V: A Bright New Day

I have to start this review with some provisos. I never saw the original V series and I love crappy, escapist sci-fi. I think that in recent years we have been spoilt by intelligent, well-acted, well thought out science fiction. V is not this. It is splashy, exotic and full of stolen threads from other sci-fi shows. That said, as I mentioned, I love crappy, escapist sci-fi, and there are a few interesting things that keep V interesting and watchable.

First, I love the obvious spin doctoring that goes on by the V's. They show how easy it is to turn the truth on its head, to fool people with false promises (with a few real ones thrown in) and to generally lie on a continuous basis but very convincingly. Someone in the blog comments mentioned that the original V was about what an attempted fascist takeover of the United States might look like. I think this modern version is following suit but this is the new face of fascism, a kinder, gentler, don't worry about the truth, actually don't worry about anything kind of fascism. I think the control of the media is also key here and I enjoyed watching the spin doctor, (journalist Chad) admire and then become wary of Anna as she takes spin doctoring to new heights with her turn-around of the grieving widow Mary Faulkner from figurehead of the protest against the V's to supporter. One of my favorite parts of this episode was watching Anna practice her emotional response to the widow, figuring out what would work best to turn the conversation to her favor.

On a more personal note, this show really creeps me out because I think I have already met some V's. You know, those really, really nice people who smile all the time. The ones that would stab you in the back and then apologize for messing up your clothes. Are they aliens or are we more lizard like than we would want to admit?

As in all good science fiction, the aliens are there to hold a mirror up to us and these creatures know us better than we know ourselves. We may be, as one V says, "naturally mistrusting," but it seems if you feed us the right line and give us a bit of technology most of us, even the bright lawyer ladies, are going to jump on your bandwagon. It is ham-handed in showing us how we easily we can be duped and how quickly we swallow half truths but the message is there and subtlety is not always required in primetime.

I agree with the other reviewers who talked about the clunky dialogue. This is accompanied by some pretty clunky plot devices. Some glaring issues for me were when Erica left our favorite priest in her home alone with access to an FBI database (not a great decision, I don’t care if he's a priest). Erica looking at the V's surveillance cameras and obviously being captured on film (isn’t somebody watching those surveillance thingys). And I spent almost 5 minutes worried about Dale coming after Erica (no worries, that issue got wrapped up in a much too clean bow).

The rip-offs from previous science fiction shows were pretty obvious. We are now dealing with some version of Star Trek's "borg" although the bliss piece is a nice touch and I swear the Cyrus guy was channeling Cypher from The Matrix – even the names are close. Perhaps this is a clever call out to the sci-fi fans rather than wholesale plagiarism.

On the positive side, we got to see Erica kick some ass as her FBI agent self. We got to see Alan Tudyk be very lizard-like and complain about how humans smell. And I should also mention that we have two strong female leads going head to head in a prime time science fiction show. Morena Baccarin and Elizabeth Mitchell continue to wow me with their acting capacity. So this show is really a very mixed bag. It can make you think one minute, and then go off the rails into bland primetime escapism.

I will keep watching because, as I said, I love this kind of crappy stuff (I grew up with the Original Star Trek, which was the originator of the ham-handed social message). Who knows? The writers may get better, and it looks like the teen heartthrob is going to be eaten or some version of that – worth staying tuned for.

7 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I absolutely agree with you, drnanamom. There's a lot I like about V, but the clunky dialogue and the plot holes (like leaving the priest alone with her FBI database access) aren't a good sign. But Elizabeth Mitchell and Morena Baccarin are fabulous. Morena in particular was so good in this episode. And she's so stunning and creepy at the same time. That's not an easy thing to do.

I liked the surveillance scene, although I agree that it seems unlikely no one is going to notice Erica in there. (How did she know no one would be in there already, too?) And I really liked that Alan Tudyk was being tested by a member of the Fifth Column.

You know what I wish? I wish there hadn't been an earlier version so that they could have built the story up more slowly over a longer period of time.

Josie K said...

Great review, drnanamom!

