The Life Within

March 20, 2010

“Hey, Zoe U-87, you love your favorite doggie, Jake Caesar, right? Right?”

by Millari

This is a review of the Syfy series, Caprica episode “Ghost in the Machine”. Don’t click on the link if you don’t want to be spoiled.Practically everyone continues to be on a quest in this week’s episode of Caprica, many of them on the hunt for ghosts: Daniel Graystone hunts for his deceased daughter Zoe inside his U-87 robot. His wife Amanda Graystone chases the image of her dead brother Darius, who she is suddenly seeing everywhere. Sister Clarice chases after the Zoe!Avatar she knows must be inside Daniel Graystone’s computers. Meanwhile, Joseph Adama continues to don a holoband and go hunting a needle in a haystack, looking for the avatar of his late daughter Tamara – now referred to by the inhabitants of the virtual New Cap City game as “the dead girl”.

But more mundane quests abound as well: Zoe continues her quest to escape to Gemenon by courting her father’s good-for-nothing, horny young lab assistant in the virtual world. Tomas Also, Tomas Vergis continues his quest to destroy Daniel Graystone for stealing his MCP AI mechanism and killing two of Vergis’ employees in the process.

Avatar!Zoe works to influence Daniel’s lab assistant, (unsuccessfully so far) to let the U-87 robot outside to experience the world so that its AI can learn. At this point, though, her wiles have only succeeded in getting him to mention to Daniel that the robots shouldn’t be copied exactly but with individual quirks – which eventually leads Daniel to the realization that his daughter’s avatar is “living” inside the U-87 body. This leads to some devastating behaviors on Daniel’s part later that are far more than Zoe!Avatar ever bargained for.

Vergis’ vendetta against Daniel Graystone inspires him to make some personal calls to the Graystone family this week. First he saunters into Daniel’s private luxury box seat at a C-Bucs game, to remind Daniel that he will not stop until he’s forced Graystone Industries to sell the C-Bucs to him. It’s not an idle threat, Cyrus Xander remarks, since Graystone Industries’ share prices are tumbling ever since Daniel promised to never profit off the holobands again and the board of directors want to sell the team. Daniel, however, swears that Vergis will never make him sell his team. Vergis also pays a visit to the Graystone home, telling Amanda the truth about Daniel’s industrial espionage and murder. It’s unclear if Vergis is just trying to turn his wife against him, or if he’s silently judging her to see if she should be included in his Tauron vendetta. At any rate, Amanda is shocked at the revelation and refuses to believe Vergis, but for how long?

Vergis makes one major miscalculation however: He gloats to Daniel before he is kicked out of the C-Bucs game that he knows Daniel’s robot soldiers will never work because he had never been able to get the MCP to work when Daniel had had it stolen. Of course though, Daniel has gotten one of them to work – the one inhabited by the Zoe!Avatar. Vergis’ slip is the bit of information Daniel needs to finally make the leap that his daughter’s avatar is inside his one functioning Cylon. And thus begins a sadistic cat-and-mouse game between Daniel and the Zoe!Avatar.

I’d thought we couldn’t top Daniel’s antics a few weeks ag when he had the U-87 (with Zoe!Avatar inside) tear its own robot arm off. But this week, he gets inexplicably much crueler, now that he’s pretty sure his own daughter’s personality is inside the U-87. Convinced that Daniel will use her for his own selfish ends if he knows for sure she is in there, Zoe!Avatar refuses to reveal herself as the ghost inside the machine once Daniel suspects it. Daniel turns out to fulfill her own worst fears, as he goes to disturbing lengths to get her to confirm his suspicions: He plays on what he remembers of his real daughter Zoe’s vulnerabilities – calling up real!Zoe’s traumatic fear of fire by setting a fire around her body and telling the robot to stay in place, hoping that Zoe’s fears will get the avatar to move of its own volition and prove what he suspects. Another “test” he puts her through is to give her robot body a gun and order her to shoot the beloved family dog, Caesar. Although Avatar!Zoe does almost imperceptibly flinch once during these tests – ironically when Daniel himself burns his fingers with a match – for the most part, she does maintain her stoic silent obedience as the tasks she is given escalate in cruelty. Afterward, she is only more resolved to escape to Gemenon, and it’s no wonder. Daniel seems to be desperate to connect with his daughter, but his willingness to resort to inhumane means calls into question the purity of his motives.

Interestingly, Zoe!Avatar remarks to Lacy when they meet afterward in the V-World, that her robot self sensed instantly that the gun Daniel gave her to shoot the dog were full of blanks; she could sense the barely perceptible weight difference in the shell casings.

