Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: Caprica "Dirteaters"

Non Spoiler Review:
Ha'la'tha promotions for Sam and Joseph prompt pensive flashbacks to the not so good old days on Tauron, providing some shocking glimpses into the Adama family history, and certainly a story that young Willie is never going to hear from his father. Both the Graystones and the Adamas appear to reach turning points that will change both families forever.

The Adama backstory has provided a very significant insight into the motivations of Sam and Joseph, and lead the two of them to change course. Given we only have three episodes left, I hope we get to see some sense of how this will be resolved. Daniel and Amanda also reach a similar turning point. Both of these storylines overshadow some brief—but just as significant—scenes dealing with New Cap City and its Avenging Angels, the GDD, and a smaller helping of Polly Walker that delivers a good dose of Clarice-level crazy.

A very satisfying episode that delivers a couple of tense moments, satisfying character evolution, and plot developments that continue to move at an accelerated pace.

Spoilers Now:
Sam and Joseph are rising in the Ha'la'tha ranks. The Guatrau makes Sam a captain, and Joseph is brought in as his advisor, which warrants a new Tauron tattoo. The Guatrau muses about how far they've come since he took the two orphaned boys under his wing, and prompts a flashback to childhood on Tauron for both brothers.

We get a glimpse of their family life, back when the Ha'la'tha was a resistance movement against the Heraklidean dictatorship. It's time for Joseph's first tattoo of manhood, but brother Sam is jealous of all the attention being doted on it. Sam is the one who acts on his emotions, while Joseph is quiet and thinks. William Sr. is proud of both but asks Sam to allow Joseph his due.

Later, William and Marie Adama, decide to fill in the boys on what's going on. They're part of the Ha'la'tha resistance, and Adamas never start a fight they don't finish, so they show them suicide pills just in case their parents are caught by the Heraklideans. The enemy will attempt to use their children against them to give up their compatriots. 

In the present, Joseph is having a crisis of loyalty. He can't support Daniel's assassination and doesn't see him as a bad man. Later, the two men have a boxing match, and Joseph warns him in a roundabout way to keep his guard up.

In New Cap City, the Willow husbands, Nestor and Olaf, are enjoying the latest fad—trying to confront the deathwalkers, now notorious in the real world as the Avenging Angels, complete with t-shirts.  Zoe and Tamara show up at a bar, Sinny McNutt's, like a pair of gunslingers. Nearly everyone there tears off their bands so they don't get killed, except the guys, who pull swords. Nestor comments sarcastically she looks nothing like Zoe Graystone. But the girls pull out guns, and blow Olaf away as Nestor jumps for cover.

Back at the Willow house, Olaf is shut out of New Cap City and thoroughly pissed. Clarice walks in and tells them to stop playing games and clean up Mar-Beth's stuff so they can keep it for the baby. They'll just tell Amanda she walked off and wasn't cut out to be a mother (unaware Amanda's already placed a  surveillance camera in the room). As Clarice leaves, Nestor comments she should play New Cap City, as they've got someone in there posing as a Zoe avatar. Clarice can't be bothered by their games.

Daniel researches the Guatrau and Tauron history—the two year civil war thirty years before resulted in a genocide against the Ha'la'tha resistance, forcing them to move offworld and become a crime syndicate across the Twelve Colonies. The Guatrau's current corporate acquisitions have all been liquidated or bankrupt, and all the CEO's are dead, except for Daniel.

Back to the flashback, Sam and Joseph witness a man beaten to death in the alley. Sam goes out and looks through his things and takes his gun, despite Joseph's warnings. Sam admonishes his brother for being afraid of everything, and hides the gun under his bed.

Later, the Heraks show up, and the boys are hidden as mom and dad Adama open the door to three soldiers looking for information on who killed the comrade the night before. As they search the house, William tries convince the female commander they know nothing, but then they find Sam's gun. The boys watch in horror from their hiding place as their parents are tied up and tortured. Marie is eventually led out of sight and shot, while William continues to be beaten.

While the soldiers are out of sight dealing with Marie, Sam comes out and unties his father. William tells him to stop, to go get the poison, and take his brother and go. Sam grabs the gun and returns to hiding as William endures more torture. Sam can't pull the trigger, despite Joseph urging him to do so. Finally the gun fires three times, and all three soldiers go down,. But we see that it's Joseph that has taken the gun from his brother and used it. The Herak commander is seriously wounded, but still lives, and watches as William begs Joseph to send him to the soil before the authorities arrive. Joseph does so and shoots his father. 

Daniel goes to see Sam and confronts him about planning to assassinate him. Sam plays dumb, but Daniel has researched Tauron culture enough to have a plan. He asks why he follows this particular Guatrau who acts like a pure Caprican, selling Cylons to the STO but not to his own people. Would his parents put profit above their own people?

He strikes a nerve with Sam, who gets riled at the thought of betraying his parents' memory. Daniel offers him codes, backdoor access and a private transport to help Sam's cause—Sam will get his Cylons if he can find a way to keep Daniel alive.

We see Eveyln and Joseph in bed together, and they seem to have settled in with their new relationship. Joseph is pensive, confessing the Guatrau is selling Cylons to the STO. Eveyln wants him to help Tauron, too, and encourages him to do the right thing. Then she lights a cigarette with a lighter we're all too familiar with from Battlestar Galactica.

