Tag Archives: Daniel Graystone

Season Premiere: Caprica – “Unvanquished”

“Unvanquished”

October 5th, 2010

Returning to numbers below its performance earlier this year, Caprica seems to be heading for an early death. On the one hand, this disappoints me: as a fan of this franchise, I am interested in seeing where the show might be headed. However, watching “Unvanquished” I realized that I do not feel any particular need for the series to continue. There is a decided lack of urgency to the way we approach the series: I’m co-editing Antenna this month, and I concur with Derek Johnson’s question mark in regards to our anticipation regarding the series’ return (in fact, I couldn’t prepare his piece for publication until I watched the finale, which only happened last night, thus proving his thesis).

What’s fascinating is that “Unvanquished” seems like an incredibly intelligent start to the second half of the season and yet does nothing to make the series seem more exciting; it seems more logically planned out, but logic is not enough to convince me that this show deserves to be saved.

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Season Finale: Caprica – “End of Line”

“End of Line”

March 26th, 2010

While I hadn’t seen “End of Line” before writing my post about Caprica’s memorable scenes and their impact on its storytelling earlier today, I could feel myself posturing towards the finale throughout writing it. While I liked “End of Line” just fine, its position as a hackneyed [mid]season finale designed to allow SyFy to split up its original programming across different quarters meant that it would be pretty much forced to push the stories that haven’t had the same sort of thematic dialogue and striking sequences as Zoe’s story to some sort of conclusion sooner than might be ideal.

And while I know Battlestar Galactica got a reputation for its cliffhangers, I don’t think Caprica is particularly good at them, especially with its pacing as it is. The result was an episode that forced every story along like it was a high speed chase, leaving no time to really stop and consider the consequences or the thematic ramifications in the process. The few stories that had a chance to stop and slow down turned out alright, and those desperate for plot advancement are probably somewhat appeased, but “End of Line” is very clearly not the end of the line, and the usual slow build that defines the series was entirely absent in an episode that offered some good thrills but left out the chills.

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Scene-ic Storytelling: Philosophy and Memorability in SyFy’s Caprica

Scene-ic Storytelling in SyFy’s Caprica

March 25th, 2010

I was listening to last week’s episode of the Firewall and Iceberg podcast, where Alan and Dan were explaining how hard it is to pick your favourite episode of a television show. I concur with their evasion of the question at hand, as picking a favourite episode of a serialized television series seems disadvantageous while picking a favourite episode of a comedy is so highly subjective that it’s a bit dangerous, but I have a followup question: could we pick a favourite scene?

I find this, when I think about it, considerably easier. While picking a single episode of The Wire is impossible, picking a favourite scene seems like it’s possible: sure, there’s still too many to choose from (McNuggets, Chess, FuCSI, Co-Op Meeting, etc.), but we’re more comfortable singling out scenes because there’s an expectation that what we select will capture the quality we most admire in the show being discussed without the baggage that comes with an episode of ensemble, serialized drama which goes in various different directions.

There is a lot of power in scenes to tell a story, or to capture a viewer’s attention. The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds, both nominated for Best Picture this year, are effectively a series of vignettes which rely on being making both collective and individual impressions, building character by creating unforgettable tension and suspense from various circumstances. And on the comic end of the spectrum, Noel Murray’s fantastic A Very Special Episode series at The A.V. Club turned its attention on The Simpsons’ “22 Short Stories About Springfield” episode this week, and the wealth of comments on the post demonstrate that its collection of short vignettes are perhaps amongst the most quotable and memorable scenes in the series’ run precisely because they are part of an episode which admits to being a collection of scenes rather than a cohesive episode.

I raise this question because I want to talk about SyFy’s Caprica, a show that has thus far been more successful at creating memorable scenes than at creating memorable characters or stories. Ending the first half of its first season with a finale of sorts this evening on SyFy and SPACE, the show has used scenes with deep philosophical meaning and implication in order to create a lasting impression that makes me want to see more even when I don’t have as much of a vested interest in what I see in the rest of each episode. These scenes, at times single-handedly, have made Caprica into a show I admire a great deal, but at the same time they are doing nothing to alleviate concerns that some viewers seem to have about plot and character in the show’s universe.

Some thoughts on why this is, and why I think this sort of “scene-ic storytelling” is good for the show in the long run, after the jump.

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Caprica – “The Imperfections of Memory”

“The Imperfections of Memory”

March 12th, 2010

One of the largest concerns that many seem to be citing when explaining their dislike of SyFy’s Caprica is “poor pacing,” which isn’t an uncommon complaint of any serialized drama. Really, Caprica is trapped between the two most common circumstances where pacing becomes a concern: not only is it a new series that is taking a while to get to the bulk of its story, but it’s also being (unfairly) viewed as a continuation of a previous series, which creates other expectations about how fast the show should (or shouldn’t) be moving. For some it’s starting from scratch, and for others it’s having to contend with concerns over pacing that plagued the final season of Battlestar Galactica.

I don’t intend to repeat my previous argument on why I disapprove of the latter concern, but the former issues are legitimate and, to some degree, quite accurate. “The Imperfections of Memory” reminds us that this is in some ways the story of a group of people stumbling into knowledge that we as an audience (regardless of whether we’ve seen BSG) already know, and watching that unfold can be at times a slow and unsatisfying process.

However, personally, I think there’s something interesting about watching the process of discovery, and the power that yields has thus far been worth the slow build, and worth the sideways momentum, and worth the “poor” pacing so long as it’s building to something as philosophically intriguing as it seems to be.

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Caprica – “Rebirth”

“Rebirth”

January 29th, 2010

I was warned ahead of time that Caprica’s pilot was not necessarily representative of the series, and that the two additional episodes sent to critics seemed to offer something very different. However, all of those people who had seen the episodes seemed excited but in a way that was at the same time quite cautious: when I chatted about the episodes with Todd over at Media Elites, he indicated that, while he was quite taken with the episodes, not everyone is going to fall head over heels in love with the show that Caprica has become.

I, however, have. What surprised me about Caprica was that it managed to resist diving straight into melodrama, despite a premise that lends itself to that sort of interaction. After a pilot that felt steeped in the complexities of holo-bands and avatars, “Rebirth” takes that scenario and investigates the human consequences: stories that are big philosophically, like the fate of Zoe Graystone’s Avatar, are small in the context of the story, while the stories which go public are those which are more personal and thus more devastating. Rather than focus on creating conflict between characters, the episode allows the characters to start developing independent of that conflict, discovering new ways to adapt to a world without a daughter or a family shattered by tragedy.

It’s an episode that manages to subtly investigate the show’s premise while also triumphantly proclaiming that Caprica is a place of great complexity, and a place that has no idea the changes that the next decade or two will bring; in short, it’s a damn fine start for the series at hand.

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