'Caprica' premiere: The calm before the storm

morales-stoltz-caprica-pilot-320x180.jpgIn the "Caprica" two-hour premiere, the Cylon's origins are explained and the world will never be the same again.

The show, set 58 years prior to "Battlestar Galactica" and the Cylon wars, sheds light on a lot of things, yet just like its predecessor, introduces more questions by episode's end. 

The Syfy prequel opens with a dimly-lit, bass-thumping nightclub, young bodies oozing sex, drugs and violence. Wait a second, is this just the start of another hormone-driven teen soap? Not so, as we find out that the nightclub isn't exactly that of the real world -- instead, it's a virtual one. Zoe Graystone, who is a bit of a tech whiz, has somehow found a way to create a copy of her avatar self in the virtual world, and she and her best friends Ben and Lacy stand above the trivial teenage shenanigans happening below as they discuss how they can use Zoe's copy to convert everyone into following their One True God. But Zoe #2, who has a front row seat to a rather violent human sacrifice, de-rezes and the real Zoe (back in the real world) gets caught by one of the girls at school with her holoband before she can check on Zoe #2.

We get our first glimpse of Daniel Graystone, a wealthy entrepreneurial scientist who is trying to figure out how to create an artificial brain, but what he finds out later is that Zoe's creation is actually quite close to what he may be looking for. Zoe's mother Amanda catches wind of her holoband-playing ways and grounds her for a month, but before Zoe stocks off to her room, she makes a resounding statement that will haunt her mother later on: "You will regret that for the rest of your life!" (Oh and also lashes out with a zinger or two of her own.) The next morning, Amanda drops Zoe off at school, where her friends are waiting. Instead, they make their way to the train station and Zoe asks Ben if he has passports, with Ben joking about Zoe and Lacy packing light.

This is when we are introduced to the second family, the Adams. While on the escalator, Shannon and daughter Tamara persuade Joseph to promise he will be back in time for Willie's birthday party that night. He agrees and they board the train like any other day with Zoe and Ben behind. Oddly, Lacy doesn't and watches as the train speeds away. Zoe talks to Ben about Lacy's decision not to go off-world but after she sends a vague note to her mother forgiving her (which her mother never receives until an agent shows it to her later), she is left wishing she was Lacy when Ben reveals explosives strapped to his chest. After telling her the One True God will drive out the many, he presses the button detonating the bomb.

Two weeks later, Daniel and Joseph meet during a Caprican press conference and become grieving partners. Lacy, not understanding why her best friend left the world so early, visits Zoe's bedroom for the first time since the attack and follows Sister Clarice's advice by revisiting Zoe's work. Lacy transports herself to the virtual nightclub and enters a room where a bloodied Zoe #2 stares back and asks, "Something terrible has happened, hasn't it?" Lacy asks about the blood but Zoe #2 tells Lacy that the real Zoe was working on a bio-feedback protocol, which allowed her to feel everything that was happening to her. And even if Zoe #2 is merely a creation -- a supposed "thing" -- she still has memories that the real Zoe had. In the midst of Zoe #2 and Lacy's connection, Daniel walks into Zoe's room and sees the infinity symbol on a piece of paper after Lacy runs out of Zoe's room.

Meanwhile, Joseph pleads "not guilty" for a man named Sam, who turns out to be his brother and is a member of a Tauronian mob group. Sam tries to pay his brother off outside but Joseph is a man who likes to stay within his core values and declines. Sam, who is more of an aggressor, offers to take care of those who killed Joseph's wife and daughter after Joseph tells him he doesn't believe in the existence of gods. Translation: Let the war begin?

Daniel uses his company's decoder device to unlock Zoe's code to access the virtual world. He puts on the holoband and is surprised when he is thrown into the underground nightclub. He spots Zoe #2 and Zoe #2 freaks out, entering into a room before avatar Daniel can follow. Lacy returns to the Graystones' home the next day after the robot clears her. She goes into Zoe's bedroom and shuffles papers on the desk, looking for the piece of paper Daniel has as he steps out of a darkened part of Zoe's bedroom. He pleads with Lacy to tell him what is going on. Avatar Lacy shows avatar Daniel around the nightclub, and well, it's all too overwhelming -- even for an adult. Avatar Lacy brings avatar Daniel into the room where Zoe #2 is. Avatar Daniel tries to rationalize Zoe #2's existence, saying she's just a digital image, but she ends up swaying him when she recounts a memory that is too personal to .. fake. Zoe #2 explains how copies are made and it's pretty lengthy, and shockingly, it even sounds possible. Abruptly, Daniel captures Zoe #2 onto a USB drive, and cancels Lacy's security clearance after he forces her to leave. Talk about technology controlling your life!

