Season 1 Episode 8

Ghosts in the Machine

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Mar 19, 2010 on Syfy

Episode Fan Reviews (7)

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out of 10
173 votes
  • *** Spoiler-free *** Captivating and disturbing Daniel versus Cylon Zoe, inspiring but disappointing Joseph Adama quest, interesting virtual reality issues coverage, pivotal Amanda discovery but still some inaccuracies

    It took some time but it seems Caprica has finally found its balance. Even if the dog barking at the Cylon, recognizing its mistress, doesn't make sense at least it allowed Daniel to find out about Zoe. But does she trust her father enough to reveal her true self ? If not what would he be capable of doing to change her mind ? This episode focused on these two characters and for once their development was important. We learned a lot about who they're, their limits and how they think. Some scenes were quite psychological and the little mind games were both interesting and entertaining to watch.

    Joseph continued to search for his daughter Tamara and even if I don't really like the noir virtual game he has to play I really enjoyed his character development. He's both charismatic and weak. Such a contrast makes him more authentic and empathic. With his brother he beat Daniel Graystone in the Gravedancing episode but without him he's not as violent. But somehow the writers managed to connect both worlds, the real and virtual ones, to help him learn how to be more confident. In fact it's not the first time they influence each other as Zoe already criticized virtual reality in the previous installment, as she was talking to Philomon after her plane crashed.

    As for the other characters Amanda Graystone was also featured. She learned something very important about what's going on in her life and it was really unexpected. It should definitely redefine her relationship with an other character. With so many interesting elements I worry less for the show's future but there're still a few cons that makes the experience less immersive. For example beside the dog there was an inaccuracy about the Cylon and Daniel because the last should know everything about his invention. But maybe the issue will be solved in the upcoming episode.
  • How evil do we want dad to be?

    I liked this episode because we see six story lines moving forward: Amanda is trying to understand why she keeps seeing images of her dead brother, Clarice keeps trying to pump Amanda for information about Zoe, Daniel finally acts like a real scientist n focuses on reacting with the Zoe Avatar inside his military robot, Joseph continues his search for his daughter, Daniel's competitor continues probing for ways to punish him and Zoe Avatar keeps Lacy up-to-date while pressuring for a way out. This is a great wind up episode because nothing is left hanging except the remaining factions of STO.

    However, I thought we were writing Amanda out of the story soon. Certainly she could be bumped off as a revenge against Daniel. Where this new thread is going has me wondering? Will she talk to Daniel about her visions? Will he propose creation of an avatar dead brother for her to talk to?

    The main focus of the story this week was on Daniel trying to get Zoe Avatar to work with him. However, the approach was more than a little unbelievable. He hasn't really had feelings for his dead daughter. Except for photos or films of her early childhood, we really don't know what their relationship was like because the writers chose to introduce her then kill her first episode. But his mourning efforts have been pathetic. He also knows all about software and hardware so copying Zoe Avatar was no challenge except that apparently he didn't really copy her. He stole her from the AI game that Lacy was playing. OK, he stole her and she's on a memory device that he later copies to the U87 robot and then she apparently vanishes? A virus can do that trick except that it will still be in the AI game and still on the memory device. So why not execute a diagnostic on U87 to find the virus? Why not check it's activity log to detect that it has regularly dialed out to the internet to play the AI game and learn about the real world? The writers are acting like they neglected to talk to a robotics specialist or at least a programmer. Instead we get this episode of Daniel who apparently never really cared much for his daughter and is very quick to treat Zoe Avatar as just another piece of software, apparently not even special software since he is now spending more time with it then he even did in the past, that should be put through a good round of testing to 'prove that it exists in the robot'. Said testing consists of pretending it is human, something he totally doesn't believe, and therefore conducting a series of psycho tests to break it down not unlike what one might see in Gitmo except that those prisoners would have the option to refuse to comply with the commands or at least execute them slower n slower. Was it suspenseful? Yes. Torturous? Yes. Daniel came off like a real evil person. Did we need that?

    The other main sequence was Joseph playing the AI game in search of Tamara Avatar. If she's as powerful as they claim, then giving how fast computer time is compared to real time, she should have mastered the skills to go anywhere in the game and imposed enough fear to demand respect and notification of any change in the game like 'Daddy is looking for me.' Especially since her last words so far were something like 'Find my dad and ask him to help me.' Instead we get all of this stumbling around in a game as if the Tauron has never heard of video games (hello? he has a son) and acts of naive behavior (hello? his brother kills people for a living). It was all pretty silly.

