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End of the Line: Thoughts on the "Caprica" Mid-Season Finale

I'm curious to know what people thought of Friday evening's spring finale of Syfy's Caprica, the last episode that will air until the series returns this fall.

While the episode ("End of the Line"), written by Michael Taylor, offered some closure to several storylines (at least for now, anyway) and contained the series' most exciting sequence to date (as armed forces attempted to stop a runaway Cylon prototype), it also was structured around a number of cliffhangers, each designed to hold our interest--or at least our curiosity--until the series returns.

But the problem was that I didn't really care which of the characters lived or died. And that's a major problem for a series that itself lives or dies based on the strength of its characters and the audience's innate connection with them.

Caprica has been a mixed bag so far this season: a heady brew of ideas and themes that are, at times, executed with the awkwardness of a robot taking its first steps. It's exciting at times, yes, but you also don't want to be standing near it when it inevitably falls down.

Part of the problem for me is that the numerous storylines and characters are so completely separate, creating the sense of narrative fragmentation. Thematically, they might be linked but each of the characters--Amanda, Clarice, Lacey, Daniel, Joseph, and Zoe--seems to be in their own series most of the time, with very little crossover or connection between them. That disconnect might be intentional and might have been implemented to reflect the disconnect in their own hedonistic and tech-savvy society but it doesn't necessarily make for compelling television.

This was especially true in the spring finale, where our main characters spent precious little time in scenes together, instead embarking on individual storylines that didn't really come together in any meaningful way. Joseph's quest to find his missing daughter Tamara in the V-world lead to a reveal of just who his guide Emmanuelle was in the real world: and--not surprisingly--it was his lovestruck assistant whose name I can't even remember. Joseph's addiction to amp and his obsessive quest to find the Tamara avatar could have been a thrilling story arc for his character but I found that I cared less and less about Adama as the season wore on as he descended into a husk of a man who spent more time in the virtual world than living in the real one.

Likewise, Amanda has retreated into her memories and (possible) madness, seeing the ghost of her dead brother and reflecting on a suicide attempt made before she met her future husband Daniel. While Daniel has all but forgotten about Amanda (just where is he while she wastes days away in their bedroom), except for chopping some vegetables for a dinner that never happens, Amanda slips further and further away from reality, finding herself atop a bridge as she decides whether or not to leap to her death. This should have been a pivotal moment for the series but I found that I didn't care whether she lived or died, whether she jumped or caught herself in time.

Given that she is a major character, I'd be surprised if the writers kill her off. Far more likely is that her instincts as a doctor kick in when she sees the nearby explosion--a car bomb unknowingly planted by Lacey at the behest of Barnabas--that doesn't kill its intended target, Sister Clarice Willow, but will likely instead claim the life of Clarice's husband Nestor, the brutally underused Scott Porter.

The other extinguished life is that of research scientist Philomon, accidentally murdered by Zoe in the body of the Cylon prototype, seconds after revealing her true self to her would-be boyfriend. While the death is not intentional, it's the most shocking element of the finale... and speaks volumes about the audience's investment in the series when a tertiary character has more an impact than the leads.

I didn't quite get Zoe's master plan to use Philomon to escape Greystone Industries and then meet up with Lacey to be shipped to Gemenon or why she needed him to help her do something that she could have done several times over at this point. Considering that the Cylon unit spent the majority of the season downstairs in Daniel's lab at the Greystone house, I don't know why Zoe didn't just walk out at any point during the season. Or call Lacey to come get her since the house seemed deserted most of the time. Color me confused.

Likewise, I don't know that Daniel would be so quick to order the MCP scrubbed either, considering that he knows that it's the only working one (Vergis was never able to make it work, after all) and that it might still contain Zoe's avatar on it, even after his numerous tests failed to force the avatar to show itself.

Ideally, I'd love to see the individual storylines begin to come together more closely, to overlap less in terms of theme and more in terms of plot. The series, to me, feels more like a grouping of semi-related characters than a true ensemble. I'm hoping that the writing staff can find a way of making these characters pop more and keeping the audience invested in these storylines. There's still a certain iciness to Caprica that desperately needs to thaw out and we need to feel the heat of empathy and connection with these characters if we decide to return to this world.

