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Caprica: Unvanquished

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Let's see, where were we?

When last we checked in with Daniel Graystone, the Cylon creator was facing an accelerated deadline for delivering 100,000 functional, combat-ready toasters to the government, lest he lose his lucrative contract - and his company - to rival Tomas Vergis. It's a fate Daniel probably deserves, given that he stole a crucial piece of technology from Vergis, who dropped by the palatial Graystone estate to inform Daniel's wife Amanda that this crime cost two of his employees their lives.


This revelation prompted Amanda to step off a bridge, which in turn prompted Soldiers of the One cell leader Sister Clarice to step away from her vehicle - a fortuitous bit of timing given that her rival Barnabas had planted a bomb in the trunk.  Said bomb was reluctantly detonated by Barnabas's newest recruit Lacy, who had joined his cause in hopes of securing safe passage off-world to Gemenon for her best friend Zoe - who is, of course, no longer actually Zoe, but rather a digital copy trapped inside Daniel's Cylon prototype. This Zoe-bot managed to escape from Daniel's lab, but crashed shortly afterward with the military in hot pursuit.

Anything else? Oh yeah, it seems Joseph Adama has been permanently banned from the virtual world of New Cap City and thus cut off forever from the avatar of his late daughter Tamara, which means he's probably hoping that holoband is still under warranty.

You may have forgotten a few of these details, given that the last new episode of Caprica aired more than six months ago - yet for whatever irritating contractual reasons, "Unvanquished" is not the second season premiere, but rather the tenth episode of season one. Be that as it may, tonight's episode certainly behaved like a season premiere, catching us up on all of the characters' fates and setting up storylines for the rest of the way. And it does so swiftly; in fact, things are moving so quickly right out of the gate, Caprica almost doesn't seem like the same show at first, although it eventually settles down into a mostly promising kickoff to the season's back nine.

"Unvanquished" begins roughly three weeks after the events of the mid-season finale (to use Syfy's oxymoronic terminology). Vergis has indeed taken over Graystone Industries, and he has the assembly lines up and running, churning out a thousand Cylons per week.  Daniel has grown a Beard o' Mourning and is hitting the bottle following Amanda's apparent suicide.  A mother drops her young daughter off at a C-Bucs game, where she exchanges knowing looks and conspicuous hand signals with a number of other patrons, all of whom are Soldiers of the One equipped with explosive devices that are detonated simultaneously, blowing Atlas Arena sky-high.


That's starting things off with a bang - or it would be, if not for the revelation that this coordinated act of terror is only a holoband projection employed by Clarice as part of her pitch for Apotheosis on Gemenon.  (Take that, Don Draper!)  Yes, we finally get our first look at the home base of the monotheists, and it's…well, a bit of a disappointment, what with the standard-issue council of robed elders straight out of Sci-Fi 101. (Or, excuse me, Syfy 101.) We'll let that lapse slide, though, because Clarice's proposal is a particularly intriguing one: the promise of everlasting life for true believers in the V-World.  "A religion of certainty," in her words, that removes the need for faith entirely.

Of course, this raises a number of interesting questions that should provide fuel for future episodes, one of which is noted by an elder called Obal Ferras: If you remove the uncertainty, is it even still a religion?  After all, he muses, the dream of eternal life is more appealing than the reality of it, which would inevitably become far too boring to bear. Unfortunately for Obal, nobody else wants to be hearing this, and he winds up a prophet without honor, stabbed to death by his fellow true believers. Apotheosis is a go!


Back on Caprica, Daniel isn't too depressed to begin scheming his way back into the leadership of Graystone Industries. He goes to the Ha'la'tha for help, proposing a plan that's basically the corporate equivalent of Apotheosis: the cure for grief. Using his technology, one need never mourn a loved one - not when you can visit them anytime in the V-World (and pay handsomely for the privilege). The Guatrau (which I'm guessing is Tauron for Godfather) is intrigued by the proposition, and naturally makes the unmade Joseph Adama his point man in the operation.  As you might expect, Adama is not entirely on board with Daniel's plan, given his own experiences in New Cap City…but is he serious about making his bones with the Ha'la'tha?  We shall see.

Lacy is still hanging with the Barnabas crew, although it's not yet clear why, since she seemingly has no reason to believe Zoe still exists. Vergis wants Cyrus to melt the Cylon prototype recovered from the wreckage after its attempted escape, but Cyrus decides to put it in storage for now. And where is Zoe?  Either in New Cap City or A Clockwork Orange, judging from the bowler hat-wearing thugs who attack her in a rough part of town. But this new "dead-walker" has reinvented herself as a Nikita-style ass-kicking babe (and a fine-looking one at that), so they prove to be little trouble in the end.


There is one final revelation, although it's not too much of a surprise if you noticed Paula Malcolmson was still in the opening credits (despite appearing in the same time-slot on another network in Sons of Anarchy): it appears Amanda survived her suicide attempt and is holed up in a cabin…and she's not alone, as we learn when Clarice returns from her business trip.

So again, there's a lot going on here, and it looks like the Powers That Be were straight-shooting when they promised to amp up the action…although whether that proves to be a good thing in the long run remains to be seen.  Overall, though, "Unvanquished" did its job well, setting events in motion while deepening the show's exploration of religion and the nature of identity and consciousness. And it even had a little Patton Oswalt.  Not enough, perhaps, but we've got eight more episodes to go.


Stray observations:

• Great moments in unexpected casting: Meg Tilly as The Mother, head honcho of the monotheists on Gemenon. I would have guessed it's been at least 15 years since I've seen her, and based on her filmography at IMDb (where her most recent credit is from 1995), I'd have been right.


• No sign of Tamara this week, but she's bound to show up sooner than later; the New Cap City Droogs had her floral signature on their foreheads.

• I wasn't too impressed with Eric Stoltz in his dissipated mode - he's no Jon Hamm in that regard - but then it turned out that Daniel knew Amanda wasn't dead after all, so I'm giving him a pass this week - especially since he did double-duty by directing this episode.


• On the crumpled remains of the Zoe-bot: "This thing is toast." "Or a toaster." Hey, I was laughing on the inside.

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