V: It's Only the Beginning

I'll come right out and say it: I was not impressed with "It's Only the Beginning." In fact, my opinion of the show is getting worse with each episode. I thought the premier was good, and the 2nd episode not too bad. But it's just gone downhill from there for me.

Before I dive into my review, I should post a disclaimer. Despite my guest writer status at Billie Doux, I am not generally a fan of science fiction. With the exception of Battlestar Galactica (which, I think we can all agree, was exceptional for any genre), the only 2 shows I've ever watched knowing it was sci-fi-ish are Dollhouse, because of Joss Whedon, and Fringe, because of JJ Abrams.

So it's entirely possible that I don't love the show because of that. Or it may just be because last night's episode continued V's downward decline in quality. If the show runners were hoping that "It's Only the Beginning" would be compelling enough to lure viewers back after the Winter Olympics, I think that they will be sorely disappointed. It just didn't feel like anything significant happened - certainly not a game changer or a cliff hanger where I'm dying to see what comes next.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe you guys can help me understand how the things that happened tonight made an important plot advance. Erica discovered that Ryan is a V. The Fantastic Four (as I liked to call them) suspected that the V's were going to do something bad to humans via their vitamin shots, so they broke into a warehouse, where they discovered that the mysterious bad stuff - R26 - was being put into human-produced flu vaccines. Sneaky ones, those V's are. Ryan's fiance is pregnant with a mutant baby. Someone - can't remember his name - sacrifices himself so that Joshua won't be discovered.

Part of the problem for me is that I have yet to connect with any of the characters. By episode 4, we should have some understanding of who they are, but they all still feel very surface to me. I feel like we are more told who they are than shown. The V's are like Dennis Hopper. Whenever he shows up in a movie, you just know that he's the crazy evil guy - it doesn't matter what or why. On the flip side, the good guys are the good guys because they're human, not because any of the 4 main protagonists have displayed any characteristics that make me root for them. In fact, if humans were really this annoying and boring, I'm not entirely sure why we want the race to survive.

I can't recall who said it, but unlike one of the reviewers/commenters, I find the familiarity of the actors to be distracting. With the exception of Anna, either the writing or the acting isn't strong enough to break my association with their previous characters. Case in point: I think Elizabeth Mitchell is the strongest actor on the show, but I can't figure out if I find Erica to be flat because the character hasn't been well developed, or if because Juliet is one of the most complex, intriguing characters I've ever come across.

The end result is that, well, I just don't care what happens to them. So, the V's are sucking Tyler into The Dark Side with teenage boy hormones and cool looking engines. OK, great. Maybe then he'll be less whiny. So, Georgie got shot. And? Maybe then he'll be less whiny. So, Father Jack got shanked in a church by a V. Honestly, serves him right. I was like, DOOD - seriously. If a random person comes knocking in the middle of the night RIGHT AFTER YOU JUST BLEW UP AN ENEMY BUILDING, YOU DO NOT APPROACH HIM UNARMED. You especially DO NOT PUT DOWN THE GUN YOU WERE JUST HOLDING.

*Bangs head on table*

Scene by scene, "It's Only the Beginning" played like a smorgasbord of plot cliches. Borrowing/retelling isn't necessarily bad in itself, but the problem is that the rip offs aren't amounting to anything. Instead of moving us towards a more cohesive plot, I feel a little like the writers are just throwing everything cool they've ever seen at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Fundamentally, I think my issue with the show is that I don't know what it is or where it's going. As DrNanaMom pointed out, V isn't a reimagining a la Battlestar Galactica. But I don't agree that it is a cheesy, crappy sci-fi show - it takes itself too seriously. So, what is it trying to accomplish? If it is trying to deliver a political message, what is it? If they are trying to bring the V of the 80's to a new generation, the pace at which they are doing it isn't doing it justice. It almost feels like they are rushing through the original story so that they can get it over with. And then... what? Add something more? Take it into a completely different direction? If so, why rehash it at all?

The mediocrity of "It's Only the Beginning" highlights V's (possibly) fatal flaw: the writers/producers don't seem to grasp the importance of timing or pacing. As we all know, a lot is riding on this episode - the show has been declining in ratings since the premier, and it has to pull viewers back after a long hiatus. In this position, this episode needed to be explosive, thrilling, compelling, gasp-out-loud, throw-something-at-the-tv-because-you-can't-wait-for-the-next episode good. The writers should have pulled out all the stops - even cliched, cheesy shows know how to use cheap shock value to engage the viewers. But it was merely... meh. Did they know that this episode was going to be pivotal to the show's survival? If they did, it certainly didn't come across.

