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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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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 – “Know Thy Enemy”

“Know Thy Enemy”

March 5th, 2010

I don’t intend to miss Caprica every week, really, but I’ve been busy the last few Friday nights and it’s always taken me a few days to get to the latest episode. This isn’t a show that I find myself anticipating each week, perhaps, but it is a show that really captures my attention while I’m watching it, which is ultimately more important so long as I’m not spoiled before I get the chance to watch the latest episode.

“Know Thy Enemy” isn’t quite as tonally rich as last week’s episode, but it does a few things that I think are working really well for the series, a sign of its quiet confidence rather than its confident ambition.

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Caprica – “There is Another Sky”

“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.

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Nurse Jackie – “School Nurse”

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“School Nurse”

June 29th, 2009

When a show introduces a protagonist who has small children, and appears interested in investigating their family dynamic, there are really only two choices. One is to dehumanize them entirely, turning them into an amalgamated responsibility that influences them in some way, while the other involves taking them and turning them into an additional commentary on the protagonist’s behaviour. Medium, for example, had Allison’s kids begin as a sign of a normal life she wasn’t able to lead thanks to her ability, but eventually morphed into a scenario where all of her daughter’s inherited her psychic abilities. It’s really the only way a show can run for any period of time while still acknowledging the way the children age and act differently on a regular basis.

What we see in “School Nurse” is the use of Grace as less a mirror and more a potential burden on Jackie, a test of her ability to turn her back on her family. Grace’s anxiety over the world raises a lot of the usual questions facing a mother who is drifting away from her home life to some degree, but it also touches on the idea of knowing, and of being able to somehow sense that unrest that Jackie has tried to keep hidden.

It’s a worthwhile point of interest for the show, and a sign that there are no intentions of using the children as just an object; as long as they keep things subtle and nuanced, I’d say that the show is in fine form.

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Nurse Jackie – “Chicken Soup”

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“Chicken Soup”

June 22nd, 2009

Nurse Jackie is really turning into an interesting cross-section of television narratives at the moment, in a way that it wasn’t early on. There was a point in last week’s episode, when Anna Deavere Smith was high on percocet and turned into a one-note gag, where I legitimately questioned the show’s ability to inject humour into this series, but “Chicken Soup” brings that back into focus by presenting one legitimately comic storyline and a couple of human-interest patient storylines that offered some more light-hearted fare. When focused on interpersonal interactions, the show is finding plenty of humour, and capturing the desireable elements from a show like Grey’s Anatomy from a slightly darker, and therefore slightly better, perspective.

At the same time, though, there are points where the darkness of this world become a bit too overwhelming, and one can’t particularly blame young Grace for deciding that the Bubonic plague is ready to strike again. While some may argue that the very presence of this darkness is problem enough, I’d tend to argue that the concern is less in the existence of a dark side to both Jackie and the show as a whole and more in the execution. Presented in the form of one general cliche followed by a procedural medical faux pas of the worst order, Jackie’s darkness is emerging less and less through organic channels, and more through clearly identifiable insertions into every day life designed to remind us that she is addicted to drugs, or remind us that she’s an adulterer.

It’s a reminder that I don’t think we particularly need, nor one that feels particularly effective in this episode at least: sometimes a simple episode about humanity does more to speak of Jackie’s occasional lack of humanity than does outright character homicide, and on a show where humanity is sent through the wringer and complicated in so many ways a more subtle approach would certainly be in the show’s best interest moving forward.

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