“Birth Pangs” is the episode of V that confirms my suspicions that the show never had a serious chance of being good. The episode begins by reminding us that the Fifth Columnists are now on the warpath. Right after that renewed statement of purpose, the Fifth Columnists decide instead to continue dicking around, looking for clues and making connections that should have been made several episodes ago. So much time is wasted with Anna on the Visitors’ ship that it’s amazing that episode writer Cathryn Humphris even bothered trying to maintain continuity by reminding us of the promise of an impending war with Anna that Erica made in “Siege.”
“Birth Pangs” is so muddled, so laughably terrible, that I finally see it as a the joke that many of you loyal commenters have for nigh-on two seasons now. Because any show that seriously has you questioning whether or not its creators are either trying so hard that they’re unable to produce anything or if they really never were trying to begin with is just that terrible. It’s shit or get off the pot time, and these guys are still trying to convince us that they can actually make something of the show with three episodes to go. I wish I was impressed by all that nothing.
Rather than showcase some much-anticipated action scenes, “Birth Pangs” instead focuses on more gear-grindingly slow exposition. How it’s possible that a show that’s featured Anna and her lizard man minions talking so much about the effects of Red Rain and phosphorus has not actually done anything yet with those discoveries is beyond me. And yet somehow, tonight’s episode is the first one to show Tyler preparing to be harvested by the Vs for inter-breeding. If the show had switched gears completely and featured this sequence three or four episodes ago, the scene in question might have worked. But it wasn’t, and it doesn’t. It boggles my mind to think that somehow, the show’s handlers managed to make a scene where a bald V scientist—the baldness makes him extra alien—shaves Tyler’s hair off for a physical examination to determine his DNA’s compatibility boring. That scene should be kooky and nutty and, most importantly, scary, but it’s just infuriatingly inert.
This first of a handful of Anna-centric scenes is a good reminder of how the shows’ creators have taken every opportunity to screw themselves over. The fact that characters are still expositing the episode’s plot and not actually doing anything is not only absurd, it’s patently surreal. Hearing a member of Eli Cohn’s splinter cell proudly tell Erica, “Hacking’s my speciality; well, one of my specialties,” is head-spinningly bizarre. Is he supposed to be coming onto Erica? Or how about when Diana meets Lisa in the mothership’s fruit cellar and coyly asks, “Taken a week for you to decide to trust me?” Or even when Lisa tries to snap Tyler out of what we’re just supposed to assume is a bad case of denial caused by the death of his father when she declares, “I know you’re holding in your emotions, Tyler.” And yet, until she said that, there was no objective way to know that that was the case. Tyler has admittedly always been a weak character, but that’s not saying much, considering that poor characterization is just one of the shows’ major shortcomings.
At the same time, that surreal quality that the horrid plotting in “Birth Pangs” gives us is the only thing making the show worth watching. V has finally devolved into that state of so-bad-it’s-good. When Erica meets with Cohn’s men, one of them offers, “We already had several plans in motion, including one to avenge Eli’s death.” Did nobody proof this script (and yes, I know how that sounds, coming from me)? Because as spoken, that line suggests that they were planning on avenging Eli’s death before the guy was even dead. Or how about that scene where a Visitor that Erica and Hobbes try to shake down jumps off of a balcony and plummets more than 20 stories down. And we watch her plummeting. And plummeting. And plummeting some more. And then, the suicidal Visitor in question takes a pill and burns up before she even hits the ground. I’m really not sure if this scene is a product of trying too much or too little, but either way, I’m not sure what I’m looking at.
Realistically, I can’t lay all the blame at Humphris’ feet. At some point, director David Barrett had to stage some of the scenes Humphris penned, and when he did, he really didn’t try too hard to hide his contempt for his audience. For example, the hang-dog looks that Eli’s men give Erica while she informs them how instrumental she is are too funny, as is the fact that Erica and her two men are all wearing sunglasses. Why is nobody pointing out that Erica’s men have only completed one successful guerilla mission? Or for that matter, why is nobody asking about why a group of terrorists is meeting outdoors in broad daylight en masse, and the only ones making a vain attempt at subterfuge are the three that are wearing sunglasses? I am confident that there is no good answer to either of my questions, and that’s why V sucks in a nutshell.
I really and truly can’t help but throw my hands up in disgust while watching an episode of V at this point. So much time was wasted in “Birth Pangs” on plot developments that everybody by now has understood, except the characters they concern, like Erica’s discovery that Tyler is being used to interbreed with Lisa, Anna’s discovery that Lisa cares for Tyler, or Lisa’s discovery that Anna has back-up suitors just in case Tyler doesn’t work out. By now, none of these plot points is revelatory, though that last point is kinda sorta new, if not astonishing in the least. I wouldn’t be surprised if the show’s slackened pace is a sign that its creators are still seriously trying to get V picked up for a third season. They’ve never shown any other signs that they understood human behavior before, so why start now?
- They replayed Tyler’s slap from last week’s episode. This pleases me.