Caprica review: ‘End of Line’
Air date: 3/26/2010
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
Was that melodramatic enough for you?
“End of Line” is a solidly entertaining, reasonably fast-moving episode of Caprica that promises the status quo has been shattered and new story arcs must be in store for the season’s second half. Kudos. But the episode also overshoots the mark at times, and particularly at the end. I’m not sure that a series as young (or as uneven) as Caprica has earned the right to act like its multi-pronged midseason cliffhanger is the Grand Sweeping Epic that “End of Line” purports to be. At times, this feels pretentious.
BSG revitalized the obligatory cliffhanger for me with its brilliant “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 2,” which managed to convey Epic Sweep and jaw-dropping twists while tiptoeing just up to the line of pretension without stepping over it. What can I say? “End of Line” is not “Kobol’s 2.” I’m not sure I needed these contrived cliffhangers, with the episode ending on two huge “questions” that have obvious answers. Those questions are: (1) Is Amanda dead after having apparently plunged to her suicide off a bridge? And (2) is RoboZoe destroyed, after having driven a van full-speed through a roadblock, flipping over and exploding?
Well, obviously, no and no. It’s clear that Amanda will survive her plunge into the river — assuming she jumped at all — and likely that her suicide attempt will be used as a storyline that further deals with her descent into despair and/or madness (especially for Daniel, who will have to face it directly now that he has more or less admitted his involvement to her in stealing the MCP, which partially drives her to this action).
And it’s also obvious that RoboZoe’s crash through the roadblock will not result in her destruction. Instead, it will mean that the incidents surrounding her escape — the death that preceded it and the crash that followed it — will likely be used to take the Cylon and the project away from Graystone Industries, possibly delivered to Vergis himself.
So, yes, I could’ve lived with the story being executed more straightforwardly, instead of as this overdramatic, oversold, operatic thing. Bear McCreary is a terrific composer, but his score here acts as if the world is ending, when in fact the stakes are (as in much of Caprica as compared to BSG) much smaller and more personal.
But in terms of the stories actually being told, “End of Line” is an involving one, and hints that this series has new promise. It’s almost certainly a major shake-up of the series’ dynamic. I am interested in what comes next and how things will proceed; it’s just that I’m not interested for the reasons the cliffhanger tried to sell me. Caprica has had a tendency to drag its feet (RoboZoe’s plot to get out of the lab has been too protracted, for example) or deal with plots that feel like dead ends (most everything taking place at Clarice’s school, or the use of the GDD characters), but this episode announces that the foot-dragging is over, at least in its current incarnation. With Zoe busting out of Graystone Industries and all the consequences that come with it, there seems to be no way Daniel will ever be able to return to business as usual.
The catalyst for all this is that the deadline for the defense contract has been moved up because the PR situation is threatening to get out of hand. The defense contractors have never had any illusions about how Daniel got his hands on the MCP, but the longer things go on, the more likely the rumors will threaten the political viability of the project. So with the deadline moved, Daniel orders that the U-87’s MCP’s unique analog distinctiveness — in other words, Zoe’s consciousness — be purged from the chip so it can be copied and mass-produced. Daniel says this to Philomon right in front of the U-87, which is a dangerous game of chicken to be playing; I appreciated that Daniel’s motivation stems both from his latest business crisis as well as his personal frustration in not being acknowledged by RoboZoe.
The episode’s key scene — which plays like the inevitable moment of the girl not able to restrain her strength as this hulking robot — comes when Zoe outs herself to Philomon, hoping he will help her. The developing virtual friendship between Virtual Zoe and Philomon showed a sweetness to it that obviously couldn’t last, and it must come as a sobering heartbreak to Zoe that the one person she hoped would take a leap of faith for her ultimately does not. He sounds the alarm, she hurls him across the room into a load-bearing beam, and just like that Philomon is dead. It’s unfortunate to see one of the most intriguing budding relationships on this series so quickly destroyed, but I suppose that’s kind of the point. And it will force the series to move forward, because Daniel especially can’t maintain a quiet status quo when corpses start stacking up.
