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Caprica review: ‘End of Line’

Caprica: End of Line

When Daniel’s deadline to deliver Cylons for the military contract is pushed up, he orders the U-87 be copied for mass production — a process that would mean the destruction of Zoe’s program. So Zoe attempts a desperate escape from the laboratory.

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.


32 Comments
  1. TheSpatulaMessiah - Monday, April 26, 2010 - 8:29 pm

    Nitpick, but one worth making: the correct title is “End Of Line.” It’s more evocative, besides being a BSG reference.

  2. Jammer - Monday, April 26, 2010 - 10:25 pm

    It’s actually not. I checked several sources, including the Syfy official website, which says it’s “End of the Line.”

    Yes, “End of Line” would be more BSGverse appropriate. But that’s not what it is according to the consensus I’ve seen.

  3. enniofan - Monday, April 26, 2010 - 10:46 pm

    the Sgt Hadrian actress was the Defense ministry agent who schmoozes with Vergis.

    I thought it was a good episode and things will definitely move forward at a pretty quick pace….the teaser for the second half of the season was quite good I thought.

    a lot of hyperbole in the scoring (the music is fantastic, I’ll give it that, with an appearance by Alessandro Juliani, a classically opera singer) and the stupid flashbacks Zoe had while ramming the van into roadblock. utterly unnecessary.

  4. Jason - Monday, April 26, 2010 - 10:50 pm

    I’d give this one a 3.5, pretty much enjoyed it. Maybe I just miss the cliffhangers from BSG so much and that’s why. I sure hope they get things moving a lot faster from here on out.

  5. Ian Whitcombe - Monday, April 26, 2010 - 11:29 pm

    So am I just a dupe for thinking that Amanda is really dead? This was her second suicide attempt, after all, and I doubt there’s any other place for the character to go. Especially now that she’s alienated from her husband.

    Of course, this is only the ninth episode of a full-season, so I have no idea how they’d work out Paula Malcomson’s contract if such is the case.

    Without getting too far into random speculation, I point out that both David Eick’s podcast and Bear Mccreary’s blog had a certain amount of finality to them when discussing these events as well.

  6. Derek - Monday, April 26, 2010 - 11:48 pm

    The ending was hugely overblown and certainly pretentious, but Bear McCreary sold it to me. Like Jammer, I don’t particularly care about Amanda, but I sure cared about the score, which made me care about what was happening. Bringing in Alessandro Juliani to sing was a stroke of genius, too. I wish BSG had included more operas :-) . Bear made this otherwise pretty good episode into something great. 3.5 from me, or if you ever did quarter-stars (please don’t) it’s a 3.75. I wish Bear got more mainstream recognition and nailed some high-profile gigs, although I guess then there’d be the risk that he wouldn’t be allowed to go crazy like the BSG and Caprica producers have encouraged.

  7. karatasiospa - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 5:25 am

    I think that the creatore of caprica tried to articulate grand scifi themes with personal histories. They have done the same in BSG (and succesfully) but in caprica the balance shifted more to the side of personal histories, no doubt a result of the usual press from the studio to make the series more accessible to wider audiences. The result was, as expected, a failure (allthough not a big failure). The ratings of Caprica were low (much lower thatn BSG’s) becouse neither wider audiences were accesed nor the BSG fans (or scifi fans in particular) were maintained. And You know why? becouse scifi fans watch scifi for the gramd themes. No they are not indifferent to personal histories but they want the grand themes more to the centre of the series. Add to this the very slow pace and you will find why this series wasn’t so good as expected.
    I’m not saying that i didn;t like Caprica. It was good, sometimes even great, definitely the only inteligent science fiction this year. But it had (and has) a greater potenial. I saw the promo for the rest of the first season and it is focused on the uprising of the cylons. That is promising, so let’s hope that the rest of the season will do better.

  8. James - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 5:55 am

    I feel this episode deserves two stars, no more… Jammers review reads like a two star, he just couldent bring himself to do it. I understand, Caprica is interesting, and Galactica was great. But most of the episodes so far have been unfocused and
    and confusing with the show unclear as to where it was going with its story. There is great talent involved here, no question about that. But this episode never felt more like “Dynasty” complete with silly melodramatic cliffhangers.
    I think Caprica has its work cut out for it, I find it very odd seeing mercs and old morris cars on another planet thousands of years ago. This feels more like SYFY than si-fi(sorry). I cant help thinking that the Galactica rip-off Stargate Universe might end up doing better (the last couple of episodes were’nt half bad)
    I hope Caprica can get its act to-gether, Its attempting to innovate and I will keep watching, hopfully’End of the line’ will be the begining of some thing great.

