NFB Re-Watches Caprica: “Retribution”

He’s sleeping with his sister-in-law…

Air Date: 12/10/2010

Director: Jonas Pate

Writers: Patrick Massett & John Zinman

Synopsis: Newly empowered by the STO, Clarice embarks on a campaign of revenge against Barnabas and his cell. Daniel begins his fight to take back his company by any means necessary. Amanda starts to suspect a close friend of hiding something.


Here’s an interesting one, just for its structure if nothing else. “Retribution” makes the curious choice to deliberately and with a deal of attention drawn to the fact, set all of its actions within one hectic 24 hour period, and yet doesn’t really do anything with that conceit. There’s no reason really why the events depicted in the episode could not have taken place over a week or a month or whatever, but instead it is one day with plenty of time stamps to remind you of that fact. Was this just because 24 was popular at the time, or something? It’s a strange choice that creates some early interest and then rapidly becomes just a bit peculiar, and the whole thing isn’t helped by an abundance of apparent filler material and a return to the wide net approach of including as many sub-plots as possible. Only a few of those are actually any good, with the rest decidedly iffy (and the good ones have their own problems if we are being honest). A proper focus on the 24 hours plot beat as something intrinsic to the episode may have helped, but here it is just a kind of pointless window dressing.

“Retribution” doesn’t really have a main plot, but it starts with Lacy so I will too. It’s hard to really get a grasp on what is going on with her. So, she has joined Barnabas’ cell, but doesn’t really seem to be all that enamoured with him. She takes part in attempted terrorist bombings, but does with a fumbling incompetence that borders on the unenthusiastic. Her crush/manipulation of Kleo appears to have been dropped as an idea. She presumably thinks Zoe-A is gone, so that’s not a reason for her to still be here. So what is the deal? Is Lacy a genuine adherent to this militant monotheistic ideology, or is it something else? Caprica could do with some clarity for all of that, and Lacy’s abduction by Clarice might provide the opportunity for it. But in “Retribution” I have to admit that I was just mostly confused by her, and in trying to figure out just what is motivating the character to do the things she is trying to do.

Obviously Clarice’s part of “Retribution” is a bit more substantial, though it takes a while for it to really take hold of the episode. She’s seeking vengeance, for the perceived betrayal of her monotheistic students in going with Barnabas, for the attempt on her life and for the lackadaisical effort to bomb the airport terminal. It’s the first part of that equation that is the most important, as can be seen in the nature of the killings. All three – the bathtub electrocution, the ambush outside the house and then the exploding of Barnabas – come with a degree of theatricality. More ominously for the future direction of things, they also come with a degree of Clarice toying with her prey, allowing them the chance to beg for their lives, to try and run or to fully contemplate the death they are about to experience.

This is a harder Clarice, but also an unsettling one, exulting in her power to deal out death, or life, provisionally, in the case of Lacy. “History will absolve me” she says in the face of Barnabas’ taunts, and the megalomania that members of the Conclave were worried about in “Unvanquished” is becoming more and more evident with such statements married to such action. Plot-wise it is exciting stuff though, the most exciting element of the episode, and the only part that seems to actually fit into that 24-hour timespan properly in terms of drama.

A very limited, but actually very enjoyable, sub-plot sees Daniel and his two new best friends the Adama brothers teaming up to orchestrate his takeover of Graystone Industries. The opening scene is almost hocky in its set-up, Daniel coolly outlining all of the blackmail material he has on a hapless board member while a storm rages outside, but for me it did kind of work: I like seeing Daniel lean into this dark side of himself, his inner bastard to borrow a phrase. His confidence in outlining the limited options available to his opponents, the way that he throws himself into this seedy task with abandon, even showcasing himself as better at it, at parts, than the Adama’s, it’s a fascinating turn from protagonist to something vaguely resembling an anti-hero. After all, we should really be looking at Daniel as the villain of the piece all things considered, but episodes like “Retribution” show him as far more compelling than he has before, and we perversely want him to succeed. Even when his actions lead to people killing themselves, and the man himself ignoring the distraught widow left behind. There are consequences for every action, and Daniel is realising that. Is he going to be ready for some of the bigger ones?

Coming late into proceedings really is Amanda, whose lack of agency in her own story is starting to become more and more obvious really. “Retribution” tries to change that I suppose, by having the character start to suspect that Clarice is more than just a friend, but even here Amanda is essentially just following the tune of others. Amanda as a CI is an interesting idea for future episodes of course, but I will admit that I have rapidly tired of Amanda in general: she started as just a non-entity attached to the Daniel character, proceeded to become the show’s favourite punching bag for additional trauma, and now is whatever this is. In a show that is routinely weighed down by various sub-plots, Amanda’s is consistently the least interesting to me, even as a study of a woman choosing isolation over fraught connections and now deeply suspicious of what at first seemed like a very important friendship.

Lastly there is Agent Duram himself, who seemed to be shaping up to be an important part of Caprica in “Gravedancing” and then suddenly vanished for the following six or so episodes. But his investigation into the STO remains ongoing, and in “Retribution” we get a belated effort to give that sub-plot some progression, and to flesh out Duram a bit. We learn a few inconsequential details: he’s an opera fan, has a family at home that he’s ignoring and is a devout polytheist, enough that such things are noted by his superiors as a potential problem when it comes to this investigation. That curious line from “Gravedancing”, that he “lost everything” in the maglev bombing, does not get any further elaboration though, which I regretted. Instead Caprica seems to be pivoting to the idea that Duram is a religiously motivated zealot for the “other” side of the debate, and while that is a not-uninteresting way of showcasing him, it’s come a bit out of left-field for me. It does explain his single-minded effort to get Amanda onside I suppose, and maybe the two of them might form an effective sub-plot of their own going forward. But I’m not convinced.

