Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blood and Error, Miscalculation and Chrome

A little over a month after the Syfy Channel aired the final installments of Caprica, production has started on the Blood and Chrome telefilm, which doubles as a backdoor pilot for a second (possible) spin-off series. Unfortunately for David Eick, the franchise’s shepherding exec producer and guiding light, as well as for Syfy itself, B&C isn’t necessarily getting off on the right foot. To wit – a litany of possible (and literal) character defects and structural weaknesses that may cause the whole enterprise to come toppling down before it even gets the greenlight:

  • Cast as Ensign William “Husker” Adama is 20-year-old actor Luke Pasqualino, a Briton with a silly hairdo (which, hopefully, will not contaminate the Battlestar mythos more than it already has on Caprica). While not meant as a disparagement to Pasqualino in the slightest, his choice to portray the lead is inexplicable, given the (quite successful) utilization of previous young Adama actor Nico Cortez, who brought the once and future admiral to life in the Razor: Flashbacks webisode series. If questions of quality of performance are not an issue, than questions of consistency are – the old man is the first character in all of sci-fi since Lord Vader himself to require such an extensive menagerie of actors to bring him to life.
  • Caprica showrunner (the third and final one) Kevin Murphy admitted in his DVD commentary for that show’s penultimate episode, “Here Be Dragons,” that the killing off of Willie Adama – and the subsequent introduction of Bill Adama, born one year after his half-brother’s death – was done not only as a rather nifty and certainly mind-frakking narrative twist, but also as the result of some internal number crunching: the writing staff realized, well after the fact, that there was simply no way that 11-year-old Willie could possibly become Admiral Adama, for, despite all of Edward James Olmos’s weathered grisliness, he could not (retroactively) conceivably pull off being 69-years-old in Battlestar Galactica. But establishing his new age as 57 poses definite problems for Chrome: set in the tenth year of the First Cylon War, this makes Husker a mere and tender 15. How Michael Taylor and the other writers plan on addressing this is unknown – if they even broach the subject at all, which, given BSG’s track record in this regard, is a pretty big if.
  • The constantly-under-revision experimentation process that transformed the Cylon Centurions into biological entities seems primed to be tweaked even further, if B&C concept art is to be taken at face value. Given original creator Ronald D. Moore’s penchant for seat-of-his-pants scripting – a character quirk he has bequeathed to his protégés, from Jane Espenson to, now, Taylor – audiences shouldn’t be surprised to see several different Cylon races at several different levels of cybernetic hybridization (not to mention the possible introduction of several new basestar Hybrids, as well, for that matter), regardless of the myriad and quite serious complications this would pose for Battlestar’s continuity.

Are any of these points irrevocable enough to lead to the fledgling show’s inexorable narrative dissolution? Of course not, although they certainly pose a number of difficulties for a production that has a decidedly marked history of such storytelling deficiencies already, and they did so before even one frame of film was even shot – not good omens by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, the Caprica pilot seemed to foretell of many a possible continuity misstep, narrative sand traps that were, by and large, avoided by the series proper.

Only time, of course and ironically enough, will tell.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Boy Wonder Rises?

Over the past three weeks, news has broken that two new actors – both of them, not coincidentally, from Christopher Nolan’s previous film, Inception (2010) – are in the process of joining the cast of the still-incredibly-mysterious Dark Knight Rises (2012). The more recent of these additions is Marion Cotillard, who more than likely will portray a love interest for the dapper Dark Knight Detective now that Rachel Dawes has shuffled off this mortal coil (Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle will, according to reports, figure more into the film’s plot, even possibly retaining her [implied] identity of being crime boss Carmine Falcone’s illegitimate daughter); rumors have been swirling for the past several months that such a romantic role might take the form of either Talia al Ghul, Ra’s daughter – thereby providing a direct connection to Batman Begins (2005) – or photojournalist Vicki Vale, last seen in Tim Burton’s Batman (1988).

