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Caprica review: ‘Rebirth’

Caprica: Rebirth

Zoe finds herself treated like a machine, with her handlers unaware that her consciousness has been preserved inside a Cylon body. The Graystones’ grief proves troublesome as they consider attending a public memorial for the train bombing victims. William hangs out with his mob-connected uncle Sam, to the ire of Joseph.

Air date: 1/29/2010
Written by Mark Verheiden
Directed by Jonas Pate


Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

The terrific Caprica pilot covered quite a bit of ground. It did a good job establishing the characters and their roles within this diversely plotted universe of technology, corporate intrigue, and criminal enterprise. And it was an especially intriguing sci-fi allegory on our technologically driven social-networked world.

Now we have the first episode of the produced series, which I can describe as admirably competent — continuing what we had in the pilot — but it does not invoke in me the feelings of enthusiasm that I had after the pilot. The pilot, in addition to its tech/BSG-prequel elements, hinted at a cool world of corporate intrigue with a sideshow of gangster movies thrown in for good measure. (And not just gangsters, but gangsters wearing 1950s suits and fedoras. How awesome is that?)

“Rebirth” seems to cover a lot of ground we already covered in the pilot. It’s interesting enough, and there are things I liked quite a bit, but overall it felt more redundant than necessary. When you compare this to BSG‘s “33” — well, there is no comparison. “33” was revelatory. “Rebirth” is merely adequate.

The plot is more or less minimal. The story instead attempts to establish a few of the series’ ground rules, the most crucial being the narrative device that depicts the Cylon version of Zoe by switching back and forth between shots of the chrome robot and shots of actress Alessandra Toressani. I liked this method. It feels at home in this universe (cinematically reminiscent of Head Six on BSG). It also does an effective job of humanizing Cylon Zoe, both physically (it is more disturbing to watch lab technicians carelessly slam a teenage girl into restraints than a robot) and mentally (these shots suggest how Zoe perceives herself — still as a virtual version of a teenage girl rather than a robotic soldier).

The story involving Cylon Zoe works the best because it continues the pilot’s intriguing sci-fi notions of what happens when a very humanly emotional intelligence ends up inside a robot that was not designed for those emotions. There are shades of RoboCop here, with the robotic POV shots of lab tests and flashes of former-life memories. Zoe is transported back to the Graystone household and her father begins to wonder if perhaps something of Virtual Zoe somehow survived (Cylon Zoe stays silent), despite all data evidence insisting that it could not.

No one except Lacy (whom Zoe calls on her cell phone, in a bizarre twist on the typical TV scene of a teenager getting a cell phone call at school) knows that Zoe’s virtual memory has actually survived. Their scene together toward the end is strange and intriguing. (Religious overture du jour: Zoe’s combination of Virtual Zoe, Real-Life-Memories Zoe, and Cylon Zoe is referred to at one point as a “trinity.” Take note, One True God believers!)

Less compelling, but adequate, were the other subplots in “Rebirth.” The Graystones’ continued grappling with their grief was performed well enough, I suppose, but offered no new take that we didn’t already gather from the pilot.

Meanwhile, Lacy’s dinner invitation to Clarice Willow’s house ended up being as strangely overwhelming to me as it must’ve to Lacy. Clarice, whose role at school seems to embody conservative traditionalism, is anything but; she has an unconventional group marriage (one of her husbands is played by Scott Porter, of Friday Night Lights fame), who are fringy sorts. Later, Clarice goes to some sort of hookah bar and falls off the wagon. What wagon, I’m not entirely sure. Is this life a secret that’s at odds with the image she portrays at the school? If so, how does she maintain appearances? We shall see.

Meanwhile, Sam’s interactions with young William — showing him some street smarts and street psychology, which his father does not approve of — are reasonable as character-based atmosphere but do not offer the kind urgency that the mobster stuff had in the pilot. (Footnote: In a subtle moment of brief dialogue that is easily missed, it’s revealed that Sam hits on guys, or at least used to.)

