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Caprica review: ‘Reins of a Waterfall’

Caprica: Reins of a Waterfall

The fallout from Amanda’s shocking public announcement puts Daniel’s business in jeopardy. Joseph and Sam play hardball when paying Daniel a visit. Zoe links back into the virtual realm, where she makes a surprising discovery. Sister Clarice makes contact with the STO.

Air date: 2/5/2010
Written by Michael Angeli
Directed by Ronald D. Moore

**1/2

Note: This review contains significant spoilers.


“Reins of a Waterfall” reinforces my feelings that it may take Caprica a while to win me over. Granted, I had thought I was fully won over with the pilot, which was great. But with the subsequent outings I’m sensing a television series that has many threads that are vaguely connected, but a show that’s lacking the sense of provocative urgency the pilot had. “Waterfall” is not light on plot — not at all — but it’s light on making sense of that plot. For now, at least.

Also, I’m thinking some of this resembles our own world perhaps a little too much, like the interspersed television footage featuring Baxter Sarno (Patton Oswalt) as a late-night comic who pokes fun at the daily headlines (although in our world, no comic would come within a mile of jokes about a terrorist bombing).

There’s also the plot surrounding Duram’s investigation at the Global Defense Department, which plays like an off-the-shelf police/legal procedural. They find in their files a tape recording from when they had interviewed the bomber, Ben Stark, a year before the bombing, and let him go. They promptly destroy the tape, fearing hell to pay should the press find out. Later, the investigators leak legal details to the newspaper about “red tape” that’s preventing a search of the Graystone home. This is competently portrayed Law & Order-like stuff, but the problem is that it doesn’t really play to the strengths of Caprica and its universe but rather into the more generic procedures of a legal drama.

The fallout for Daniel is also very Earth-y, with his company’s stock falling like a rock, and people reacting violently when they see one of the Graystones in public. Daniel’s corporate right-hand man, Cyrus Xander (Hiro Kanagawa), suggests some prudent PR, something Daniel balks at.

Daniel gets his ass kicked in episode’s teaser when Joseph and Sam show up outside his boxing gym and accuse him of being the father of a terrorist who doesn’t return Joseph’s phone calls. Joseph wants to see the VR avatar of his dead daughter Tamara (Genevieve Buechner), created in the pilot. But I’m not sure I buy his rethinking of the situation that he so accurately called an “abomination.” At what point does a VR program become so real and important to a person that they start substituting it for reality? A good question, but I don’t think Joseph had been anywhere near that point. Why does he feel a need to go back there?

On the other hand, I found it interesting and somewhat surprising to see just how corrupt Joseph actually is. The pilot made clear that he was a man at war with his past and the Tauron ways. But the scene here where he has a run-in with the judge that he’s bribing on behalf of the mob — that was more corrupt than I was expecting, and made for a good scene. And the episode’s real doozy at the end where Joseph asks Sam to “balance things out” and kill Daniel’s wife: Whoa. It’ll be interesting to see how dark they’ll go with the character this early in the show. (He’s quite a different man compared to what we had heard — or assumed — of the man from William Adama’s brief tales of him on BSG.)

Elsewhere in the story we have Lacy’s strange interactions with Sister Clarice — which are decidedly inconclusive and bizarre. Lacy’s deer-trapped-in-headlights persona is hard to get a read on (although there’s something intriguing about Magda Apanowicz’s odd and idiosyncratic performance). Also puzzling are the strange looks exchanged in her scenes with a boy at school named Keon, who apparently is also in the STO. (She pins him to the ground and demands answers, threatening, “My knees are pointy and hard!”)

The story’s most intriguing passages involve the return to the VR realm after Cylon Zoe recreates her holoband program and is able to link back into it and meet with Lacy in VR. They discover the thought-to-be lost avatar of Tamara Adams, who still can’t feel her heart beating, and they turn her loose in the V-Club. In terms of sci-fi, the VR material is the most intriguing stuff here. It begs the question of what exactly the Tamara avatar is and what happens when it goes roaming cyberspace free but lost. And there’s a poignancy in Virtual Zoe’s understated investment in Virtual Tamara’s welfare.

