Caprica review: ‘The Imperfections of Memory’
Air date: 3/12/2010
Written by Matthew B. Roberts
Directed by Wayne Rose
Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
An episode like “The Imperfections of Memory” makes me question the ratings sustainability of Caprica on a network that calls itself “Syfy.” This is an episode that values character and atmosphere way above plot and resolution. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. But pitched to a crowd that likely expects a little more sizzle and viscera in their sci-fi (especially from the creators of BSG), there’s a tendency with an episode like this to wonder how patient the audience will be.
I say this as someone who enjoys but cannot yet fully recommend Caprica as a series. There’s real potential for this series to be intriguing and substantive. Even exciting and sci-fi-ish, as “There Is Another Sky” demonstrated. But there’s also the potential for the show to get lost in its own haze of half-baked backstory, just as Amanda and Clarice find themselves lost in the drug-induced haze at the end of “Imperfections.” This is an episode whose storytelling proceeds at a deliberate pace, as if resigned to being the bridge between more definitive plot turns.
I’m not sure I needed big chunks of the A-story, in which Amanda has hallucinations about her long-dead brother. Considering that Amanda already has enough grief and guilt to deal with in the aftermath of Zoe’s death, was it really necessary to go into the backstory of the guilt and regret surrounding her dead brother? As far as I can tell (and I could be wrong about this), the storyline mainly exists in order to hint that Amanda’s hallucinations are more than simply the imaginings of an emotionally troubled former crazy person, but rather something more profound and spiritual. BSG fans will be taking note, no doubt: Is Amanda one of many who have a special ability that might someday become Cylon “projection”? (Of course, I could be barking up the wrong tree here and this could mean nothing, which could be a problem for those who don’t bring their BSG baggage with them to this series; this hallucination angle would not be nearly as interesting.)
There’s some interesting dynamics here with Clarice befriending Amanda, whose use of drugs and booze seems to be quickly heading toward possible “problem” waters. There’s a laid-back atmosphere to the drug-smoking bar that works, and the Prophecy of Apotheosis is again invoked in the name of eternal life. (It’s also interesting to ponder how much Clarice is using or recruiting Amanda, and how much she needs her as a sounding board.) This is heavy on character and atmosphere, and light — probably too much so — on story advancement. (And, again, couldn’t this have been achieved without hallucinations of dead siblings? I mean, who cares?)
Joseph’s entrance into New Cap City with the help of the kid who met Tamara is similarly atmospheric and indicative of stringing us along. There’s not much here we learn that we didn’t already learn in “Another Sky,” and while I appreciate the return to New Cap City, it feels like this story is spinning its wheels more than anything, especially with the introduction of a mysterious woman named Emmanuelle (Leah Gibson) who claims to know where Tamara is and will take Joseph there for a price.
My guess is that the writers already know how this will all play out, but are biding their time because they have an episode to fill. My prediction is that Emmanuelle will end up being superfluous and arbitrary, but I should probably reserve judgment. I suppose this is one of the dangers of full serialization. The best serials (BSG and Lost, to name genre examples) usually make the individual installments compelling in addition to the overall arc.
I found the scenes between Zoe and Philomon to be more engaging for their innocent teen infatuation as well as their philosophical content about the use of VR. For someone who is so interested in the applications of VR, Zoe has very little interest in the notion of fantasy. While most kids her age want to experience V-World for its forbidden pleasures or violence or ability to transcend the laws of physics, Zoe is more interested in VR as a place that can duplicate the real world without cheating at life. Like Clarice, she is interested in technology as a way to preserve memory and extend life.
Meanwhile, Daniel continues to be stalked by Vergis, who always approaches him with a smile and a let’s-be-friends facade that makes his presence all the more ominous. The big nugget of info here is when Vergis tells Daniel that his MCP never worked, so whatever Daniel did to get it to work was a stroke of genius. It takes some mulling for Daniel to put two and two together (and I’m surprised it took this long), but he finally realizes that the reason the MCP works with the U-87 is because of the X factor: Zoe’s avatar program having somehow survived the transfer process — bringing an analog spark of intelligence to a digital chip.
Like I mentioned in the “Know Thy Enemy” review, Caprica is a series that could very well be more about building its universe and soaking in its atmosphere than about exciting revelations and plot points. Fair enough. But I still feel like “Imperfections” was a less compelling, more middling effort. That being said, I can’t say I disliked this storyline or the episode. It just didn’t feel all that crucial.
The paradox of “Imperfections of Memory” is that when you step back and recount all the characters and their relationships and their motives, it seems a lot more eventful in retrospect than it was to experience. BSG was always the opposite in that regard; it felt like more happened than actually did.
Bullets R Us:
• “I work with top-secret military robots.” “That’s really hot.”
• Lacy decides to join the STO because she wants to fulfill her promise to Zoe in getting the robot to Gemenon. This seems awfully shortsighted of her, but perhaps that’s the point.
• I know I complain about it every week, but it again applies here: The STO, despite all of its tentacles, is too much of a vague piece of business operating on the fringes of the story rather than something that feels vital to the show. And the GDD is nowhere to be seen.
• I enjoyed this chain of events: Zoe tells Philomon her thoughts about an analog process aiding a digital world, which gives Philomon the idea about an analog process in the MCP preventing it from being duplicated, which in turn leads Daniel to suspect Zoe survived being transferred into the U-87. So basically, Zoe outed herself.