Monday, January 25, 2010
**Spoilers Included** Human emotions are double edged swords at the best of times. Love can drive a man beyond his normal limits to provide for and protect his family; but it can also be twisted into a possessiveness that can lead to unreasoning violence. And then there's grief. Grief is an emotion that most of us would forgo because it's what we feel after a loss. It might be the loss of a relationship or the death of a loved one. It's an emotion so often suffered alone and mad with grief is an expression just about everyone can understand because we all know there are certain losses we're not sure we could survive. Trust the creators of "Battlestar Galactica" to choose such a heavy emotion on which to base their new series. Caprica is the prequel to "Battlestar Galactica and like its predecessor it's complicated and absorbing. Taking place 58 years before the original series "Caprica" follows the story of two families torn apart by a terrorist bombing. Daniel Graystone (Eric Stolz) is the owner of a large corporation and a technological genius. Still reeling over the death of his daughter he discovers that his daughter had managed, before her death, to create an avatar that exists in a holographic world that is more than just bits of data. The avatar has her memories, personality and a desire to exist beyond the world she lives in. But Daniel only has part of the technology he would need to download his daughter's avatar into a cybernetic body. So Graystone turns to the only other man who knows his grief, Joseph Adama (Esai Morales)--who lost his daughter and wife in the same attack-- and asks him to steal the technology needed to complete his newest obsession. Adama is tempted by the dream of being reunited with his family and agrees to help Graystone. But once the deed is done and he is confronted by the avatar of his own daughter, he turns away from the experiment convinced that the results will be an abomination. But Graystone is now in the grip of his overriding grief and the conviction that he can bring his daughter back to life; even as her own avatar begins to voice doubts about the plan. "Caprica" has many of the same themes that ran through "Battlestar Galactica" and questions about God and religion jump to the forefront right away. This may turn some viewers off as some have complained that the topic was dealt with in too heavy-handed a fashion in the original series. But given the Cylon fixation on a monotheistic God versus the pantheon of gods the Capricans worship it would be a glaring omission if "Caprica" didn't at least try to address a plot device that was so integral to the personalities of the Cylons. The way they work this in is by showing Graystone's daughter growing increasingly involved with a cult-like religion that sows the seeds of her own death and that dogma has been included in the personality of her avatar. The casting of "Caprica" is top tier, much like "Battlestar Galactica," and Eric Stoltz is very believable as a father teetering on the edge of sanity as he chases the dream of resurrecting his daughter. He's clearly a man who isn't thinking about moral considerations in the face of his grief. Esai Morales, as the father of a young William Adama, is a man torn between two worlds and often crosses ethical lines he'd rather avoid but is drawn to time and again by his familial ties. "Caprica" doesn't explode on the screen the way "BSG" did. It's no less intense, but it has a quieter vibe. Rather than the bleak world of need presented in "BSG," "Caprica" is a world riding high on prosperity and the excesses that brings. It's a perfect breeding ground for extremist religions as overly-pampered kids look for meaning in a world that has never required much of them. And it promises to explore these themes in depth. The good thing about the premier episode of "Caprica" is that you'll likely know right away whether or not you'll like the new series based on the religious themes included in the plot. If you were turned off by that aspect of "BSG" then "Caprica" may not be your thing. But if you don't mind following that thread and seeing where it goes, you might really enjoy "Caprica." It's not as flashy as "BSG," at least so far, but it has some decidedly eerie moments and promises to have the same dark genius as its sister series. There's also something really satisfying about seeing the inception of the Cylon race. For me, the show worked. And I'm very interested to see how the series, and the Cylons, evolve.