Speaking of corpses stacking up, this episode also finally brings some potent urgency to the oft-sluggish STO storyline. Basically, we have Clarice, who wants the STO to take a nonviolent approach and look at AI as a way of achieving immortality for monotheists; and we have Barnabas, who is a sadistic monster who wants to blow things up for terrorism’s sake. The two have a confrontation at the episode’s beginning that shows a true chasm in the operations of the STO, with cells at odds with and pointing guns at each other.
And we have poor Lacy, who was just trying to do a favor for Zoe and has so quickly managed to get herself in so very far over her head, leading to an appalling scenario where she’s forced at gunpoint to blow up Clarice’s car (killing Clarice’s accompanying spouses/cell members, but by chance sparing Clarice herself).
James Marsters makes Barnabas impossible to ignore. As villains go, he is attention-grabbing — a truly contemptible SOB with a self-amused charisma of evil. As brutal, two-dimensional villains go, he shows promise, and definitely a lot of screen presence. Barnabas comes across as a guy far more interested in bending people to his will for the sake of his own power than for his cause.
Meanwhile, Joseph hits bottom in New Cap City, with his obsession of finding Tamara turning him into a drug-addled VR addict. Emmanuelle and Tamara work together to engineer an intervention of sorts, the results of which I thought worked — as did the reveal that Emmanuelle is actually the avatar of Joe’s assistant Evelyn (Teryl Rothery), trying to pull him out of his free-fall. I liked the idea of Evelyn using VR as a deception to help someone reclaim his life in the real world, whereas VR often exists as the escape from it.
On the other hand, it seems like we journeyed an awfully long way for this sudden payoff, which plays like a conclusion worthy of two or three episodes of development rather than eight. (One wonders if the series is truly done with New Cap City, and if so why they spent so long developing it.) And the Tamara we meet up with here seems much less menacing than her ominous absence in “Ghosts in the Machine” seemed to imply. The payoff of Tamara shooting her father in New Cap City and expelling him forever was laid on with another of the show’s healthy doses of operatics. Granted, it was mostly earned.
The storyline in “End of Line” that didn’t work for me was, once again and unsurprisingly, the increasingly dire emotional distress of Amanda Graystone. I appreciated the understated tension of the scene where Daniel and Amanda discuss Vergis’ accusation (with Daniel chopping away at vegetables, keeping his eyes on the task while evading his wife), but most of the rest of everything leading up to Amanda’s plunge left me cold. I simply don’t feel for the character the way the show clearly wants me to, and instead find myself impatient and fed up with the whole thing. Amanda’s despair just feels like the wheels of a melodramatic plot forcing itself on me, and I thought the whole suicide notion was a stretch.
This series could do itself a lot of favors by finding a way to make Amanda a more useful and proactive part of the story’s action, instead of having her constantly react to everything as the troubled, emotional wife.
And now to empty a loaded clip into your eagerly awaiting brain:
• The narrative flash-forward device that reveals from the very first scene (and reminds us on each act-in) that RoboZoe will escape the lab felt, to me, played out. Battlestar used this on multiple occasions, including the great “Act of Contrition” and “Resurrection Ship, Part 2,” as well as the lame “Black Market.”
• A video on TV plants the seed of Amanda’s plunge early in the episode, including the hint that people have survived the fall. (I didn’t catch this on first viewing.)
• An amusingly low-tech prop: Joseph’s use of the amp drug looks like an asthma inhaler for eyeballs.
• Vergis appears ready to make his big power play, wining and dining the woman from the defense ministry, with the end result looking like Daniel could very well end up working for Vergis.
• My experiment in “shorter, timelier, blogged reviews” for Caprica has so far been an Epic Fail. I won’t stop trying, though.
• Not sure when Caprica returns for the second half of its season (Syfy naturally has not announced a return date), so I’m not sure when this party will resume. In the meantime, I’ll have plenty of other postings to keep the site active. Who knows — maybe we’ll even get back to the TNG reviews here. Stranger things have happened.