After months of waiting, with fans clamoring on ABC’s doorstep, building gigantic mock spaceships and sending pet lizards to studio heads, V is finally back with us after an endless break. Those lackluster first four episodes sure kept me salivating (hey, at least ABC didn’t release a $40 “V, Season One, Part One” DVD) and I was really encouraged by the kooky anti-big government immunization conspiracy slant the show took in its final episode.
Amid rumors of creative turmoil, V has a new showrunner, the talented Scott Rosenbaum (who cut his teeth on The Shield and Chuck), and a plum timeslot after the final episodes of Lost to see if it can ensnare some new fans. So, was “Welcome to the War” much of an improvement? Not really. There were definitely some glimpses of how V could, under the right circumstances, be a fun show to watch. But the fundamental flaws it had back in November haven’t really gone away.
This week’s title suggested a stepping up of the show’s action quotient, which had been very lacking. That didn’t really happen, but the wheels have started turning towards something a little more intense than Erica and her elite squad of morons blowing up flu vaccines. On the resistance side, a new member was added, and he’s a sexy English mercenary for hire! On the alien side, Anna had awkward sex with a nervous-looking porn actor and apparently that’s enough to furnish them with an entire army. So, the deck’s still stacked against us Fifth Columnists, I guess.
I’ll talk more about Anna’s awkward sex life later. Back to V’s most particular, grating flaw: for a show about an alien invasion, there sure are a heck of a lot of scenes where people talk in windowless rooms. Or on green-screened sets. All they do is talk. Yak, yak, yak. It really detracts from the menace of the aliens when a supposedly atmospheric shot revolving 360 degrees around them in their spaceship instead makes everything look like a shitty videogame. I feel like a cheap-looking set, no matter how cheap, would still distract less.
The humans’ scenes aren’t a whole lot better, because most of the characters still don’t feel fleshed-out enough to be having real conversations; instead dialogue about rebellion and resistance is just being bounced around the room. Elizabeth Mitchell is doing her best, and she sells lines like “IF I HAVE TO CROSS A LINE TO BLOW THAT BITCH OUT OF THE SKY, I WILL” as best she can. None of the others—shifty Georgie, handsome Ryan and brow-furrowed Father Jack—feel larger-than-life, which they really should on a show like this.
There were definitely some cool moments this week. I liked Ryan’s original method of showing that he’s a visitor by pulling his eye down. Anna sniffing at the beefcake studs chosen to populate her army was kinda cute, and her chowing down on her mate afterwards was the kind of freaky shit we need to see more of. Best was Lourdes Benedicto, who has had nothing to do as Ryan’s pregnant girlfriend Valerie, eating a thousand omelets to satisfy the lizard gestating inside her and then contemplating eating a dead rat. Perfect way to wink at the old show while still being amusingly gross.
But most plot points in “Welcome to the War” were just ridiculous. The flu vaccines got blown up, so the Visitors offer to help the FBI solve the case with their case-solving computer machine, which can seemingly pull prints off of C4 even after it’s exploded. V’s iteration of the FBI, who have to be the most pathetic Dunder-Mifflin-esque crime-fighting unit I’ve ever seen committed to television, are happy to have the work taken off their hands and try and arrest the suspect the aliens frame, a British paramilitary gun-for-hire dude called Hobbes. And heck, they almost nab him, but he escapes out the back door, because what FBI SWAT team would remember to cover the back door when going after one of America’s Most Wanted?
Erica instead decides to recruit Hobbes, who is clearly being introduced to shake the Fifth Column up a bit. He is at least slightly more dynamic than the other idiots (Father Jack bleats, “but he’s a known terrorist!” with the same familiarity that we all have with ex-military Brit mercenaries). Ryan points out that he doesn’t have much of a stake in the invasion as compared to the rest of them, but come on, I mean, lizards are invading the Earth. We’ve all pretty much got a stake in that one, I think. Also, he kinda looks like Chris Eigeman (if only) but he’s actually Charles Mesure, who’s been in a bunch of stuff I never saw.
Father Jack also got stabbed by an alien, then healed by another alien, then injected with their evil alien liquid that they wanted to put in the flu vaccines. We find out that this is how they’re keeping track of everyone with their red video feeds. And in the dullest development yet, the Visitors probe Erica’s son Tyler’s mind so they can study…his MEMORIES. Ooh. His girlfriend Supergirl seems a bit bothered at first, but the problem is actually that she doesn’t understand emotion; she’s like a robot asking why that human is leaking out of his eye. Anna reminds her that Visitors are not burdened with such things. If this is a plot development, it’s pretty lame. Is that why the Fifth Columnists are rebels? Because they seem plenty emotional. Then again, so does Anna when she talks about “eviscerating” them.
The emotion conversation was actually my big problem with V’s return. Who cares about dead-eyed robot lizard aliens hell-bent on harvesting/destroying/colonizing us? I’d like to see some passion from my villains. Morena Baccarin does a good job, but she’s good at bringing the creepy, and I especially liked her lizard-like movements as she circled her mate in the breeding scene. But the rest of the aliens are so boring and colorless.
There’s a little hope as Rosenbaum is definitely moving the plot forward, and mostly in the right direction. But I’d like to see more characters, less process, please. V needs to learn how to have fun.
Jack's old priest buddy, to Georgie: "I'm afraid there's been an accident. Jack was stabbed last evening." Oh? Accidentally?
Erica says "don't tell me what I can't do!" Ha. Was that an intentional Lost reference?
The bald Observer-from-Fringe-ripoff alien assassin idiotically fails to kill his target and then helpfully informs Erica that his heart is located on the other side, so she can stab him extra fatally.
Did anyone think Anna’s creepy sex scene was made all the hotter by her turning her partner’s head away from her during the act? Bizarre. “My army is to be born” is not pillow talk I ever want to hear.