Caprica returned last night, with the answers to some of our questions.

Title: “Unvanquished”

Cast and Crew

Written by Ryan Mottesheard
Directed by Eric Stoltz

Eric Stoltz as Daniel Graystone
Polly Walker as Clarice Willow
Sasha Roiz as Sam Adama
Esai Morales as Joseph Adama
Allesandra Torresani as Zoe
Magda Apanowicz as Lacy Rand
Jorge Montesi as the Gautrau
Sina Najafi as Bill Adama
Hiro Kanagawa as Cyrus Xander
Genevieve Buechner as Tamara Adams
Paula Malcomson as Amanda Graystone
John Pyper-Ferguson as Tomas Vergis
Meg Tilly as Mother Superior
Patton Oswalt as Baxter Sarno

Additional cast and crew information may be found here.

Premise

Some time has passed since the events of the season finale. Tomas Vergis now runs Graystone’s company, and Graystone goes to the Godfather Gautrau for help. Joseph Adama has joined his brother in the Tauron mob, and there seems little love lost between Graystone and Adama. The Gautrau, however, sees potential in Graystone’s plan to create virtual versions of people’s beloved dead. Zoe wanders the virtual world looking for Tamara, the other Deadwalker. Clarisse, meanwhile, appeals to the monotheistic leadership of religious-war-torn Gemenon to help her built a virtual heaven.

Proto-Cylon has survived the explosion, but the robo-body remains inanimate.

The big reveal: Amanda Graystone is alive, living in secret with Sister Clarisse, but still in secret contact with her husband.

High Point

“Unvanquished” represents a passable start for the second season, though it’s difficult to comment on any given episode, because the show depends so heavily on its ongoing storyline. Instead, I’ll focus on some of the ideas behind the episode. This episode has at its core the relationship between religious belief and other aspects of society—in this case, tech. How much this grows problematic in light of the final season of BSG‘s final season can be debated. On its own, its quite strong, though I’m surprised Clarice does not encounter more resistance to her proposal.

VR plays a far more important role in Caprica than it did in BSG, but that should surprise no one. A ship in serious trouble would not divert significant amounts of power to virtual reality programs.

Low Points

I like the general concept of Gemenon, with its religious hierarchy and religious wars (at present, the monotheists appear to be in the ascendency. Contemporary viewers may draw parallels with the conflicts in the Middle East and, while this is far, I get no sense of a direct analogy or (thank the gods) allegory. Caprica examines the issues in a broader way. All of this is good.

The execution of the concept does not always work. The Gemenon Religious Poobahs come off looking slightly ridiculous, and Clarice accomplishes her goals a little too easily, with our seeing too little of the reasoning that went behind the final decisions.

Graystone’s actions, too, seem forced. We have some effective commentary on contemporary society, but it can be heavy-handed.

The reference to Julius Caesar had the subtlety of an exploding truck.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6. The show continues to play as an SF version of a political/corporate thriller. How much you like the show will depend upon how much that concept appeals to you. The New Cap City gang clearly resemble Alex’s droogs from the film version of A Clockwork Orange (clearly a tribute), while Zoe’s handling of them recalls The Matrix. This comparison may be inevitable in any VR depiction for some time to come.

The strangest trip is Gemenon, which looks very Star Trek, down to the style of matte landscape and goofy costumes of the religious elite.

Effects: 5/6 The CGI and mattes look surprisingly like CGI and mattes. It’s easier to do ships in space than the kind of images featured in Caprica. Other effects have been integrated well.

Story: 4/6. I remain unable to give a really fair assessment of story, because we’re seeing so small a part of the overall plot. This episode kept me interested, but its key developments seem forced.

Acting: 5/6. Acting remains generally strong on this show, though nothing stood out this week.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Production: 6/6.

Overall: 5/6.

In total, “Unvanquished” receives 29/42