Welcome to the deep end, Little One. It’s always deeper than you think. – Barnabas
Where are our Big Stories? Where are our Odysseuses and our Medeas? Our Hamlets? Our MacBeths? These types of stories, while they used to be performed on stages or available in books aimed at the mainstream masses, are now mostly relegated to science fiction and fantasy. Being Epic has gone out of fashion and been replaced by the idea that truth can only be found in everyday minutae. Not only are many of today’s stories mundane, small, but so many protagonists are apathetic “anti-heroes.” What’s wonderful about the current Geek Renaissance in pop culture is that it shows that people are less afraid of Big Stories. Superheroes? Time travel? Broadswords? Bring it on. They crave heroes who are Heroes, villains who are Villains, and characters who aren’t afraid to commit to a point of view. They want stories that contain elements of Kitchen Sink Drama, but rise above that to show us all of Humanity. They don’t want stories to hold up hand mirrors to each individual, but to hold a large mirror up to our entire civilization.
Caprica does this, and does it well. “End of Line” is Caprica at its most epic, and as such, is its finest episode to date.
Daniel, as we know, is a grieving father. His harrowing, last-ditch effort to hang onto his daughter has failed. He is forced to sell his Rosebud, the C-Bucs, in order to save Graystone Industries, which severs his last tie to his younger, more humble, more hopeful self. He is backed into a corner on all sides, confronted by the military about whether he can actually deliver on his contract for cylons, and confronted by Amanda about stealing Vergis’ MCP chip. In both cases, he can’t deliver, and his inadequacies as a scientist and a husband turn him into the kind of man who’d burn down a garden to kill the weeds. Amanda’s grief over her daughter, combined with her husband’s seeming ambivalence toward her, causes her latent mental illness to surface in a tragic way. Meanwhile, Joseph strays even further from his roots by allowing himself to be corrupted by V-World as he desperately searches for the only thing left of his dead daughter at the expense of his living son. Evelyn, his loving assistant, pulls him back from the brink with Avatar Tamara’s help. As the Capricans and the Taurons deal with their grief in different, but equally self-destructive ways, the STO charges up the middle with problems of their own. Barnabas and Sister Clarice battle for supremacy over STO followers, and poor Lacy, in her misguided attempt to help her friend, is roped into making a terrible choice.
And then there’s Avatar Zoe, who also makes a terrible choice, sending herself directly into the flames she hates so much.
Earlier, I mentioned that geeks welcome epic stories in which characters are larger-than-life and entirely commit to their point of view. The characters on Caprica are rather like the gods and demi-gods that make up humanity’s earliest stories. They are relatable and human, experiencing familiar things like the pain of loss, love of family, struggles with cultural identity, and differing thresholds of morality. Yet they are also personifications of very clear ideals to which they are wholly devoted. However, rather than simplifying them or making them simple stock characters, this fact is what makes them so complex. They defend their ideals at all costs, which causes them to bounce between moral and immoral choices, depending on who they’re interacting with. It is fascinating to watch those ideals collide.
Daniel’s faith rests entirely in the power of science, and it is this unrelenting faith that causes the tragedies that befall him. To him, science cures all ills, even emotional ones, and we see this as he uses science to try to bring his daughter back, drowns himself in his work to process his grief, or makes modifications on Serge to make their house a home. He uses scientific methods to draw out Avatar Zoe, and when that fails, he lashes out, throwing himself into science to destroy Avatar Zoe even as he is trying to create. He doesn’t know how else to function in the world. His entire career exists because he wants to provide for the things and people he loves, and money is only as good as how proud it can make his wife, how well he can provide for his daughter’s future (it’s not every girl that gets a building named after her), and how close he can be to the sport he loves. In “End of Line”, Daniel loses everything. When he has to sell the C-Bucs, it’s sad to watch, because it isn’t just about a rich man losing a trinket, which is what the team would be to someone like Vergis. It’s about him grasping at the last thing that made him human and having to watch it slip through his fingers. It was heartbreaking, and it was only the beginning.
Amanda has, for better or worse, put all of her trust and faith in Daniel, relying on him to keep her sane and raising him up to the status of “Ideal” in her mind. It is because she depends on him so completely for her emotional well-being that she defends him so fiercely. She defends him to her daughter, slapping Zoe when she mocks her father’s priorities and her mother’s reasons for marrying him; she sweeps to his aid during his Sarno appearance; and she unquestioningly defends him to Vergis, even though suspicions begin to be raised. In a powerful scene, Amanda reminds Daniel how crazy she was when they met and says “You were always so sane. I could always count on you to be you.” She refuses to believe Vergis’ accusations until she hears the truth from the horse’s mouth, but when the horse looks guilty and can’t even bring himself to tell her the truth directly, her entire world is shattered. The one constant in her life has proved inconstant and it’s one thing too many for Amanda to take. She goes to the Pantheon Bridge and calmly, resolutely, steps off its edge.
Joseph believes in his family, and the tragedy here is that he believes in it so much that when part of it is gone, he can’t handle its being incomplete, and everything he does is in the service of getting his deceased daughter back, computer-generated though she may be. He has less and less time for his son, allowing Willie to fall under the influence of his mobster uncle, allowing Willie to play him, and ignoring Willie’s burgeoning violent streak. Joseph’s scene with Avatar Tamara is the most profound and heartbreaking of the episode. At long last, Joseph finds her in New Cap City, but his joy is short-lived. She instructs him to stop following her, to forget about her, “because if that’s all you do, that’s all you’ll ever do.” To make her point, she shoots herself in the chest, allowing Joseph to watch her “die”, then shoots him, “killing” him and locking him out of New Cap City forever. If the Tauron memorial service for Shannon and Tamara didn’t provide closure, this certainly did. It doesn’t get more final for Joseph than this. Yet, there is hope for Joseph’s recovery. We discover that Emanuelle, the avatar helping Joseph in New Cap City, was actually Evelyn, and that she has encouraged Avatar Tamara’s cooperation in getting Joseph out of V-World, off the Amp, and back on his feet in the real world.
Evelyn, like Amanda, is wholly devoted to the man in her life, and is determined to help him back to reality, to his son, and to her. Meanwhile, Sam is as devoted to Tauron culture as ever he was. Whereas Evelyn sees Joseph’s plight and feels sorry for him, Sam is disgusted and ashamed. Sam loves his nephew, but his main interest has been making sure that Willie grows up with Tauron pride. Whereas Joseph’s loyalties might be to family first, culture second, Sam is primarily a Tauron, his loyalty to his family a manifestation of that. Because good Taurons put their families first.
(To be continued…)
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 in Fall 2010! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, Follow The Pack or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.