Caprica review: ‘Reins of a Waterfall’
Air date: 2/5/2010
Written by Michael Angeli
Directed by Ronald D. Moore
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.”