Soap Opera Weekly: 2/08/10

The latest CAPRICA saw some characters undergo big changes: Amanda (Paula Malcomson) was compelled to resign her position at the hospital, and husband Daniel’s (Eric Stoltz) company took a financial pounding even as he endured a physical beating from Sam Adama (Sasha Roiz). The Graystones had been on top of the 12 worlds, but now they are pariahs.

But perhaps no one has changed as radically — and certainly as willfully — as Joseph Adama (Esai Morales). As the bloody pulp that was Daniel gasped “Adams” at his tormentor, Joseph sneered, “It’s ‘Adama’ now,” signaling his transformation from genteel gangster who engaged in polite bribery, into a guy who ordered his brother to pound Daniel; a thug who literally gets blood on his hands. But Joseph is still completely devoted to his daughter, just like any other doting father. Heck, he sounds eerily similar to a certain gangster who claims to import coffee in upstate New York, on a little show you might have heard of called GENERAL HOSPITAL. One could argue that Tamara (Genevieve Buechner) and her mother Shannon (Anna Galvin) — or, more precisely, their loss — are fueling Joseph’s descent into the criminal underworld of the Ha’la’tha. And it is a descent that is rapidly spiralling out of control. Witness Joseph casually suggesting to Sam that he should take out Amanda Graystone to “even out” the two families’ losses. That shocking order constituted the second jaw-dropping CAPRICA ending in two weeks.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Family trauma is really taking its toll on this show, which is proving to be much more soap opera than space opera — just as the-powers-that-be promised.

Soap Opera Weekly: 1/29/10

Don’t forget to watch the new episode of CAPRICA tonight at 9 o’clock on SyFy!

In a sense, this prequel to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA picks up where the parent series left off — in terms of quality, at least. The premiere of CAPRICA plunged viewers into a fully realized world — both visually and emotionally. The series pivots on viewer familiarity with the general universe, and thus doesn’t bother detailing things like the organization of the 12 Colonies; it hits the ground running, plunging viewers into a society afflicted with religious strife. Religion is not a common subject in dramas — especially not faith-based violence. A terror bombing by a religious fanatic sets the main plot in motion by killing one of the central characters in the opening 15 minutes. (That’s right, Zoe Graystone is dead.) Her father, the brilliant inventor Daniel Graystone, teams ups with lawyer Joseph Adama (who lost his wife and daughter in the blast) to “bring back” their slain family members using an experimental blend of virtual reality and robotics. Zoe’s consciousness is downloaded into a mechanical body, and the first cylon is born.

The show’s tone may sound a bit cold and clinical, but I assure you that CAPRICA is all about character; the scientific aspects (and the subdued special effects) are subservient to stories about dysfunctional families and men driven by a variety of inner demons. The science-fiction elements are very well-done, and the series’ technology is not too far ahead of ours; it fact, it is just beyond the bleeding-edge of our own. It is easy to relate to devices like paper-thin, touch-sensitive computer consoles. Hell, the iPad was just launched here on Earth this week! Yet the good citizens of Caprica City travel via cars and trains viewers have no trouble recognizing.

The cast is, of course, terrific, led by Eric Stoltz (Daniel), Esai Morales (Joseph), Paula Malcomson (Amanda) and Alessandra Torresani as the late, lamented Zoe. Executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick have promised that CAPRICA will be an unabashed soap opera, and so far it is full of potential. Get in on the ground floor!

CAPRICA arrives just in time to replace Fox’s DOLLHOUSE in the TV landscape. Joss Whedon‘s DOLLHOUSE comes to a close tonight with nothing less than the fate of the entire world on line. DOLLHOUSE had a little trouble finding its tone early, and by the time it found its stride, it was too late. But any Whedon series is worth a look. Goodbye, DOLLHOUSE.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

CAPRICA 1.13: False Labor

CAPRICA seems to have evolved into a state of “meh” for me. Ever since it returned from hiatus, CAPRICA feels like something I watch if there’s nothing better on. Which is sad, because it began with such promise.

The problem probably stems from the concentration on Daniel Graystone’s (Eric Stoltz) soul-searching and Sister Clarice’s (Polly Walker) search for souls to add to Soldier of The One. I am simply not as interested in Daniel’s sudden attacks of conscience — c’mon, surely the man did not become a business titan by being nice and playing by the rules! — or Clarice’s metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.
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CAPRICA: 1.12: Things We Lock Away

The term “game-changer” tends to get overused with TV shows, but I think this episode of CAPRICA really did alter the game because so much was…well, changed. The Zoe/Tamara alliance, Vergis’ death at Daniel’s hands, Clarice indoctrinating Lacy and taking in Amanda. It sounds like a cliché, but things should never be the same again.

The opening scene in the gladiator arena was thrilling, as Zoe (Alessandra Toressani) looked for the other Deathwalker — and found her! Tamara (Genevieve Buechner) wielded that shotgun like a pro. The entire sequence hinged on misperceptions by both women: Tamara resented Zoe as the terrorist who killed her and everyone else on the mag-lev. Zoe mistakes the Deathwalker Tamara for a copy of the real Tamara. Apparently AvatarZoe doesn’t know that RealZoe didn’t do the bombing, because instead of telling Tamara that Zoe was innocent, AZ merely argues that she’s not the actual Zoe — and thus shouldn’t be blamed for “Zoe’s” crime.
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CAPRICA 1.11: Retribution

Forced to explain why she botched her attempt to bomb the Trojan Spaceport in this episode, Lacy (Magda Apanowicz) stammered, “It got complicated.” I get the feeling that CAPRICA itself is getting complicated – to the point where it is taking on a life of its own; one that its creators are having trouble reining in. Which is pretty ironic for a series about runaway technology.