But it is in the first of these two casting announcements that the biggest amount of potential interest lies. What part could Joseph Gordon-Levitt possibly be playing? The most immediate answer, of course, is (yet) another villain, but, given that two antagonists have already been revealed, it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll be a third wheel – unless (a) Selina Kyle won’t don the Catwoman costume until the home stretch of the picture, as what happened to Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face in The Dark Knight (2008); (b) Catwoman will tilt more towards the white end of the immutably grey continuum that she typically and continually resides in, making her more of a wary ally than a belligerent adversary; or (c) Nolan will go the infamous Spider-Man 3 (2007) route of incorporating more than the requisite two baddies (a tradition started by Burton’s Batman Returns [1992]). All three are probable to one degree or another, but none is overwhelmingly so.

Which leaves just one final (major) possibility: Robin, the Boy Wonder.

It may not be as much of a stretch as it initially appears. Nolan and his writing team, brother Jonathan Nolan and Hollywood hack David Goyer, have turned to the Year One comic books – a short collection of titles that started with Frank Miller’s titular Year One miniseries in 1987 and which was picked up by other creative teams a decade later – for many a plot point, story thread, and character arc for their first two films, and there is extremely little doubt that they will continue to do so for their final outing. Indeed, there already may be a number of signs pointing to this conclusion, ranging from the structure of the movie trilogy (the main Year One books are a trilogy themselves, surrounded by three or four other, minor titles, that follow how Batman's rising up against the organized crime families helps to gradually give way to their being permanently replaced by costumed "freaks") to the inclusion of Catwoman herself, who is the first "supervillain" in the comics to follow Bruce Wayne's example of dressing up to go frolic in the night.

The most logical place, as such, to look for clues to TDKR's story is in Dark Victory (1999-'00), the final Year One chapter, which follows a grief-stricken Batman who refuses to open up to another individual after the transformation of District Attorney Harvey Dent into Two-Face. As he is caught in the middle of the growing civil war between the ascendant supervillains and the remaining, broken remnants of the crime families, he is forced to take on a young ward in the personage of Dick Grayson, a circus performer who lost his parents in a gangland hit that spawned from the chaos of the city-wide conflict. Bats, against his better judgment, quickly divulges his identity to the orphaned acrobat in an attempt to compensate for his perceived errors of honesty with Harvey; if only he had trusted his friend more, even going so far as to completely open up to him, the former DA wouldn’t have had a pathological break with reality after his “accident.” Dick's training to eventually, some several years down the road, accompany Bruce on his nightly quest for vengeance, thus, is immediately begun – until the red-and-yellow-wearing minor quite unexpectedly and irrevocably proves his worth in the final battle of the war, allowing him to become Batman’s (teenage) sidekick instantaneously.

It is not much of a stretch to see how Nolan et al could, with some retooling – such as casting the 11-year-old Robin with a 30-year-old actor – use this as a roadmap for the character’s psychological foundation and means of involvement in the films’ dark, gritty reality both. And after seeing Levitt’s involved fisticuffs and physical acrobatics in Inception, picturing the actor as Christian Bale’s newly christened apprentice is by no means a difficult proposition.

Burton always said that, had he introduced Robin in one of his movies – which he was scheduled to do with Batman Forever (1995) before Warners turned the production over to Joel Schumacher and give it a ridiculous title – his costume would have been solid green, just as Batman’s was completely black (another legacy bequeathed to the world of superhero cinema, as seen in pictures as diverse as Bryan Singer’s X-Men [2000] and, of course, Nolan’s slate of Bat-flicks). The only remaining question is: what color will Levitt’s Nolanized Robin be wearing?


It turns out that my Boy Wonder hypothesizing just might be a few weeks late. Hot on the heels of the Joseph Gordon-Levitt news breaking, various sites ran with the rumor of the (apparently very real) possibility of his playing the latter half of the Dynamic Duo.


Did you read the press release announcing Gordon-Levitt's playing the Black Mask?

No, you didn't.

