#CapricaIsBack, indeed! And it has kicked off the second half of its first season with both cast and crew (and in the case of this episode, one of the cast was crew) bringing their “A” games.
But before I get into that I just need to ask: is it me, or did Daniel Graystone get hotter this episode? I mean, I’ve always been a bit attracted to him, but it’s as though he got hotter between “End of Line” and “Unvanquished,” which should be impossible, considering they were shot around the same time. Regardless, before I go on with my review, I offer up an Open Letter to Eric Stolz:
Dear Mr. Stoltz,
Always be bearded and look distraught. It looks really good on you.
Long story short: Sister Clarice is on Gemenon seeking church support from the monotheists there for her leadership of the STO on Caprica. When someone stands in her way, she has him killed. She gets the support she needs from the Reverend Mother. Meanwhile, Lacy is proving her loyalty to Barnabas, Keon, and the rest of her STO cell by cutting her hand open and telling Keon to shut up. Daniel, whose grief has gone past sadness and straight to Megalomanialand, goes to the Guatrau of the Ha’La’Tha asking for their partnership in the Eternal Life™ business. The Guatrau has Joseph represent his interests in the deal, an offer Joseph can’t refuse. But when he, accompanied by Sam, ask Daniel to make an impossible choice, Daniel hesitates, not ready to be gangsta.
And then there’s Amanda. Who’s STILL. FRAKKING. ALIVE.
For those who found Caprica to be “slow” in its first nine episodes (though I can name shows with entire bad first seasons that people have managed to stick with), “Unvanquished” marks the moment in the series where the divergent storylines come together, and it starts getting into the meat of what Caprica is really about. Ryan Mottesheard tells a tight story with this episode, showing how all of the characters have begun to move on from the events of “End of Line.”
On Battlestar Galactica, I was intrigued by the Cylons’ relationship to the One True God, because I saw it as an expression of their sentience; an assertion of almost-humanity through spirituality. How fascinating, then, to have Clarice introduce the idea of apotheosis through Zoe’s avatar, to the church of all things, as a man-made heaven that would provide “a religion of certainty.” The science vs. faith debates that ran rampant during BSG have now been injected with something new, science as religion—or religion as science—an idea that fascinates me. Clarice is finally coming into her own as a character, and Polly Walker is doing amazing work as someone who either genuinely believes, or wants to believe, but trips up her own faith with her ambition.
We’ve been introduced an intriguing new character in the Reverend Mother of the monotheist church, played by Meg Tilly! At first, I wasn’t thrilled with the portrayal. The character was talked about with such reverence that when she finally came on screen, soft-spoken and demure, I wondered where this woman they’d been talking about was. However, by the end of the episode, when the Reverend Mother is making a deal with Clarice, we see that she’s made of much shrewder, stronger stuff, and I’m curious to see how she progresses in the rest of the story.
If Clarice lets her survive that long.
Magda Apanowicz is doing great work as Lacy, and I’m really interested in her relationship with Barnabas, played with wonderful subtlety by James Marsters. It’s both heartwarming and creepy to see pride come over Barnabas’s face when Lacy performs the hand-cutting ritual, and seeing Lacy assert herself by asking Keon to stop answering for her was great. More of that, please.
We only got a glimpse of Zoe in V-World in this episode, but it was in a great fight scene in which she showcases her considerable fighting skill, then asserts her prowess by saying that she’s looking for Tamara. Alessandra Torresani’s performance has gotten progressively more mature, and though we only got one scene from her, she managed to make Deadwalker Zoe a very distinct personality unlike any we’ve seen in her other incarnations. (I get the feeling that this Zoe is different than Avatar Zoe, which is why she gets a new nickname.) My one problem? The music. Normally, I’m a huge fan of Bear McCreary’s, but the scoring of this fight scene seemed really out of place. What could have been a great jolt of energy was slowed down by an odd, orchestral musical choice. The episode’s one misstep.
I did NOT see Amanda being alive coming, so that was a great surprise as I adore Paula Malcomson. 1) Because she jumped off a frakking bridge, and 2) Syfy did a great job of misleading us with a trailer for Season 1.5 where we see Amanda as an avatar, which is usually what happens to DEAD PEOPLE on this show. So, how will we get from here to Avatar Amanda? I can’t wait to find out.
And it is here that I will praise the hell out of Eric Stoltz, who was pulling double duty as actor and director in “Unvanquished.” I love the shots he chose (those of you who watched it might remember the close-up of the upside-down wine bottle), and while Michael Watkins created tension through Altman-esque rapid-fire dialogue in “Gravedancing,” Stoltz manages to create the same tension by eliciting very specific performances from the cast. As an actor, he soared as well, and goes believably past the point of grief. Daniel Graystone is a man for whom grief has become such a fact it’s his new status quo, and operating from that baseline, he is capable of some terrible things.Yet there are still lines he won’t cross.
Favorite Scene of the Episode: Joseph and Sam visit Daniel to discuss a possible deal. Esai Morales has finally been released from “whiny widow” purgatory, and it’s thrilling to watch him “grow up,” so to speak. It’s strange to say this, but he seemed more like a Man this episode, a man with a spine of steel, and it was refreshing to watch him figure out who he is in this new life without his wife and daughter. Meanwhile, Sam, who we’re used to seeing as the badassss, was more the “little brother” than we’ve ever seen before. Sasha Roiz has sort of always been providing what little comic relief there is on this show (that scene where he messes with Joseph at the end of “Gravedancing” still kills me), but here we get to see Sam be proud of his big brother, and he’s almost giddy as he asks Joseph if he’s “really Ha’la’tha.” Joseph, in turn, chuckles as if to say, I know you’ve been waiting for this. While Joseph is the reserved, steely one at the meeting, Sam is commenting on the robot butler, picking stuff out of the fridge, looking through Amanda’s purse, and generally just going around touching stuff and not sitting still. It reminds me of when he jacks Joseph’s beer in “Gravedancing.” Those subtle moments that hint at their relationship are gold.
And I’m about to be really inappropriate, but the three of them were so amazingly badass in that scene, that I totally wanted to be the Pizza Girl. You know the one. The one who rings the doorbell with pizzas in her hand, but no one ordered a pizza. But it doesn’t matter, because Pizza Girl doesn’t give a frak about delivering pizzas. And you can tell this because her “pizza delivery uniform” consists of hot pants and a shirt that’s tied up around her boobs. And she’s all “What am I supposed to do? These are going to come out of my paycheck!” And the dudes are all “Don’t worry, we’ll figure out a way to pay you.” And then bow-chicka-bow-wow. Yeah, that Pizza Girl. **
**This moment of inapropriateness goes out to Alessandra Torresani (@bambolabambina) in celebration of her Twitter suggestion of Caprica Porn. Enjoy that, Alessandra.
These are the thoughts that go through my head when I’m watching Caprica. Hey, I’ve got a healthy imagination, all right?!
Long review long: “Unvanquished” was a great beginning to the second half of this season. I’m totally on board for this ride.
Teresa Jusino was born the same day Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a freelance writer in New York City who is a regular contributor to websites like ChinaShop Magazine, Pink Raygun, and Newsarama. In addition to her geeky online scribblings, she also writes prose fiction and screenplays. Teresa is the author of a chapbook of short stories called On the Ground Floor, and she is working on a webseries called The Pack, coming in 2011. She is also the last member of WilPower: The Official Wil Wheaton Fan Club. Get Twitterpated with Teresa or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.