But there’s also Sister Clarice out in VR as well. Zoe does not trust her, and indeed it seems that Clarice and the STO want the Zoe avatar for their own religious-zealot purposes (or to fulfill prophesized epiphanies). Clarice meets with a mysterious STO member named Alvo whose face and voice dare not be revealed. This meeting is conducted in a VR room that looks like a confessional; I am intrigued by the notion of using the Matrix, or the VR realm, or whatever, as an allegory for an ultra version of the Internet, where terrorist organizations can scheme and plot in ultra chat rooms.

The problem with this episode is its sheer amount of information coupled with its inability to make much of it riveting. It’s watchable, absolutely; but it lacks zest and lasting impact. We are watching chess pieces on a chessboard. What awaits Zoe on Gemenon is a mystery; Sister Clarice is a maddening enigma; Clarice’s scenes with Lacy are puzzling and weird; and the STO is evidently comprised of factions unaware of the operations of their other sub-factions. Or not.

There’s a lot going on in “Reins of a Waterfall.” Perhaps too much. It sets in motion many things that will surely continue to play out this season. But the narrative focus is splintered across a myriad of storylines, and the show feels a little impenetrable from an emotional standpoint. (The big emotional scene — Amanda’s breakdown with Joseph — struck me as overacted, over-scored, and overly melodramatic.)

Some other thoughts:

• The cinematography the past two episodes is much more BSG-like, as is Bear McCreary’s score. The pilot seemed to be bringing things back to more traditional aesthetics, but the series seems to be moving quickly away from that in favor of its more chaotic BSGverse roots.

• Little Tauron: I like it. The atmosphere is cool. Although it sort of gets lost in the shuffle of the rest of the episode. Maybe someday we’ll get a whole show there, dealing with the mob. For now, Sam is an awfully bad influence on young William, no?

• Daniel and Amanda have sex in front of the Cylon, not knowing that their daughter’s consciousness lives inside. Ew. (Why doesn’t Daniel simply turn the robot off when it’s not in use? Doesn’t he suspect Zoe might still be in there? Or at least that the robot can still observe them?)

• We see here that Sam is not simply a gay mobster, but a married gay mobster with a very normal home life. I like that the Capricans are not nearly so hung up on their sexuality as we are.

• Daniel’s PR consultant, Pryah, is played by Luciana Carro (Kat on Battlestar).

• Whenever I see Brian Markinson, I can’t help but think of his scene in DS9‘s “In the Cards,” where he extols the virtues of his Cellular Regeneration and Entertainment Chamber. That, and his ill-fated turn as Lt. Durst, who gets his face removed in Voyager‘s “Faces.”


25 Comments
  1. knitpicker - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - 7:55 pm

    Thanks Jammer – I agree with the review.
    After some earlier concerns, I have reached a level of contentment with the character of Sam Adam. He is a loving spouse. He seems to be taking on much more of a parental role with Will than Joe ever does. While I don’t like the violent culture and code of conduct that Sam ascribes to, or exposes Will to, he seems to behave with honor within that code.

  2. Nolan - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - 9:09 pm

    First, you caught “Kat’s” actress, but did you see the man who played ‘Duck” in BSG, in little Tauron?

    Second, I get the impression that you’re not as into Amanda’s storylines. Is that just due to the writing, or the how the actress performs her role? Also, did you notice that when Daniel and Amanda, start having sex, the Cylon’s ‘eye’ swings away from them?

    So far, in the series, I guess we’re still waiting to see how the plots pan out. It’s taking a slower approach to the storytelling it seems, than BSG. I do think that things for Willie Adama will come to a head at some point, and I think it will turn out that he tries to ‘take money from a cash register’ and probably gets caught.

    Also, I’m at most on the fence with the opening titles…they just don’t feel right…

  3. Joe - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 12:41 am

    Thanks for the review.

    I was also surprised by Joseph’s corruption. I did find a short negative reference about his character in Crossroads II. Lampkin tells Lee that he put him on the witness stand “because I knew you were an honest man…much unlike your grandfather.” I’m almost positive I didn’t hear the “un” part of unlike the first time. Also, it makes me wonder if the Caprica storyline was already in the minds of the creators back then.