Brian Markinson is back as the investigator assigned to the bombing case. He’s the sort of character that could be really awesome or really annoying, and it’s going to completely depend on the material he’s given. Markinson approaches the role in an absolutely-no-BS kind of a way. The lore surrounding the Soldiers of the One (STO), the organization that claimed responsibility for the bombing, will certainly be significant down the line.

I cannot endorse the ending of “Rebirth.” I just don’t buy it. For Amanda to have her suspicions that Zoe was a member of the STO and possibly responsible for the bombing is one thing. For her to go to the microphone and broadcast it at the memorial is something else. It’s just too senseless and shortsighted for a woman who (1) was this girl’s mother and (2) is the wife of a billionaire who should know something about PR and what an announcement like this will do to her already-shattered family. It plays more like a contrived moment meant to spark a dramatic and chaos-filled ending than something that the character would actually do. “Rebirth” has some nice moments, but the ending is a stretch.

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Footnote: This review is still longer than I had expected based on my originally announced plan. This is actually a very good length. My reviews may be shorter than this going forward. Or longer. We will see. It will depend on my schedule, I would guess, and may vary from week to week.

I had problems with the ending as well, but when I rewatched it, knowing where it was going, I wasn’t as bothered by it as I was the first time; it seemed to fit. I also read many reviews where people said they felt the ending was perfect, which surprised me; I’d say that they should have included another scene or something that made the ending feel more like a payoff than it does. I also loved the Zoe / Cylon stuff, but other than that I seemed to have liked this episode a lot more than you; I enjoyed it far more than the pilot episode for example, though I enjoyed that one too. I loved the Sam / Willie Adama scenes, and the easy reveal that Sam likegs guys. I enjoyed the Clarice scenes. It struck me that Clarice might be going to that bar and getting stoned as part of her religous beliefs. We’ve seen how drugs in the BSG era gave people religious visions and after Clarice smoked up she seemed to be seen writng something down? That was what I assumed when watching it, but I’ve not heard anyone else mention this as a possability. Maybe I’m just way off on that one. lol And though I suppose it makes sense to compare “Rebirth” with “33”…it’s something that I’ve done myself with the different Treks and such, yet Caprica feels so completely different than Battlestar that it seems wrong somehow; they’re set in the same universe…yet they almost feel like completely different genres – it’s just not something that I think is that important I guess.

I like this length as a rough target. It makes sense that Caprica, being more defined by small character moments like BSG was, will probably require a slightly longer review than one can manage with TNG or the very short capsule reviews for TOS.

Since TNG and TOS episodes have a very self-contained structure, individual character moments are easy to address in total instead of individually, because they each contribute to one big picture for the episode as a whole. For example, you don’t need to describe every scene in Tapestry to talk about what it shows us about Picard’s life or about the goading relationship that Q has to Picard. You could just have two generalizing paragraphs, one for each.

In a show like BSG or (so far) Caprica, there can be so many little threads running through that each thread tends to need a paragraph unto itself. The connection to a big picture may exist, but is often subtler, for good or for ill. DS9 was sometimes like this, too, although it was a little more self-contained than especially BSG S4 was, and obviously, those DS9 reviews from you were longer, too.

I guess I’m not really saying you should aim for this length. You should do whatever you want, obviously. I’m just saying I won’t be surprised if something like this becomes the comfortable length for a show like Caprica.

It’s still shorter than many of your BSG reviews, and hopefully between this somewhat shorter length, the lack of second viewings and detailed notetakings, and above all, the reduced number of technological hassles because of the blog format, reviewing will become more fun for you. I look forward to reading!

I didn’t mind the ending in the sense of it being in character because I felt like it worked with her being in shock from both Zoe’s death and the revelations she’s had so far about who her daughter was (and I love that it’s all based on the fallacy that Zoe was one of the terrorists). I agree that dramatically it seemed to have no real point. But I hypothesize that Amanda going bonkers is going to be a long term arc and this is just a part of it.

