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Caprica: "Blowback"/"The Dirteaters"/"The Heavens Will Rise"/"Here Be Dragons"/"Apotheosis"

Illustration for article titled Caprica: "Blowback"/"The Dirteaters"/"The Heavens Will Rise"/"Here Be Dragons"/"Apotheosis"
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Previously on Caprica, our friends at SyFy decided to make my job much more complicated than it has to be by scheduling the final five episodes of the now-canceled series for one marathon airing before sending it on to virtual heaven to be reunited with its predecessor, Battlestar Galactica, and—someday, maybe—its follow-up, Blood and Chrome. Thanks, SyFy!

These last five hours had to answer many questions, the most important of which being: Would this finale event serve as a satisfying conclusion to the series, despite the fact that it was produced before the cancellation order came down? And the answer to that question is… sort of. I guess. The final episode itself is probably the most exciting hour of the show's brief existence, and it does provide far more resolution than I would have guessed… but the road to "Apotheosis" is a rocky one, emblematic in many ways of the uneven nature of Caprica as a whole.

"Blowback" is largely concerned with Lacy Rand's journey from Gemenon to the STO's offworld training facility, and more importantly, her journey from annoyingly spineless wet blanket to mildly tolerable ass-kicker.  Her transformation is accelerated when the transport ship carrying her and her fellow recruits is attacked and boarded by militant polytheists. That this attack turns out to be a simulation designed to test the recruits' mettle is something you probably guessed 30 minutes before it was actually revealed. Back on Caprica, Amanda is still working with Agent Duram, whose boss at the GDD is secretly in cahoots with Clarice. He demands to know the identity of Duram's confidential informant inside Clarice's house, and again there's some fairly transparent misdirection when Duram, smelling a rat, doctors up a file naming new mother Mar-Beth as his CI. Clarice ends up gutting Mar-Beth, and Amanda lives to snoop another day.

In retrospect, "Dirteaters" may be the most pointless waste of time in the entire series. Given that Caprica itself can be seen as a flashback to the childhood of Galactica's Bill Adama (or not, but we'll get to that later), devoting most of an episode to a flashback of that character's father's childhood tends to push my level of interest into the zzzzzzzzz zone. The gobs of exposition devoted to the Tauron back-story could have been shunted off to a novelization or videogame, as far as I'm concerned. At least "Dirteaters" finally gives us another glimpse of Zoe and Tamara, who are now the Avenging Angels of New Cap City, a reputation that extends to the real world, where their faces now adorn a popular t-shirt.

"Heavens Will Rise" is a set-up episode, putting the pieces in place for the final two hours. Daniel enlists Sam Adama in a plan to contact Zoe and Tamara in the V-World, which they are rapidly reshaping to suit their own whims. Amanda switches Clarice's holoband for a duplicate in order to deliver the original to Agent Duram, but that plan goes awry when he is shot by an unseen gunman. At the STO compound, Lacy discovers that the Cylon robots (supplied by the Guatrau) respond to her commands. (This isn't really explained, but presumably, it has to do with some trace of Zoe-data within their programming.)

By the time we get to the penultimate episode, "Here Be Dragons," it seems that there's a hit out on pretty much every character. The Guatrau has ordered Joseph and Sam to take out Daniel in order to complete his takeover of Graystone Industries, but he's also put a contract on Joseph and Sam, who have been funneling Cylons to the Tauron resistance. Realizing that Amanda was the actual spy in her house of love, Clarice leads an assault on stately Graystone manor to retrieve her stolen holoband. Fearing her control over the robot army, the STO wants Lacy dead, while Zoe seems determined to wipe out anyone who dares invade the virtual Eden she's built from the ashes of New Cap City. There are several casualties, including Clarice's husband, Nestor, and everyone's favorite robot butler Serge, but the show's big WTF? moment comes at the end, when young William Adama is killed while attempting to rescue his father and uncle. Now, I was no particular fan of this character or the actor who played him, but since little Willie grows up to the be the revered Galactica admiral… well, show, you've got some explaining to do.


That brings us to "Apotheosis," in which Clarice's plan to blow up the Atlas Arena and deliver her martyrs into a virtual heaven is finally put into motion. Having reconciled with Zoe in the V-World, Daniel and Amanda are now on the run from the GDD, whose monotheist director has framed them as terrorists. Armed with Daniel's trusty laptop, the Graystones summon a fleet of Marine transport vehicles loaded with militarized Cylons to the site of the big C-Bucs game, in what will never be remembered as the show's most convincing special effects sequence. As the Cylons rescue humanity by taking out the martyrs armed with bombs, Zoe puts the kibosh on Clarice's virtual heaven, de-rezzing it and all the uploaded avatars. In a four-minute coda (titled "The Shape of Things to Come"), it is revealed that: 1) the Cylons were quickly integrated into society following their heroic rescue; 2) the Bill Adama we know from Battlestar Galactica is actually Joseph's second son; 3) Lacy succeeds Meg Tilly as the monotheist leader "Mother," while Clarice turns her attention to the "differently sentient" Cylons' spiritual awakening; and 4) Zoe is brought back to the land of the living via goo-bath, becoming the first skin-job.

Some will watch that coda and yearn for the second season that will never be (stop mailing those apples to SyFy already), but in its own brusque way, I think it connects enough of the dots to pass for a more-or-less satisfying conclusion to the series. Obviously, there are a number of gaps in the story that we'll most likely just have to live with, like all that business with Angel Zoe in "Things We Lock Away", but that's life in Cancellationville. I have some complaints and grievances, of course. Clarice's big plan never really made a whole lot of sense to me, given that everyone seemed to realize they weren't actually going to heaven, only their avatars were. (I mean, my Facebook page may live on after my death, but that's pretty cold comfort.) And I particularly disliked the course of Zoe's arc over the second half of the season; she tended to disappear for great stretches of time and then have a completely different personality when she returned. One minute she was a power-mad god, the next she was mommy's little girl again, content to hang around a virtual representation of her old house. That might have been a powerful storyline if it had been fleshed out at all, but  instead it was relegated to the sidelines while we wasted time with the history of the Tauron conflict.


But that's all water under the bridge now, and I don't have any plans to lie awake nights, wondering about this stuff. What we're left with, in the end, is a promising but often frustrating prequel series, and if it often came up short in wrestling with its big ideas and themes, well, at least it was in the ring. That's certainly more than you can say for most of the shows that survive it on the SyFy network.

Stray observations:

  • If you're impressed with how quickly I was able to digest and post about five hours worth of television, you were probably too busy over the holidays to notice that the Caprica Season 1.5 DVD set has already been released. I was certainly grateful for this, as I was able to space out my viewing over a few days and take a little more time to write it up. Otherwise, you'd probably just find "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" written here over and over and over…
  • In case you're wondering whether the "Shape of Things to Come" coda was added to the last episode after the show's cancellation in order to provide some closure, well, that doesn't seem to be the case. In the DVD commentary track for the episode, clearly recorded before the show was axed, showrunner Kevin Murphy makes repeated reference to his plans for the second season and how that coda would lead into it. However, it's not much of a stretch to think that Murphy knew the show might be in trouble and wanted to provide something that could serve as an ending, if necessary.
  • No air date for the pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome has been announced yet, but I'm sure we'll have it covered here, one way or another.