    My only other comment is with regard to the title. There is a great book and anime with a similar title that later wanders into the weeds with another book and 3 tv series all animated. For the original story, the point is this: if you are a living being and your body gets damaged due to an accident, old age, war, etc. but you replace parts one by one with machinery until there is more hardware than you and the hardware costs more than you can ever afford but it makes you tireless, at what point do you become a slave to the true owners of the hardware? After all, they paid for it, operated on you and keep it maintained. And if a slave, are you not a slave forever? After all, you don't need to retire, you're not really in any condition to change occupations, you're so deep in debt for this hardware that you can't ever take a vacation. You might develop a desire to try a new hobby if they don't work you too hard. Oh wait... they do. Bummer. So yeah, I totally identify with Zoe Avatar in resisting the whole psycho treatment from her dad, hiding from him n refusing to work with him. I would too. His approach to capturing n taming a new AI is completely unrealistic but that's another story. I thought the whole shoot-the-dog thing was really over the top especially when the dog didn't even react to the sound of 3-4 blanks being shot at it at close range. But the title fit the episode.

    So aside from characters in the story acting totally bizarre, it was not a bad episode.
  • As expected, writer Michael Taylor rescued the show from its lows with more unpredictable story telling and improved dialogue. Yet he, unexpectedly, failed to soar to the heights I'd come to expect from his past work, especially on "Battlestar Galactica."

    Firstly, the story line revolving around Daniel (Eric Stoltz) and Zoe Graystone (Alessandra Toressani) (well, her avatar, actually, but, for all intents and purposes, it's Zoe) was quite well written and beautifully acted. Thankfully, the pitfalls of cheesy teen romance were avoided by leaving Philomon and Keon aside this week. This meant that Lacy Rand's (Magda Apanowicz) scenes, though few – as they have been the last several episodes – were enjoyable, as she interacted only with Zoe. The two friends discussed the latter's dilemma about trying to convince Daniel she wasn't inside the cylon, so he'd pay less attention to it, and she could flee to Gemenon, as planned.

    Finally, viewers were given a strong and believable justification as to why Zoe was hiding from him. Based upon his misleading her when he transferred her from the virtual world into a cylon body, she concluded that, while he might feel some connection to her as a representation of his daughter, this wasn't enough to fully humanize her in his eyes. Given what she saw as his business priorities, if he were sure that she was inside the robot soldier, which he had already been developing for a military contract, he might exploit her.

    Father and sort-of-daughter's doubly complicated relationship was illustrated in their interaction, which offered up this episode's best moments. Stoltz displayed both the emotional neediness of a father seeking his daughter as well as the cold disregard he'd show a stranger in pursuit of that goal. The scenes in which Daniel tried to connect with Zoe's avatar as though she were his daughter were incredibly effective. I particularly loved how he lectured her angrily about her supposedly committing the terrorist act that killed many on the train, rather than directing her displaced feelings toward their source: her parents. The way he explained how wrong she was to be so hard on her parents for the mistakes they had made in raising her – that life itself was full of difficulties forcing snap and potentially regrettable decisions – felt like an insight from which I could learn. This is when Battlestar worked best, when it made me look at the world in a different way by pondering some truth I hadn't considered. I'm happy to see Taylor ensure Caprica finally lives up to its predecessor in continuing to do that at which most of the post-pilot episodes had failed. Furthermore, seeing Daniel express his love for his child in showing understanding for her own seeming mistakes was moving. It all made what came next that much more disturbing. Just as Daniel had a twin relationship with Zoe's avatar, it seemed that the latter's attitude toward him was dictated by factors beyond simply his daughter's feelings. Her experience as an artificial intelligence observing from afar also provided her with the skeptical perspective of him as a scientist and industrialist who might threaten her survival. Presumably hoping that Daniel would give up on his hunch that his daughter was effectively still alive inside the cylon and to avoid confirming this belief, Zoe's approach was to only follow orders given the robot; in front of her father, she could not afford to act outside of officially programmed parameters. So, even though Zoe was touched by Daniel's pleas, her refusal to show herself prompted him to react viciously by using his daughter's emotions to trick her into doing so.

    Although Daniel's behavior was shockingly manipulative, the fact that it was rooted in his understandable desperation to know for certain whether she was there made it psychologically genuine. His psychological tests played out wonderfully – with each uttered phrase sneakily unveiling the level of cruelty to which he was prepared to resort with disturbing effect. He first reminded her of Zoe's deep-seated fear of fire, based on the trauma of her witnessing the family home burn down when she was five, while the cylon was instructed to repeatedly assemble and disassemble a gun. He later told the cylon to stand still in the middle of a circle of fire that he hoped would terrify her into stepping out of it.

    During each test, Zoe revealed herself in what Daniel called "tells" – slight hesitations and pauses that were uncharacteristic of the robot's movements – which, in turn, only reinforced his conviction that she was in control. Yet, despite her knowing that she was unconsciously providing these clues, it was realistic that she'd stubbornly stay the course, not knowing what else to do. Yet, the quality of writing maintained such an unpredictably tense atmosphere between the two characters that it was nevertheless a surprise that Zoe didn't break under duress.