On either the TWOP boards or the boards where we poke fun at TWOP, someone noted that some of the human characters seem to have similarities to the personalities of the 1-8 (minus 7) skinjobs we eventually meet in BSG and speculated that we might eventually see Zoe (or even Dr. Greystone) take people she knows and essentially use them to create the rest of the cylons (not to be in human bodies until they eet the final 5 of course). They said they felt that Lacy is the mental profile for Boomer. Whether that will be the case remains to be seen, but upon re-watch then ending with Amanda made me think of the idea again.

curse my need to notice things that may not pan out:

Daniel is quite the piano player…

You mentioned the ‘unconventional’ group marriage that Lacy witnesses. What I got out of this was that, in this story, such a thing *is* conventional; Lacy even says something along the lines of ‘I have a friend who’s got a family like this’ or something. That, along with the very subtle and accepted homosexuality are, I think, great points. I was really looking forward to Caprica being about all those issues like these that BSG didn’t necessarily have time to cover; it’s sort of like watching the flashbacks to Caprica we saw in the last couple episodes (I really enjoyed those).
I definitely understand your point about the end, but I’m a little more on mouse’s side for this one. Yeah, it was a bit ridiculous, but the situation itself is pretty ‘ridiculous’ and crazy emotions come out of things like that (as some of us witnessed in BSG). It did seem a bit abrupt, but i’m just hoping that means they have a lot to cover.
The Zoe-cylon stuff I also found really neat, though the actress has me turned off a bit… mainly because of how weird she sounds in some of her interviews. (It’s like she’s bad at acting when she’s being herself…?)
In all, it wasn’t another “33” but it was satisfying enough for me… Which might not be enough for other viewers. (I’m just hoping it doesn’t get cancelled.)

Thanks Jammer – I pretty much agree with the evaluation – a relief to be on the same page, as I loved your BSG reviews. I sure do miss RM’s podcasts.

picky continuity question – Dr. Greystone had blocked Tracy’s clearance for admission to the house, so how did she get in to talk to cyber/Zoe? it seems kind of unlikely that the house robot would be programmed to respond to commands from the cylon.

I agree that the Calvin & Hobbs-like plot device of switching from cylon to cyberZoe is good. Unfortnately, I find Alessandra Toressani to be about as expressive as the Cylon, so it doesn’t have nearly the impact it could have.

I actually found Amanda Greystone’s ascent to the podium believable (stupid, but believable). She had already been exposed to the suspicion that Zoe was involved in the plot. Finding out about Zoe’s secrecy, combined with the confirmation of the boyfriend and the STO, would have lead to an explosive mixture of betrayal, anger and guilt on top of the powerful grief. Throw in the opportunity and a momentary impulse and there you have it. Whether is was a good plot device remains to be seen.

Rant – how sterotypical for a decaying society to have “abberrant” life styles. Wouldn’t it have been refreshing to have the alternative lifestyles be a little less creepy, or god forbid, even healthy? (Common RM, lets break some fresh ground) The group marriage was modeled on a bad commune stereotype, not reasonable poly relationships. After the creepy father/daughter incest vibes from last week, the Will/Sam exchange gave me creepy homosexual incest vibes, which was unfortunate, because I, too, liked the casual gay reference. (Presumably, Will already knows that Sam is gay from meeting partners). We’ve also got the cougar relationship (Clarisse and young “husband”), the creepy 3 way with underage teenager vibe (Clarisse, husband, Lacy) and the Robot/young dude relationship. How ironic, that the last one is the one that feels the most authentic, even downright sweet.

I have to agree that I found Amanda’s outburst at the end of the episode believable (stupid as hell, but entirely believable). She’s been in agony over her daughter’s death and the growing suspicion of Zoe’s involvement with the STOs. On top of that, her husband seems to have thrown himself into his job and is ignoring her and her (or really their) pain. The lengths that her husband has gone in order to bring Zoe back are unknown to her (whereas he seems to be labouring under the impression that-given his efforts-she is in fact the one that’s been falling short). Her final discovery and public declaration has got that “attention must be paid” feel to it. I think it fits.

