“There is Another Sky”
February 26th, 2010
Early last week, I posted some thoughts which had been percolating for a while about SyFy’s Caprica, in particular how some people just can’t seem to get over the fact that it’s connected to Battlestar Galactica and judge it based on its own merits. And while I didn’t get to this week’s episode, “There is Another Sky” when it aired on Friday, I did notice that I wasn’t the only one with this point of view: both Todd and James came out with much the same perspective after this week’s entry, which indicated that the show’s roll continued into its fifth episode.
“There is Another Sky” is probably not the best episode of the show thus far, but I would argue it may be the most significant. You see, while I wrote last week about how the show shouldn’t be judged solely on its connections to the world of Battlestar Galactica, this week painted a picture (and visited a world) which offers a serious expansion of the Caprican landscape that blows this series wide open and yet simultaneously narrows in on what we know will happen in the future thanks to our BSG knowledge.
And by managing to juggle these two roles so successfully, Caprica remains on a rather exciting journey, whether you know the destination or not.
Look, as a fan of Battlestar Galactica, I got something approaching goosebumps when the scene between Willie and Joseph was punctuated by the use of the Adamas theme from that series. Bear McCreary notes that he “couldn’t resist” using the melody in the scene, and I think that tells you something about how the show approaches its connection to BSG. There are some moments you can’t resist, nods that are so apparent that avoiding them would be more obnoxious than letting them exist naturally. And so a moment of bonding between two generations of Adamas, knowing what we know about the next generation, is too good a chance to pass up.
There is a different, though, between dalliance and indulgence, and I think the show is nicely remaining in the former camp. Daniel’s speech to the Board of Directors has some fairly powerful connections with BSG, as many of his hypotheticals are less than hypothetical to viewers with further knowledge, and yet that is entirely incidental to the scene. Even if you know where things end up, Daniel’s rhetoric paints a rather terrifying picture of what these Cylons could be capable of, and that he demonstrates their willingness to obey on the model which contains his daughter’s avatar makes for a haunting image nicely punctuated by the continually fascinating device of switching between the robot and Zoe parts of the Cylon. If you’ve seen BSG, the scene is a piece of history: however, if you haven’t, the scene is still a powerful moment of a man desperate to put his life back on track heading down a dangerous road by unwittingly forcing his daughter to self-mutilate.
The show has been leaning pretty heavily on grief, and as Todd noted in his review it’s sort of a wonderfully universal emotion, albeit it a difficult one. The ceremony for Shannon and Tamara was a powerful scene, but it was perhaps more powerful because of what Joseph learned at the end of it. The idea that Joseph and Daniel are both so focused on moving on when their respective daughters live on in ways that they do not understand is full of dramatic potential, in that Daniel’s way of moving on threatens the existence of Tamara and potentially corrupts the existence of his own daughter at the same time. The show is delving into some big world-building blocks here, and yet because so much of it is framed through characters it never feels too large, or too sudden.
I find it hard to believe that Tamara has remained a footnote for this long and yet emerged as fully-formed as she did in her tour of New Cap City, the virtual world where money is (maybe) power and where being dead seems to be a greater asset than one might imagine. Frankly, I don’t entirely know where the show intends to go with this, but the Tamara sequences were visually stunning and evocative of themes that I had no idea the show was going to delve into so quickly. It has exponentially increased the potential of this series, and yet by focusing so much on Tamara it managed to remain fairly grounded even when enormous zeppelins were flying through the other sky. The uncertainty of the story was a nice reflection of Tamara’s own confusion, but by the end of the hour she has a very clear sense of what she is: she is awake, just like Zoe’s avatar is alive, and the two young women are now on their way to (at least based on what we know) becoming a key part of humanity’s journey in the next half-century.
There’s just so many directions that all of this can go, especially when you consider that this episode skipped over the STO almost entirely. But under the extremely talented eye of director Michael Nankin, this episode put to rest one major question: there is now no doubt that that Caprica is the type of show willing to go out on a limb to play with our expectations, to introduce entirely new ideas that feel organic within this world while unquestionably gesturing towards one we spent four seasons in. It might not yet be clear what levels the show intends to work on, but there is no question that there will be many, and that with this cast and with this creative direction they have the potential to be kind of bloody fantastic.
And that, at the end of the day, is all you really need to know to enjoy this series.
- Interesting to see how many women are in prominent roles in the series, but are in some way impeded by men: we’re getting James Marsters next week as Clarice’s superior of sorts, you have Daniel’s decisions manipulating Zoe, etc. However, the women on this show are extremely strong (See: Amanda saving Daniel on Sarno, Joseph’s terrifying mother-in-law), and it’s clear that they in some ways are at the heart of the identity crises that the show is most interested in.
- I’m really enjoying the different layers that Sasha Roiz is giving to Sam Adama: I love Alan’s observation that it’s clear that Willie will eventually become very much his uncle’s nephew, while Lee will become his grandfather’s grandson, and the show is demonstrating this with some good subtlety at this early stage thanks to Roiz’s strong performance.