Mar 15 2010 5:04pm

Caprica S1, Ep 7: “The Imperfections of Memory”

I have a theory. The success of an episode of Caprica is directly proportional to the amount of screen time given to Sam Adama. The more Sam Adama, the better the episode. “Gravedancing,” the finest episode of the season so far, was half about Sam. In “Know Thy Enemy”, which was slightly weaker that the previous week’s episode, Sam had only one scene. Episode 7 of Caprica didn’t have Sam in it at all. This should tell you something.

In “The Imperfections of Memory,” we learn that Amanda had a brother named Darius, whose death in a car accident in their youth caused her to have a mental breakdown, which seems to have been triggered again by new grief and the stress she’s been under. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, Sister Clarice is there to help her pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, Joseph is taken into New Cap City to look for Tamara, and Daniel is on the verge of figuring out exactly what’s making the MCP inside the cylon tick.

First, the good.

Amanda continues to fascinate, and this new insight into her mental history gives her character even more depth. Interesting, too, is her budding friendship with Sister Clarice. Granted, Clarice is the Bad Influence Friend with ulterior motives, but it is interesting to see the importance of female friendship portrayed; interesting and important to see that Daniel isn’t enough. Interesting, too, that Amanda’s friendship with Clarice is being alluded to as a sort of affair, as competition for her marriage. While I don’t think they’re going to go that route, though with Clarice being bisexual and in a group marriage anything is possible, there is something to the idea that there are certain things that only friendship with a woman can provide to another woman. Despite Daniel being Amanda’s perfect match and best friend, Clarice has a softness, time, and a troublemaking streak that Daniel doesn’t, which Amanda seems to need.

An exciting moment occurred between them as they smoked at Dive. As Amanda confides in Clarice, Clarice accidentally gives herself away by attempting to console Amanda with talk of the One True God and how He will help her if she gives herself over to Him. When Amanda asks “Which god?” in a drug-induced haze, Clarice is snapped back to sobriety, realizing the trouble she’s potentially gotten herself into. However, it’s difficult to know whether Amanda is asking that because she was too inebriated to connect Clarice to the STO, or whether she was asking that question pointedly, knowing exactly what Clarice’s God speech meant.

Thankfully, Esai Morales as Joseph has also been allowed to diversify a bit in this episode, which was a welcome breath of fresh air. For once, he was allowed to be funny and sarcastic, and I enjoy Joseph as the Fuddy-Duddy Dad Who’s Bad With Technology. It’s incredibly charming in this tech-savvy world, and you can easily imagine him as the guy who couldn’t set his VCR or set up his own voicemail on his phone. His interaction with Heracles, the boy who told him about Tamara being in New Cap City, is great, too. They both give great banter, and the moment when Heracles sarcastically “teaches Joseph to fly” was priceless. Also priceless?  Joseph’s face when Heracles tells him that the draw to New Cap City was, in part, living in a world “where you can shoot someone in the head without going to jail.” Joseph gave him a look that was both disappointed that people sought that out for fun and said “Um, that’s Tuesday in Little Tauron.” Funny, since he keeps murderers from going to jail, like, for a living.

Lastly, I love how the show has used the Graystone dog, Ceasar, to bring Daniel closer to the truth about Zoe. Stroke of genius, writers. Nice.

Now, the not-good.

I started out loving Lacy. I saw her as the emotional heart of the show, displaying strength not through the conviction of belief in a certain dogma, but belief in her friend. She used to be quietly powerful, and Magda Apanowicz is a terrific actress. Lately, though, her storyline has become bland. This is in part due to what feels like a forced romance between her and Keon that hasn’t yet been earned. In addition to that weak choice, the writers have also decided to have her consider joining the STO herself, which I think is a huge mistake. From the pilot, Lacy was someone who valued her friendships more than the beliefs of an extremist organization. She didn’t get on the train with Zoe and Ben, because she wasn’t interested in the idea of One God enough to change her whole life for it. Now, she’s suddenly willing to sign up? For Zoe? For Keon? It’s certainly not for herself, and I don’t buy it. That, like her blatant crush on Keon, seems more like a forced plot device than an organic manifestation of her character.  The one interesting bit Lacy provided was when she made the distinction between “Real Zoe” and “Avatar Zoe,” and I’d be curious to see how that distinction continues to affect her friendship with the Avatar.