Otherwise it might just be the end of the line for me with this series.

But I am curious to know: what did you think of the season finale and of Caprica's season itself so far? Will you tune in again this fall when Caprica returns? Discuss.

Caprica will return will return with the second half of its freshman season this fall on Syfy.

Comments

Ramona said…
I completely agree with your assessment of the show. There are a lot of interesting ideas at play but they never really come together in a satisfying way. And the actress who plays Zoe kind of drives me crazy, which isn't helpful either.

There have been some interesting moments but, overall, the show has been a let down.
Ally said…
I think what you think, and that's not just because I'm too lazy to type out what I think. It's cause you said it for me. But that last sequence was quite stunning.
Jeff Schantz said…
I was a huge fan of BSG, and now Caprica. I thought the finale was great, because I wasn't looking for the plot lines to be solved (if I want that kind of writing, I can watch NCIS, Bones, or Cold Case), but I do agree with your assessment of the separateness of the character arcs. I would expect that starting next season, some of these lines would start crossing over, and the interaction of these arcs would start to reveal themselves.

As for the characters themselves, I can't wait for Amanda to be killed off. Every time they go off on the arc of her endless pain, the show stalls. I suspect you are right though, that Amanda will regain her senses when she sees the explosion from the botched attempt on Clariss, but they have to lay the groundwork for the split in the Cylons that takes place during the BSG future.

The V-World interaction is one of the reasons I am addicted to the show. Whoever wrote this arc has spent way too much time in Second Life...
Asta said…
YES to everything you said. Characters are what get me hooked on a show. I have to like them, if not love them, to be compelled to tune in each week. Usually, it takes between one and three episodes to become intrigued enough by the characters to make a show weekly appointment viewing. We're now ten episodes in to Caprica and I don't care about a single character. The only reason I haven't given up uet is my love for BSG and it gives friends and I something to debate. ;)

For me, Caprica seems be repeating some of BSG's mistakes. Joseph has become completely self absorbed (has he noticed Willie is no where to be seen?) and unsympathetic, while the other Adama, Sam, has been given precious little to do as of late. Daniel seems to be written to suit the story at hand. What happened to the seemingly loving husband and father?

But where Caprica is really failing and where BSG, even when the storytelling was not-so-fabulous, succeeded is in having a large ensemble be part of the same story. By the end of an episode or arc, all the various storylines came together - even if they all lead to a cliffhanger. As you pointed out, Caprica's numerous plots were all left dangling by episodes end. I realize that with BSG, the characters had a holocaust and battle for survival to drive them towards a common goal, even as they dealt with their own personal issues and demons, but I felt Caprica had established the common thread in the pilot - two men had to come to grips with the deaths of their daughters and the ramifications of playing God in a quest to bring them back. Where has that premise gone? Joseph and Daniel have had little to no screentime together in recent weeks.
Eldritch said…
" I don't know why Zoe didn't just walk out at any point during the season. Or call Lacey to come get her since the house seemed deserted most of the time. Color me confused."

The robot could walk out, but then what? How would she get to Gemenon? She couldn't just take the next shuttle without being noticed. Lacy was slow getting the shipping crate ready. I believe she was hoping Philomon would be able to hide her as well as escort her out of the mansion.
Catsclaw227 said…
Didn't the last scene with Amanda and Sister Clarise show Amanda stepping off the bridge?

I might seen something else, but I got the impression that Amanda already jumped...
Unknown said…
I liked the finale, but I think they spent a little too much time on the Amanda part of the story, without really explaining where it was all coming from. Her descent into madness and despair seemed a little to sudden for me. The other problem is that you are right about the characters. I can't seem to empathize with any of them right now, and lack of connections with the characters is a huge problem. I sort of feel for robot Zoe, but that's about it. I hope they give us something to like or at least appreciate about them, otherwise the series is doomed. Of course the visuals are stunning and the acting is solid, but I need MORE!
Erica said…
I'm actually pretty convinced that Amanda has to die. The whole point of the Vergis conflict is that he wanted to make Daniel miserable, and being a big reason why his wife kills herself would certainly do that.