In Caprica, Daniel, Joseph and Willie (who will later become Commander Adama in "Battlestar Galactica") watch the Buccaneers game from a suite box. Daniel brings Willie to meet with one of the players in the locker room. Daniel takes Joseph aside and asks him a probing question: "What would you do if you had the chance to be with your daughter again?" (How does a sane person answer that?) The broader question is: Who has the power to recreate life? While Willie plays in the game room in the Graystones' house, Daniel uses holobands to transport he and Joseph into the virtual world. Avatar Daniel and avatar Joseph are in a nondescript room and their avatars meet Zoe #2. Joseph doesn't believe it; back in the real world, Daniel rationalizes Zoe #2 and the more Daniel delves into his explanation, Joseph begins to teeter. Daniel is so set on the idea that Zoe #2 is a "perfect copy" of his daughter that he is blinded by his desperation to step back and realize how much potential heartbreak his enthusiasm may turn out to cause. Daniel tells Joseph that the "robot body"/meta-cognitive processor he needs to store Zoe #2 in is made by a company called Vergis Corporation. Daniel asks Joseph to steal it via his Ha'la'tha (the Tauronian mob Joseph's brother Sam belongs to) connections. Will he go through with it?

Daniel has a new lease on life, maybe because he's found the cure for his family's doom and gloom. Meanwhile, Joseph meets with Sam and asks him to steal the meta-cognitive processor, crossing a line he's been careful not to for so long. Joseph speaks to the judge, about having him back off, and the conversation doesn't go well. While Daniel and his wife have sex (for those keeping score, sci-fi nerds: 1), Sam offs the judge in the middle of the night. At the same time, Joseph realizes his life will never be the same.

Lacy flashes back to when Zoe and Ben first show her the way. On Caprica, the resounding religion takes a plural form, but Ben and Zoe believe there are absolutes, that there is one god who knows right from wrong. Lacy makes the connection then that Ben was the terrorist after Clarice makes the infinity symbol on the wood table. Clarice tells Lacy that Ben was "fighting evil with all his heart."

Daniel transports Joseph back into the virtual world, after he compiles every piece of information that makes up his daughter Tamara, and Joseph sees Tamara. She freaks out because she can't feel her heart beating, but Daniel rationalizes that she just needs time. Joseph hears none of it; in his mind, bringing back the dead is cheating. Daniel attacks Joseph's beliefs (that the gods have power over death) and passionately rejects that notion. Quite honestly, it's the greed talking. Daniel urges Joseph to reconsider and rightfully, Joseph tells him he's out of his frakkin' mind.

Daniel downloads his daughter's information into the stolen meta-cognitive processor and then inserts it into the robot. It seems to be working, but it is pretty creepy seeing the beginnings of the Cylon (short for Cybernetic Lifeform Node) form, which actually solves an earlier predicament he was in. What seems like mere moments later, Daniel loses his daughter completely. Meanwhile, Joseph promises Willie that they will start a new beginning and changes their last name from Adams to Adama.

After a successful testing session at Daniel's company, the robot rises from the table and sees its reflection for the first time. Uh oh. Lacy receives a phone call and we hear Zoe's voice as it, um .. she, looks straight at us, almost knowingly.

The world as they know it is no longer.

The Conclusion: A lot was packed into two hours, but like "Battlestar Galactica's" profound philosophical questions about life, religion, technology, society, etc., "Caprica" kept in line with its running commentary on the current state of our world. The idea that believing in One True God, as Zoe, Ben and Lacy did, was an unpopular view and that going about life without absolutes is an interesting quandry. Or the bigger thematic question: Who has the right to toy with life, and if life (and death) are manipulated with using science, when is it too much? As you know with a series by Ronald D. Moore, we are just scratching the surface, but all in all, the pilot makes way for an interesting season, albeit one we already know the ending to.

What are your thoughts on the premiere? Was the introduction of the Cylon origins satisfying? Did you think it stayed true to the "Battlestar" arc?

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Photo credit: Syfy