By Your Command -- Afterword

When Caprica was initially announced, it was pitched as a vehicle of backstory, providing an explanation of how, precisely, the Cylon race was conceived, created, and ultimately banished from the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. And though executive producers Ronald D. Moore, David Eick, and Jane Espenson (who would very quickly be replaced by Kevin Murphy) were admittedly upfront about the series being an enterprise of decidedly different pith and movement than its predecessor, what audiences were left with for the vast majority of Caprica’s first (and final) season was a show oftentimes only obliquely preoccupied with the introduction of Cylons into human society and instead largely focused upon the tenor of everyday Colonial life before the twelve worlds became united under the dominion of one governing body. Rather than depict moments of adrenaline and ire, we see gaming in New Cap City; instead of to-the-death battle between man and machine, we have the daily tribulations of the Ha’la’tha.

This is in no way a disappointment; there is a considerable amount of narrative craftsmanship – from exposition to exploration, from foreshadowing to forewarning – in, say, an off-hand reference to the Titans in Colonial mythology or the sanctimonious machinations within the monotheistic church. But it is more of a day-in-the-life story (literally for the two central families of the Graystones and the Adamas) than an origin tale, more of an unabashedly opulent soap opera than a gritty action-adventure yarn filled with moments of woe and lust. It is, ultimately, a screw ball pitch to a batter weaned on Battlestar Galactica’s hard balls – and it is no wonder that the show was cut down very literally before its time.

Which makes Caprica’s retread of many a BSG narrative component so ironic. Fleeting, enigmatic “angels” that pull the strings of a select, chosen few; the infiltration of ideological extremists, replete with bombs strapped to their chests, into normal society to strike at any unsuspecting moment; consistently self-imploding characters that engage in extra-marital affairs and assorted deals with the utilitarian devil to satiate their own egos – all of this has happened before.

And, given such a track record, all of this will happen again, word for word and beat for beat, in the forthcoming Blood and Chrome.

* * * * *

Another irony to add to the litany: such high-octane developments, as so often witnessed aboard the good ship Galactica, were coming, and they were coming soon.

Thanks to a few tantalizing clues proffered by head writer Kevin Murphy, as seen in his (DVD) commentary for the finale, “Apotheosis,” and thanks to the show itself, in the form of the flash-forward, season-ending montage, we know a goodly amount of – and can infer a great deal more about – what the second season had in store. Set five years in the future – just one year before the unification of the colonies and the advent of the First Cylon War (events which would have been revealed to be joined at the hip) – the Cylons, now fully integrated into Colonial society, start to amass a growing movement protesting their treatment as abused and misused slaves, while the human population likewise starts to mobilize in self-defense. The situation, of course, goes from quickly bad to instantly worse, with the opening shots of the war ringing out in the second season finale.

Apart from a fundamental shift in tone from careful trepidation and meditation to all-out tension and bellicosity, such a development is of a scope and scale far larger and altogether different from any attempted by its progenitor, despite the audaciousness of New Caprica and the mind-frak of the Final Five. This is a natural outgrowth of the series’s prequel status – starting as one thing and ending as another, something to dovetail seamlessly into BSG – but it also shows a sophistication and a sheer audacity largely lacking from the previous production. How much of this was mapped out beforehand and how much was the ad hoc result of an extremely loose and fluid improvisation (the original sin of Battlestar’s composition and execution), is, of course, unknown. What is known is that, if allowed to proceed to year two and beyond, Caprica would have produced a sweeping narrative that truly would have been called epic, from the subtle to the overt, from its character arcs to its plot lines.

* * * * *

Newly-announced-telefilm and probable-third-series Blood and Chrome will, obviously, beat Caprica to the punch line. Whereas the latter started quite literally at 0 mph and (relatively) leisurely worked its way up to full throttle, the former starts immediately in the midst of the Cylon War, plunging characters and viewers alike right into carnage and destruction on an overt scale – a rather blatant lifting from Battlestar Galactica’s playbook, which the Syfy Channel hopes will jumpstart the ratings that precipitously dropped off once the first show ended and the second begun. There is, indeed, enormous reason to believe that Syfy, knowing what was coming down Cap’s pipeline, decided to forego the extra year of waiting – along with its considerable financing – and just cut right to the chase.