I think that a show that is this dependent on characters driving it needs to have relate-able characters, and it just doesn't. None of them are believable or likable. It actually reminds me a lot of Rome - the story could be fascinating if I actually liked anyone and it didn't spend so much time on characters that were SO unlikable.

Amanda and Clarice, for example.

I'm going to continue watching because I don't want to miss the Cylon Takeover, but that's pretty much all I'm looking for at this point.
crabbyanne said…
I agree with your assessment overall. I was really tired of the V-world story line - it went on way too long. I would definitely like to see more intersection of all the different story lines. I thought Amanda stepped off the bridge at the end. I found that pretty shocking. I think I like the characters more than you do. I find this world fascinating and am looking forward to its return. The fall is way too long to wait!
Anonymous said…
hi, i watch caprica on sky1 here in the uk, i only really got into bsg about halfway through season 3, and i wished id had watched it all, story arcs were great....so why should caprica be any different?? it would be pointless to finalise a story halfway through its first season...all i can say is to remind all bsg fans that there are several copies of the cylons, like caprica6, so maybe thats where this notion starts, there are several images of zoe which differ in character, strengths, weaknesses, emotions, so maybe zoe hedged her bets and had several copies of her avatar in the vworld, which was hinted at the beginning when a copy of her d-res'd during the sacrificial show??

anyway, i cant wait for it to return in the autumn over here.
M.Lamerex said…
I certainly am not surprised at the criticism being made that Caprica is testing many BSG fan's, (or typical scifi/action/drama) fan's patience... as it isn't anywhere as intensely focused (so far) as BSG, in terms of getting its characters' implicated...immediately... around the same core plotlines within a given episode.
But let's be fair- this series was creatively imagined as a totally DIFFERENT type of story than BSG, and the creator's took real pains to clarify this difference in tone & style, when they started promoting the show before it started airing.

Caprica attempts to chronicles the egocentric, naive fall of humanity at the height of its vanity-
not the white-knuckled, intense drama of its fight for survival. Totally different emotional pallet.

Yes, Caprica seems somewhat indulgently focused on character's emotional states; lingering with their burdens, thoughts & feelings, as opposed to pushing them along into more immersive action & interactive plot developments...
(...which would make for a more typical dramaticly satisfying 'payoff', by hour's end).

And... all I can say is THANK YOU producers & writers, for resisting that typical episodic, worn-to-death formula!
'Cause in 2010...its pretty tired.
With its anti-climatic, slow-burn style, Caprica has actually captured my jaded tv sci-fi imagination. I "care" for these characters because they ARE weak, blind, obsessive, self-involved...FLAWED,... like people I see every day in the real world. I can much more readily accept them, "unlikable" as they are at the moment.
I don't need to "relate" to a character's "likability" to observe an epic story unfolding.
And I do think Caprica will be getting epic, by the middle of next Fall.
This origin story of how artificial life unfolded, from a bright young girl's narcissistic indulgence, fused with an underground, compassionate 1-god religion...is thought-provoking, and utterly fascinating.
For me, I find the show's willingness to build the separate personal story arcs PATIENTLY, and take the time to give insight into WHO these individual characters really are inside... to be really fresh,
and more than a bit courageous in the face of the brutal ratings game.

For those viewers who hang in there- I do believe that the payoff of what Caprica is establishing & developing now is going to pay-off...in very satisfying & remarkable ways.
When these personal arcs start interacting next spring, along with the spectacular evolution of the Cylon race, its going to be some sophisticated, remarkable Sci-fi entertainment, I'm suspecting.
Unknown said…
I think The show is coming along nicely. The actor's are developing into there characters more and more every episode. Me and Blogging go hand in hand like water and electronics so I will keep it short.

I like the show and where it's going I would happily watch another season.

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