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Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Caprica "Apotheosis"

Non Spoiler Review:
The series finale delivers a roller coaster of surprises and plot resolutions. While it is not perfect by any means, it delivers satisfying conclusions to most of the character arcs, and provides a surprise coda that cements the series as a worthy prequel to Battlestar Galactica.

Given so much was needed to resolve, some matters are left untouched, including Tamara's entire plot line. Others are wrapped up in passing, while the main focus of the story is on the Graystones fighting against time to stop the bombing of the Atlas Arena and Clarice's apotheosis program, juxtaposed with Joseph and Sam's revenge for Willie's death.

Caprica will be sorrily missed. Despite some obvious writing and storyline problems (that aren't too out of the ordinary for a freshman season), and a bit of identity crisis early on, it consistently delivered compelling characters. At times they descended critically into unlikable territory, but the season's resolution also brings redemption to many (including Clarice, in some ways), leaving the viewer with a sense of closure and satisfaction at some happy endings. But, in typical Battlestar fashion, we are left with the ominous threat of the events now underway that bring about the Cylon apocalypse.

Spoilers Now!
Clarice and Olaf are in a panic that the authorities have been alerted to their plan, except Singh shows up, telling them he's her contact in v-world and he has flagged any alerts form the Graystones or about Atlas Arena to come through him. He's ready to throw all the resources of the GDD to help the STO, and that includes framing the Graystones as terrorists.

At the Graystone house, the GDD is rifling through the crime scene, and Cyrus is trying to call their lawyers. Amanda is on the holoband with Zoe, but Zoe's memory has gaps when it comes to Clarice's plan and where the holoband might be, as real Zoe did not want her to know about it. Amanda consoles her v-daughter, but then the holoband is ripped off and Singh orders the Graystones arrested, showing fabricated evidence of a list of STO contacts found in the house. Cyrus then pulls a gun on Singh, telling Daniel to flee, as he knows they'll never see them again if they're arrested. So the Graystones make their escape in his private shuttle.

The Adamas are in mourning, and comforted by some of their allies who are helping to protect their neighbourhood should the Guatrau attack. But Fidelia shows up, unarmed, wanting to talk and assuring them the Guatrau will make no more attacks. After Sam threatens her, she talks with Joseph alone. She does not want to see a war between them. She suggests they send robots and money to Tauron to pacify everyone. Joseph, however, wants a meeting with the Guatrau. 

The Graystones go to the park where Jordan was shot to see if they can find the holoband. On the way, they see the vids showing them as terrorists. They are dropped off by the shuttle and Daniel finds the holoband, runs through the avatar presentation and puts it all together—that Zoe's avatar program is some sort of recruitment tool promising eternal life, and the STO is going to bomb the stadium. Amanda attempts to phone in a bomb threat, but it gets routed to Singh, who prevents it from going further.

Fidelia organizes a meeting in v-world for Joseph and the Guatrau, who has not used a holoband. As they talk he begins to choke, and in the real world he is surrounded by men, being suffocated by Sam as Fidelia watches. Joseph enters the room, and as he asks for his knife (to end his life the proper Tauron way), Joseph feeds him the same suicide drug that his own parents had on Tauron, and the Guatrau dies. Fidelia realizes this is the only way for the family to go on, and Joseph gives her her father's ring, swearing his loyalty to her as Guatrau.

Clarice informs Olaf how she envies him, as Nestor never made her an avatar and she won't be joining him in death. She'll throw on her holoband and meet him in the heaven when he arrives. He's a tad outraged at her hyprocrasy, but god apparently has another path for her.

Daniel finds his employee, Dr. Whathisname (who got his finger sliced off earlier in the season) and gets him to infiltrate Graystone Industries and retrieve his laptop after activating a program that controls the Cylons, then lets him go, assuring him he'll be back working for Daniel soon. He and Amanda disguise themselves in Sea Bucks fan gear and go to the arena as Olaf arrives with his own payload of explosives.

Amanda and Daniel break into a broadcast area, tie up the cameraman, and bring in several raptors that land in the field, disgorging several Cylons. The crowd first thinks it's a pre-game show as the anthem is being played, but the robots zero in on the chemical signatures of the explosives and begin shooting all the terrorists in the crowd (!), creating mayhem. Olaf dodges them and manages to avoid getting shot for the moment.

Zoe watches her parents being eviserated on the newsvids, so she steps into another area of v-world and discovers the STO heaven and her stolen avatar program. Clarice is shocked and happy to see her. But as the dead terrorists begin to upload, Zoe realizes what her former mentor has done...a virtual heaven will mean no one will care how bad they are if they end up in heaven anyway. Clarice tells her she's wrong. It is god's will. But Zoe tells her she is god, and disintegrates the heaven into a hell. The uploaded terrorist avatars are erased. 

In the stadium, all the Cylons jump onto Olaf, shielding the explosion as he blows himself up. And Clarice is alone in her attic as the computer systems sizzle and smoulder around her.

