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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

a few thoughts on ‘Caprica’: “Things We Lock Away”

I hate Caprica’s new night on Tuesday. I’m not likely to get to it most weeks until the weekend. Why couldn’t Syfy just have left well enough alone? Sci-fi Friday was great… *sigh*

You’ve heard of the Bechdel Test, I’m sure: the measure of whether a piece of pop culture is just minimally feminist by featuring at least two women who talk to each other about something besides a man. It’s a fairly reasonable measure of whether women are being treated by a story as human beings with full lives… and I love that Caprica passes this test with flying colors in every episode.

And here, it passes the Bechdel Test in a way that is so uniquely science-fictional… and in a way that makes me wonder if there are deeper levels of weirdness here than we already know. Virtual Zoe talking to little Zoe… who is, what, another virtual Zoe? Little Zoe says they first met during that fire from her childhood, which makes me think that little Zoe here could be the virtual Zoe as a virtual child, as if Zoe create her copy as a child so it could grow somewhat normally (if perhaps, at an accelerated speed). Except we see original Zoe bring virtual Zoe into being as a teenager, as the same age original Zoe is.
Or maybe something else is going on: Could there be two virtual Zoes? Could there be a v-world within the v-world? Did little Zoe get created as a child, grown up in v-world, and then create her own copy of herself in a sub-v-world? (That little snag on the uploading of the Zoe avatar, where it hangs at 95 percent for a moment, is surely a clue that all is not kosher here, no?)

I honestly don’t know how else to explain what we saw in this episode.

Anyway, though: All the Zoes talk about creating copies, what makes copies real (or not), drawing the Cylon chassis in a drawing long ago, what it means to be an independent being, and — regarding a man, but not in any romantic way — about how Daniel only listens to his daughter when he can steal her ideas. One version of Zoe — perhaps only a construct of her own virtual imagination — talks to Zoe while she’s battling Tamara in that awful New Cap City gladiatorial ring. One of the Zoes — either original Zoe or the grownup first copy — says to the Zoe we know as the virtual one that even a person with limitations on their movement is still a person… and that could be a description and defense of women in the larger sense!

There’s Zoe and Tamara, too, talking about vengence, justice, reality, and guilt.

There’s Lacy — Lacy drugged and held in Clarice’s attic — and Clarice, talking about Zoe’s avatar. There’s Amanda and Clarice talking, in a sneaky, beautifully ironic way, about how they can get what they need from each other — Amanda wants STO evidence for the GDD; Clarice wants Zoe’s avatar backup — without actually asking for it.

And all of that wonderfulness is still but a small part of why Caprica is so fascinating. Clarice’s explanation of why she’s doing all these terrible things: “It is what God wants.” (*shudder* People who think God is on their side are capable of truly awful acts.) Vergis’s blood ruining the clean, cool lines of the Graystone manse. (Didn’t Vergis do Daniel a favor in letting Daniel kill him? It makes Daniel look better to the Taruons, no? Or is Vergis only doing himself a favor because he wants to die here and now at Daniel’s hand?)

I love, too, how slow the reveals are here sometimes. I had been assuming that the cabin where Amanda is staying belonged to the Graystones. I never imagined it belonged to Clarice… but it must, if Amanda thinks she’ll be able to find something of use there to GDD.

Speaking of… Amanda went home and Daniel never even knew she was there. Why do I feel like that’s gonna be important later?

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