Secondly, I know I might upset a lot of Battlestar fans when I say this, but I think that this episode worked too hard to work in Battlestar references. Introducing vipers on a date between Rachel and Philomon? Lame. Having Amanda mention the “old saying,” All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again? Also lame.

And speaking of that date, this episode suddenly made the Rachel/Philomon relationship less believable. Up until now, Avatar Zoe seemed genuinely interested in, and attracted to, Philomon. She seemed drawn to his geeky awkwardness, and that was something I was interested in watching develop. Now, it seems as if she’s all about her ulterior motives, and I worry that this storyline will be less complex from here on in, which would be disappointing.

“The Imperfections of Memory” suffered from some imperfections of its own. Here’s hoping that Caprica gets over these storytelling missteps and gets back to the emotionally complex stories we’ve come to love.

Teresa Jusino was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a contributor to, a webzine examining geekery from a feminine perspective. Her work has also been seen on, on the sadly-defunct literary site, 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.

Andrew Gray
1. madogvelkor
I see both Lacy and Zoe as manipulating their male companions. I agree that Lacy and Keon seem forced in their relationship, but that's because I think Lacy is forcing it. She's rather awkwardly leading Keon on in order to get his help in moving Zoe off Caprica.

I thought the bit with Amanda and her visions of her brother leading to "coincidences" was very interesting. I think this is the first time that they've introduced something mystical since the pilot. It reminds me of BSG, when there where points where you weren't sure if someone was crazy or having a religious experience.
Teresa Jusino
2. TeresaJusino
See, I would buy that Lacy was manipulating things if she didn't then ask Avatar Zoe "Do you like him?" when Avatar Zoe was talking about Philomon. It seemed like Lacy wanted to talk to her about that, so that she could talk about Keon, because she actually likes him. If she's manipulating him, it's not coming across that way to me. And if Avatar Zoe actually likes Philomon, then that was lost this episode as she was treating him like a means to an end. IMHO.

And yes, I love what they're doing with Amanda. I was just telling someone else that the women in the BSG universe, even in their crazy, are still usually seen to be the "voices of reason" pulling the men back, or warning them against danger.

Since they are so strongly rooted in Greek myth, all the women on BSG and Caprica seem to be Cassandras in one way or the other. Screaming the truth at the top of their lungs, but no one believes them, and they are only SEEN as crazy by the men around them.
Alex Brown
3. AlexBrown
I think Lacy is trying to manipulate Keon with her feminine wiles, but isn't nearly as good at it as she thinks she is - given by the queer look he gave her after she kissed him (by his eye of all places). But he's a teenage boy so he's far more willing - and ready - to be manipulated by sexy wiles. I think she's also beginning to like him despite herself, just as I think ZoeBot is beginning to crush on Philo despite herself. They aren't nearly adult enough to split their emotional, sexual, personal, and professional desires.

I was bored by Amanda at first, but now I'm coming to be profoundly pissed off by her. She veers wildly and not in a way I find satisfying, realistic, or even mildly probable. I can't really explain what it is I can't stand about her, but I'd be completely satisfied if she fell off her balcony and drowned in that lovely sea. Paula or whatever her name is is a fine actress, but her character is like nails on a chalk board for me...and the more time she spends with Clarice the less I like of both of them. The only two (adult) women in the show and neither of them are anything more than two-dimensional plot contrivances, and grating ones at that. It's the same way I felt about ***POSSIBLY SPOILERAGE*** Starbuck during her one woman show of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest". People would be more inclined to believe you if you showered once in a while and didn't start screaming about visions every time someone tried to take your paint brush away. ***END OF POSSIBLE SPOILERAGE***

Or maybe I'm just annoyed that James Marsters wasn't in this. It certainly didn't help things anyway.