I can't say that I'll be returning in the spring, if it even comes back. It's disappointing, since the original is forever etched in my mind as one of the scariest things I've ever seen. Perhaps Ron Moore forever ruined remakes for me, but I honestly believe that if you don't have a clear vision of what you want the updated version to be, then just leave it in peace.

So says the faux sci-fi viewer.

9 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

*bangs head on table*

Y'know, that kinda sums up what's going on with a lot of shows lately. I really should start watching Supernatural: it seems to be the one that isn't driving fans crazy or disappointing them.

Josie Kafka said...

Forgot to add: Great review, Serena.

Billie Doux said...

I agree. Great review, Serena. You pointed out all of the flaws in the show. I like cheesy sci-fi more than you do (actually, I'm sure anyone reading this blog knows that sci-fi is my thing in a great big way) but so far, V is unrealized potential. I was particularly turned off by the gruesome execution of the Fifth Columnist on the mothership, especially after we were pointedly told that all Vs carried suicide pills at all time.

Josie, I have grown to love Supernatural nearly as much as Buffy, and that's saying a lot.

Gustavo Brunetti said...

You know, as someone, I don't remember who, pointed out, we've been spoiled. After watching so many amazing shows (like my favorites, LOST and Dexter, and a lot of HBO's past series), I think we started demanding more, and the networks aren't able to keep up.

Anonymous said...

I've decided to give up on V, and I'm thinking of giving up on FlashForward. I gave up on the new Stargate after only two episodes.

Honestly, though, this situation is not unusual for a new television season. Not every show is great (or even good), and not every show can sustain a strong beginning. For years, I've seen shows with great premises that become tangled and lose their way. It's the Stephen King syndrome: starting something without knowing how it's going to end. I'm beginning to suspect that the writers of several of these new shows don't have a solid, clear endgame in mind, which is pretty much a recipe for disaster.

Oh well, there is still Supernatural, until it ends (insert sound of uncontrolled weeping here), and Lost is coming back soon, so I haven't given up all hope.

KAM

Manolis Platakis said...

Great review. Totally agree. + What Billie said about the pill.

WhyMe said...

Funny, and right to the point. No need to add anything else.

Grate review.

Jess Lynde said...

I read that this batch of episodes was produced before the shake up in the production and writing staff, and that the next episodes are intended to be more of a visceral thrill ride. Sounds like that means the "overall plan" for the show is for it to be more of a '24' style outing, as opposed to something with a "deeper message" like Lost or BSG. If you like that kind of thing, it may be worth sticking with for a little longer just to see if the shake-up results in a more entertaining show (and intelligence upgrades for the main characters).

I thought this episode was OK. Better than last week's, but still full of predictable or tired plot turns and stupid, stupid characters. As Serena said, it certainly wasn't something that made me go I MUST COME BACK IN MARCH TO SEE THIS.

I think the thing that bothers me more than anything is that the Visitors' endgame is completely baffling. Why the soft sell takeover if you've got a massive, massive fleet waiting in the wings? They've clearly got a serious technological and numbers advantage over the humans, so why the 20+ year infiltration? What is the point? They need us to make mutant babies? They don't want to risk wiping out all the hamsters and guinea pigs in a hostile invasion?

Dimitri said...

I like this version of V. I don't feel any of your frustrations. Father Jack approached the man in distress because he was having a crisis regarding his identity as either a priest or soldier, and decided to approach the situation as a priest. It was ill-advised, I suppose, but it never really occurred to me until I read Serena's review because I was following his emotional journey.

As for the political message, it's about propaganda being a far more efficient tool for conquest than outright destruction. After all, it's easier to get away with massacre when you can convince half the population (through patriotism, religion, etc.) it was somehow the right thing to do. History, both ancient and recent, is full of examples supporting this thesis. That, incidentally, also answers your question about why the V don't blow everything up. This is not Michael Bay.

Also, I'm pretty sure the V want to eat us, so no kablooey until they can ship the herbs and spices.

I thought all the symbols and statements about information manipulation and blind belief were pretty obvious, so I'm having trouble understanding why you all feel the show doesn't know what it's trying to say. Maybe you don't agree or you're not interested in what it's saying, but the message is undeniably there.

Having said all that, fine review, Serena. I certainly got a solid idea of how you feel about the series and this episode in particular, and really that's what matters in a review (for me anyway).