The Will & Sam scenes struck me as being the usual “crook trying to corrupt young minds” scene except that this particular crook happened to like guys. I especially liked the line about “don’t feel guilty, talk about what makes the other guy feel guilty” which little Will employs on his father later on in the episode.

I don’t think that Clarice’s family was meant to be portrayed as “deviant” per se, Lacy’s line about “my friend was in a family like this” puts it down as unusual but not abnormal in this world. The creepy vibe is in Clarice’s almost predatory behaviour towards Lacy (I wonder how many of her family members are in on this) which is made all the more disturbing by her apparent advance knowledge (from the pilot) about the bombing. I think she referred to it as “premature?” THAT is why she should not be hanging around impressionable kids, regardless of how many husbands/wives she has.

Although, I remember a line from the pilot where real-life Zoe tells Lacy “There’s a new family waiting for us” when they were about to get onto the train. Were they talking about some kind of church/commune or an actual multiple marriage like the Willow family?

Evil Paul – I used “deviant” to describe relationships relative to our culture (we aren’t ready to accept gay marriage, much less poly marriages). I questioned the validity of the poly marriage because two of the partners expressed concern about what Clarice was up to with Lacey, and there was some intimation that she had gone rogue in relationship to her partners in the past. I guess I think it would be novel to have the (to “us”) deviant relationships be actually healthy (open, honest, etc.) as a contrast to the seriously nasty stuff going on. For example, Sam being a conscientious (gay) partner, good to kids, etc. while also murdering people; Lacey having a loving, trusting relationship with her poly partners while masterminding the STO bombings, etc. Everyone at the moment is so dependably bad.

Having Will use Sam’s suggestion on his Dad was indeed a nice touch. I guess I’m edgy about how much corrupting of Will there is going to be.

knitpicker – You’re still focusing only on the ‘(to “us”) deviant’ relationships, though. All of the relationships we’ve seen so far, not just those ones, have been ‘unhealthy’. Look at Lacey’s life or Mr. and Mrs. Greystone. I guess I find the idea of ‘everyone being equally as awful’ to be a lot more comforting than if they focused only on the ‘(to “us”) deviant’ relationships to be the happy ones. It seems like that would be a grossly obvious way to try and say, “Look! It’s acceptable here.” rather than the subtle thing they’ve got going on right now.

It was a pretty reasonable episode, I thought. Amanda’s outburst at the end, whilst stupid, came from a valid emotional place. Throughout the episode she was finding it hard to move past her obssession with what happened. She’s sad that Zoe died, but she becomes more upset when she slowly realises that the girl she is mourning for is not the one that died in the explosion. Sadness, anger – I can see how she would be overwhelmed enough to out Zoe like she did. It was a stupid move though, but one I look forward to enjoying the fallout to.

Aside from Zoe and the Graystone family, the rest seemed like it was just there. I love Esai Morales as Joe Adama, but he, nor his family seemed to have much relevance in this episode. I appreciate the subtle mention of Sam Adama’s accepted homosexuality though, nice sci-fi move. I’m gay myself and appreciate little things like this, though I can’t help but wonder if lesbians aren’t being left behind in this new TV age full of gay characters.

Also interesting is Clarice’s rather large family, involving several husbands with several wives. My friend commented negatively on this, and I was a bit surprised by it too. The focus, however, as in every relationship, should be based on honesty and happiness, and I’m happy that it’s a part of the show. I just hope it and Clarice in particular are used more interestingly in future episodes.

I agree – Esai Morales rocks!

Let’s try a different angle. Given a social moral code, it is possible to be honorable and adhere to the code or be dishonorable and twist it to your advantage. For example, Sam adheres to a Tauron moral code, which happens to deviate from the predominant Caprican code on the subject of murder and intimidation. But judged from the Tauran code, so far, Sam seems to be an honorable guy (and hopefully this will be born out in his relationships, if we see them). My impression of Dr. Greystone so far is that he is dishonorable in that he seems to twist the Caprican moral code to fit his purposes. Joe Adama is caught between two moral codes, and isn’t doing well by either. Now, the character of Clarice could have adhered honorably to the STO moral code, which like that of Tauron’s deviates from the Caprican moral code. I would have found this the more compelling approach simply because “alternative lifestyles” are such a cliched sign of “moral decline” in “decadent societies.”

