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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

‘Caprica’ blogging: “Rebirth”

(previous: “Pilot”)

(lots of spoilers! assumes you’ve seen the episode!)
I’ve confessed it before, that I was wrong in initially rejecting Battlestar Galactica because it looked ridiculously like it was taking place today, and everyone was named Bill and Laura and wore business suits. But I’m feeling that regret — combined with a baffled how-did-I-not-get-it? — even more strongly now with Caprica. Because Caprica the world is a lot more recognizably an echo of our own, and watching this first regular episode, I felt a shiver of… I dunno. Something profound. Sidewise recognition? A sense of other-destiny, like, this could so easily be us? And a huge part of that is because Caprica does indeed look like our world. With Caprica, I’m suddenly feeling — way more strongly than I ever felt with BSG — that this could easily be us, but also, at the same time, that it clearly isn’t us, and also at the same time that the writers of this show have captured, in a way that a lot of other science fiction misses, the underlying humanity, with all its flaws and all its wonders, that is inherently what makes us human.

You know, in how we’re suspicious but adventurous. We’re tribal but fascinated by the exotic. We’re religious but most of us aren’t really all that serious about it: we do what we’re “supposed” to do — we follow the rituals and say the right words — but we don’t really think too much about what it means.

And the people who do take it very very seriously tend to be the scary ones.

Oo, Polly Walker’s Sister Clarice turned out not to be the kind of nun I thought she was! I know people’s houses like hers. Not the group-marriage aspect, but the hippie aspect: I’ve been in some brownstones in Brooklyn that feel exactly like Clarice’s house.

And there’s Uncle Tauron Mafia Sam Adama: “I’d be hopelessly trying to flirt with some guy…” I love how casually Caprica treats relationships other than one-man-one-woman-forever: as normal, and not worth pointing out. It’s another reminder that the way things are in our world is not the way things have to be. (I can already hear, however, those who will point out that the colonial civilization was destroyed, and all because they were so decadent and immoral as to take group marriage and homosexuality as ordinary, and how their interplanetary holocaust Serves Them Right.)

Religion is clearly going to be a major concern for Caprica. At the memorial service, Amanda is holding a book called The Physics of Religion and Spirituality, which seems like an excellent way to encapsulate how the “trinity” of Zoe, the avatar, and the robot all in one consciousness and one physical being is somehow representative of the monotheism the Soldiers of the One want to promote. And yet, I’m deeply intrigued. Zoe obviously had some sort of plan for the avatar — “You’re a gift, and everyone will know it too” — but she cannot possibly have anticipated what would happen. So what was she imagining a virtual avatar, even a self-aware one, could do to help spread the word of a one true god?

Also obviously, Clarice and her cute young husband — if not also others in their family — mean to appropriate Zoe’s work somehow. “You write a great program,” Cute Young Husband says, “and it can outlive you, it’s like a work of art.” That’s wonderful writing, with all the levels it’s working on: as exposition, to hint to us that Clarice et al are keen to get their hands on whatever Zoe was up to, but also as a precise description of a meme: Some ideas — like that of One Tue God — are designed (perhaps accidentally) to be self-perpetuating and to always serve a purpose, and are destined to live forever.

Random thoughts on “Rebirth”:

• The opening credits are super stylish, aren’t they? Especially considering so few shows actually have opening credits at all anymore…

• Did I hear “so say we all” in the lyrics to the Caprican anthem at the C-Bucs game?

• The Caprican cops arrest a kid — Willie Adama — just for being along for the ride when his uncle does something naughty? And I thought our culture was tough…

• There are so many details flying by the background that I just can’t make out, even freeze-framing the HD recording. Like, there’s a make-and-model plaque on the rear door of the fan the geeks transport the Zoe-android in, and I wish I could see it, because I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say “Toyota anything,” and I bet it’s a clever name, too.

• It’s interesting that Lacy and Zoe went to same ritzy school, now that we’ve seen that Lacy comes from a totally different side of the tracks from Zoe. (The motorcyle in the yard of her house? Nice touch.) Did Lacy get a scholarship? Or is there something else at work here… like attendance at a good school isn’t dependent upon money?

• Heh. Is it me, or was there a tinge of Jeeves’ exasperation with Bertie in Serge’s indulgence of his master: “The crowd goes frakkin’ wild, sir. They’re tearing up the seats. It’s bedlam. They demand another hour of game time, sir.”

• “They can get genetic data off a cigarette butt,” says Sam Adama. Is that the reason for the obvious use of smoking as a motif in this show? Are we going to be pulling DNA off Daniel Graystone’s discarded butts for some plot reason further down the line?

(next: “The Reins of a Waterfall”)

(Watch full episodes and get recaps at SyFy’s official site for the show.)

MPAA: rated TV14-LV

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