But there is hope to such a scenario. When cable channel TNT decided to similarly prematurely cancel Crusade, the second entry in the Babylon 5 mythos, creator and showrunner Joe Michael Straczynski opted to set his proposed third series, Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers – notice how the originator series’s title has to be included in the spin-off of the spin-off’s moniker – simultaneously with the planned back half of his aborted show, thereby allowing many opportunities for references, crossover appearances, and other assorted narrative intersections. In this way, a backdoor resolution was surreptitiously inlaid – a storytelling sleight of hand that, given all of the other connections to the B5 dynasty, Chrome just may successfully pull off. This means Dr. Daniel Graystone and his wayward Cylon daughter may yet live to tell another tale.

It also means that we, at last, might know closure in our time.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wanton Wailings: Three Red Lights Haiku

Xbox 360
Your red lights shine bright for me
Out of warranty

~Todd Hughes
Founder and co-host, PetFoodAlpha podcast

By Your Command -- Part 17

“Apotheosis” (118)

There is an interesting confluence of narrative and character arcs in “Apotheosis,” as tends to happen in season – not to mention series – finales, and most of this revolves around the multiple versions of Zoe. The flesh-and-bone Zoe’s surreptitious design in sneaking off to monotheist headquarters on Gemenon at the very beginning of the show is finally divulged and fully realized by her living avatar, who dismantles Sister Clarice Willow’s digital version of heaven and thereby brings ruination not only to her terrorist machinations thus far, but also to her growing influence within the Church.

But even more thematically resonant is virtual Zoe’s self-proclaimed mission of cleaning up V-World, one block of New Cap City at a time, dovetailing into her originally assigned mandate of stopping the zealous sister. Indeed, the desire to rid humanity of its virtual abandon and impose the clarity of morality upon all areas of its being is borne right from the pilot, when the nascent lifeform is shown the hedonism of teenage wantonness in V-Club, and it comes full circle, ironically enough, with the destruction of Clarice’s afterlife and the murder of the would-be suicide bombers’ living avatars: whereas the Zoes originally were worried about the digital realms becoming wastelands of decadence, it is now, at Clarice’s hands, the really real world(s) that becomes the realm of self-abasement, with the very literal promise of life everlasting in a digitally designed paradise absolving all sin. There is very much the sense here of the first and final episodes being bookends, providing elucidation and allowing closure. In this way, the Caprica writers are lucky; it is not such a stretch for the final chapter of the season to also serve as the final installment of the series.

* * * * *

The most surprising element of “Apotheosis” was not any particular narrative dénouement or specific character beat but, rather, the ending montage. Set five years after Caprica (and 53 years before Battlestar Galactica), audiences get a tantalizing sneak peak of how the various story strands unite together to not only tell how the First Cylon War opens – what would have been the second season finale – but also pave the way for Battlestar itself. Clarice’s switch of backing technologically-empowered human terrorists for humanized mechanical soldiers is a deft development and the most straightforward explanation for how the Centurions start to protest their second-class citizen (at best) treatment; similarly, the first proto-resurrection tank being developed so that a set of parents can touch and caress and simply hold their lost child is a poignant touch.

The only disappointment – heightened, of course, by the show’s sudden cancellation – comes in the form of what the writers didn’t touch upon, whether in the montage or the episode proper: how Lacy, Odin, and the rest of their pack fight for control of the STO – and of the Church itself; what happens to the suddenly-abandoned (again) Tamara Adams; just where Zoe’s Neo-esque powers – and kung-fu – originate from; the meaning behind Amanda’s angelic visitations from her dead brother; ex-Agent Durham’s fate, as well as that of his traitorous supervisor, Director Gara Singh. These are all, sadly, plot points that may very well end up remaining unknown.

The final twist in all of this, it should be noted, is that what was meant to have been a coda previewing the second season ends up being an epilogue that gives some extension of Caprica’s largely isolated story threads to the greater Battlestar mythos; rather than building expectation, it instead is forced to minimize narrative irrelevance. Once again, the writing staff is astonishingly fortuitous.