What I did like about this ep was the underlying current that what we create always changes. The Cylon was Daniel's baby, just as ZoeBot and the real Zoe were his children, and none of them turned out in any way like what he intended. Neither has Willie for Joe or Sam. Or, I suspect, Tamara for Joe. I'm certain she's pulling the strings behind whatever that hooker-booted chick's name was. The kids aren't alright; they are analogue creatures who can self-propagate just as Zoe/Rachel explained about the "treelike trees". No matter what you intend to create it will change depending on the circumstances because of the very nature of it's genetics, whether binary or real.
Theresa M. Moore
4. TheresaMMoore
It's amazing how soap opera-like the premise has become. I stopped watching the show after about the first five episodes, placed what I had seen in context with the original (2nd) series, and moved on. The unfortunate thing is that I was far more interested in the Cylons' origin story when it was more mythological (the injection of various Greek gods, and so on, lent a more alien bent to the series). But now it's like listening to my next door neighbors arguing downstairs. It's become far too mundane for my SF taste.
rick gregory
5. rickg
I've not had a chance to watch Ep 7 yet, but I'm worried about what TheresamMoore mentions - the soap opera angle. This needs to be SF, not merely a 21st century melodrama set in a different world. I liked, for example, the New Cap City storyline... the idea that there's a full world in there, that it's as rich as the outside world and carries as many risks and rewards.

They need to bring Zoe more to the center of the show - she and her predicament are the origin of the Cyclons, yet she, as an entity, doesn't feel like she's taking any initiative. The crush Philo has on her never has been believable to me - remmeber, he just sees this mechanical thing, not her and doesn't know that there's the consciousness of a real girl inside.

Amanda I find annoying because she's felt far too swept away by her emotions and too out of control. Remember, this is DOCTOR Amanda Graystone - she's not presented as a trifle to make Daniel look good, she's introduced as powerful, successful woman in her own right - yet this isn't how she's developed. I mean, do we even know what she does professionally?
It feels like there are too many threads and that each show introduces one, then drops it. I'm starting to think that episodic TV doesn't do long story arcs well - they work better when they're all available and can be watched over a day or two than when we're forced to watch them over months.
Alex Brown
6. AlexBrown
I think it's SF enough as it is. Moore and co never posited this show as another Stargate: Atlantis or anything. It was always supposed to be the "sci-fi version of 'Dallas.'", as specifically stated by Moore, and I think it has lived up to that for the most part. We're only 7 eps into a half-season, and judging by word on the street, the next half is going to be even better. Judging a TV show by the first 7 eps and coming to wide-sweeping conclusions about the entirety of the series (none of which has been decided on by the creators) is like reading the first two chapters of a 600 page novel and decided you don't like it. You have to give it a chance to grow. Making snap decisions like that is just as bad as network TV cutting off at the knees amazing shows like Wonderfalls, Firefly, and Pushing Daisies.

rickg @ 5: I'm not sure what you mean by your question about her profession. They showed her as a doctor (she was forced to resign from the hospital after her confession about Zoe being a terrorist). And, according to this ep, she's also a bit of a photographer (probably more of a personal hobby than anything...or maybe even a remnant of her pre-DCI life). But yes, I do agree that she's acting much more like a flake than a strong woman here. Though, on second thought, maybe it was the job that allowed her to keep acting strong. Once unmoored from that pillar she has no reason, no goal, no need to keep playing that part. Without something to focus on she's more likely to float off into Crazytown, Caprica, population: 1.
rick gregory
7. rickg
Ah, I missed that episode (where she was forced to resign). I guess her getting up on the podium and broadcasting that is when I atarted to lose it with her - she doesn't just seem distressed, she seems completely lost and it's an extreme reaction.

I agree that it's hard to judge a series by only 7 episodes... but keep in mind that that's also 7 weeks of real time. I think the weekly series works fine for episodic TV, but I'm coming to the conclusion that it's not a good way to view series with long story arcs and complex, interrelating plot threads. I'm starting to thing that it's better to watch them as a whole season each.
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
I totally agree, rickg. This seems like a show better watched in bulk than individually. I also agree that her reaction is extreme, and, for me, really off-putting.
Teresa Jusino
9. TeresaJusino
@Milo1313 - it's so interesting that you seem to be feeling the same way about Amanda as I do about the teenage girl characters, and seem to give the girls more leeway because of their youth. It just upsets me that these girls were SO well-written in the pilot and the first couple of eps that to see them, particularly Lacy, become bland is really disappointing. However, I do see what you mean about it being possible that the girls are crushing on these guys in spite of their plan, but that's not what I got at first. Something just feels off to me about them.