  4. Matt L - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 12:43 am

    I agree with the gist of this review, in particular I’ve noticed that this show suffers from serialitis (TM ME!), where it forgets to make sure each episode has an arc of its own within the larger arc of the series. Instead you just feel like you’re watching a chunk from a very long episode. There are a lot of good moments to be found in this episode, but they never become a cohesive whole.

    One thing stood out to me, when you asked “Why does he feel a need to go back there?”. Isn’t the answer obvious? He misses his daughter. Yeah, in the pilot he made a snap judgment about her AI being an abomination. But any parent would start to second guess themselves during those inevitable moments when you just want to hug a child who isn’t there anymore. How many parents can’t bring themselves to clean out a dead child’s room? It’s the same concept only it has to be even more enticing. You’re not just in the presence of a place your child once lived, you get to hold them and talk to them.

    And really is an AI necessarily an abomination? I’m reminded of something Lee said during the fourth season of Battlestar. It’s the episode where he asks his dad if it really matters if Starbuck is a Cylon or not. Either way she’d still be Starbuck…he had a good point and it can be applied here. If the AI of his daughter really does have his daughter’s personality…is it truly bad? Is it truly an abomination? Or is it just his daughter without her body? And if that’s the case is it wrong for him to want to see her? I think not and surely this same line of thinking is going through his head.

    The more I think about it the more I agree that these philosophical questions are easily the most interesting part of the show so far…

  5. karatasiospa - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:18 am

    Good review jammer and i agree with you. Caprica until now is slow almost very slow. And there are many threads here (a scfi thread, a religious fanaticism thread, a crime/legal drama thread a corporations thread) which are only vaguely joined. A result of this is that the series sometimes does not feel scifi at all. Another result is the lack of any definite direction. And this slow pace you know is a trait of many soap operas. It is still early to judge but i’m afraid that if they continue this way caprica will have a serious problem.

  6. mouse - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:56 am

    Tamara’s plot once again made me think of that theory someone had on a message board that some of the characters we are witnessing now are going to become Cylons themselves, and perhaps part of the core personalities that will make up the Humlons.

    She also struck me as a really strong, erm person? “I can’t feel my heart beating but I can’t worry about that now.” Kind of an amazing UnKid.

    @Matt L – I agree with you about the why for Adama going to seek Tamara. I just wish the show had done show instead of tell.

  7. Will - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 5:52 am

    @Joe, yeah, the Caprica story was in the minds of the creators during that time. I got hold of a copy of the pilot script and it’s dated around when Crossroads aired.

    I actually missed the episode before this “Rebirth” and the first half of the pilot because I live in the UK and it airs during schooltime on a Tuesday so I’m forced to record it. It was okay with the Pilot becuase I saw the second half and I read in the script what happened in the first half, so is that the reason I found this episode confusing?

    I think there is a bit too much going on on Caprica. It’s difficult to follow at time. I think the most intriguing story is the part with Zoe in it. I’m interested in how the whole story will pan it though, and I for one believe it may be the DS9 to BSG’s TNG. I hope.

  8. knitpicker - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 7:32 am

    mouse – I hadn’t thought about where the Humlons came from. My vote would be Zoe as 6 and Tamara as 8. Now, who gets killed off to make the boys?

  9. Josh - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:04 pm

    Fair enough. I’m really enjoying it, but I probably agree it’s because I am patiently awaiting the payoff. I texted my friend after I first watched this episode saying “It’s building” which in other words means it hasn’t gotten there yet.

    It obviously has disadvantage over BSG in that it can’t have the same kind of gripping things happening while we wait for the real series plot to start. The story of BSG didn’t really get going until the end of the first season, but the more small scale stories about survival after that attack kept us intrigued. Small scale stories about life on Caprica would never captivate in the same way.

    I do like Matt’s point though about over serialising. If the series does pay off big time in the end, I think we’ll appreciate these episodes more as part of a cohesive whole. But until then, it can give us a feeling of “And?” at the end of each episode. This could pose a risk to the sustainability in terms of the ratings of course so hopefully they’ll give us something soon.

