Caprica ambitiously tries to be many things – a family drama, a crime thriller, a sci-fi mindbender, a prequel to a great TV show – but to judge by last night’s mid-season premiere, the show is closing in on its ultimate tone: Religious Soap Opera. The episode began with a vision of a virtual heaven that all could see, which would lead to “a religion that removes the need for faith.” The recovering Catholic in me finds this stuff fascinating. But 10 episodes in, with a second-season pickup far from certain, Caprica is starting to look a little bit lost.
Let’s start with the good stuff: Eric Stolz, Eric Stolz, and Eric Stoltz. In the manic genius techno-patriarch Daniel Graystone, Stoltz has molded Caprica’s one truly original character.
The actor (who also directed last night’s episode) was in fine form, playing the former titan as a dissolute wreck. The TV was taunting him: the Pyramid team he used to own is on a winning streak, the company he used to run is churning out killer robots, the bridge his wife jumped off is still experiencing traffic delays. The best part of the episode focused on Graystone’s Faustian bargain with the Tauron mob.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the episode took us to Gemenon, a sad-looking planet with bad weather and steep mountains. Sister Clarice, a character who would be insufferable if Polly Walker weren’t such a good actress, was engaging in some Tudors-level politicking with the elders of her one-god religion. Viewers, there was something familiar about all this stuff – the elders in robes, Vatican-esque bureaucracy, the stuffy-cathedral decor. Part of the inherent fun of the Battlestar Galactica/Caprica continuum has been how much the shows resolutely avoid stupid sci-fi tropes…like elders in robes chatting about Vatican-esque bureaucracy while sitting in stuffy cathedrals. We’re moving into Jedi Council territory here. There is nothing worse, for a sci-fi franchise, than Jedi Council territory. (Or maybe Zion Council: Alessandra Torresani’s brief appearance last night as a mega-warrior version of Zoe indicates that Caprica is getting more Matrix-y by the second.)
Caprica’s big idea now – The Internet as Eternal Aferlife– is undeniably intriguing. But big ideas can’t make up for some serious dramatic failings. The opening scene of last night’s episode was a blisteringly intense terrorist attack…which was then revealed to just be a holodeck-ish simulation. The very last scene of the episode was a non sequitur twist – She’s alive! Maybe? Dunno! – that unfortunately centered on Caprica’s most annoying character.
Viewers, did you watch Caprica? Do you think the show is getting too wrapped up in faux-religious woohoo? Or do you need more woohoo? And did anyone else not miss Little Willie Adama one bit?
DON’T MISS: Embedded below, listen to the first edition of EW.com’s TV Insiders podcast. Dalton Ross, Annie Barrett, Michael Slezak, Michael Ausiello (who also gives his picks for best and worst new show of the new season), Jeff “Doc” Jensen, break down the week in television and present it to you in an easily digestible audio format. Or click here to download TV Insiders to your MP3 player!