Tonight on V, more things looked like they were going to happen but then, ultimately, they didn’t. Which is basically an apt, if a bit vague, description of most of the episodes in season one. But still: that one sentence basically tells you much of what you need to know about tonight’s episode. The show’s major plot points are still moving forward at a snail’s pace, even though the show is slated to be cancelled after eight more episodes. And there’s still no widespread human/alien conflict going down.
Oh, right, sorry, a baby step toward what might eventually turn into a conflict did happen in “Serpent’s Tooth:” Erica and Hobbes teamed up to track down and catch Fifth Columnist separatists that are blowing themselves up all around 39 different cities where V ships are stationed. To his credit, somehow, staff writer Gregg Hurwitz avoided using the standard “And that’s exactly how Anna likes it!” methodology because, well, that’s supposed to be the threat she poses. She’s a calculating, superior mind that can’t emote or even necessarily understand the important of emotions but still led her species of cold-blooded aliens to Earth in order to interbreed with humans to perpetuate the species. But at least now, after the events of "Red Rain," we're at least seeing that there are some things Anna does not control and apparently humans blowing themselves up out of protest is one of them. (Update: As some of you have noted, I screwed up and completely missed a scene where Anna proves definitively that the Vs are not secretly for the suicide bombings. My point still stands however re: the show's rote "Anna's always responsible!" schtick)
Then again, isn't it ridiculously easy to think that at some point, Anna's going to be responsible for all of this? She’s responsible for pretty much everything in the show. At this point, if something’s amiss, you can be bet you’ll soon be seeing Morena Baccarin’s heinously over-used signature smirk. That certainty is best confirmed in a single hazy throw-away line from tonight’s episode. Anna’s talking with her mother Diana, who she’s kept in the ship’s fruit cellar for-ev-er for reasons that make no clear sense because Anna defends her actions with a line like “I did what I had to do to protect our species.” I probably get what she means—a further extension of her distaste for human emotions that’s only now sprung up after the lizard baby army she used to have no feelings for was destroyed, making her instantly have feelings for them—but I’d like hearing her say that in such a way that she doesn’t sound like a rejected Lost-away.
So yeah, anyway, Anna is predictably responsible for what look like human suicide bombings, making these violent protests yet another failed attempt to draw the Fifth Columnists out and take advantage of their supporters’ goodwill and yet, as usual, the scheme doesn’t quite come off. Because they probably never will. Because this show is creatively tapped out and probably never really had answers to give in the first place. The scene where Erica interrogates a failed V bomber proves once again that the show isn’t just deliberately sluggish but also has got no answers worth giving. The terrorist in question gives nothing up, saying that if you kill one of them, another will take their place. This is not only a good sign that the initial Anna-as-Space-Obama analogy was way off—the terrorists have more in common with the Hydra Agents from Marvel’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. comics than actual terrorists. It’s also a sign that the show’s writers would rather have a character as important as Erica wasting her time pursuing yet another dead-end plotline instead of dealing with the newest twist they just gave her character in “Red Rain.”
Granted, this week’s “Next Time on V” segment suggests that Erica’s “My baby’s daddy might have been a V” will develop in the next episode, following some discovery she’ll make after Erica captures and, according to the “Next Time” footage, later tortures Battlestar Galactica’s Rekha Sharma, who not surprisingly plays a V double agent. But really, wasn’t there some way they could have skipped that perfunctory step of having the Fifth Columnists capture a new lead, not because of any skill or resourcefulness, but rather because of a fluke coincidence (the only reason Sharma gets caught is because Erica notices some blood on her scarf)? Worse still, isn’t this just positioning us into virtually the same exact scenario as the one in “We Can’t Win,” where a tortured V collaborator utters that very phrase and then stops giving up valuable information? Is that what V has come down to: A long slog to conclusions that we’ve kinda already seen before but have now been repurposed to serve an agenda that was literally just made up so that the show could continue into a second season (Emotions bad! Vs mate with humans!)?
Speaking of random new paradigms enforced haphazardly, apparently Ryan’s new thing, apart from letting Anna use him just because she’s kidnapped his daughter, is allowing himself to be manipulated for the stupidest reasons. Yes, the V's still have his daughter, but now they’ve painted human skin on her and given her a “disease that even our physicians can’t treat” according to Anna, making Ryan putty in Anna’s hands. This would just be mediocre, boilerplate stuff if Anna hadn’t tried to make it seem as if the straw that broke the Lizard-Man’s back is when she needles him about not having a soul. Because apparently, the secret to controlling human emotion, a question Anna’s been concerned with now for all of two episodes, is recognizing the soul as the source of human emotions. And even though Ryan can cry for his daughter, who probably just has an inter-stellar case of colic, he genuinely gets shook up when Anna tells him, “You have no soul, Ryan. You will never have a soul.”
Plot-wise, V really just needs to stop twiddling its thumbs and move forward at an explosive clip. Just like when Father Jack prays to figure out what he can do for Ryan and prays for a sign (and Chad winds up walking through the doors; if Chad is God’s sign to Father Jack, then boy, is Father Jack screwed!), so too must the show’s writers have greater faith in their audience’s intelligence and just give up the pretense of having these grand plans that will eventually materialize out of the events of totally immaterial individual episode plots that only wind up enforcing a new nonsensical and still laughably stale status quo. It’s (still) do or die time, so why isn’t shit hitting the fan hard and fast yet?
- How ‘bout those terrible special effects that nobody seems to want to either patch up or do a better job of working around? This week’s lousiest SFX moment has got to be when Anna swallows a lab mouse whole after slowly unhinging her jaw. The greenscreen matting on the mouse alone was painful on the eyes, but the image of Anna opening her mouth at a leisurely pace was really excruciating. Again: If you don’t have the budget to make a gaping, toothy lizard mouth look good, at least admit it and move around the scene by not showing us anything. Some suggestive crunching, squeaking and belching noises would have sufficed. Stop trying to show off what’s not there to begin with.
- Baccarin still bothers me. I’m sure she can act, Firefly fans, but I don’t think she’s trying in this show at all. It’s as if she knows how bad the material is and doesn’t want to earn her paycheck. And since so much of the show relies on her deadpan leers and that one damn facial expression, that can be pretty deadly.
- “It’s Earth or nothing.” Was that a Nerf reference?
- The joke where Hobbes is searching a terrorist’s apartment and pockets a copy of The Art of War also bothers me, mostly because as a one-off joke, it’s no more satisfying or deep than his character or the level of character development in general on the show. The writers need to prove that they can get the basics of their story down before they can make stupid, meaningless jokes like that without me wanting to hurl something at the TV.
- Commercial Break: “It’s a very special place/the kind you want to share with oth-ers.” Please. Please, make the screaming stop.
- Commercial Break: David Spade pimping out 7-Up with a line like “Not too shabby, neighbor” is the most surreal thing I will see all week.