    Despite all these breakthroughs in the series, what promised to be a compelling final scene between the two, filled with the moral ambiguity of Battlestar Galactica, felt somewhat unsatisfying. The final test involved Daniel asking the cylon to shoot the dog, which it did with what turned out to be blanks. It was perfectly fine to have Daniel step back from the brink of depravity by not endangering the dog, given the still menacing fact that he forced his daughter to make a hard choice of killing the family dog, rather than expose her free will to not shoot. However, Zoe's moral complexity was compromised by her disclosure, later on to Lacy, that the cylon had known from the gun's lightness that it contained blanks. I suppose the audience was still meant to feel dread – and be assured of Zoe's moral ambiguity – with her telling Lacy that she was tempted to kill her dad and still might if she didn't escape soon. Yet, it felt like a cop-out to steer clear of Zoe crossing some moral line. Perhaps the writers were correct to keep in check her willingness to sacrifice others to serve her aims. All the same, at this point in the series, she is already the daughter who never committed a terrorist act and, now, she knowingly shot the dog with blanks; in both cases, her father thinks she's more depraved than she really is, and there's something unsatisfying about a lead character whose only sins so far are lying to a stranger (Philomon), hiding from her father, and guilt tripping her best friend into helping her run away.

    At the episode's close, it was uncertain what Daniel concluded from the cylon's actions. Did he think the cylon's willingness to kill the dog meant Zoe couldn't be inside it because she wouldn't do such a thing? Unlikely. More credibly, he was merely disgusted with his daughter's avatar for taking things this far; he might even have concluded that she is nothing like his daughter and be ready to further dehumanize her. Time will tell.

    Less successful, though fairly entertaining, was the plot entailing Joseph Adama's (Esai Morales) search for his daughter Tamara among the perils of the New Cap City game. He was accompanied by Emmanuelle (Leah Gibson), a mysterious femme fatale who said, in the previous episode, that she had been sent to his aid by Tad, the teen whom Tamara had sent to find him. Emmanuelle was portrayed well and with great subtlety; she was also visually captivating with her unique, though not overtly beautiful or sexual, appearance that gave her toughness a believability. Taylor did a good job of creating obstacles for the characters to surmount, diminishing the predictability that has hurt most of this series' installments to date. However, it still felt like the virtual world was the least interesting place for the show. I couldn't really get over the fact that it was a simulation and that, while I couldn't wait to see father and daughter's avatar reunited, I didn't ultimately care for the dangers Joseph had to overcome to find her. Consequently, this story line's excitement was limited and without sufficient emotional resonance.

    It made sense that Joseph hesitated to kill others in the game, despite the stakes of being killed and losing his chance to find Tamara, because everything there feels real and he can't normally bring himself to violence. His escort, Emmanuelle, upbraided him for jeopardizing both their lives. So, once he got back to the real world, it was an interesting, if somewhat predictable, touch to have him ask his gangster brother Sam (Sasha Roiz) how he kills people so easily. The answer, though intriguing, felt a bit forced in its charming coincidence: imagine that the people you have to kill aren't real – that it's all a game. This is, of course, exactly the situation Joseph is facing.

    There was a flair I appreciated to the writing of New Cap City this time. It ranged from the superbly acted shifty criminal occupying Joseph's virtual world apartment to specifically the male transvestite club owner, who conveyed a flamboyant and threatening creepiness. When the transvestite asked Joseph to answer a riddle on penalty of being shot, I worried that, as per TV formula, the gifted hero would come up with the correct answer. I was glad he couldn't and luckily managed an escape. It was also startling to then have him recognize, as he was leaving, a symbol that Tamara loved to draw on the wall. This, in turn, convinced him to reenter the club and ruthlessly kill (that is, force out of New Cap City permanently) anyone to get near the transvestite to get answers. The transvestite revealed that she had been there, and that, once he tried to have her killed for answering his riddle incorrectly, she acquired mythical status as one who couldn't die.

    I must admit to being confused by the implication of this plot's ending in this episode. Joseph and Emmanuelle found a wall full of Tamara's symbols, perhaps implying that she was powerful enough in this game to put her stamp on the territory. Emmanuelle strangely concluded that Tamara was happy in this world and that Joseph should give up on the search. This was an odd assumption. Tamara's success at dominating the game wouldn't imply her desire to stay there, surely.

