major centerpiece of the show, I’m surprised to see

• As Willy Adama walks into some Tauron hangout, we hear source music from the world of the Colonies: another example of Bear McCreary deepening the world through its sounds. As usual, McCreary gives us a great look into what I want to call the design of that song, “Voices of the Dead,” over on his blog. Let me be clear: I absolutely love this kind of stuff. “Voices of the Dead” is rap, in Ancient Greek, played by space-gangsters 100,000 years ago. You don’t get that a lot on TV.

• Zoe’s Avatar (Zoe-A), in the Cylon body, watches her parents discuss the possibility of Zoe as a terrorist, and she says nothing. Why is she keeping her identity as a thinking, sapient avatar a secret from her father? It leads to unfortunate situations like this episode’s, where her parents frak in front of her robot body. This also raises the question: Does Zoe-A know that Zoe wasn’t a terrorist? Are we meant to assume that she knows these things about Zoe, or that she doesn’t? If she does, why doesn’t she speak up? If she doesn’t, it reveals a provocative flaw in the avatar, doesn’t it?

It shows how the avatar is an imperfect ghost, how it is a different person from the original — a gestalt formed from the digital info-genes left behind in the electronic landscape. This, by the way, makes me think of a person cloned from left-behind eyelashes and skin flakes, or once again of Gattaca.

Drama from a Low Angle

Drama from a Low Angle

• The podcast for this episode confirms something I meant to bring up in the pilot: the angle of photography. Look at how much, and how often, this show shoots its characters from below their eyeline, looking up, revealing not only the characters but more of the area around them. This is an inherently dramatic angle, but on this show it also shows us ceilings, walls, and rooftops that might be missing if they were shooting more of this show on a set. It makes the world of Caprica City feel real and encompassing, like it exists beyond the actors and the props. (That’s not a slight on the actors — they sell the setting and their characters wonderfully.)

I’m seeing a lot of photography techniques used to charge up dialogue scenes used throughout the show: longer shots, shots from above (especially in the Graystone Estate), moving the camera around the actors when we get down into their sight line, etc. etc. Look, specifically, at the scene where Daniel Graystone discusses his publicity problem in his kitchen with staffers from Graystone Industries — that scene is shot almost like a climactic showdown, and we’ve still got 12 minutes of the show left. It’s exciting and it has a great sense of place, when it could be shot like Grey’s Anatomy, with a lot of close-ups and boring “oners.” Dig that.

Notice, though, that the angle on the characters changes when they’re shot in Daniel’s featureless virtual room, where Tamara was stored. Presumably, this set requires overhead lighting and blacked-out walls that don’t let them shoot from below the actor’s eye-line, so instead we get this neutral camera angle in an empty space, trading the real-space tensions of other scenes for a local-theater vibe that demands a lot from the actors. I can appreciate the challenges involved here, but I sure hope that we don’t have to spend a lot of time in this room in the future. Ugh.

• Here I was hoping that we’d stay away from too much Catholicism in the depiction of these ancient alien monotheists, but here we are seeing Sister Clarice in a combination spy-meet and confessional. We also get a mention of “God’s plan,” a hallmark phrase of the monotheistic Cylons, plus some striking evidence of Sister Clarice’s feelings about Zoe-A: that her existence is evidence of a “spark of life” bestowed by the monotheist’s God.

A Houshold Idol

A Houshold Idol

The final scene is great. It shows us a lot about the mythology and sociology of these characters through a great prop and a bit of (perhaps heavy-handed) dialogue. I love that they’ve included a notion of household gods here, playing up favorites based on a particular family’s aims and needs. It’s all like a fake-out, though, so we’re not ready for the scale of change we see in Joseph Adama by the end of the scene… where he asks his gangster brother, Sam, to kill Amanda Graystone. That’s a huge change in Joseph Adama’s goals and the stakes of his anger with Daniel. Maybe it’s too big. But as a story beat to go out on, to make me curious for the next episode, it’s pretty good.

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comments ( 4 )

  • ReplyTaylor 9 Feb 2010

    The avatar is a close, but imperfect clone of the original. Zoe-A’s memory stream diverges from Zoe’s after her creation, so she has no record of Zoe’s meetings or dealings with the STO, only what Zoe told her after the fact. The two seemed to act like twin sisters after her creation. She believes Zoe wasn’t the terrorist because Zoe talked about a different plan with her. One that she intends to finish. I think its a heavy burden to put on a sixteen-year-old friend. “Hey ship my 1 ton robot weapon body to another planet and don’t get caught.” I wouldn’t know how to get that through customs.
    Also I love the use of “non-traditional” matings in the series. The polyamoryous family and that Sam Adama is gay and a badass gangsta.

  • ReplyWill 9 Feb 2010

    Right on, about Zoe-A, except I’m unclear where Zoe-A stands on the notion that Zoe might have been working with STO and not told Zoe-A. If Zoe-A believes that Zoe wasn’t a terrorist, when is she going to reveal the truth to the Graystones (or the world)? (It’s a secret, which means it must come out sooner or later, right?) Is it possible that Zoe-A thinks Amanda and Daniel have discovered a truth about Zoe that Zoe-A didn’t know? Or is Zoe-A just trying to keep Zoe’s secret?

    I dig how open Caprica society seems to be, but I’m waiting to find out if Sam and Zane (is it Zane?) get flak for their relationship or not. I get the impression from “Rebirth,” when Sam talked about flirting with boys down in the neighborhood, that homosexual relationships are no big deal at this time on Caprica, but I’m trying not to assume too much yet. Will we see, for example, that homosexuality is not socially accepted on other Colonies? What about polyamory? So much still to know!

  • ReplyTaylor 10 Feb 2010

    I think for now Zoe-A is trying to keep Zoe-A secret. The dramatic tension that was brought on in that scene from her restraining herself from blurting out the innocence of her maker and the fact of her own existance both at once is wonderfully painfull. If she had, the Graystones would have their daughter back, the secret of the cylon malfunction would be revealed and she could let them know that Adama’s daughter is wandering around the V-club like a fly trying to find the way out. Fade out, show over.

  • ReplyWill 10 Feb 2010

    I get why the writers are having her keep her mouth shut. And I guess I get that Zoe-A is trying to keep her mouth shut so that she can be shuffled off to Gemenon for the monotheist’s mission to unfold, but still.

    If Sister Clarice believes Zoe-A is so valuable, then why get Zoe blown up — it would just make Zoe-A harder to get at or replicate. Sister Clarice was (somewhat?) behind the bombing, right?

    This show needs a little dose of clarifying momentum.