Clarice is very critical of Olaf and Nestor's virtual renderings of their new heaven. She wants it to look stellar for the first arrivals in their faux afterlife, not looking like something from the old pantheon. Olaf and Nestor are less than enthused with her criticisms, but she wants statues and stained glass. Of who, they ask. Why, of those of us who were there at the beginning.

Jordan is called in to Singh's office. Jordan confronts Singh about being a traitor, but Singh has called in internal affairs for Jordan losing a confidential informant. He's even doctored the tapes to make it look like Jordan never gave him the file on his informant. Jordan is taken off the case and turns in his badge. Meanwhile, Amanda has her first recording from the Willow bedroom, but when she tries to call Jordan at the GGD, she's informed Jordan no longer works there.

Daniel runs into a kid who is wearing an Avenging Angels t-shirt, seeing Zoe's face. He buys it off him and checks out Sinny McNutt's in New Cap City, asking around about the angels. The girls eventually show up, but a startled Zoe flees, and Daniel pulls off his holoband before he's hurt and can't return.

Zoe and Tamara realize people must be talking about them in the real world. Tamara says they can leave New Cap City and get lost in v-world, but Zoe wants to stay. She's sure they have a destiny. They've become gods there, so why not act like it, she suggest, and build a place where no one can hurt them. With that, New Cap City abruptly disintegrates and reforms into a beautiful vista of mountains, forests and castles.

Sam is preparing his first Cylon shipment to Tauron, which Joseph nearly stumbles upon if not for Willie's delaying tactic. Joseph isn't stupid, though, and guesses what is going on. The brothers have a talk later. Joseph advises him crossing the Gautrau is crazy and Sam should have come to him first. Because what they need is to be smart. Joseph confesses he's forgotten who he was and who he is. Sam needs to stop feeling guilty for what happened to their parents. They're brothers and will do this together.

In the final flashback we see Joseph giving Sam his first tattoo, both brothers swearing to choose their own path and be faithful to themselves as Adama's.

Amanda pops back to see Daniel, who tells her Zoe's alive. Amanda is understandably shocked, but realizes he is talking about the avatar. It's not that simple, he confesses. It's their daughter. He thought she was gone, and now he doesn't understand but he's seen her in v-world. Amanda wants to see her. "Let's go find her," he says.

What Worked:
After much of the season spiralling downward in despair and self-destructive decisions, both the Adamas and the Graystones have found the better angels of their nature and seem to be set upon a path towards renewal. It was very cathartic. Sam and Joseph's vow to one another, and Daniel and Amanda for the first time in some time meeting on common ground to find their daughter.

The Adama family got a much-needed shot in the arm, and even though this series is over, at the very least we got some insight into Bill Adama's heritage. Both Joseph and Sam's motivations and personal guilt provides such a canvas for their current actions and motivations. Finally, Joseph has found himself again, and I hope we get to see some movement on this plot before the series ends.

There was so much happening with the two families that all the other stuff in New Cap City, the Global Defence Department and the Willow household got very brief screen time, despite being quite relevant to the plot. All of the pieces of the puzzle built up over this entire season are beginning to thread together.

The glimpse of Tauron was another welcome inside into an additional offworld colony, and certainly a contrast to the privileged life of the Capricans. The Adamas are the children of terrorists? That provides a whole new dynamic, and a healthy dose of irony given their ties with the STO. 

Three words: A good lighter! Another artifact from Battlestar Galactica makes an appearance. A small, but very nice cameo of the lighter that eventually makes it's way into Lee Adama's hands, post-apocalypse.

What's going on in New Cap City? Has it been completely remade, and are everyone's characters now in World of Warcraft? The discovery of Zoe by her father got very little airtime but it's a huge plot point with the Graystones off to search for her—and kudos to Daniel for telling his wife the truth right away! It was a nice pop culture point that Tamara and Zoe would gain notoriety in the real world, as well, complete with t-shirts. Add to that the fanboy who recognizes Daniel, it was all a nice touch.

Sinny McNutt's is the best name for a bar. Ever.

What Didn't Work:
After so many dry runs with the avatar, Amanda is now checking in with Daniel regularly? Have they worked out their problems or is she finding him a refuge now that she's living with terrorists?

Cylons on Gemenon, and soon on Tauron. Will the Caprican government not notice Cylons popping up offworld, given their refusal to deploy peacekeeping troops to Tauron? Won't that lead right back to their designer, Daniel Graystone? What Daniel and the Ha'la'tha have done is akin to Lockheed Martin supplying new bombers to the Americans, and then some turning up in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Won't someone notice this?

And, of course, we still don't have a real indication of what is going on with Cylon sentience. Obviously either Daniel or Tomas have created much better reacting robots than we saw in the pilot, but the more intuitive Cylon was the result of Zoe being inside the prototype. Once she was removed, it was implied the Cylon was no longer sentient. These new warriors off the assembly-line are not sentient either, but have they fixed the earlier problem to make them better fighters? No one has addressed this yet.

What was the purpose of leaving the female Herak commander alive in the flashback? Sure, she witnessed William's murder by his son, but are they implying she will show up later, or was she just there to provide a horrifying witness to their dedication to the Ha'la'tha cause?

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