  9. Jason - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 6:26 am

    They really do need to get the show moving now. The stuff about the grand theme being important is so true. Lets get on to stuff that really matters quickly.

  10. enniofan - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 10:26 am

    Also keep in mind that I think they made the change from Jane Espensen to that new guy as show runner, I think after this first half of the season.

    maybe the quality of the show will markedly improve.

    One thing I liked about BSG is even in it’s slow soap-opera moments (and it has more in common with Caprica in this way than you realize), it’s got focus….Caprica has been wildly all over the place.

    Certainly some GREAT moments this first half though:

    the Tauron rites

    Tamara’s episode

    New Cap City

    Barnabus

    That judge in the second episode that rains all over Adama’s parade has an awesome turn (that scene look like something out of Eight Men Out or something).

    the entire “Know Thy Enemy” episode was my personal favorite….Vergis’ speech at the end was chilling, combined with McCreary’s wonderful music…yeah, that was good.

    and I guess you just have to wonder if they intentionally left Clarice’s motivations unclear for a reason. And that goes to the idiocy of breaking the show up for so long. I can understand a month of re-runs or something….but a MONTHS LONG HIATUS? bullshit.

    what’s happened with the GDD? dropped altogether?

    When will Serge kick some ass?

    organ meats?

  11. Luiz Castanheira - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 11:24 am

    A klingon directed it…. What explains the opera (laughs)…

    Very much with Jammer on this one…

    Third showrunner in less than one season? Generaly not a good sign…

  12. TheSpatulaMessiah - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 11:32 am

    On further but still very minimal research, I’ve seen disagreements about the title. SyFy and program guides use the “the,” Hulu and the podcast use “End Of Line.” I’m going to hope that SyFy made a mistake and it spun off from there, because the latter is really a way way better title. We’ll have to see how it’s written on the DVDs too.

    I should probably acknowledge having read the review. I pretty much agree with the rating (I might go 2.5 instead of 3, but that’s quibbling), with the assessment of which plots and scenes work especially well, and with the general feeling that the tone seems overdone and a little inconsistent with the rest of the series.

  13. Jammer - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 1:35 pm

    I haven’t had time to listen to the podcast, but I’d probably be most likely to go with that as the final authority for the title.

    I have also seen it both ways, but figured the Syfy site (and a contact there that Alan Sepinwall says confirmed it with him when he wrote his review) would know what they were talking about.

    But then again, maybe not.

    But then again again, I also recall that RDM kept calling it “Deadlocked” rather than “Deadlock” for his podcast of that episode, and I’m pretty sure the actual title is “Deadlock.”

    I also remember that the SciFi website listed “Sacrifices” rather than “Sacrifice” when that episode of BSG originally aired. In that case, the website was wrong and the podcast was right.

    Jesus, why do I remember this useless stuff?

    My point: I do my due diligence when it comes to episode titles. If I’m wrong, it’s because I chose the wrong source to listen to, rather than from a lack of checking.

  14. bigpale - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 1:59 pm

    Overall, this was a good, not great start to the series. I think a lot of people were spoiled when BSG took off right from the start as a balls-to-the-wall awesome show. Most shows take some time to get rolling (look at TNG and DS9). I think (assuming Caprica is given 3 or 4 seasons) we’ll look back on this mini season as that typical feeling out process.

    There were some great positives in these first 10 hours, and a few negatives (one big one being the two female leads who just suck the energy out of each episode) but overall I think it’s a good start.

    Best episode, hands down: “There is Another Sky.” If we are done with NewCapCity, then that IS a huge shame, since that place is a goldmine.

  15. Harvey - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 3:49 pm

    I felt that the previous week’s episode was a stronger outing, but this one wasn’t weak by any stretch.

    By all indications that I’ve read, New Caprica City is far from done. But who really knows?

    I’m also not convinced that Amanda will survive. It’s possible she will live on as another avatar, of course, but there’s little justification for such an operatic finale (and the implication of the final phone call to Daniel) if she survives her suicide attempt.

  16. Jammer - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 4:46 pm

    I will be surprised if Amanda dies. Shocked, really. I just don’t see it. I could be wrong, and such a move could have potential in moving the story in a truly new direction. But from a contracted actor’s standpoint, I have a hard time envisioning that scenario.

    The phone call could’ve been anything, whether it was the hospital saying Amanda was in the hospital after jumping, or news that the Cylon had rammed through a roadblock and was recaptured.

  17. Brendan - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 6:08 pm

    I totally disagree with you about Amanda and the operatic score… I was really moved by it all. Bear outdid himself with that opera and I loved that it was none other than Felix Gaeta himself singing the male part.

