‘Caprica’: "Pilot"

27Aug09

Enh. What a middling start to a series. Weird plotting, weird editing, bad acting — it was just weird. Not quite bad but not great either.

When the episode began, I was convinced that I had accidentally selected the wrong option on the DVD. I thought I must be watching some preview for one of those crappy, exploitative procedural shows. Surely, this isn’t Caprica.

But it was.

Caprica and I got off to a bad start with the all the gratuitous topless women – I could only pick out one topless man in the sex room for certain – and the use of “lesbian” sexuality as shorthand for debauchery. Avan Jogia and Magda Apanowicz’s weak performances did nothing to ameliorate the situation. The episode did improve eventually but never really seemed to hit its stride. While a few interesting moments were sprinkled throughout, I found the episode as a whole rather unfocused and, sadly, pretty forgettable.

Personally, I think I would have started the episode with the Graystones at home rather than in V Club. Zoe and her mother argue, Mom drops Zoe off at school the next day, she runs away to Gemenon, Ben blows up the train. Credits. The “2 Weeks Later” card didn’t do much to let the impact of the explosion really set in, while a nice credits sequence could have created a more meaningful pause. I don’t think that we should have seen Zoe’s avatar until Daniel first visits V Club after she has died. I suspect that most of the audience is looking for pieces of how the Cylons came to be, so why give them one of the pieces in the first scene? Plus, the audience, like Daniel, would be surprised to see her if she hadn’t been seen previously. I just don’t understand the logic behind that decision. Also, notice how my version cuts Avan and Magda’s screen time practically in half. That’s not a coincidence.

I have to admit that I might be a little biased against Caprica because something about Eric Stoltz just bugs me, though I couldn’t tell you what. In general, he seems to be a solid actor, and I actually think he’s kinda sexy. But he bothers me for some reason. I can’t point to anything wrong with his performance here, but I must say that I found his character rather confusing. I never bought him as a grieving parent. Never. And it probably didn’t help that Stoltz and Alessandra Torresani had a strange, almost sexual chemistry, which made the thought of them being father and daughter quite icky. When Daniel hugs AvatarZoe and scans her, I thought his only motivation was that he wanted to know how his daughter had created the avatar and how he might use that technology in his work, which is a perfectly fine and interesting motivation for his character to have. However, the writers then seemed to want us to believe that he grabbed the code so that he could have a copy of his daughter, and then it seemed like a purely profit-motivated action, and then he was sad that he lost her avatar to a system failure… I don’t know. If he was supposed to be both a grieving parent and an unscrupulous scientist, the former felt false to me.

Esai Morales, though also kinda sexy, was less interesting and had some weak spots in his performance. I’m not sure if I like that the father/grandfather of characters from Battlestar Galactica is a main character here just so that the BsG audience can hear a familiar name. I’m curious to see if he will actually feel involved in the main narrative of the series because the connection made between Joseph and Daniel seemed arbitrary and tenuous at best, so Joseph seems destined to be relegated to the B-plot.

Now, the moments that did grab my attention:

  • AvatarZoe telling Daniel all the places one can find information about people
  • Daniel telling Joseph that in his business “a difference that makes no difference is no difference”
  • The Inspector telling the Sister why he doesn’t trust monotheism

I also found it interesting that some of the discussion around AvatarZoe and whether she was Zoe, whether a person’s soul can be copied, sounded very similar to discussions I’ve heard on Dollhouse. It might be a Battle of the Series to see who addresses the topic “better” or in a more interesting way.

Even though I found this pilot a little lackluster, I think my money would still be on Caprica in that fight.

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