@rickg - I think that, with Amanda, we're catching a really strong woman at a really powerfully distressing moment. Strong women have strong emotions, and I think that her daughter being blown up on a train is certainly reason enough for her to lose it, especially with her apparent history of mental illness.

As for SF vs. soap opera, I have to say I'm never comfortable when people label any emotional goings-on that don't have to do with the hard scientific elements as "soap operatic." It happened with BSG, too, when - God forbid - emphasis was placed on a romantic relationship, or someone was going through family drama or something. SF isn't just about robots and outer space and technology, it's about how societies form AROUND them, and people interact WITH them, and with each other. The SF I've always been drawn to is the kind of SF that has strong characters existing in a world where there happens to be awesome scientific advancement. What interests me, though, is the people, not the machines. And that might just be a matter of taste. But I certainly don't think that it disqualifies that kind of story from being "real" SF.

As for Caprica, it's about how a civilization falls. Yes, science is a vehicle by which humanity sails to its destruction, but this series is about getting to know humanity as it was so we feel bad when they fall.
10. Chailattegeek
Love Esai Morales as Joseph Adama. Been selfishly waiting for Joe to emerge from grief to anything else. The New Cap City scenes rock! Think this might be the start of some fun for JA. Can't wait to see Esai run with this material. That man is damn good!
rick gregory
11. rickg

For me the difference between character drive drama and soap opera is the genuineness of the emotions and drama. Done well, drama certainly has a place in SF. Soap opera drama doesn't.

The difference is that soap opera drama just kind of tosses melodramatic situations out there, real drama builds it so that those same situations seem natural and inevitable. Soap opera has characters wallow in their emotions, drama develops the characters so that the powerful emotions they express seem a part of who they are. I guess, for me, I don't want a series that's "Dallas on Caprica" as I don't care for that kind of show. BSG walked this edge too - sometimes it felt manipulative on an emotional level, other times it was perfectly genuine.

Re Amanda... I think it's just that she's a little TOO out of control (her reaction in going to the podium for example). I agree that she is very plausibly distressed, it just seems that's ALL we see of her. I don't see a character that realizes she's on the edge and try for some kind of normalcy in the face of a terrible loss, I see someone who's more or less abandoned herself to that loss. The "Oh and also she has this mental illness background" feels tacked on too, as if it's a way to explain this.

RE the girls. Yes, I agree. Lacy looked to be interesting and then... not so much. This is one of the issues with watching a series that has a lot of plot and character threads as a weekly series... I wonder if this might work better once we can sit down and see S1 as a whole.
Andrew Gray
12. madogvelkor
So far the show has mainly been about loss in my view. The Graystones dealing with the loss of their daughter in different ways -- Daniel throwing himself into work and Amanda slowly falling apart.

The Adamas -- Josef unwilling to let go, becoming obsessive to the point of neglecting his career and living child, William by turning to his uncle and his Tauron heritage to deal with the loss of his mother and sister.

Lacy has been dealing with the loss of her best friend by being even more loyal to Cylon Zoe - note how she said that she had let Zoe down but not Cylon Zoe. She's dealing with her survivor's guilt by being utterly loyal to what's left of her friend.

Zoe and Tamara are dealing with the loss of their lives and freedom by exploring what they have become, though in very different ways. More than the other characters they're on a journey.

Even Clarisse is dealing with loss -- she has apparently lost some prestige with the STO and had her plans (whatever they are) dealt a major setback.
Teresa Jusino
13. TeresaJusino
@rickg - I get what you're saying re: soap opera drama. See, I think they've been doing a good balancing act with Amanda. In addition to her weird announcement at the memorial, we've also seen her coolly save her husband on planet-wide television after calling him out on his bullshit, be forceful and insightful with that GGD agent, be really sexual with her husband to try to forget her grief, obsessively focus on the negative in Zoe, and now she seems to be fully cracking up. In seven episodes, she's run the gamut from strength to frailty. I think she'll come back from this again.

@madogvelkor - I totally agree with you. That's a great thematic assessment.

BTW - Philomon is dealing with the slow loss of his dignity. :)

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