I agree with you on all counts, but I didn't realize until I read your review that this is the most feminist TV show I've ever seen: two women about to go head-to-head, and I didn't even bat an eye that there's no traditional male hero or villain: Elizabeth Mitchell (I almost typed 'Juliet') and Morena Baccarin completely sold me on them being the one to root for or to hate, respectively.

I did find a few things confusing about this episode, and that bugged me, as I'm usually smart enough to understand television shows: Alan Tudyk is dead, right? And Anna just convinced the angry widow, she didn't brainwash her, right?

Billie Doux said...

I thought Alan Tudyk was dead, but it's not definitive. We never did see what Anna did to the widow, but the rehearsal Anna did made it seem that way. Maybe Anna also slipped her some drugs or something. :)

The ratings dropped again, and pretty significantly. The Sci Fi Wire thinks we might not even get more than the four that are airing. That's too bad. V has its flaws, but I'm enjoying it.

http://scifiwire.com/2009/11/v-deathwatch-ratings-drop.php

Mark Greig said...

Really enjoyed this episode, more so because I skipped through all the Tyler/Lisa scenes. Morena Baccarin is quickly emerging as the standout star of this show, with Elizabeth Mitchell just trailing behind. That little rehearsal scene was a brilliant piece of acting. It’s rare you get to see your primary villain like that. It’s a shame some of the other characters aren’t as well developed or acted as the leading ladies.

Sadly it does look like Alan Tudyk has been killed off again. I was hoping he’d get to stick around for a bit. And am I alone in thinking that (assuming the ratings don’t fall too much) when this mysterious John May shows up he’s is going to be played by a recognisable sci-fi actor.

shawnlunn2002 said...

I know some of the dialogue can be a little clunky but Elizabeth and Morena really are being spoiled with the respective characterisation for their parts.

Dale not being dead was a nice one. With Dollhouse gone, it'd be nice to see Alan Tudyk more on this show.

Did anyone else find the way Anna's right hand man was looking at Erica intriguing?

Jess Lynde said...

Good review. I love your point about how we've been spoiled by intelligent sci-fi in recent years. I think I'm having a bit of trouble adjusting back to completely popcorn sci fi. I may be expecting too much from the writing and the characters.

I thought this episode was OK. But the show seems to suffer from an abundance of terminally stupid characters. Erica made some stupid moves (with Jack and with the B&E action at the Visitors Center), Jack made some really stupid moves pursuing the guy from the warehouse on his own, and Ryan made some stupid moves with his old Fifth Column buddies. The priest, in particular, needs to wise the heck up. And don't even get me started on Tyler.

Mark, we fasted forwarded through Tyler/Lisa, too. Too painful to sit through. At first I thought the reveal that she's playing him made it all more tolerable, but her look seemed to indicate she may actually care about him and is not fully on board with whatever Anna has planned for him. So that puts it back to "ugh" for us.

I didn't care for the part with Erica taking out the attempted assassin. It is fun to watch EM kick butt and all, but Erica came across as way too Super Woman. Perhaps her ability to single-handedly see all the security flaws and take down the assassin can be explained away by the reveal that it was all a Visitor setup. But in the moment, it rang very false and over the top for me.

Morena Baccarin is awesome. I loved every scene with her this week. She really does have this amazing gift of "stunning and creepy" as Billie said.

The hubby and I were wondering if the Visitors somehow replaced the grieving widow with one of their own in a look alike skin suit. We have no idea if the Visitors have such technology, but we had trouble believing that Anna convinced her to make a complete turnaround without drugs or some other kind of deception.

Not a bad episode, but I'm hoping they really ramp it up next week (without having characters go all super-human).

Paul Kelly said...

Never mind Erica leaving the priest alone with the FBI database, he drank right from her coffee cup... WITHOUT EVEN ASKING! He just picked it up and had himself a big ole swig. How familiar is that? And bearing in mind that the US is seemingly full of people with guns, who in their right mind (priest or otherwise), would walk right into a stranger's house two seconds after knocking? Especially a stranger who's semi-on-the-edge anyway?

But, despite the priest being as daft as a lobster's handbag, I'm still enjoying V. I'm just not sure how much they can achieve in a four episode run. I agree with Billie. I wish the story had built up more slowly and over more episodes.

Great review, drnanamom. You totally nailed it.