* * * * *

One amazingly persistent (and most likely unintentional) constant throughout BSG’s run has been the incessant revision and realignment of the Cylons’ evolution. As originally presented to the audience in the miniseries, the existence of the humanoid Cylons is an extremely recent development; if the skinjobs had been infiltrating Colonial society for two years before the show’s start, the viewer is left with the distinct impression that their arrival on the mechanical scene was, at most, another two years before that. The introduction of the Final Five (“Crossroads, Part II” [320]), however, instantly dispelled that assessment: given all of their ages, the biological process would have to have been started immediately after the First Cylon War, some 40 years earlier than initially thought. The Razor: Flashbacks webisode series pushes it back even farther, disclosing that the metal-and-chrome Centurions were experimenting with humanoid versions even before war’s end – which is nothing compared to the final episodes’ revelation of the Cylons actually being some four millennia old, making them very much integral to the Colonials’ religious reality of “all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.” And again, and again, ad infinitum and amen.

Now Caprica throws one final twist into this malleable mix: 13 years before the Final Five Cylons arrive and bring with them (most of) the biological secrets of fabricating living, breathing models, Drs. Daniel and Amanda Graystone – providing the mechanical and medical pieces of the puzzle, respectively, making them parents all over again – manufacture a rudimentary humanoid body for their incorporeal daughter. Upon first blush, this would seem to be not necessarily a continuity error, but certainly a chronological fudging of some sort; even though Zoe’s first skinjob body, comprised of a Terminator-esque skeleton with synthetic skin grafted upon it, is clearly inferior to the 12 models’ fully fleshed-out (literally) versions, it is still considerably earlier than what the BSG timeline entailed. Upon further reflection, however, there is an almost graceful feel about it, as synthetic Zoe would undoubtedly have served as inspiration for the legions of U-87 – and, later, “mark I” – Centurions to collectively engage upon their transformation process (which, in turn, no doubt, would have been instigated and perpetuated by Clarice, the newfound leader in Cylon advocacy and supremacy).

Monday, February 7, 2011

BATTLE OF DESTINY, Chuck Dixon, The Author Interviewed

I've interviewed Chuck Dixon before, about Winterworld, and other great works, but here is something special. An interview with Chuck about an upcoming release, that has something of Chuck's heart embedded within...

What is Battle for Destiny?

It's a graphic novel adaptation of the Book of Samuel from the Old Testament. It's the tragic reign of Saul and the rise of David.

Have you read much about the various arguments about the existence of King David from biblical time with regards to legend versus known or understand facts?

No. I haven't. But The Word is the The Word and I take it on faith that David was more than a legend. He's not King Arthur. He really lived.

Are you a believer? Does that have an impact upon the work?

Absolutely and absolutely.

I am asking as a Christian, does the work have overtly religious themes, or, does the simple knowledge of the main players of the drama being Biblical enough? Is the story in any way a metaphor?

God is certainly a presence in the story as an unseen source of punishment, mercy and authority. It's a story of people though. All the drama is built in for a classic military story as well as a romance. There's no metaphor. It's a very compelling story of human failure and human triumph in an age when God took a direct hand in the events of makind's history.

Who is the artist, what does he bring to such a story?

Aaron Minier is the guy. His work is very original and he really brings a unique look to the story. He and I did a great deal of research to present an authentic look at a very exotic time period that's quite alien to our own. I wanted an artist who wouldn't treat this like a kind of half-baked Conan story. Aaron delivered pure magic.

Will it be on comic book shelves, religious book store shelves, or online at amazon and such.

I hadn't thought about it.
I assume it'll be widely available.

Do special niche comics offer a refuge from the mainstream?

In terms of sales, niche comics ARE the mainstream. A hit in the superhero crowd sells 10K in trades. A "niche" hit like The Walking Dead or American Born Chinese sells many times that. BoD will do big numbers because its appeal is greater than that of a superhero title.

How do you perceive the reception of this work? Will it be enhanced by present trends of the market, or not, or worse, ignored?

I think it'll do well. It's an old, familiar story told in a fresh and exciting way without violating the original text. As I toiled the guys I was working for on this, "This is one author I don't feel right re-writing."

Are religious themes simply being told from a mythic perspective rather than from a powers or mutation aspect? I am thinking, and trying for Powers. In mundane comics there few characters given religiously based powers... Super heroes have powers, and they come by accident, or mutation. Are there any expressions of powers of any sort? I assume they'd be religiously centered.

