Not gonna lie. At this point, I’m exhausted by V, but I’m not so brain-addled to not know that tonight’s episode was, all things considered, passable. There were a number of things that worked in the episode’s favor, but again, only if you keep in mind that this is probably the show’s penultimate episode (though next week’s episode is only called the “season finale” and not the “series finale;” an eerie thought, no?). Still, “Devil in a Blue Dress” is at least competent enough to be sharper and more sustainable in terms of its plot and the way it exhibits a basic level of self-awareness that almost none of the show’s other episodes did. It’s as if episode writer Hans Tobeason took the fact that the show was ending as a sign that he better tear ass and finally deliver an episode worth watching. And miraculously, he came through, both by providing a climactic chain of loosely related events and almost immediately addressing the incredulous questions that viewers such as myself are asking themselves after those events happen.
That having been said, Tobeason isn’t a miracle worker, and “Devil in a Blue Dress” isn’t without its problems. The episode begins with an unfortunate reminder of how much time has been wasted watching the show’s other writers sit on their hands. Anna hosts a ceremony to turn on the first blue energy reactor at the site where Concordia is going to be built. Shortly afterward, Sidney tells the Fifth Columnists that the blue energy reactors are too big for the city of Concordia and that the buildings have a striking pattern to them, namely that they’re tall enough and spaced out far enough to support a big platform. The Fifth Columnists immediately deduce that Anna’s using Concordia as a landing platform for an invasion party, one that’s suddenly poised to attack.
Notice how I kept using the future tense? This is mostly because V is still leading its viewer by the nose and now, with one episode left, the shit is going to either fizzle out anti-climactically (and judging by the preview for next week’s episode, this seems likely) or go off with a humongous bang. At this point, it honestly doesn’t matter which one of the two happens. What matters is that the show’s creators are still throwing breadcrumbs out to their viewers at a leisurely pace and not caring about fleshing out their show’s central concepts. There won’t be a resolution worth having here, just more sound and fury.
That having been said, I maintain that “Devil in a Blue Dress” worked mostly on a stand-alone basis because enough of its plot threads were cursorily immersive enough to make the ones that didn’t work worthwhile. I tuned out while Diana kept scheming with Lisa to take back her throne and when Anna learned that she could bliss humans now and planned on using that power on as wide a scope as she could. These two plot strands were the ones that felt the least dire and the most context-free. They’re happening now because everyone’s panicking and things have to happen sometime, but they’re very poorly developed and feel like they were just dropped into the show at the 11th hour. But I liked the Fifth Columnists’ latest failed plan of attack to take down Anna and the subplot with Chad and Carrie, too. Even if they didn’t quite feel organic, both stories felt like they needed to happen now-ish.
Either that or they were explained in such a way that I could not object to their happening now, all of a sudden. For example, the Fifth Columnists’ plan to use blue energy to cause a massive chain reaction to stop Anna not only felt urgent, but it ended in such a way that it finally felt like the characters were feeling the same pressure that the show’s writers must be. When Erica yells at Father Jack, “We are not taking enough risks,” she’s putting out there something that should be weighing on every viewer’s minds by now. His response (“There is a difference between a calculated risk and senseless slaughter”) feels that much more sympathetic and understandable because of that fact. That doesn’t mean that this part of “Devil in a Blue Dress” was entirely satisfying. After all, the elusive difference that Father Jack is referring to also happens to be the difference between good television and bad television.
If anything, Tobeason should be commended for being able to cover his ass better than almost all of his peers. For instance, the fact that Anna wants Carrie gone from Chad’s show now should raise our eyebrows, and Tobeason knows this. Why consider Carrie to be a threat now and not earlier? Because of the importance of Concordia, or at least because of the importance of it being completed? This makes no sense in light of the fact that, as we’ll find out, the invasion ships are now in orbit and waiting to land. Which suggests that Carrie couldn’t effect any significant change through her program anyway. But still, at least Tobeason is trying.
I’m actually also surprised to say that the way he handled the end of the Carrie-Chad story in “Devil In A Blue Dress” was surprisingly well done. After he feeds her a false scoop, they confront each other, and the stand-off in question is actually tense and a little thoughtful. Finally, the show reminds us that Chad, as a public figure, doesn’t live in a vacuum and does have a reputation as being a back-biting narcissist. It’s about time that the show’s writers took advantage of little tidbits of information like that and used it to motivate their characters’ actions or, as in this case, at least provide them with an alibi. But at this point, I don’t think anyone’s holding their breath for next week’s episode to show one last big quantum leap toward a standard of excellence that the rest of the series never achieved. Progress or not, the show is going to end in seven days and not a moment too soon either.