Who is the hero of Caprica?

As some readers may know, I maintained a sub-blog last year for analysis of Battlestar Galactica. BSG was very good for a while, but sadly had an extremely disappointing ending. Postings in the Battlestar Galactica Analysis Blog did not usually show up in the front page of the main blog, you had to read or subscribe to it independently.

There is a new prequel spin-off series on called Caprica, which has had 6 episodes, and just has 2 more before going on a mid-season hiatus. I will use the old battlestar blog for more limited commentary on that show, which for now I am watching. (However, not too many people are, so it’s hard to say how long it will be on.)

My first commentary is not very science-fiction related, though I will be getting to that later — since the reason I am watching Caprica is my strong interest in fiction about mind uploading and artificial intelligence, and that is a strong focus of the show.

Instead, I will ask a question that may explain the poor audiences the show is getting. Who is the hero of Caprica? The character the audience is supposed to identify with? The one we care about, the one we tune in so we can see what happens to them? This is an important question, since while a novel or movie can be great without a traditional protagonist or even an anti-hero, it’s harder for a TV series to pull that off.

It has been argued, in fact, that the lack of a proper hero helped sink the 3 Star Wars prequels. The movies were the story of Anakin but you could not really root for him, you knew his eventual fate as one of the most famous and nasty villains of cinema. None of the other characters really gelled for the audience.

Let’s look at the characters in Caprica.

Daniel: We start off with sympathy as his daughter is killed, but quickly we see how ruthless he is, how he orders the theft of the MCP and wants a killbot contract. Yes, he regrets that the theft included some deaths but that doesn’t make him a good guy. Daniel is, after all, the tragic villain of this series. He isn’t just the creator of the Cylons. We already see how he is ready to make the Cylons be slaves, and it is this slavery which will trigger the war and genocide.

Joseph: Deeper in the mob than he would like, but still in it, and still ready to use his connections to order Amanda’s murder, and to force people to help him when he needs it. He gets better, we hope, but right now…

Zoe: Joined a known terrorist organization. Didn’t fully trust it but ready to leave her family and go to Gemenon to live fully within it. Now dead.

Zoe-A: Bites off fingers. Ready to manipulate to get what she wants, which is also Gemenon. Plus she’s the first fracking Cylon, let’s not forget. Her fate is to start the human race on a path to near extinction, though she did not ask for this fate. Aside from that, she’s cute.

Sam: A mobster, and brutal. At least honest about it!

Amanda: Not a bad guy, not yet. Just a little crazy and a victim. But as much as she is not a bad guy, I find myself ready to FF during her scenes.

Clarice: The classical villain. And the rest of the STO Willows along with her. However, because of the actress, she has the potential to be a good love-to-hate sort of villain whom we tune in to see.

Lacy: The only other good guy among the major characters, but also not that interesting. Ready to use terrorist connections and manipulate Keon to help Zoe-A avoid having to call Colonial Movers to get off planet.

So let’s consider the minor charcaters:

Billy: Ok, so we know he becomes a good guy. The best guy. Right now he’s a slacker, rebellious pre-teen and I don’t feel much about him. I’m only interested in him because he’s to become Commander Adama. I’ll be writing another post about how many of the issues with Caprica-as-prequel come from inconsistencies between this childhood and the character we know.

Tamara: Seems innocent enough but that ends very quickly. I get the sense she is now a warlord in New Cap City. But this is her making the best of her circumstances. Alas, she probably also becomes a Cylon, and destroys humanity. But aside from that, she’s nice, and she’s who I want to see more of.

Philomon: Finally a good guy that I like, though he has his flaws like not telling Daniel about minor malfunctions in the Cylon like going on a rampage and biting off a finger. And yes, he knows that he’s working on killer robots and brags about it to impress killer robots he thinks are girls. And yes, he will play a major role in the creation of the Cylons, 2nd perhaps only to Daniel. But for now, we like him in a puppy dog way.

Virgis: An innocent man who was wronged, but now on a vengeance streak that makes him hard to treat as sympathetic.

So who?

Well, right now I’m tuning it to see Tamara (a minor character) and Zoe. It is not certain if Tamara will also be one of the contributing minds to the new Cylon race, but it does seem as though they both are going to be tragic characters, playing a role in humanity’s near-end. But for now they are victims of circumstance, and not the authors of what they will become. As such I tune in to see them. I also tune in to see them because for me, this is what the show is really all about — uploading and the birth of A.I. The soap opera is mostly boring me. The Tauron culture is not badly done but nor is it outstandingly done, and Caprican culture is mostly just a tweak of ours, though the depictions of completely accepted group marriages, homosexuality and drug use are different, interesting and reasonably bold for TV.

But sadly when the personal dramas of the “good guys” — notably Amanda and Lacy — are on, I want to FF and get to Zoe and Tamara. I think others in the audience feel the same way. The episode “There is another Sky(walker)” which strongly featured Tamara and New Cap City is widely viewed by fans as the best.

Most new postings about Caprica will stick to the sub-blog and not appear on the front page.

Sounds About Right to Me

Caprica just doesn't have a strong narrative focus at present. It's sort of all over the place, obviously trying to build to something, yet also deliberately stalling some of its characters in a holding pattern. The Tamara episode was far and away the best because you had a main storyline with a sympathetic protagonist whose character advanced while you also learned things. It was the kind of engine capable of carrying the smaller plots that too many episodes have lacked.

I think they're trying to present too many characters at once without commensurate things for those characters to do.

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