David isn't given special powers by God beyond the abilities he was born with. What lifts David to greatness is the courage he derives from his faith in God. I draw a lot of that out in the famous encounter with Goliath. David is SO cool in the face of Goliath's blasphemous taunts.

Is Beau Smith the actual Fifth Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Yes. Except that he'll arrive on the back of armadillo the size of a Clydesdale.

And Beau would be insanely well armed.

And have a sack of sandwiches!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter's Bone Reviewed by Alan David Doane

There’s a moment in Winter’s Bone where Ree (played by the gifted Jennifer Lawrence, spooky in how completely she inhabits her character), the 17-year-old young woman that is the center of the movie, is teaching her younger brother and sister how to skin and gut squirrels. They live in the Ozarks on the edge of catastrophe (or perhaps just over it) in brutal, abject poverty, but Ree maintains her dignity and is trying her best to pass on lessons in how to stay alive in this world to her siblings. How to hunt, how to cook. When the boy, 12, pulls out the squirrel’s intestines as a mass of stomach-turning strings and viscera, he asks innocently “Do we eat this part?” Ree responds “Not yet,” in a deadpan, matter-of-fact manner that suggests volumes about the likely future of this family. It’s a key moment in a movie filled with nothing but, and I feel bad for spoiling it, but I had to pick one moment among the hundreds here that mark Winter’s Bone as one of the best films I’ve seen in the past twenty years, and that squirrel’s guts and Ree’s thoughts about them are haunting me hours after the movie ended.

I don’t want to delve much deeper into either the plot of Winter’s Bone or the brilliant, individual moments that carry it from beginning to end without a moment of fat or filler. It is one of those rare films that is so perfectly constructed and convincingly filmed that you not only can completely lose yourself inside its world, but you will, whether you intend to or not. It’s not flashy or trashy or spectacular or wild; it’s quiet and genuine and heart-breakingly real in its blasted-earth depiction of Ree’s life and the unfortunate circumstances that set her on the road to finding out what happened to her disappeared father, or else. It’s filled with unforgettable, nearly sui generis characters like the despotic hillbilly boss Thump, or Ree’s apparently uncaring uncle Teardrop, the brother of her missing father. Like nearly everyone else in the movie, Ree has no choice in what she must do, in every moment of every day of her life, or specifically when she is told that her family — she and her younger brother and sister and their hollowed-out, lost mother — must either find the missing head of their household, or move out, with absolutely nowhere to go and no hope whatsoever that things will ever get better.

So Winter’s Bone is in part a detective story, with Ree conducting a series of interviews that bring her closer and closer to a truth she knows she’d rather not learn. It’s partly a mob movie, as in the painful, impossible-to-look away sequence where two rival, rural families — connected but involved in a cold war for reasons that eventually come to light — meet in a barn in the middle of the night to discuss Ree’s violation of their codes and decide her fate.

Detective story, mob movie, meth-addled hayseed apocalypse; it’s all these things and none of them at the same time, whisper-quiet in its monumental power to drag you body and soul into Ree’s world and agonize along with her at the roads she must run down and the visceral, nightmarish horror that she eventually confronts, in the dark, on a small rowboat, with two women distantly related to her, as the deafening roar of a chainsaw decides the rest of her life. I’m telling you nothing at all about the movie in telling you this, but I am telling you it’s a moment you’ll always remember in a film you’ll carry with you long after it is over. Winter’s Bone is one of the best mystery movies I’ve ever seen, one of the best rural dramas ever filmed, one of the most horrific horror stories in years. That it sets out to be none of these, that it’s just a mundane story about a down-on-their-luck family whose dad made a mistake, makes it all the more extraordinary.

Alan David Doane also blogs at Trouble With Comics and his personal ADD Blog.

The Reality about people making Fantasy

Charlie Sheen is an actor, of some ability, who is a handsome, bright, talented human being. He makes many people laugh.

