Caprica” stepped up its game this week, with an episode that matched its big ideas with big visuals. While the show need not feature epic space battles to meet its predecessors’ style, seeing large, expansive vistas as a backdrop for the Adamas’ grief and the Graystones’ brave new world helped make this episode stand out from other episodes since the two-hour pilot. Did scenery alone make this episode? Of course not. Joseph came to grips with his son’s grief, Tamara came to grips with the true nature of her existence in the virtual world, and the Graystones came to grips with a new world order. Onto the recap!

Sam visits William and Joseph at their house. Looks like Willie’s not much for school these days, and Joseph’s not much for sleep these days. Sam worries about both of them: “This isn’t business, this is family!” he shouts at his depressed brother. “Wake up, brother,” Sam sneers as he takes his nephew to school.

In the virtual world, Tamara Adama is looking for a way out. She comes to a game room that looks like a cross between the “World Series of Poker” and a Nine Inch Nails video. A series of guns arise from the center of the table, and the players at the table play Russian Roulette for cash. Tamara’s interested by the des-rezzed loser, and asks Vesta, the game’s leader, into the game. Vesta shoots Tamara in the stomach for insolence, but is shocked to see that she doesn’t so much “disappear” as “start bleeding out on the floor.” Shock turns to interest as Vesta sizes up this new species. “You and I are gonna help each other,” she purrs in Tamara’s ear.

With the crowd gone, Vesta terms Tamara a “sleeper”: someone that falls asleep with their holoband off. Tamara deduces that there’s a price for Vesta manually rebooting her in the real world, and she’s right: Vesta wants her to play a little “game.” If it’s as much fun as the one we just saw, well, count me in!

Back at Casa Adama, Joseph’s still in his PJs. He gets a call from William’s principal, who informs him of William’s recent absence from school. Joseph cleans, heads to Sam’s mob hideout, and orders his son to come with him. William looks from his father, to Sam, back to his father, and slowly removes his apron. Joseph swears at his brother in Tauron, but Sam has a little Tauron of his own: “You lose something in the desert. Someone else finds it, it belongs to them. Permanent.” 

Vesta’s lacky, now looking less grunge and more “Gossip Girl,” takes Tamara through a tunnel into a virtual Caprica. He says this version is “lawless.” As the two stare into the bleak skyline, a massive zeppelin floats by. Off of the zeppelin, fighter planes splinter off and attack pedestrians. “Welcome to New Cap City,” her says. Turns out this “city” is one big playground for another type of virtual game, incorporating everything from the real world: even the train explosion. The latter event confuses Tamara, but this wanna-be gangster is too focused on her unique abilities to care. The rules of the game are vague, but one isn’t: you die in the game, you can never return. Since she can’t die, she gives him a big advantage.

He takes Tamara to a club on the virtual Lower East Side to find a big-name player named Chiro. It’s a deco-inspired club, and the pair are dressed appropriately to the style. The object isn’t to kill him, but grab his avatar, learn about his network and steal his virtual cash. I think. It’s confusing. I don’t play “Second Life.” As Joseph Adama grieves over photos of his lost daughter, Tamara tries to get Chiron’s attention. Getting shot by one of his goons’ for her efforts certainly does the trick. With Chiron distracted, her partner furtively steals the avatar and the pair make a break for it.

Back in their makeshift hideout, Tamara watches her glowing chest wound close up in the mirror. “Anything that’s pure code can be manipulated,” he says, turning from Chiron and back in front of her. “This game actually allows me to be something,” he tells her. She posits that were he not always in the virtual world, he could be something in the real world. Tell that to your typical “World of Warcraft” player.

In the real world, Joseph tries to take William fishing. I think the deco, avatar gangster world seems more fun, quite frankly. But hey, I’m a city boy. With a group of kids looks at them a few yards away, William tries to will himself into invisibility. Joseph tries to invite Joseph to open up, but his focus is on the boys muttering things like “Tauron dirt eater” nearby. When one of the boys steps up his taunting, Willie throws a rock at his head and starts a major beatdown in front of his shocked father.

At Graystone Labs, Daniel asks Cyrus why they latter’s been avoiding his calls. Looks like there’s an emergency meeting called in the wake of Daniel’s appearance on Baxter Sarno’s show. Daniel asks Cyrus if there are enough votes to force him to step down. Cyrus walks away silently, giving Daniel all the answers he needs. That night, Amanda wakes up to find her husband sitting wide awake at the edge of their bed. He confesses that he may be losing his company the following morning. She reminds him of a meeting he took when they were on hard times: with no money to his name and a soaking wet suit on his back, he landed the deal that turned their lives around. I realize Daniel Graystone unwittingly causes a future genocide, but I love this couple’s chemistry.

As Cyrus and Pryah try to defend Daniel in his absence at the emergency meeting, Daniel strolls in with a companion: the Zylon. If the shot in which he arrives harkens back to the first scene of the re-imagined mini-series, well, that’s probably intentional. Rather than dwell on ways to restablish profitability for the holoband, Daniel deems it old technology, technology that’s already being carved up by hackers providing content for free. But the Cylon? That’s the future. Not just the future of the company, but a future race that can sit side by side with humans. 

