Within a reasonable realm of expectations, tonight’s episode of V was on the same, mostly mediocre level that most of season one was stuck at. Which is to say that it wasn’t as grating as the last two episodes, but it wasn’t that good either. “Laid Bare” is yet another example of how the new V does, in fact, have ideas, but none of them are well-developed—at all. These ideas could be potentially interesting, but there’s no thought, nor is there any great care put into them. That, more than anything else, is why I continue to watch V and am always rewarded for my irrational interest with frustration: The show isn’t fundamentally rotten, just especially ill-conceived. Unfortunately, that remains the best thing I can honestly say about the show as it stands at present.
“Laid Bare” is pretty much just another lousy episode of V: Half-assed revelations attempt to reshape the relationships of our central protagonists and antagonists, but none of those paradigm shifts are earned or feel organic. The episode begins with Erica fighting Sarita Malik, the V double agent that Erica unmasked and wound up in a car crash with at the end of last week’s episode. I don’t feel ashamed to say that I rooted for Malik, who inevitably was bested by Erica, who in turn was shortly rescued by the rest of their group of Fifth Columnists. Which then brings the group back to torturing a V to find out more information about Sophie, an abducted child, and indirectly, more information on Anna’s plans. Not surprisingly, only the former is really attained.
The big difference between the torture of Malik and the torture of the V from “We Can’t Win” is that firstly, the death of the victim is an issue that our heroes finally have to deal with. Sadly, though it’s a thorny issue—as the death of any person for the sake of furthering a cause and saving another person’s life should be—it is not cause for much noticeable consternation amongst the Fifth Columnists. Malik is a V, so whatever has to be done will be done and no tears will be shed.
The other main difference between “Laid Bare” and “We Can’t Win” is that this time, Ryan is playing an instrumental role in the torture, or at least he looks like he is (he snips a finger off Malik but after that, doesn’t get his hands dirty; that’s Hobbes’ job). Ryan’s recovered his balls in “Laid Bare” after breaking down last week because he’s come to realize that Anna made his child sick and says as much to Anna, who, of course, feigns innocence. This revelation makes him steel his resolve, but again, such an important change of heart, one that changes his emotional state from fragile to determined, seems only to have occurred both for the sake of the episode’s unconvincing shocker of an ending and, more immediately, the torture stuff that’s so central to “Laid Bare.” Again, Ryan’s change of heart makes sense on a surface level, but nothing about it feels earned, as nothing seems to have been sacrificed nor have any new emotional discoveries been made by the character since last epsidoe.
Torture also plays an instrumental role in the way that “Laid Bare” lays the foundation for the show’s new hook: Interstellar parenthood is apparently the crux of V and the reason why Erica and Anna have more in common than even they know. Anna wants to guide Lisa through the Visitors’ version of puberty, a process started in last week’s episode and one that will ultimately turn her into a V Queen. Anna’s own mother, still trapped in the V base-ship’s fruit cellar, warns her that Lisa will eventually turn on her, just as Anna turned on her own mother. So Anna has to test Lisa’s loyalty. She dispels the mystery of the whackadoo thousand needle torture table of science and explains that that table was designed to extract the soul from humans. When Lisa asks why this is so important to Anna, she explains, “It [the soul] exerts a powerful hold over humans.”
Which again leads us to a key plot point that’s forced down our throats guilelessly and with no satisfying development, beyond the fact that we’ve seen humans tortured on those tables in the past and know that eradicating the soul is now apparently very important to Anna. Why the soul is necessarily the home of human emotions and where Anna is getting her magical ideas on how to make a theological concept like the soul have a concrete anatomical component is anyone’s guess. And that’s kind of a big problem because I don’t want to have to guess: I want to feel confident in knowing that this plot point isn’t just another ramshackle development that’s thrust on us suddenly because… well, because. I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it: Marking time for V may have been acceptable in season one, but it’s not anymore, as we now have only seven more episodes until the show’s cancellation. And yet, the sands in the show’s hourglass are still moving incrementally…
The most preposterous plot point on tonight’s show is the one that reunites Chad with the Fifth Columnists. Chad is asked by Anna to interview Father Jack to provide a fair-and-balanced flip side to his pro-V reporting. Anna then has Tyler film a fight she instigates at Father Jack’s church, using a rabble-rousing V posing as a human victim of the recent suicide bombings. She then selectively uploads footage of Jack punching the bad guy, omitting the part where he takes responsibility for his actions and for his affiliation with the Fifth Column. The footage is meant to totally undermine the validity of Father Jack’s words about being a peaceful resistor, but realistically, Anna’s plan stinks of thoughtless contrivance. What YouTube viewer is going to watch that footage and not immediately be skeptical? This is the Internet: You never have the benefit of your audience’s doubt, especially when it comes to a controversial subject like this. But of course, since V still isn’t as sharp as it should be, no dissent is even considered either by Anna or Chad. The edited footage “has gone viral,” according to Chad, and that means he can no longer be neutral. Convenient but awfully stupid.
- The scene where Lisa’s “Breeding Skin” was showing was the only time in the show’s history that I can recall being kinda impressed with the show’s sfx. Then again, episode director David Barrett actually significantly helped Lisa’s transformation to look like it matters by filming her using a basic but effective tracking shot. No such luck for the V that kills himself in the field in tonight’s episode, nor for Rekha Sharma when she pops her fangs in the middle of a field for no apparent reason. I guess getting up-close to Laura Vandervoort’s body in a state of semi-undress is more exciting than I thought.