“Dancing on someone’s grave” either refers to celebrating someone’s demise or profiting from someone’s misfortune. In “Gravedancing,” Episode 4 of Caprica, we see a bit of both. It, like the pilot, begins with a bombing; this time, an unoccupied café. We learn from the police that the Soldiers of the One have resurfaced after ten years, and that it is unlikely that they did this simply to blow up one train. After Amanda brandished Zoe’s STO pin at the memorial service, the police now have the grounds to search all of Zoe’s property, which includes her school locker (and any others she might have used at Athena Academy) and her bedroom. Sister Clarice, though she is able to send an advance warning to students involved with the STO about the police raid, begins to crack under the pressure of increased surveillance. Lacy approaches her classmate, Keon, again to ask for his help in completing Zoe’s mission to Gemenon. Meanwhile, the Graystones deal with appearing on Backtalk with Baxter Sarno, with seemingly conflicting takes on what was “wrong” with Zoe. Over at the Adama house, Joseph deals with his mixed feelings about having sent Sam to kill Amanda, and Grandma Adama teaches Willie that “you get the best things from enemies, because they’re scared of you.”
“Gravedancing” was a master class in dramatic tension. From the first scene, brilliant performances and rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue ratchet up the suspense in a way that hasn’t yet happened in previous episodes. Michael Watkins provided the crisp direction for “Gravedancing,” and Caprica producing director, Jonas Pate, rightfully called Watkins’ directing style “Altman-esque” during the official episode podcast. That style is noticeable in an early scene between Daniel and Amanda, where she is trying to convince him not to go on Sarno’s show and say their daughter is troubled as Daniel deflects by choosing a tie to wear. I can’t get over how wonderful Eric Stoltz and Paula Malcomson are together, and in this scene there is no question that they have known each other forever.
In fact, Paula Malcomson deserves special praise for this episode. Amanda Graystone fascinates me, because her feelings about her daughter are so conflicted. However, in “Gravedancing” she is the softest and most vulnerable we’ve ever seen her; challenging Daniel, intelligently and gracefully coming to his aid on Sarno, and then, in a brilliant scene toward the end of the episode, trying to connect with a stranger only to realize that she’s in terrible danger. Malcomson does more with a look than many actors do with entire performances, and her last emotionally-drained, terrified look in the car as Sam is taking her toward her possible death broke my heart. Before “Gravedancing”, Amanda fascinated me as an anomaly; a woman who didn’t seem to like her daughter very much. Now, because of Malcomson’s heartfelt performance, she fascinates me because, despite her status or her husband, she is someone to whom everyone can relate.
If the beginning of the episode belonged to Malcomson, the end of it belonged to Sasha Roiz as Sam. Again, the scene with Sam driving Amanda was brilliant in part because of Malcolmson’s fragility, but it was Roiz’s menace that sold it. But it was more than menace, because when he starts telling Amanda about the family he lost in the bombing, you can feel that, too. When Sam says, when referring to his dead niece, Tamara, that “she was going to make us all proud,” you almost want him to succeed in his task; not because you believe that the Graystones are at fault, but because this man has managed to paint a picture of a wonderful girl in a single line, and you want him to find some kind of justice for having lost her. However, it’s his final scene that gives him co-ownership of this episode with Malcomson. Roiz is brilliant as he nonchalantly describes how he killed Amanda Graystone as he’s wiping his hands, picking up jacks on the table, lighting a cigarette. And even though I knew that he couldn’t possibly have killed her because, well hell, I know that Paula Malcomson was still employed after that, for a split second he even had me fooled.
Aside from Roiz’s performance, that final Adama scene showcased one of the most compelling sibling relationships I’ve seen in a while. Joseph and Sam Adama have a relationship that I can’t learn enough about. And speaking of the Adama family, I love that Grandma Ruth is NOT a woman to be frakked with! This character, played by Karen Austen, has suddenly shot to the fore, and I’m looking forward to the excitement she will certainly add to the family dynamic.
Lastly, I have to take a moment to acknowledge the art and music direction on Caprica, which really came together for me in this episode. From the gorgeous costumes (fedoras!), to the ridiculously sexy car Sam drives, to the 1950s-style pop song that Bear McCreary wrote specifically for the episode, the world of Caprica is at once futuristic and vintage.
The one qualm I had was a scene in which Philamon (Alex Arsenault) dances with Avatar Zoe (Alessandra Torresani). It was a sweet scene in and of itself, but it would have fit better in an episode that had more time to devote to what seems to be a budding love story between lab tech and cylon. The creative team might have been trying to insert some literal dancing to contrast with the figurative dancing going on all over Zoe’s grave, perhaps trying to add a light moment to a really heavy episode (or maybe they just wanted to keep Torresani in the episode, as that was her only scene), but in this episode, with so much else going on, it felt like an afterthought. It also needlessly let a bit of the air out of an episode that should have been tense.
Despite that tiny hiccup, “Gravedancing” was an amazing episode. Tensions that were merely hinted at up until now are finally coming to a boil!
Teresa Jusino was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a contributor to PinkRaygun.com, a webzine examining geekery from a feminine perspective. Her work has also been seen on PopMatters.com, on the sadly-defunct literary site CentralBooking.com, edited by Kevin Smokler, and in the Elmont Life community newspaper. She is currently writing a web series for Pareidolia Films called The Pack, which is set to debut Summer 2010! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, Follow The Pack or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.