V: Series Premiere

“We are of peace. Always.”

This was good. Not great, but good.

This review is full of spoilers, so don’t read it until you’ve seen the episode, please. For the sake of mankind.

This premiere did its job: establishing characters and the arc of the show. Erica, played by Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet from Lost) is an analytical, hard-edged FBI agent with two fatal flaws: she loves her rebellious son, and she has some huge abandonment issues that are only made worse by the events at the end of the episode. Her son Tyler has two fatal flaws: he’s rebellious and immature—both of which are blamed on the recent departure of his father.

Scott Wolf is Chad Decker, a TV news anchor with, um, two fatal flaws: he wants to do the real news, not just read some intern’s version of it, but he also wants success. Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut) is a kindly business man with—you guessed it—two potentially fatal flaws: he loves his fiancĂ© and doesn’t want to put her in danger, even though (second flaw) he’s hiding a terrible secret under his skin. Are all of these flaws negative? No. But they’re all potential points of vulnerability that will probably be exploited—in fact, many of them are exploited in this episode.

Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch, from The 4400), doesn’t seem to have any fatal flaws, but he does have divided loyalties. He’s a priest, but he’s not willing to tow the party line on the Vs. And he’s got a mean right hook for a man of the cloth.

But that’s not really why we tuned in, is it? Aliens, known as the Visitors or Vs, have landed (okay, technically they’re hovering, but that sounds less dramatic) on 29 major world cities with a message of peace and universal health care. They’re led by Anna (Morena Baccarin, who was Inara in Firefly). All they want is some water and some type of mineral, and then they’ll continue down the interstellar highway, having paid for their pit stop with cures to 65 common human ailments and some amped-up scientific knowledge.

Or do they? [Make sure to say that line in a creepy voice of doom.] The Vs, it turns out, have been here all along, hiding their reptilian visages in human skin. They’re willing to kill anyone who gets in their way (or knows that they’ve been here for awhile already), and won’t even answer tough questions from our resident news anchor. Only a few plucky heroes and heroines will be able to save humankind against formidable odds.

I’ve heard rumors this might become a miniseries instead of a full-fledged series with no set expiration date, and I hope those rumors are true. V looks good, but it also looks like a cohesive story with a clear end: humans are victorious against the alien invaders, having paid a high price for their easy acceptance of the comely visitors. It’s hard to feel a huge sense of suspense, especially as most of us knew about the whole ‘they’re really reptiles!’ reveal from the original series made in the 80s. Then again, the ratings were spectacular, so maybe they’ll try to drag this out.

The biggest surprise, for me, was Alan Tudyk as Erica’s partner Dale. I’d had no idea he was going to be in this, and more Wash is always a wonderful thing. The big reveal about his character was less of a shock, though. Poor Erica, betrayed by the men around her.

Final thoughts? Pretty people fighting alien lizards disguised as pretty people. A cheeky self-awareness of the possible clichĂ©s of every alien-invasion movie ever made. An emphasis on characterization, which will up the stakes when people start dying. It’s hard to say much else—the resistance is just getting underway, we’re still finding out information about the Vs, and Elizabeth Mitchell and Alan Tudyk are awesome. I think I’d watch them recite the complete oeuvre of Robert Burns, so I’ll definitely keep watching V.

And it’s not like there’s anything else to watch on Tuesdays.

If you've actually seen the original series, please keep potential spoilers out of the comments thread.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

9 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I don't understand why the critics are trashing this show. I'm not gonna. I loved it. It was much better than I was led to expect.

Maybe it was all of the sci-fi actors they cast. (It's always nice when producers and directors know their audience.) Especially Elizabeth Mitchell. I don't hate Joseph Fiennes, but I spent a few minutes last night thinking about how cool it would have been if she'd been cast as the FBI agent lead on FF. I like Joel Gretsch a lot, too. The Alan Tudyk bit surprised me, although I kept thinking why is he a guest a star? Is he gonna die?

Maybe it worked for me because they wisely decided to reveal a lot in the pilot. Every sci-fi fan alive in the 1980s is going to remember the plot of the original "V", so they're not going to be able to pull a guinea pig surprise. But it was a bit awkward and fast, though. This pilot should have been longer.

Great review, Josie. I laughed out loud three times. :)

Jess Lynde said...