To prove his point, he has the Zylon walk around the room. “Make the circuit, please. Take a nice look at this fine…folks.” “Fine folks” practically spits out of Daniel’s mouth. He asks them if they feel uncomfortable with the Zylon looking at them. He describes the machine as having not artificial intelligence, but artificial sentience. “There is a brilliant mind in here,” he says, as Zoe almost beams from the unintentional compliment. “This Cylon will become a tireless worker that won’t need to be paid. It will do anything and everything we ask of it.” To prove his point, he asks the Zylon to rip its own arm off. Well, allllrighty then. Zoe gives a stare at her father, violently tears off her arm, and throws it on the table. Daniel notes that action “looked” painful, and the identification people will have with an anthropomorphized robot will make it sell, no matter what the cost. (Just as Philomon, who tried to get to third base with it already.)

In the virtual world, Tamara and “Chiron” walk into a bank. He orders the guards on call to “take a powder.” Turns out these guards were in fact code that recognized Chiron’s avatar. It reads about as much sense as it plays onscreen. Tamara plays out a security code based on symbols of the 12 planets on the bank vault floor. After correctly tapping the code, virtual gold coins float towards the ceiling, which he steals using a virtual Dirt Devil to gather enough coins to earn points. His theft triggers an alarm, which prompts more guards. They open fire on the two, although Tamara absorbs all the bullets. In her mixture of anger and pain, he manages to erase the guards with her mind. Altogether now: whoa. Less Joey Lawrence, more Keanu Reeves with your “whoa”s, if you please.

At the Adamas’ home later, Joseph fears he’s lost total control of his son. Upstairs, Sam insists that on Tauron, William would already be considered a man. “You are losing him, Josef,” he says, still using his brother’s Tauron name. “Your son needs closure.” He notes that by avoiding the Tauron rites of burial, Joseph has alienated his son. “Look past yourself and perform the rites, brother.” 

Cyrus finds Daniel that night alone in the conference room. “You got the votes. You better be right.” And walks out. DRAMA! OK, not so much. But boy that digital skyline sure looked purty.

In the virtual world, Tamara and her partner return to the deco-inspired club. Sitting in Chiron’s old seat: Vesta. Tamara demands to return home, but Vesta drops the bombshell: she’s been dead for over a month, and has the yellowed newspaper to prove it. Her partner apologizes, and hugs her…which gives Tamara ample time to take his guns, de-rez the others, and beg him to take off his holoband and find her father. She then saunters over to a terrified Vesta. “What are you?” she asks. “I’m awake,” replies Tamara, before opening fire. 

The “rites” Sam alluded to early consist of a small group of people in the Adama’s home. There are rituals involving music, food, and above all family. The rites seem to awake William’s spirits, as he eagerly soaks up the unfamiliar sites and sounds of the ceremony. After food has been served, Joseph and William sit front and center before a mantle filled with pictures of their loved ones, flowers, and candles. The leader of the ceremony asks Joseph for a coin. Joseph gives a coin for his wife, and William gives a coin for his sister. “Will you grant them passage?” Joseph asks, tears choking in his throat. “They will have passage,” replies the Tauran spiritual leader. “Will you let them go?” he asks in return. “Will you bid them farewell?” Both men respond in kind. Getting a little misty here. Darn dust mites. Yea, that’s it. Dust mites. Father and son embrace as a Tauron song is performed while both men are inked to mark the occasion. 

Just when Joseph has finally started to let go, who shows up but Tamara’s partner from V World. He gives Joseph the message, but freaks out when he realizes that Vesta’s story was actually true. He runs away, managing to give Joseph the slip. As Joseph catches his breath on the street, we see the same street in New Cap World, with newly-minuted, indestructible Tamara Adams walks slowly through the barren cityscape.

A few thoughts:

Has anyone ever been shot this many times in an episode as Tamara Adama was in this one? If you had that action in your “Caprica” drinking game, well, I feel sorry for you.

Loved everything about the Tauron funeral service. It importantly didn’t try to deviate too far from familiar ceremonies here on this little planet of ours, which naturally led us to grieve more empathically with the Adama men.

I called the ramped-up production of the Cylons in the wake of the Sarno appearance, although it was hardly a difficult call. At some point, these bad boys have to get into production. I’m wondering just how Tamara’s new-found rage will tie into their ultimate sentience, if at all.

Tamara and Zoe now have something in common: they are both pawns in games neither quite understand. Zoe’s shining approval at Daniel’s words of praise for her unique nature turned into abject loathing when he ordered her to rip off her own arm. And even if Joseph does manage to track down Vesta’s lackey and find his daughter in the virtual world, will she blame him for leaving her alone in there for so long?

No Sister Willow, no Soldiers of the One this week. Can’t say I really missed either, although I look forward to Vesta’s encounter with the Neo-esque Tamara reaching her polyamorous ears.

My wife pointed out that the art in the deco club was all by one artist: Tamara de Lempicka. Now, were this “Lost,” I’d spend a few paragraphs linking the first names of the artist and the first name of Joseph Adama’s daughter. But since this isn’t “Lost,” I’ll just point out that my wife has excellent taste in art.

While “Caprica” is a more grounded show than “Battlestar: Galactica,” both in terms of scope and visual style, I loved the “Blade Runner”-esque touches of New Cap City. The fighter-wielding zeppelin was especially cool. Sometimes I want a deep insight into what it means to be human. Sometimes I want a huge blimp equipped with a squadron of flying death. And “There is Another Sky” gave me both. Bonus!

What about you? Into the events on both virtual as well as real Caprica City tonight? Or did Tamara’s virtual robbery seem too unreal to be engaging? Leave your thoughts below!