Then...The Shape of Things to Come
We see an interview with Sarno and Daniel, talking about how the stadium bombing was the catalyst to integrate Cylons into colonial society (juxtaposed with scenes of a variety of Cylon models doing everything from construction work to dog walking).

We see virtual Zoe and Amanda watching the interview together on the sofa in their v-world home.

On an anniversary of Willie's death, the Adamas hold a ceremony in memory of William, but also celebrating their new child, Bill, who honours both his half-brother and grandfather's memory by sharing their name. Bill has very blue eyes.

Clarice is preaching in a virtual church to pews full of Cylons (!) telling them they are god's children and one day the children of humanity shall rise up. Some make the STO sign with their hand. We see a virtual Zoe in the pew. But is this Angel Zoe? Her sermon plays throughout the entire flashforward.

Clarice goes to Gemenon to meet with the reverend mother to recognize artificial sentience as part of god's children. Odin allows her to meet Mother, who turns and smiles. It's Lacie. "I think you should kneel," she tells Clarice.

The Graystones are working together above a tub and who should emerge in the pseudo-flesh over a machine body, resurrection style, but Zoe Graystone.

What Worked:
I had been under the impression that Caprica was ending on a big cliffhanger, so I don't know if they actually filmed the final montage just in case they were cancelled (or if this was indeed a preview of a season two—in which case it was outrageously spoilery), but this episode blew it all out of the park. Tense, edge-of-your-seat all the way to the end, with the unexpected, but pleasant surprise of the Shape of Things to Come that solidifies this brief insight into pre-war Caprica as a worthy prequel to Battlestar Galactica.

The Graystones—their marriage is back on track, and the two of them working together as never before, they succeed in defeating the STO. Not only that, but they are reunited with this new version of their daughter—eventually, some years later, managing to create an android body for her to inhabit. Both Daniel and Amanda have found redemption, and it was easy to cheer on the pair as they attempted to save the thousands in the Atlas Arena. Undoubtedly the Graystone family are ├╝ber-celebrities now (until the Cylons rebel, of course).

The Adamas—finally a family again, despite the death of Willie. Sam and Joseph have their revenge on the Guatrau and establish a new order for themselves. It's not too difficult to imagine Joseph charting a new course as a civil liberties lawyer and ridding himself of his mob past. Bill Adama's history is set right (though he does seem to be a tad young to be serving in the upcoming Cylon war—especially if a whole series is now going to center around it).

Clarice—With the apotheosis program destroyed (and likely the avatar creation program), she turns to proselytizing to the Cylons, and we get a very good indication of the source of Cylon monotheism. This was very satisfying to see her slip into this role as prophet—one of the more natural character progressions on the series. Though one of the main villains of the entire BSG universe now, it seemed right that she would be preaching to Cylons at the end of it all.

Lacie—In contrast to Clarice, Lacie's erratic arc comes to a decent conclusion, if not a little rushed and a bit egregious. She has used her power on Gemenon to supplant the reverend mother with her own idealistic idea of the One True God. One can assume she has cleaned house with the church and now it's core values will be a bit more focused in spreading monotheism. And now Clarice will be serving at her pleasure.

Zoe—Reconciled with her parents and her own identity as a separate entity from real Zoe, she is free to chart her own destiny, and that looks like it means a robot body in the real world. Though she's an offshoot of the real Zoe's personality, she has found a home again.

Cylons—We get an answer to the integration of the Cylon race into the Twelve Colonies, and also a pretty good idea of how they turn to monotheism and rebel.

What Didn't Work:
There were a few plot points rushed or glossed over. And some of the coincidences forced on the audience to get the storyline moving were pushing the limits—I laughed out loud when Daniel found the holoband in the park after a few seconds of looking around. No one checked that out before? Not even the Willows? Singh achieved nearly omnipotent powers to frame the Graystones and keep any terrorist threat against the arena under wraps. Poor Cyrus...hopefully he made it out all right.

Some characters fell by the wayside. We have no idea of the fates of Jordan (who shot him?), Singh, or, most important, Tamara? Whatever happened to the poor girl, just abandoned by the Adamas as well as her new friend Zoe. Did they ever hang out together again?

V-world. What happened to New Cap City? Is it still a lush fantasy land? V-world continues to exist prior to the war, but something must happen to shut it all down. It would certainly provide the Cylons a nice way to seize control of a lot of computer networks when they rise up.

The CGI was a bit weak in places, especially in the final Atlas Arena battle, but the action was gripping enough that it got a pass.

The lyrics to the Caprican anthem are kind of lame, considering it's a really rousing Bear McCreary score.

I hope Blood and Chrome builds on the history started here, and we get a flashback or two of the Cylon rebellion, and some answers to how it happened (and how they got all their war tech). There were also rumours that Daniel Graystone was the first hybrid seen in Battlestar Galactica: Razor. It would be a truly sad and fitting end for this driven character, if that were the case.

Caprica will be missed. But we now have a twenty episode chunk of BSG history that provides very complex characters portrayed by an equally talented cast, an amazing feat of world building, and the dark and morally ambiguous tone of its parent series.

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