The entire Duram plot underlines some of the key weaknesses of Caprica really, in its abundance of mini-narratives that are never very appealing, and the show’s inability to find the right balance to flesh them out properly. There’s also an issue with the lack of flat-out protagonist characters for us to root for: the main players of all of these various sub-plots are a terrorist, an amoral blackmailer, a mafioso, another terrorist, a corrupt cop and a well of self-hatred and misery, with the morally iffy digital person not appearing. I’m not sure it has the time to fix these issues. In the end I was not really wowed by this episode in most respects, which might explain why this review is so short. It’s becoming more and more obvious why Caprica never grabbed hold of an audience.

Apotheosis is a lie…


-A pretty straightforward title this time, you have to say.

-“Retribution” leans into the 24 hour setting, with time cards flashing up on screen a lot, not unlike “The Oath” and “Blood On The Scales”.

-Has to be said, Lacy’s cell of the STO looks pretty obviously to be up to something dodgy. She’s taking a bomb out of her bag in a public waiting area for goodness sake.

-And they are pretty stupid too, taking one of the bombs back into the waiting car and then nearly detonating it. At least this comes off as an accurate depiction of a group of teenagers trying to blow something up.

-I do love Daniel’s rejoinder to the idea presented about how it “would look” that this board member is being seen with him: “It would look loyal”.

-Queue the literal thunder and lightning, which was almost comedic. We’re just missing the “It was a dark and stormy night”.

-I’m not sure that we really need these flashbacks to Amanda in the hospital. Feels like a real “less is more” kind of situation.

-As Daniel and the Adama brothers ogle a photo of a board member caught at a brothel, Sam gives us a pearl of wisdom: “Go to a whorehouse, expect to be on camera”.

-Daniel does join in on this game all the same, with a touch of glee as he reveals that he knows things about other board members that the ha’la’tha wasn’t able to fetter out. This one is a doozy all the same, a guy having an affair with his sister-in-law, who thinks his nephew may actually be his son. It’s like the Mooby massacre scene in Dogma.

-Amanda has what I assume is a dream of Zoe but, like with the earlier flashback, I don’t think it really adds anything. We already know she feels guilty about her daughter.

-Like that shot of Amanda bathed in lightning as she contemplates what Clarice might be doing in the V-World.

-Clarice does take her students involvement with Barnabas as a personal betrayal, which might have worked better as a plot point if we had seen more of them together.

-There is some unnecessary re-do of dialogue for some scenes in “Retribution”, like when Amanda remembers words Clarice said to her earlier. It betrays a real lack of faith in the audience.

-This is a bloody episode by the standards of Caprica, with stabbings and shooting leaving puddles of the red stuff everywhere. Trying to look a bit edgier?

-We get a brief scene of one of the would-be terrorists flicking through the channels, and with it a nice mix of what passes for Caprican entertainment. Not much different to our own I suppose, which is probably the point.

-This bathtub bound member of Barnabas’ cell pleads for his life in a distinctly unconvincing manner. Was the actor directed to do it this way?

-Barnabas goes through the gambit of emotions in “Retribution”, and like all good tyrannical leaders starts out with some basic paranoia, enough that he gets physical with Lacy.

-You want to talk about a good depiction of pleading for your life, just look at what Magda Apanowicz does with Lacy in this scene. Much more believable.

-Daniel takes the wrong tack with Amanda’s anger at his role in the Vergis Corporation murders, that’s for damn sure: “Do I blame you for Zoe?”

-Perhaps I misheard him, but it sounded like Duram referred to monotheists as “monheads”, which was sort of silly.

-It might just be a meaningless addition to the character, but Agent Duram seems to like opera.

-I appreciate that there is some casual holoband usage in background of this scene, the technology a pretty standard part of life on Caprica.

-Barnabas goes from paranoid to just all out crazy, pointing a gun at Kleo when the young man tries to leave. I didn’t really like this devolution for the character, who was much more interesting when portrayed as much more capable.

-Is it just me, or is Clarice kind of kidnapping Lacy in a very obvious manner here? The explosion is even drawing eyes to what is happening.

-Things conclude with another ominous flash of lightning as Amanda considers things, and as cliché as it is I have to admit I kind of like the effect.

Overall Verdict: Like so many Caprica episodes, “Retribution” is a real mixed bag. Some of the plots are decent, others remain looking very much like filler. The 24 hour conceit has potential, but is then largely immaterial. There is a sense of progression in places, and that things are stalling in others. I keep expecting Caprica to find a way to wow me, like it did back in “There Is Another Sky” or in “End Of Line” to an extent, but it can’t find consistent quality it seems. It only has so much time to figure it out.

This series will take a break next week as I’ll be otherwise occupied with work/leave, and will return on the 22nd February.

To read more entries in this series, click here to go the index.

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3 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Caprica: “Retribution”

  1. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica: Index | Never Felt Better

  2. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Caprica: “Blowback” | Never Felt Better

  3. Pingback: NFB Re-Watches Caprica: “The Heavens Shall Rise” | Never Felt Better

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