    Still, as you say Jammer, it’s watchable and I’ll continue to watch anticipating that it will be worth the wait.

  10. Tony - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 5:43 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with your observations Jammer, as well as with what most of you have written. My main nitpick with this show, and it’s a big one, is that Caprican/Colonial culture is WAY too close to our actual Western culture in the 21st century. Tauron HIP-HOP? Really? C’mon….hearing hip-hop music AND seeing a Jon Stewart/Bill Mahr type of tv show smacks of absurdity. I can see two similar life forms (Colonials and Humans) evolving independently of one another across this vast, vast Universe of ours (although that’s a big stretch too). But, when these people have the same exact music as us? No way! That aspect of this show takes me completely out of the sci-fi realm and into the B.S. one.

  11. Eileen - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 11:03 pm

    I agree that there’s a lot going on and, though I am really enjoying all the story lines, it is a little depressing when I realize the episode is over and so little seems to have happened. Then again, I think the crazy issues/ relationships/ topics covered make up for it, so far.

    @Tony; I don’t know if you’ve seen the end of BSG (and I don’t want to spoil anything) but if you have I’d just like to point out the ‘it has all happened before and it shall all happen again’ thing (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler) as it explains how Colonial and Human similarities make sense.

  12. karatasiospa - Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 9:24 am

    To Eleen
    The “all this happened before and will happen again” is notfor the music!
    it is a reference to social evolution. It is rather imprpable that even if the history would start again it wiould be exactly the same especially in such matters as music!!

  13. Nolan - Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 1:48 pm

    Actually karatasiospa, considering events that transpire in the last two seasons the end of the third to be precise…”All this has happened before and all this will happen again” can specifically apply to music.

  14. Chris L - Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 6:31 pm

    Nolan,
    To go along with your point, it is insinuated (during Daybreak part 2) that much of our culture was inherited from theirs. That’s why everything looks so similar. I mean how likely would it be for two different cultures in two different star systems to come up with a fashion accessory like a tie? That illogical piece of clothing would have to have a common source.

  15. Eileen - Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 7:10 pm

    My point was like what Nolan said; music is exactly the kind of thing that would repeat itself.
    Also, you spelt my name wrong, hehe.

  16. Tony - Friday, February 19, 2010 - 10:34 am

    Eileen – I was a fanatical follower of BSG, from the miniseries to the bitter end – and by “bitter end” I mean that I was not too happy w/the way the series ended. Someone else wrote about ties – another great example. The Colonials may have mated with us and passed some DNA down to us, but, DNA does not replicate SPECIFIC CULTURAL ITEMS! DNA is (essentially) a complicated set of instructions that tells cell “X” to become a nose cell, and cell “Y” to become a hair follicle, for example. It does not pass down musical scores, sports rules, fashion styles, TV shows, etc… MAYBE I could buy into one song – I’ll let Watchtower slide, but, a an entire genre? And, it’s also tied-in to gangsters….gangsta rap, hip-hop = Tauron gangsters!?!?! WTF??? Am I the only one who sees the absurdity in this? This is bordering on parody. I always thought the “…has happened before…” line was about history repeating itself and sentient beings not learning from their past mistakes and thus making the same mistakes over and over – it’s not a phrase that describes humans = colonials = humans = colonials, ad infinitum. We are NOT the same – we don’t play Pyramid, but, we do play sports. That’s an acceptable and believable analog. Close, but not an exact match. When the show starts imitating our culture verbatim, it’s too much for me.

  17. Eileen - Friday, February 19, 2010 - 11:32 am

    Tony – I understand all that, definitely. I guess the point I was trying to make goes along with what I sort of thought was insinuated during the last episode. I sort of saw the ‘everything has happened before and will happen again’ thing as saying that things would evolve the exact same way (not just genetically but culturally too). I’m pretty sure there’s a theory about that and it makes sense to me; why would we evolve differently in culture if not through DNA?

    I think it just depends on opinions – I’m not trying to convince you of this necessarily, just explain it… What I thought they were saying in that last scene of the last episode was that ‘God’ was just running the same thing over and over again and trying to get it to work, but it kept screwing up. (That’s not necessarily specifying whether there is a God or not.) I thought Ron Moore and the other writers were sort of saying that, no matter what, we’re going to keep doing these really stupid things over and over again, no matter what. Genetics and culture would both evolve the same because experiences would all be the same and, eventually, we’d die off again. Just a thought.

