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V: "Red Rain"

Here’s the thing: I didn’t think V could really be called the worst, most derivative, or most heinous thing on TV right now. I still don’t, but now, after having seen “Red Rain,” I’m sure someone could make a satisfyingly polemical argument for it. Which sucks because there was a sign of (probably false) hope in “We Can’t Win” last season. I stuck with the show because, well, I wanted to know if there was a reason why Scott Peters (and the producers who took over when he was booted) decided to reboot V or if the Space Lizard Nazis are just sorta here, because it was the latest sci-fi property to get rebooted for no good reason. I still do, really. But now? Now, that curiosity is really biting me in the ass.

Tonight’s season premiere only proves that the show’s producers know they need to do something to generate new interest in their show, now slated to end prematurely after nine more episodes this season, instead of the originally planned 13. They just don’t know what that something is. “Red Rain” chucks new and mostly random mythology at the viewer, one of many signs that the writers know full well that the show is on its last legs and has no real chance of making a meteoric comeback.

Tonight’s episode is as slapdash and unfocused as I think I’ve seen the show get. There’s a palpable air of desperation about its moribund proceedings (forgive the inadvertent Alan Partridge paraphrase, please), especially surrounding the fact that the show’s writers felt like they needed to make keeping up appearances the Visitors’ continued priority, even while their show is kinda dying for something to happen, anything, really. And yet, the V's are still trying to appear benevolent to the humans, even after they made the clouds a nice Krypton-red and showered humanity in blood. Yes, the Visitors somehow managed to fool a gullible earth populace by telling them, “Hey, slow down there, you presumptuous primitives! That’s not blood; it’s magic rain that just looks exactly like blood. It’ll heal everything on your planet, including finding a quick fix to global warming. Tcha, we’re sorry you thought the apocalypse was upon you. Our bad!”

That laughably dumb and totally implausible about-face comes from the fact that Anna is now having great difficulty keeping her emotionless façade intact. This is because, just as in season one’s finale, we’re being told instead of shown how much Anna was attached to those anonymous eggs she pooped out for the sake of making an army from spawn she made with a random guy she bedded and then killed. Yes, I get it; she’s becoming more human and what human doesn’t magically (yes, magic again; this is probably the only way to explain away the show’s many inanities) develop feelings for things you crap out into a giant space pond and never really try to emotionally connect with until they’re mostly all dead? Anna only sheds a few crocodile tears in “Red Rain,” shot from a distance so that we can't see that the Morena Baccarin still can’t act, once she finds out that the soldiers that survived the explosion are imperfect. So yes, if you must know, Anna is going through some changes right now, and that means the status quo is going to be maintained for a little while longer. All the while, the writers (in this case, Scott Rosenbaum and Gregg Hurwitz) are now scrambling to develop her character beyond the cold-blooded, know-it-all, sociopathic stick figure she’s been since season one. And everyone has to suffer for it.

The rest of “Red Rain” is just as poorly plotted, moving incrementally forward to clownishly establish character-driven moments from utterly random altercations. Events escalate for reasons that are never sufficiently explained, save for the fact that, as Anna says to her troops, it’s happening for a reason. That and a little sense of urgency and you may actually have a show worth watching. Ryan’s biggest, most revelatory scene this week was when a “tracker,” a kind of Visitor we’ve never seen or heard alluded to before, trails the members of the Fifth Column and winds up dying after Ryan violently forces him to commit suicide. Okay, seems reasonable enough on paper: The Vs have Ryan’s wife and child, and it’s taking a toll on him. So we had to find a way to show that anger, right? By killing a meat puppet. Oh. Right.

I’m not buying that load of unforgivably lazy storytelling for the same reason I don’t buy Rosenbaum and Hurrwitz’s lunk-headed attempt at advancing Tyler and Lisa’s relationship in another poorly edited make-out session (lots of choppy inserts of flailing arms and elbows, no actual signs of passion, romance, emotion) or the revelation that the skeleton of “Alpha,” the first known Visitor on Earth, triggers with Erica. These plot developments are either a result of or in service to new, dissatisfying twists that come from nowhere and don’t need any context to work. There’s no sense that they come from anywhere but a bored writer's vain attempt to push an already dead horse along a bit further so it can reach the finish line before collapsing. They’re just there because something needs to be, which might as well be the tagline for the show. When Anna tells her fellow Visitors, “I assure you it was all part of my plan… You have no cause to worry; I have everything under control,” I get flashbacks to Lost. And unlike some of my fellow TV Clubbers, I definitely don’t mean that as a compliment.

For some reason, the most offensive thing about “Red Rain” to my mind is the fact that the show’s creators are clearly trying to flaunt the fact that they have a slightly bigger budget. (Or maybe they just know how to use their old one better now? Or something?) Huzzah, the inside of the tank featuring Ryan’s alien baby looks like it might have actually cost money! Too bad little else in the show looks significantly better. This just begs the question: Why bother highlighting effects as cheap-looking as the scene where Anna slashes the human face off of a random V officer unless you have the budget to make it look good? Wouldn’t it have been enough to just show Anna’s face while she flayed that random grunt within an inch of his life? The make-up effects guy did a reasonable job on Anna’s victim, so why not let his work speak for itself?

Logically, director Bryan Spicer can’t really be trying to hide Baccarin this early in the season, even if you’d think, nay, hope that he and the show's producers would have learned by now that she’s got no screen presence to work with. No, that scene is specifically designed to show off the show’s bigger budget, nothing else, just like how all the scenes with the tracker, the one with Alpha, and the PG-13 scene of under-the-clothes petting did was slavishly push forward a few tired plot points. Still, keep in mind: We’re talking about watching a guy get stabbed in the face repeatedly with a lizard tail that looks like it came from Paul W.S. Anderson’s Mortal Kombat movie. And now I kinda want to rewatch the Mortal Kombat movie. Thanks, “Red Rain.” Thanks a lot.

Stray observations:

  • Science-less scifi: Phosphorus—didn’t Ryan just explain that it’s an element from his planet? If so, why do Earth scientists know about it?
  • “You are experiencing human emotion.” Thanks for that. Really, that, more than why the death of instantly disposable soldier eggs that were born from a loveless union evoked the aforementioned response, needed explaining.
  • “Hello, mother.” Karen Black?! Is that… could that be you? (Nah, it's just Jane Badler.)
  • “A crater loaded with bodies; really creepy.” No shit.
  • Wow, what cover of Creepy did they steal the opening image of the son’s face melting from? At least they stole from someone interesting that time. That image is the only time so far that a “creepy image that advertises far in advance the fact that we’re watching a dream sequence” has been employed effectively in the show, I think.
  • Anna smirk count: II
  • Terrible, hokey way to film parkour—all stupid wirework, slow mo and featuring inappropriate noise effects from innocent bystanders (the gasp the lady that gets audibly jostled by the track proves that nobody’s thinking too hard about constructing the action scenes in this show).
  • We weren't sure we'd be covering V this season but figured we'd drop in for the premiere, at least. Want to see more coverage? Let us know. Maybe we'll listen to your demands!
Filed Under: TV, V

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