On the surface, this week’s installment was about Sister Clarice Willow (Polly Walker) settling accounts with Barnabas (James Marsters), who dared to challenge her control of Soldiers of The One field operations. But beneath the surface, it was a story swallowing its own tail. The political intrigue within the STO seems to be just story filler and a way to inject action into an overall story that is about ideas. The problem is, it is difficult to make ideas look interesting onscreen. It’s tough to dramatize, say, consternation. So why not bring in a bunch of good-looking young people and let them blow them stuff up?
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CAPRICA 1.6: The one with James Marsters

Barnabus

Last week viewers got to visit New Cap City in V-World, but this week we finally visited one of the other planets of the 12 colonies when we got a glimpse of Tauron City, home of Vergis Industries. But the thing most people will probably remember about this week’s episode is the appearance of James Marsters as Barnabus Greeley, an authority figure in the Caprica City cell of Soldiers of The One.

Marsters’ genre cred is unimpeachable: He broke through as that other soulful vampire, Spike, on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, moved on to playing SMALLVILLE’s Brainiac and, recently, the amoral Capt. John Hart on TORCHWOOD. Here Barnabus is a True Believer: he practices self-mortification as a way of avoiding sin – yet isn’t averse to belonging to a violent terrorist cell. I guess it’s all in how he can justify it to himself. Torturing his own flesh with that cilice is pretty extreme. And, despite his asking, “What gets unleashed when this thing gets to Gemenon?” I suspect he rejected Lacy’s (Magda Apanowicz) appeal for transport to Gemenon more out of concern for getting caught by the authorities than humanitarian worry over the morality/lethality of whatever cargo she wanted to drag along. STO are in the middle of campaign of bombing holocafes, for gods’ sakes, so he’s a believer in situational ethics, at least. Important tidbit: Keon (Liam Sproule) built the device that Ben used to destroy Maglev 23. Marsters’ appearance was brief but effective. I want to know more about this guy!
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CAPRICA 1.4: Driving Mrs. Graystone

Amanda and Daniel

After successive episodes that ended with jaw-dropping twists, this week’s installment of CAPRICA was a far quieter affair. It felt like the show paused to catch its breath while giving the actors a chance to breathe in character. Paula Malcomson, Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales and Sasha Roiz got to emote bog-time, and Polly Walker added a little more depth to Sister Clarice. All this made for another impressive episode.

The main story thread continued to deal with the fallout of the bombing of the MLMT train. GDD agent Jordan Durham (Brian Markinson) stepped up his investigation into the Soldiers of The One, conducting a high-profile (and thoroughly thuggish) search of the lockers at the Athena Academy, as well as a more polite tossing of the Graystone residence. Jordan is all about chasing down the terrorists who blew up the train. “I lost everyone on that train,” he tells Amanda. Later, he tells his partner, Agent Youngblood, that he feels responsible for everyone, not just family members. His searches turn up no evidence terrorist activity (beyond an infinity symbol), but Jordan is strangely comforted by the idea the school and the home were “too clean.” So coming up empty-handed strangely reinforced Jordan’s dedication to the cause. I liked this little chunk of characterization.
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CAPRICA 1.3: An Adama Named Joseph

Daniel and Joseph

The latest CAPRICA saw some characters undergo big changes: Amanda (Paula Malcomson) was compelled to resign her position at the hospital, and husband Daniel’s (Eric Stoltz) company took a financial pounding even as he endured a physical beating from Sam Adama (Sasha Roiz). The Graystones had been on top of the 12 worlds, but now they are pariahs.

But perhaps no one has changed as radically — and certainly as willfully — as Joseph Adama (Esai Morales). As the bloody pulp that was Daniel gasped “Adams” at his tormentor, Joseph sneered, “It’s ‘Adama’ now,” signaling his transformation from genteel gangster who engaged in polite bribery, into a guy who ordered his brother to pound Daniel; a thug who literally gets blood on his hands. But Joseph is still completely devoted to his daughter, just like any other doting father. In fact, one could argue that Tamara (Genevieve Buechner) and her mother Shannon (Anna Galvin) — or, more precisely, their loss — are fueling Joseph’s descent into the criminal underworld of the Ha’la’tha. And it is a descent that is rapidly spiralling out of control. Witness Joseph casually suggesting to Sam that he should take out Amanda Graystone to “even out” the two families’ losses. That shocking order constituted the second jaw-dropping CAPRICA ending in two weeks.
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Captivating Caprica

Zoe

There’s something rotten on CAPRICA, and I love it. There’s a palpable sense of menace lurking just beneath the surface of gleaming Caprica City, and that makes it interesting. There’s something festering deep down, and it will be a wonder if the Twelve Colonies last long enough to be brought down by the cylons.

Let’s start at the end of the episode: Amanda (Paula Malcomson) “outing” her daughter as a member of Soldiers of the One, based on nothing more than a piece of jewelry and her own fears. The episode piled up revelation after revelation about Zoe — both for viewers and Amanda. Plus, as as a devoted polytheist, Amanda reacted with shame and disgust at the prospect of her daughter being a monotheist. Lashing out seemed like an obvious release of her shock. If Amanda really did not know her daughter, then maybe Zoe could have been a religious extremist. But was her bruised ego worth turning an entire world against her family?
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