    As for the title… I have never seen it with the “the” in it… weeks leading up I heard it would be called End of Line and I thought that was a great BSG reference, and this is the first time I’ve seen someone refer to it otherwise.

  18. karatasiospa - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 5:00 am

    I also believe that Amanda will not die. but if she’s not what was the point of the suicide attempt? Why make it at all? My point is that until now Caprica has many sopoperish traits. And the problem is that scifi fans want scifi not soap opera.

  19. Brendan - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 10:01 pm

    By the way, TV.com, IMDB.com, the official podcast, and Bear McCreary’s blog all refer to the episode as “End of Line”. I assume someone just made a mistake at Syfy and that henceforth mislead other people who also called it that.

  20. alex1939 - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 7:47 pm

    from what I’ve read it seems amanda is panned as unbelievable by many, but she’s probably one of the more believable characters to me. She’s also one of my favorites on the show. I guess I just get the “craziness” after losing a loved one. The announcing her daughter was a terrorist was over-the-top, but given her drug abuse and previous mental history, I just see it somehow.

    This show is not BSG to me, but I still find it to be about the best show on TV.

  21. Josh - Friday, April 30, 2010 - 4:50 am

    Dragging its feet seems like a very apt description. The series has been slow and plodding. But well made aside from that.

  22. mouse - Sunday, May 2, 2010 - 4:31 pm

    alex1939, I agree with you about Amanda being believable. I see why her plots are kind of jarring to other viewers but they totally work for me.

  23. JackBauer - Thursday, May 6, 2010 - 11:23 pm

    I cant believe its been 2 years since ther last TNG review….

  24. Vladimir Estragon - Saturday, May 8, 2010 - 12:28 pm

    My assumption is that the New Cap City thread will continue with little Bill going online in place of his father, and hopefully exhibiting a few more stones in the process. The biggest surprise to me in the show so far is what a pathetic wimp Joseph Adama turned out to be. He lets that judge treat him like his bitch (when the judge surely has more to lose if the whole arrangement comes out), and only gets tough when he has his big brother backing him up.

  25. Anthony Aguilar - Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - 10:12 am

    You make a good point concerning the over-operatic nature of the episode. The stakes are simply not as high as they were in BSG, and yet they’re playing it like they are. Still, though, I thought it was engaging enough, with the Barnabas-Lacy storyline. That was truly intense and shocking.

    I hope this series gets better and in turn gets better ratings, because as of now it doesn’t appear to be looking very good for the show.

  26. Jammer - Wednesday, May 26, 2010 - 9:24 pm

    I am changing the title on this entry to “End of Line” rather than “End of the Line.” I finally got around to listening to all the podcasts, and as someone previously noted, David Eick called it “End of Line,” so that’s what I’m going to go with, retroactively. The exec producer is probably right, one would think.

  27. karatasiospa - Friday, July 30, 2010 - 4:56 am

    I just read that the remaining 9 episodes of caprica’s first season will air on january 2011 (!) with a break of almost 10 months!! Sometimes i don’t understand the desicions of the people who are in charge of development in tv chanells. Do they want to cancel it (which now seems very possible)? then why not air it on october and be done with it. Or do they want to give the series a chance? but in that case what do they expect with a break of 10 months? i don’t think that the actors will wait one year to see if caprica will have a second season and if they will have a job.

  28. Jammer - Friday, July 30, 2010 - 9:02 am

    Yeah, I don’t get it either. This whole notion of splitting a season in half and then waiting so long that it essentially becomes two seasons … I guess I understand it from an economic viewpoint if the series is on the bubble regarding renewal — the network can save money on producing new episodes but still on a PR level say they have this series that is “currently” running. But I don’t see how it keeps fresh programming on the air, or keeps its viewers from even remembering that the show exists.

    I did read a quote where Ron Moore said he was fairly confident the series would get renewed for a second season, but take that for what it’s worth.

  29. karatasiospa - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - 4:38 am

    I agree. Who will remember caprica after 10 months besides hardcore fans of science fiction and caprica in particular (and how many fans can have a series with only 9 episodes aired?) ? When you don’t give a series the chance to develop its story and potential what can you expect?
    And why caprica is not renewed for a second season while stargate universse does allthough the ratings of STU in its final episode were the same with caprica’s?

  30. karatasiospa - Friday, September 10, 2010 - 5:28 am

    As i predicted the first nine episodes will be released seperately on dvd!! Now why pay 30 dollars for only 9 episodes?

  31. karatasiospa - Saturday, September 11, 2010 - 5:09 am

    Finally Caprica comes back on october 5!

  32. Dennis Murphy - Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 9:28 pm

    I believe you should come back to this. Caprica may be over and cancelled, but it was a good show while it lasted. As you are already half way through it shouldn’t bee too difficult to finish.

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