Last night's episode of Caprica, "Know Thy Enemy," introduced us to two new characters, both of whom are pretty damn creepy. But neither could out-creep Zoe the cylon, whose character took a bizarre left turn that could mean almost anything.
Meet the New Guys
Earlier this season, Daniel Graystone made what promises to be the second-biggest mistake of his career (after creating the cylons) when he asked Joseph Adama to use his Ha'la'tha mob connections on Tauron to steal a prototype computer chip from rival Vergis Corporation. When Sam got the deed done for Joseph, two Vergis employees were killed. And unfortunately they were two guys who were like sons to Tomas Vergis, who invented the chip.
Last night, Vergis announced on the Sarno talk show that he's decided to move to Caprica. Partly he's trying to restart his business after losing the chip to Graystone - but mostly he just wants to frak with Daniel. First by buying the pyramid team that Daniel owns, and then by "destroying your dreams," as he puts it during a little tete-a-tete with Daniel. If Vergis has concrete proof that Daniel and Joseph were involved in the deaths of his buddies, serious blood is going to be shed. It could even lead to a Ha'la'tha mob war. But currently it looks as if he merely suspects Daniel, and could care less if his allegations are true or not - he's going to have a lot of fun messing with Daniel's life either way.
While Vergis is challenging the power structure of Caprica from the executive's chair, another Big Man is challenging it from an underground throne. At last we've met the mysterious Barnabus, an STO heavy who masterminded the maglev bombings. Played with simmering, twitchy evil by James Marsters, Barnabus definitely wins the award for second-most-creepy person in last night's episode. When he finally emerges from his tattered hideaway to meet Keon, he's got barbed wire wrapped around his bleeding arm. Nothing like a scary pseudo-monk doing the old self-scourging routine to really make an impression.
It was great to finally climb deep inside the STO and find Barnabus there. His violent form of faith provides a much-needed foil to Clarice's woo-woo stuff. While Barnabus wants to carry out the STO's will by bombing the hell out of everybody, Clarice is trying for the happy-friendly conversion route. Last night in her meeting with that mystery voice in V-World, she made it obvious that she's hoping to use the Zoe avatar as a template for making all monotheists immortal. It's not clear whether this was what Zoe hoped to achieve by bringing her avatar to Gemenon or not.
What is for sure is that Lacy's first meeting with Barnabus went well, even though he refused to help her. He was impressed with Lacy's presence of mind, and screeched at "needing to trust" Keon (and Lacy). He also let slip that Keon built the bomb that Ben used to blow up the maglev train.
Clarice Does Her Thing
Last night, she was trying to locate the Zoe avatar, so she paid a visit to Amanda Graystone in "mourning teacher" mode. They got drunk on Romulan Ale (or something) and Amanda decided it would be an awesome idea to invite this strange lady down to Daniel's top secret lab. Where Clarice used a handwavium drive to suck all the data off Daniel's computer.
Then Clarice got totally stoned and hung out with two of her cute husbands, who are in on the STO conspiracy. I approve of this message, and I approve of finally having a more complex picture of the STO. There is the violent Barnabus-driven wing of the group, and the more spiritual, Clarice-driven wing. So where does this leave Zoe? Buried up to her zoomy red eyeball in a mountain of creepiness.
Dude V-World Is Totally Lame
As an aside, I loved the scene where Joseph tries to find Tamara in V-World, right down to watching his frustration as he tries to get his new holoband out of its annoyingly elaborate plastic wrap. Then he finds himself in a sanitized default V-World, where a stupid AI version of Daniel tries to show him how to navigate V-World by showing him golfing sites. Really a pitch-perfect satire of what it's like to learn how to use a videogame or new web service for the first time, complete with annoying "tutorial" guide.
Even better was when Joseph got yanked out of his irritating conversation with Stupid AI Daniel because real-life Daniel has broken into his house, torn off his holoband, and is slapping him around for screwing up the chip theft.
Is Zoe Completely Evil Or Just Confused?
Every episode sharpens up and gets seriously interesting as soon as we enter V-World or the complicated realm of Zoe's robo-psychology. Last night, things got really weird. Ever since Zoe was put into her cylon body, Daniel's nerdy scientist assistant Philomon has been both kind to her and oddly flirty. He's clearly attracted to her cylon body in some way, and we suspect that perhaps he senses that Zoe is in there. He never treats her like a thing, and calls her "she," which nobody else does. And Zoe seems to enjoy his company, too - not only is Philomon the only person other than Lacy who gets her pronoun right, he's also a big giant computer nerd like she is. (Zoe is supposedly a computer genius who invented her own living avatar.)
Last night, Philomon starts complaining to Zoe about how nobody on Caprica's version of OKCupid wants to hook up with him. Then he sidles up to her and starts crooning about how she wouldn't reject him, and does a little dance - until Daniel catches him and looks grossed out. Zoe, however, is charmed. Who wouldn't be charmed by a cute boy who likes you in the body that you have, instead of some idealized V-World version of yourself? So when Philomon leaves the room, Zoe sends him a message from a fake account, asking him to hook up with her in V-World.
This is where things got strange for me. So she goes to meet Philomon in her Zoe avatar body, except she's wearing geeky glasses and hipster nerd clothes, and acting completely unlike herself. She comes across as cute/dorky, and complains about how high-heeled shoes are ridiculous (even though normally her avatar has ridiculously high-heeled shoes and looks glamorous). Then when Philomon recognizes that she's Zoe, she makes up this weird story about how she uses the Zoe avatar to keep guys from hitting on her (huh?). Still, he seems to buy her story and is clearly having fun talking to her. So, score one for our robosexual geek boy, who is hopefully going to get it on with a cylon.
Except! Why is Zoe really doing this? Why is she putting on this "geek girl" persona for Philomon? I suspect she's actually being manipulative rather than just trying to have some fun. She needs somebody other than Lacy to trust in the real world, and this guy could be her target. She's figured out he wants a nerdy girl like himself, so she's trying to embody his fantasy (even though, ironically, it seems like his fantasy is probably to hook up with her cylon self). I think Zoe is as much a master-manipulator as her father Daniel is, and that poor Philomon is about to become her unwitting servant. And that's what makes Zoe my number one most disturbing character on Caprica.
I like how Tamara and Zoe have such complimentary character arcs. Both of them are trapped inside technological bodies, and both turn to geeky, socially-awkward men to make contact with the human world. Meanwhile, the men who created them, Daniel and Joseph, must turn to more violent men than themselves to make their way in the real world. Ultimately, last night's episode was about these chains of manipulation, people using each other (not always with ill intentions) to get what they want.