    Amanda Graystone's (Paula Malcolmson) plot had her visiting the site of the car accident that she had witnessed as a passenger and that killed her brother. As in the previous episode, she talked through the bewilderment of having just seen her brother with Sister Clarice (Polly Walker) over the phone. I'm not sure what the dramatic interest is supposed to be; obviously, as Amanda suspected, these are hallucinations that are probably brought on, as Clarice suggested, by the pain over Zoe's death, which, in turn, remind Amanda of her earlier trauma over her sibling's passing. The reality is so clear that I'm not even sure what the point is of showing the audience such conversations repeatedly. I was relieved when Clarice's insistence that she come over was refused. I dislike scenes in which the two of them hang out, although Taylor might have done a better job than previous writer had. Instead, Amanda was treated to a visit from Tomas Virgis (John Piper-Ferguson). From the moment the robot butler Serge (voiced by Jim Thomson) relayed Virgis' message that he wished to speak with her, a sense of foreboding loomed over her scenes. He had, after all, threatened to make Daniel suffer, and, imagining his revenge manifesting in an indiscriminate manner upon all those associated with him, the first person I assumed would be hurt was the wife. Yet I was glad to see him do no such harm when she greeted him. He simply told her that Daniel had someone steal his MCP (a kind of microprocessor) and murder two of his friends in the process. This reasonable tack implied Virgis has greater moral ambiguity than the archetypical nemesis. For her part, Amanda responded realistically – expressing loyalty for her husband, who supposedly was not capable of such horrible things, which is what most loved ones of criminals probably tell themselves. Yet the accusations certainly planted doubt in her mind, and her resulting distress took the form of blaming the messenger, as she shooed Virgis away. Nonetheless, this kind of slow-burning, guilt-ridden payback of turning Amanda against Daniel didn't feel particularly thrilling.

    A later scene showed Amanda worrying or grieving. Even if her upset grew out of a new concern (Daniel's potential criminality) and the scene was only a few seconds long, the mere fact that she was in roughly the same dour mood she had been in every episode so far was exhausting. I already felt like the collective effect of constantly being exposed to scenes in which Amanda mourns made me overreact and recall my very own trauma upon merely detecting the hint of another one unfolding.

    Wayne Rose's directing of this very good episode and last week's worst one yet indicate how much more important the writing is to the direction. The same could be said for director Michael Nankin helming the very good "There Is Another Sky" and the following, not so good "Know They Enemy." All this is to say that I'm thankful for Michael Taylor's presence on Caprica's staff.

    8.4 out of 10
  • Ghosts in the Machine

    Ghosts in the Machine was a perfect episode of Caprica and I really enjoyed watching this episode because there was good character development, story progression, and intrigue. It was cool how Joseph Adama along with the help of Emmanuelle took on the club and got a few answers after seeing his daughters flower sign. Daniel Graystone basically tortured the Cylon to make Zoe Avatar reveal herself, and it came to a shocking conclusion for the night. This episode really contributes to the series and I really like how it all ties in to the future with little hints here and there. I look forward to watching the next episode!!!!!!!!!
  • Pushing to the edge..

    I loved this episode. I think one of the strongest so far.

    I totally started to love that dog.. and what the dog felt.. the dog gave her away and the process she ended up.. being constantly tested.. trying to get anykind of reaction out of her.. and the final test. It was very good writing.. stunning music.. the whole scene. So scary but also so well done.

    Adama in that game world. Oh.. that is taking it's very interesting turns too. He seems to get more and more into the game.. doing his best to find her. Great writing there too.
  • An episode which focuses back on Zoe since the premiere.

    Zoe should be the main plot but has been reduced to the background since the prmiere - UNTIL this episode. I was beginning to wonder if she could do anything besides eating a sandwich, Cylon dancing and goofing off in V-Match.

    Luckily, she can and it was a great 'who-blinks-first' contest between her and Daniel. The stakes get higher and higher until Daniel uses the family dog as the ulimate test for Zoe. Yes, it was cruel, but I loved that the show pushed the boundaries. The scene was filled with tension and suspense.

    It also shows new sides to Daniel : does he want to help Zoe? Or exploit her to fulfill the Cylon contact?

    (my only complaints are for Sam and Lacy : neither has anything going on. Lacy's task to get Zoe to Gemenon is stuck and has (again) not progressed at all. And Sam is becoming a one dimensional thug....excuse me, a gay thug).
  • Best writing on TV and probably some of the best casts on TV

    this entire TV show is just great, yes it's slower but cheracter development and moderate action scenes make this one a unique Scify experiance as much as BSG was. This was a great episode! cast was awasome, I love how they don't make it into a full blast scify actions shotting range, how Adama actually hasitates before he shoots and how he needs to consulte with his brother about all looks so real that it's just a real delight to watch. hope this show gets renewed until they finsih telling the entire story. i wonder how Daniel didnt think that the robot will notice that he is holding a gun with blanks but It's not such a big thing.