Actor Charlie Sheen is addicted to cocaine and other drugs. He has gone on benders, wherein he consumes large quantities of drugs, illegally acquired. He purchases the services of women, for sexual pleasure and company. He spends more money on such women and drugs in one year than I will make, in the entire of my lifetime. And he works on the television show Two and a Half Men on CBS, who employs Sheen despite his many legal issues and his failure to quit his destructive lifestyle. The only thing that could stop his lifestyle other than personal restraint or death, would seem to be the stoppage of payment from CBS, but the show is very popular. He is not in danger, apparently, of losing his job, for his destructive behavior. Because CBS makes money from his performance, and won't cancel the show.

CBS is not responsible for Sheen's behavior. Nor, apparently is Sheen.

So continue to enjoy Two and a Half Men, at least until Sheen dies, if not in reruns and syndication, where CBS will continue to make a great deal of money.

By Your Command -- Part 16

“Here Be Dragons” (117)

The second-to-last episode of Caprica is dominated by death not only figuratively – something which the series has been quite adept at across its truncated run – but also literally and viscerally, two relatively recent acquisitions to its tool belt. On a purely intentional level, Clarice Willow is out to kill Amanda and Daniel Graystone, the Soldiers of the One are after Lacy Rand, Zoe Graystone seeks to shed the virtual blood of her parents (once again), and the Guatrau sanctions a hit against the Adama brothers. The irony here, of course, is that none succeeds, although there is plenty of death left over for all the ancillary characters, making this the biggest body count of any single BSG installment to date: Frankie, Tommy, and two other, nameless Ha’la’tha goons; the STO’s Kevin Reikle and Diego; Nester Willow, the second of Clarice’s spouses. And, lastly, there is the final variation on the murder theme – the quasi-death, which includes the technological likes of digital Sam being gunned down in cold blood by Amanda and a similar “execution” for Serge, the Graystones’ faithful robotic butler.

That is a lot of dying for one episode, but it fails to touch upon the most significant offing, the singular (and accidental) Adama to be felled by a Ha’la’tha bullet: 11-year-old Willie, the only son of Joseph and Shannon Adama and the character audiences were lead to believe would one day become Admiral William Adama, CO of the battlestar Galactica. This constitutes not only one last name to add to “Here Be Dragons’s” substantial litany of fallen characters – it is one of the show’s biggest plot twists to date, on the same playing field as the colonization of New Caprica (“Lay down Your Burdens, Part II” [220]) or the revelation of the Final Five Cylons (“Crossroads, Part II” [320] and "Sometimes a Great Notion" [411]), even if it’s stationed in right field instead of at first base. Indeed, young William’s exit is a mind-frak moment as well as a heart-tugging one, a severed plot thread to the progenitor series as well as a revamped character arc for Joseph, propelling him, no doubt, to be the man that Romo Lampkin would simultaneously adore and loathe. It’s just a shame that we won’t get to see it play out.

And lest audiences think that having his wife, daughter, and son all be murdered within the span of some three or four months is a bit much for poor Joseph Adama, all one has to do is consider the sad case of Laura Roslin, the once and future president of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, who, in addition to being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer the very same day of humanity’s liquidation, has her father and two sisters felled in one deft stroke at the hands of a drunk driver not long before.

* * * * *

There was some life, amidst all the dead and dying, to be had in this chapter, albeit on a more abstract level and in a somewhat oblique manner. The living avatar of Zoe returns to the non-living digital counterpart of Graystone Manor – in a half-hearted scene that struggles for that most important quality in art, verisimilitude – and instantly seeks to improve it, to expand its boundaries and bring to its stale reconstructions the vivaciousness and diversity that constituted her and Tamara’s version of heaven (the very same endeavor, in another dollop of irony, that Sister Clarice and her [former] spouses have been laboring away at all this time) that resides in the ashes of what used to be New Cap City. And to complement her generative algorithms in V-World, Daniel – egged on, surprisingly enough, by his wife – resolves to create a soft humanoid body to replace the cold, hard chassis of the U-87 Centurion, which leads to the birth of yet another venerable Battlestar institution: the slang “skinjob.”

This, then, is the ultimate lesson of the penultimate episode: even amidst terminations, there are continuations – a hallmark of Battlestar Galactica and the very foundation, if not also the funeral hymn, of Caprica.