Terrorists and mobsters fight to control the afterlife on Caprica

In last night's episode of Caprica, "Retribution," we are witness to the violent rise to power of two outlaw groups: The STO, now headed by Clarice, and the Tauron mafia Ha'la'tha, now working with Daniel. And it was mostly terrific.

Spoilers!

Caprica, like certain episodes of Star Trek: TNG, is probably doomed to be a show more interesting to talk about than to watch. I'm consistently impressed with the worldbuilding in the series, though - as TV Squad's Maureen Ryan pointed out last week - often individual scenes themselves feel cheesy and lackluster. Still, it's a hell of a thing to make a show worth talking about.

The terrorists are winning - by using love and hope.
Clarice has murdered her biggest opponents on Gemenon, and secured permission from the Mother to take over the terrorist STO cells back on Caprica. ("Preserve me from Capricans!" sighs the Mother, who seems to think that all the bloodshed is a bunch of silly bother.) So there's some serious hell to pay when she gets home. First she murders the Barnabus lackeys who tried to kill her. Then she sets her sights on Barnabus himself. She arrives at his lair just in time to see him kill Keon, Lacey's semi-boyfriend. He's about to kill Lacey too, but Clarice basically ties him to a bomb after telling him what a loser he is.

That makes Clarice the most powerful STO leader on Caprica. She's still hiding out in her cabin with Amanda, and I'm starting to wonder why her nice polyamorous family hasn't dropped in or called. They were already worried about her before her secret trip to Gemenon, after all.

The beauty part of Clarice's plan, though, is that she ultimately wants to persuade Capricans to start worshiping the One True God by offering them hope of life after death. Sure, she's going to kill a bunch of people before she opens up Apotheosis for general membership, but in the end she really does want to give people something that they have been yearning for: Reunion with dead loved ones, and a chance at an afterlife. Does that make her a terrorist with a heart of gold?

Terrorists and mobsters fight to control the afterlife on Caprica

There's always somebody who wants to wreck heaven.
Unfortunately for Clarice, she has more to worry about than the possibility that Barnabus got out of his lair before the bomb went off. The douchey Agent Duram, who you'll remember treated the entire Graystone family like crap after Zoe died, is now trying to cozy up to Amanda and get her to spy on Clarice. He's got some good leads - he knows that Clarice went to Gemenon, but claimed she was going elsewhere for an education conference. And he has a strong hunch she's connected with STO. But he needs somebody that Clarice trusts to find out more.

Though he really doesn't deserve it, Duram manages to get Amanda on his side. She slips into her old mansion when Daniel isn't home, grabs a gun she's kept hidden there, and seems set on her new role in covert anti-terrorist ops. You can hardly blame her. She thinks it's weird that Clarice is always plugged into her holoband, muttering Zoe's name. And if it's true that Clarice is who Duram says she is, then Amanda has some serious Mom Wrath to vent at the woman whose organization led to the alienation and eventual death of her daughter.

Terrorists and mobsters fight to control the afterlife on Caprica

Meanwhile, in the corporate world, heads are rolling.
Working with the Ha'la'tha, Daniel is on his way back to the top of Graystone Industries, one blackmailed board member at a time. Though some of his blackmail attempts end in suicide - boo hoo - some will likely be successful. I know that having a bunch of truly evil characters makes it hard to come back and watch this show week after week, but I feel like this is the first time we've seen Daniel do anything but whine. He has the makings of a fabulous mobster, and we know that he's still got a shred of his humanity since he's ordered the Zoe Cylon body boxed up instead of incinerated. (Aw, dad, you have such a soft spot for the daughter you tortured.)

What the Ha'la'tha subplot also does is give a nice portrait of what organized crime might do in the future. As anybody watching Boardwalk Empire knows, the mob has always liked to work with people who can cut them in on cash from the entertainment biz - whether that biz involves showgirls, booze, drugs, or porn. Why should things be any different in a world where all those things can be consumed via the immersive computer network that Caprica calls V-World? Sure the whole idea of V-World itself may feel a little bit 1990s, but the idea that mobsters will offer morally gray forms of cyber-diversion feels fresh and interesting.

And would it really be so bad to upload your "soul" to a virtual afterlife?
The ultimate question hovering over all this is whether there really is something morally wrong with offering people eternal (albeit virtual) life. Given that only mobsters and terrorists are hawking life everlasting, it seems that Caprica's creators are suggesting that Apotheosis and its ilk are Bad Things. But I've got two dead girls, Zoe and Tamara, who might beg to differ. And that's what keeps me watching this show - I want to see the whole messy moral dilemma play out a little longer.