Meanwhile Clarice, who is just as desperate to find Zoe!Avatar as Daniel is, but for very different reasons, continues her campaign to more or less seduce Amanda Graystone with a sympathetic ear so she can get access to Daniel’s computers. She and her polygamous minions manage to locate vestigial evidence of the Zoe’s avatar program, but not an actual viable copy. But still, they are buoyed by the realization that Daniel must have the avatar somewhere. Clarice therefore continues to walk Amanda through her grief, which Amanda believes is slowly driving her mad. She confides to Clarice that she’s sent for an application to a “convalescent” facility – the same mental hospital that Amanda stayed in years ago after her brother died in a car accident and she couldn’t cope.

While Clarice’s motives in befriending Amanda are clearly mercenary, when she is actually with Amanda, she is often surprisingly empathetic to Amanda’s plight. There is no doubt that whatever her motives, Clarice’s actions are actually helping Amanda cope for the moment, although barely, and only with the help of a lot of opiate-type mind-altering drugs Clarice gives her. There are some interesting inverse parallels between what Daniel is doing with Zoe!Avatar and what Clarice is doing with Amanda, in that both are manipulating another being to obtain the information they want, but with inversely empathetic methods. While Clarice just wants to get something from Amanda, Clarice’s actions come across to me as less cruel and having at least some benefit to the manipulated party, unlike Daniel’s.

Meanwhile, Joseph Adama continues his quest to find his daughter Tamara in the New Cap City game within the holoband-fueled “V-World”. It begins to consume him to the point where he clearly must not taking care of his son (although really, we haven’t seen his family for two episodes). Throughout this episode, we get get various shots of Joseph with the holoband on seemingly for hours, looking disheveled and exhausted when he finally emerges not with his daughter but with concrete evidence that she is still inhabiting New Cap City. (Her characteristic signature “T” with a drawing of a flower has been drawn everywhere in New Cap City like graffiti – a clue to her whereabouts, or just evidence of her extreme boredom trapped in a virtual world where she cannot die?)

Joseph goes through a rite of passage of sorts in New Cap City. He gets his original guide, Tad, accidentally killed in a firefight, when he panics, much to Tad’s anger and frustration, for once you die in New Cap City, the game bans the player for life, never to re-enter. This nicely ups the suspense, as Joseph is pretty incompetent at the kill-or-be-killed virtual game for much of the episode, more or less skittering his way through the various attacks he undergoes. This world is designed to constantly attack the players with deadly force, and Joseph sticks out like a sore thumb like a frightened rabbit. Luckily, the tough-talking, dark-haired femme fatale Emmanuelle is still helping Joseph’s befuddled self get through New Cap City, a game whose object is not only unknown, but whose origins are also shrouded in mystery.

Adding to the mystery, we don’t know who hired Emmanuelle to help Joseph, but might the meaning of her name (“God is with us”) suggest something about her origins? The name is clearly a Christian one – referring to a monotheistic god. Could this indicate some connection to Clarice and the Soldiers of the One monotheistic god? If so, it doesn’t seem to be a connection Clarice is aware of, although it’s interesting that Clarice tells one of her minions that the reason she is so determined to find the Zoe Graystone avatar is because she’s convinced that she is a divinely-inspired creation.

In the V-World, Joseph eventually transforms from someone unable to shoot another person, even inside a virtual game he knows is not real into a cold-blooded killer who walks into a nightclub and shoots dozens of patrons indiscriminately by the last quarter of the episode. An interesting complication to the otherwise typical ingenue-to-hardened-warrior trope in this arc is that it is not through guts and hard-won experience that Joseph gains his courage, but by taking the V-World’s version of drugs to enhance his speed and perception. It carries a nice parallel to Avatar!Zoe’s monologue earlier in the episode about how she hates the V-World because it is where people “cut corners” to get what they want and do things that they know are wrong because they can get away with it. In fact, the only character in this week’s episode who can be said to be becoming stronger through facing adversity is possible Avatar!Zoe herself, who is teaching herself to become as cold and unfeeling as a robot during her father’s psychologically brutal war of wills.

Next week: It’s already the season finale. How will things wrap up? Will Joseph get even a glimpse of Tamara before the season ends? Will Zoe!Avatar escape from her father’s prison and get anywhere near Gemenon? (Now that Lacey has resolved to join the Soldiers of the One, will Barnabas agree to transport Avatar!Zoe?) Will Graystone Industries tumble? Will Amanda check herself into a mental hospital or will she get caught up in Vergis’ web of vengeance? And will we find out anything more about New Cap City? Tune in next week.

One comment

  1. Interesting stuff. While I enjoyed seeing just how far Daniel would go to get Zoe to reveal her presence in the U-87, ultimately I didn’t find the moment all that shocking. If you truly believe your daughter capable of blowing up a train full of civilians, including her own boyfriend, why would she flinch at shooting a dog?

    As always, Sasha Roiz makes any scene he is in more interesting. The one where Sam confides in his brother that he manages to kill by telling himself it isn’t real is a fascinating glimpse into his character.

    With only one more episode before a very long hiatus, I’m still waiting for Caprica to deliver the punch that will guarantee I tune in again several months from now.

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