So who are we rooting for this week?
Is it Daniel Graystone, whose efforts to regain control of his company now extend to blackmailing his former colleagues on the board of directors? Assisted by Joseph and Sam Adama (who are reduced to little more than flunkies in this episode), Daniel conducts a series of one-on-one sessions with the Graystone Industries execs - the kind of meetings that revolve around folders containing photographs no man would want his wife to see - in order to secure their support in an upcoming reinstatement vote. Hey, he doesn't want to resort to such sordid tactics (which eventually drive one board member to suicide), but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
Is it the ever-spineless Lacy, first seen botching an attempted spaceport bombing (because, as one of her cohorts in the Barnabas cell points out, frakking things up is what she does best) with Clarice as the intended target?
What about Clarice herself, who responds to this attempted assassination by killing two of her students who have defected to Barnabas, then takes out her chief rival with the very explosive Lacy failed to plant at the spaceport? (So far, Clarice hasn't spent much time grieving over the loss of husband Nestor, presumably killed in Barnabas's previous attempt on her life...but then again, she has husbands to spare.)
Or Amanda Graystone, whose plummet from the bridge has left her with little more than a limp - apparently she's been taking plummeting lessons from The Wire's Omar - and a depressing emotional cocktail of guilt, self-pity and suspicion?
It's certainly not Zoe, who is nowhere to be seen this week aside from a cameo appearance in Amanda's nightmares. Her absence leaves a big hole in "Retribution," which is chock-full of bad behavior on nearly every front, but rather short on meaningful plot advancement following last week's promising return. One could point to the demise of Barnabas as a crucial turning point, perhaps, but that character never really developed into a formidable nemesis, despite the hammiest efforts of James Marsters. (After all, what terrorist worth his salt would have put up with the feckless Lacy for so long?) Instead of building on the momentum of "Unvanquished," the episode wallows in the worst aspects of most of its characters, leaving us too much time to wonder why (or even if) we care about them in the first place.
Of course, great television can be (and has been) built on less than admirable characters, but it helps if the audience feels some emotional connection to them. In the case of Daniel in particular, that kind of empathy is often hard to muster. Part of that has to do with Eric Stoltz, who has never struck me as a particularly warm, charismatic actor - but it's hard to pin too much of the blame on him, since it's not as if Daniel was ever conceived as a charming rogue in the Tony Soprano/Al Swearengen mode. He's meant to be a chilly, detached dweeb (and that's well within Stoltz's comfort zone), but when his behavior becomes too repugnant, he lacks the core of likability that would keep us on his side.
Daniel's aloof presence is supposed to be balanced by the earthier (Tauron-ier?) Joseph Adama, but lately it hasn't been working out that way. As mentioned earlier, ol' Joe is basically Goon #1 in this episode, and while I can't imagine he'll stay in that role for long, Caprica has yet to prove it has any idea what to do with him now that he's been kicked out of New Cap City. Still, he'll never be the show's most frustrating character as long as we have Lacy, whose loyalty seemingly belongs to whoever happened to yell at her last. Grow a backbone, girl!
Amanda's storyline is burdened with some cringe-worthy dialogue (yes, she actually tells Daniel "I don't even know you!") and some ridiculous flashback-to-the-scene-we-just-watched exposition, but the gears finally begin to grind into motion near episode's end, as her doubts about Clarice are bolstered by Agent Durham of the Global Defense Department. Believing the Athena Academy headmistress to be a monotheist and possible Soldiers of the One terrorist, Durham attempts to recruit Amanda as a confidential informant. Will his efforts pay off? More importantly, will the next episode of Caprica give us more reason to care about this and other developments? Stay tuned...
• Say, did anyone catch the ratings for last week's episode? They were, uh, not so hotso. In fact, fewer than a million viewers tuned in for the series return, which represents a significant drop-off from the mid-season finale and suggests that we may not be able to go on meeting like this for much longer. It's doubtful that Syfy would pull the plug on the remainder of the season, but if the numbers don't improve, this may be the only one we get.
• Sorry if I offended any Stoltz fans in questioning his screen presence, but at least I'm in good company: I trust you've all seen this clip of our man Graystone as the Marty McFly who wasn't.
• Did I mention that Barnabas shot Keon through the neck? Because he totally did.