  18. Tony - Friday, February 19, 2010 - 1:07 pm

    Thanks Eileen! I appreciate the lively debate. BTW, I like Caprica, hope I am not coming across as too negative in that regard. A little nitpick here and there I can live with, and what I loved about BSG (and I guess now w/Caprica) is exactly this sort of dialogue/exchange, which means that people are thinking about what they are watching, and not just sitting passively in front of their TV screens.
    Oh….one more thing: BSG fans are 99.99999% polite, well-informed and hardly ever rude, so even if one disagrees, there’s no need to be….disagreeable. :)
    Cheers!

  19. knitpicker - Friday, February 19, 2010 - 1:20 pm

    An analogy : in Star Trek TOS, there was an episode where the audience needed to identify an alien which was attracted to salt. A bunch of futuristic salt shakers were designed, which then required overt labeling in the dialog so the viewers knew what they were. In the end, the choice was made to use an easily identifiable salt shaker. Similarly, in this show, they could create all kinds of novel cultural stuff and then devote lots of time to teaching us what it all means. It looks like they chose to use existing stereotypes to give a quick fix on the cultural setting. Given how long it is taking to establish the plot line as it is, this may have been a reasonable choice; although I agree with Tony that they could have been less heavy handed.

  20. Eileen - Saturday, February 20, 2010 - 12:46 am

    Likewise Tony. I’m pretty sure the reason I’m here is for great discussions and debates, thanks for this one. :D

    Battlestar Galactica (and Caprica, it seems) are great for analyzing and interpreting; it’d be wrong not to talk about them with people afterwards.

    Knitpicker – That makes a lot of sense as well, and what a great way to explain it, hehe.

  21. Chris L - Saturday, February 20, 2010 - 11:56 pm

    knitpicker,
    You are exactly right about why things were designed that way for BSG and Caprica. My point is that TPTB can also justify it with the internal logic of their story.

  22. knitpicker - Monday, February 22, 2010 - 7:49 am

    Chris – what grates on me is that with all the rich variety of the world’s cultures available to them, they are focussed on stereotypical US norms. I think they could have set the scene just as effectively while being more creative in the choice of steotypes and in the casting.

  23. karatasiospa - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 2:29 am

    To Eileen
    DNA does not dictate specific cultural traits that is unscientific. otherwise how can you explain the myriad different musics and dances all around the world? as a not american i know how many differences exist in these specific cultural traits around the world. Or perhaps “zeimbekiko” ( a native dance in my country Greece) is a result of colonial DNA? I understand that Moore wants to make direct references to modern american culture but sometimes he goes too far.

  24. enniofan - Thursday, March 4, 2010 - 6:38 pm

    I wonder why people are harping — just now — about the mimicking of popular American, or western culture in Caprica?

    it’s been evident since the BSG mini series that we were the model for fictional colonial society.

    I like the fact that it’s familiar, yet not. Lived in, yet completely alien.

    It’s cool that they don’t go out of their way — to the point of absurdity like they do in Trek — to create NEW ceremonies, new extravagant make-up, new technobabble.

    If we’re talking about people and free society, why is not unlikely that such a society might develop like ours, with cars, computers, robots, etc? this isn’t TNG where everything and everyone is brightly polished, even in war time.

    It’s Caprica: they’re hedonistic, about to create a race of slaves, and on the verge of total annihilation. You gotta run with it at least a little bit.

    :-)

  25. Jim - Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 7:44 pm

    I have to agree with enniofan’s assessment. Aside from many bad examples in Star Trek (Angel One?), there is another issue. The old axiom “write about what you know” may or may not be completely true (i’m not a writer but i’ve taken writing courses at college and heard this many times) but presumably this show is written and produced in North America, so it isn’t surprising that their culture is derived from ours.

    So i guess the question really is, how much different does their culture need to be? If it’s too different it risks being over the top fake, if it’s too similar it strains believability.

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