Some of this is coming from the fact that I was really pissed that Gaita’s homosexuality wasn’t revealed until he went rogue. If I had always known he was gay, that would have been fine – gay characters aren’t obligated to be “good.” What I objected to was the tight linkage between the two.

Here is a question for jammer and other viewers. My wife pointed out that in the miniseries lacy was removed from the list allowing people into the house… how did she get in during this episode?

I agreed completely about the ending.. it was the first thing I said after seeing the episode. usually Mr. verheiden is a great writer…

My guess is that Cylon Zoe let her in. One way of explaining it would be that just because Lacy doesn’t have a “security clearance” doesn’t mean someone couldn’t physically let her in the house. Of course, that raises the question of how tight security actually is in the house. If there’s any sort of surveillance or monitoring of movement in the house, Zoe’s movements around the house as a big robot should be setting off some alarms.

knitpicker, could you please avoid posting spoilers like that? Some of us haven’t seen the entirety of BSG yet.

The plot and characters are very intriguing, especially the shades of gray ethics which are much more real than the all good vs all evil of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings etc. But I have some problems with the show thus far.
1. The link to BSG seems weak to me. We already have devastating hints of just how horrible a cylon with the mind of an angry teenager could be. Also, I don’t like Bill Adama’s portrayal as the kid of a mafia family. And for God sake, don’t make the most evil one the gay guy.
2. The visual scifi effects are a mixed bag, many are good, but using 50’s cars, even Citroen DS-21’s instead of mock-up, rocket cars is a stretch. Same for the motorcycles. And when the guy says he wants a 300 HP Citroen… Frak!
3. The writers seem to enjoy combining sex and violence which I find annoying.

Not sure if anybody mentioned this, but the opening credits are AWFUL. Straight out of a daytime soap.

A thought as a parent of a teenager – the difference between how cyberZoe sees herself and what cylonZoe “really” looks like, struck me as a metaphor for the type of dismorphia that drives eating disorders in teenage girls at that age. In fact, the difference in perception is metaphoric of the teenage experience on many levels. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but it might a good doctoral thesis some day.

People need to stop trying to analyze the ending with logic. It isn’t logic…it’s emotion, raw and out of control. I doubt she even realized what she was saying until it was too late. I guess you can “buy” this or not…but I think trying to prove it wrong with bullet points is silly. You can’t prove an emotional response wrong like that. You just can’t.

I agree that this episode was disappointing. I thought the scenes involving Zoe were the most interesting. The hug between Zoe and Lacy, and Lacy’s understated discomfort, was a great moment. Other than that though, I didn’t see much that piqued interested, and a few moments that were cringe worthy.

The ending, in particular, struck a sour note. My distaste was not that Amanda making a speech was illogical, it’s that I didn’t find it emotionally believable. It felt more like the writers went searching for conflict, than a natural consequence of the characters and preceding story.

I also don’t think I liked the opening credits, but they reminded me of the amazing opening credits from the HBO series Carnivale (which RDM also worked on). Maybe they’ll grow on me; I hope the rest of the show does as well.

Hey Jammer!
Great review and great comments from all, it makes me more interested in watching this series.

I love the irony of having almost everybody in the Pyramid sports arena (starting at 8:21 ) , a place where we are our most “alive”, saluting the national himn the way we now pose our dead.
Nice creepy touch
just my 2 cents

One aspect in the BSG universe that is completely unlike Earth is the acceptance of homosexuality and polygamy/polyandry. I know the writers probably had good intentions when they made this choice, but what we end up with is:

-Helena Cain, a vengeful despot who tolerated rape as a torture tactic;
-Sam Adama, an organized crime member and murderer;
-Clarice Willow, who sanctions terrorist acts to promote her religious beliefs.

As far as I know, there has not yet been a ‘sympathetic’ homosexual/bisexual character on the show. (okay, there was Gaeta, but only in the webisodes).

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