The terrific Caprica pilot covered quite a bit of ground. It did a good job establishing the characters and their roles within this diversely plotted universe of technology, corporate intrigue, and criminal enterprise. And it was an especially intriguing sci-fi allegory on our technologically driven social-networked world.
Now we have the first episode of the produced series, which I can describe as admirably competent — continuing what we had in the pilot — but it does not invoke in me the feelings of enthusiasm that I had after the pilot. The pilot, in addition to its tech/BSG-prequel elements, hinted at a cool world of corporate intrigue with a sideshow of gangster movies thrown in for good measure. (And not just gangsters, but gangsters wearing 1950s suits and fedoras. How awesome is that?)
"Rebirth" seems to cover a lot of ground we already covered in the pilot. It's interesting enough, and there are things I liked quite a bit, but overall it felt more redundant than necessary. When you compare this to BSG's "33" — well, there is no comparison. "33" was revelatory. "Rebirth" is merely adequate.
The plot is more or less minimal. The story instead attempts to establish a few of the series' ground rules, the most crucial being the narrative device that depicts the Cylon version of Zoe by switching back and forth between shots of the chrome robot and shots of actress Alessandra Toressani. I liked this method. It feels at home in this universe (cinematically reminiscent of Head Six on BSG). It also does an effective job of humanizing Cylon Zoe, both physically (it is more disturbing to watch lab technicians carelessly slam a teenage girl into restraints than a robot) and mentally (these shots suggest how Zoe perceives herself — still as a virtual version of a teenage girl rather than a robotic soldier).
The story involving Cylon Zoe works the best because it continues the pilot's intriguing sci-fi notions of what happens when a very humanly emotional intelligence ends up inside a robot that was not designed for those emotions. There are shades of RoboCop here, with the robotic POV shots of lab tests and flashes of former-life memories. Zoe is transported back to the Graystone household and her father begins to wonder if perhaps something of Virtual Zoe somehow survived (Cylon Zoe stays silent), despite all data evidence insisting that it could not.
No one except Lacy (whom Zoe calls on her cell phone, in a bizarre twist on the typical TV scene of a teenager getting a cell phone call at school) knows that Zoe's virtual memory has actually survived. Their scene together toward the end is strange and intriguing. (Religious overture du jour: Zoe's combination of Virtual Zoe, Real-Life-Memories Zoe, and Cylon Zoe is referred to at one point as a "trinity." Take note, One True God believers!)
Less compelling, but adequate, were the other subplots in "Rebirth." The Graystones' continued grappling with their grief was performed well enough, I suppose, but offered no new take that we didn't already gather from the pilot.
Meanwhile, Lacy's dinner invitation to Clarice Willow's house ended up being as strangely overwhelming to me as it must've to Lacy. Clarice, whose role at school seems to embody conservative traditionalism, is anything but; she has an unconventional group marriage (one of her husbands is played by Scott Porter, of Friday Night Lights fame), who are fringy sorts. Later, Clarice goes to some sort of hookah bar and falls off the wagon. What wagon, I'm not entirely sure. Is this life a secret that's at odds with the image she portrays at the school? If so, how does she maintain appearances? We shall see.
Meanwhile, Sam's interactions with young William — showing him some street smarts and street psychology, which his father does not approve of — are reasonable as character-based atmosphere but do not offer the kind urgency that the mobster stuff had in the pilot. (Footnote: In a subtle moment of brief dialogue that is easily missed, it's revealed that Sam hits on guys, or at least used to.)
Brian Markinson is back as the investigator assigned to the bombing case. He's the sort of character that could be really awesome or really annoying, and it's going to completely depend on the material he's given. Markinson approaches the role in an absolutely-no-BS kind of a way. The lore surrounding the Soldiers of the One (STO), the organization that claimed responsibility for the bombing, will certainly be significant down the line.
I cannot endorse the ending of "Rebirth." I just don't buy it. For Amanda to have her suspicions that Zoe was a member of the STO and possibly responsible for the bombing is one thing. For her to go to the microphone and broadcast it at the memorial is something else. It's just too senseless and shortsighted for a woman who (1) was this girl's mother and (2) is the wife of a billionaire who should know something about PR and what an announcement like this will do to her already-shattered family. It plays more like a contrived moment meant to spark a dramatic and chaos-filled ending than something that the character would actually do. "Rebirth" has some nice moments, but the ending is a stretch.
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