There really isn't anything else to watch on Tuesdays, is there? I've been occasionally checking out the ESPN series "30 for 30" (some pretty good stuff), but usually we use the night to watch hockey or catch up on things recorded Friday or Monday. (What can I say? We aren't part of the millions that love NCIS.)

I liked this pilot. I thought the opening arrival of the Visitors (I really hate the shorthand "Vs" --- for some reason it just bugs me) was pretty intense, and the ending sleeper cell stuff was pretty good, too. For me, it got a little slow and tedious in the middle, and I'm not digging the whole rebellious son angle, but I do love Elizabeth Mitchell and Morena Baccarin. And I'm kind of liking Scott Wolf's character. Sort of a power hungry guy, but with a slight conscience.

As soon as Alan Tudyk showed up I knew he'd either die or be revealed as a Visitor because he wasn't part of the ongoing promotion parade. But I was really shocked that Morris Chestnut was a Visitor. I didn't see that coming at all. It immediately made him much more interesting.

I completely agree that it is good that they got some of the basics out there right away, instead of dragging out the lizard reveal or the real negative intentions of the Visitors.

I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and dreading the LONG break before the next new episodes are aired.

Mark Greig said...

Even though I always thought the original was extremely naff and boring (except Michael Ironside as Ham Tyler, he was awesome. Cameo anyone?) V is the show I’ve been looking forward to the most all summer and I’d glad to say it didn’t disappoint at all.

Now, like Jess, I’m dreading the long hiatus due to the Winter Olympics. And the constant game of musical chairs that’s going on with the showrunners has me worried. They’re on their third before the first episode has even aired. Hopefully internal struggles won’t scupper the series.

Peter said...

I am a bit ambivalent about the Visitors. Okay, they are going to steal our water and chow down on our peeps (if they are following the 1983 mini-sries) but the ability to make a reptile look like Morena Baccarin ... It is hard not to admire that technology!

shawnlunn2002 said...

Bizarely enough this is airing on Irish TV at an alarmingly quick paced.

Out of all the new sci-fi shows this year, I knew I was going to like this one. I didn't realise I'd like it this much. It's not the best pilot I've ever seen in my life but the way it set everything in motion was brilliant.

Aliens coming out of the sky - like vampires coming out of the coffin on True Blood. You get mixed reactions - sceptics (Erica, Jack), sycophants (Tyler), as well as resistance types also into the mix. The V's are here and for the most part, they're trouble.

Tyler was such an annoying twit that along with his similarly irritating friend, I wouldn't mind them being casualties in the first season but I did realise that you needed characters like them as well.

I quite find Chad interesting. He wants a big break but disapproved of Anna compromising his professionalism. It could be a wonderful battle of wits, even if it will be Anna mostly winning on that one.

Erica's great. Count me in on the Elizabeth Mitchell love because she brought her A-Game and did something with a character who felt sort of generic in character descriptions.

Jack was another character I liked. He's probably got a dark streak, despite being a man of the cloth as well.

I sort of already knew that Ryan was a defected/deserter V thanks to the spoilers but the scenes with him, the girlfriend and the resistance leaders were still interesting enough.

I wish I had seen the original series but I'll catch it soon. Anna was great and Lisa could be potentially interesting as well.

Plus, 14 millions viewers? Assuming the series maintains that impressive start, shouldn't it be safe to assume that a second season is a dead cert? 8/10.

Josie Kafka said...

Shawn, is Ireland ahead of the US for this show? (You're already ahead in quality of life and neo-natal survival rates, I know...)

shawnlunn2002 said...

No, we just it two days after ABC aired, which is unusual because the channel in general is dreadful for the shows they get and I have a feeling that I'll have to follow this on Sci-Fi UK properly once they air it but overall, I did enjoy it a lot.

celticmarc said...

AHHHH ! A nice stroll down memory lane tonight. I watched the first 10 minutes so many times. Pure TV anthology. Yes, it is in my museum for sure.

I was, well, still am, a big fan of the original mini series and season. And personal anecdote, since I'm moving soon, I put my gazillion cd's in boxes today. And I stumbled into an AUTOGRAPHED first mini series score by the late Joe Harnell. Needless to say, it's one jewel in my collection.

Anonymous said...

I liked the reference to the 4400.