Feb 23 2010 3:05pm

Caprica S1, Ep4: “Gravedancing”

“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.

G Torres
1. latinageek
The picky part of me gets annoyed by the Avatar Zoe/Cylon transition. Because of the difference in height/girth the phasing isn't proportional when a human interacts with the prototype (if that makes sense). If I don't think about it too much it doesn't bug me. It's still a cool way of showing us A-Zoe and making us empathize with her situation.

Also...I'm glad Zoe has more than one dress! And...whatever happened to the broken bed? Didn't anybody notice? Serge is slacking.
Tudza White
2. tudzax1
I loved that little bull on Sam's dashboard. I wonder if it's the equivalent of a plastic Jesus?
Teresa Jusino
3. TeresaJusino
@latinageek - See, I noticed that when he made comments about her "chest" he was actually looking at her head. I mean, yeah, there's going to be some discrepancies in how the actors relate to Zoe vs. cylon, but you can kind of tell they're working on it.

I, too, wonder what happened with the broken bed. Especially now that we know Amanda's been in there (to put the infinity pin in her jewelry box) and the GDD ransacked the place.

Oh, geeky consistency issues... :)
G Torres
4. latinageek
@tudzax1 I totally want the bobbing bull. Absolutely cracked me up. :)

@TeresaJusino That Zoe vs cylon issue was really noticeable in the Lacy/Zoe hug. My brain wanted to reject what I was seeing so bad. However they did well when the prototype was first taken to the lab and the techs had it higher up.

I'm going to ask Serge about the bed on Twitter and see what he says...
Teresa Jusino
5. TeresaJusino
@tudzax1 - I, too, love that bull! :) It's such an "ethnic" thing to do. I think every immigrant group that's come to the United States has their own version of "that thing that you put on your dashboard." :) There's so much attention to detail on this show.

@latinageek - I think Serge already answered this on Twitter. He said he fixed the bed, and that Zoe programmed him not to tell anyone she was in the cylon.

Aww. I loved the Lacy/Zoe hug. But mostly because of how Lacy looked with the cylon. It's true, the hug with Zoe was a little off. But what are you going to do? Alessandra Torresani isn't actually 7 ft tall. Though I suppose they could just put her on a platform or something...
Alex Brown
6. AlexBrown
I am really loving this show for many reasons, but especially because I can see how the Adamas of BSG came into being. Bill is a lot more like his Uncle Sam and Lee is definitely like Joseph. Sam picks a side then sticks to it until it becomes impossible not to, and he's not adverse to teaching others painful lessons in responsibility - like Bill. Joseph wants to be tough like Sam (and looks up to him), but when the shit hits the fan he caves under the weight of his own morals - like Lee.

Pam frustrates me. I like the interesting character arc and I wouldn't change her for the world, but she's driving me cuckoo frakking bananas.

Honestly, the height difference doesn't bother me. I just take it as seen from ZoeBot's perspective. In her mind she'd be eye level or shorter than everyone else. I don't think she sees herself as a giant robot (and she's keenly avoiding mirrors). And I thought it was perfect that Philomon was looking at the robot's chest and at ZoeBot's head, but ZoeBot gave this look that said "Quit staring at my boobs." I can totally see her little Cylon heart falling for him and him rejecting her and the whole thing spiraling into a Lennie/Curley's Wife or Frankenstein/Little Boy sitch.

And Sam is turning into my favourite character...he's my new Baltar, full of contradictions and moral gray areas, but he fully believes in himself. He's not nearly as vain and selfish as Baltar, but he's got a family and a strong culture to keep him on track that Baltar didn't have. I can't wait to see what dark places they take Sam down to.
Teresa Jusino
7. TeresaJusino
@Milo1313 - you make SUCH an interesting point about Joseph/Sam = Lee/Bill! It's very true. What's interesting is that Bill pushes Lee to be more "like his grandfather" on BSG, instead of pushing him to be more like his own childhood role model. However, a guy's dad is always his dad, you know? He's kinda the guy you tend to look up to most no matter what. I can't wait to see what's in store for little Willie Adama. :)
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
Teresa @ 7 - Bill never spoke of Sam on BSG and I have a feeling by the time this show is done we'll know why he wanted Lee to be like Joseph...

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