Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TV REVIEW: V: "It's Only The Beginning"

Last night, ABC's V actually remembered that it is supposed to be a science fiction series.

The episode, entitled "It's Only The Beginning," featured a tantalizing glimpse of a Visitor narcotic called "Bliss," a view of the mothership engine room and propulsion system, and then climaxed with galactic implications: a cosmic pull-back from Mother Earth. It was a CGI push away from our world, through the asteroid belt, to the fringe of the solar system itself -- a move designed to reveal a fleet of V ships...waiting for the order to colonize.

This final, impressive shot seemed like a spiritual heir (and homage...) to an iconic shot from the original 1980s series: a similar pull-back through orbital space that revealed a slew of Visitor saucers hidden behind our moon. It was a nice, ominous touch.

Contrarily, the episode last night opened with one of those hackneyed "Fourteen Hours Earlier" tricks that is tell-tale sign of post-production editing pickles. I know: I had to deploy the same tired gimmick myself in one episode of The House Between when fashioning a difficult third season episode almost out-of-whole-cloth. But once beyond that underwhelming beginning, this episode moved fast and revealed a lot; much more, in fact, than the previous three episodes combined.


For instance, we saw that the Visitors are equipped with suicide pills that disintegrate their bodies should they be captured or discovered. The suicide pill leaves nothing behind but ash, and is surely an homage to another alien invasion series, the brilliant 1960s endeavor The Invaders. As you may recall from that Roy Thinnes program, David Vincent could never prove his case about the aliens because the corpses of the invaders always went up in smoke and spontaneously combusted before authorities could arrive.

Also -- finally -- this new V acknowledged in "It's Only The Beginning" that "skinning" a Visitor could be the very thing to wake up our people from apparent mindless devotion to our new extra-terrestrial "friends." When this idea is brought up, however, Ryan goes ballistic and tells the Resistance fighters he better not ever hear them talking about such a thing again. The reason, ostensibly, is that the Visitors would retaliate with tremendous force and wipe everybody out. I don't know how believable Ryan's explanation is, but I'm happy to see that the issue was addressed. This was exactly what I was seeking; just a simple acknowledgment that skinning a Visitor on TV was a legitimate battle option.

Last night's show also revived the anti-Obama subtext of the pilot. Ryan -- a secret Visitor -- has a faked birth certificate showing he was born in "Hawaiian Gardens," California. As Orly Taitz will tell you, Obama's purportedly "fake" birth certificate names Hawaii as the state of (fake) birth. Coincidence?


Also, the episode's central plot -- a Visitor scheme to poison our seasonal flu shots with an alien substance called R6 -- clearly parallels the tea bagger furor and resistance over government-mandated flu vaccinations. Again, I don't agree with V's paranoid right-wing view of Obama (I'm still waiting for the FEMA concentration camps -- or at least our taxes to go up -- before I resist). But if you want a timely subtext or context, there it is, enunciated between the lines.

V clearly has a long way to go before it becomes "must see TV," but I do feel the series is clawing itself out of the deep ditch it dug in the first two awful weeks. Personally, I find Erica Mitchell's character, Agent Evans, difficult to warm up to as a lead character. She's more reptilian and cold than the Visitors, to tell you the truth. No wonder her son, Tyler is looking elsewhere for warmth.

Yet last night -- for the first time -- momentum was undeniably building. I actually found myself caring about finding what was going to happen next.

And, of course, that means we must now to wait till March 2010 for the next episode...

4 comments:

  1. John, I agree with your opinion of last night's V episode (particularly nice line about Anna, "She's not going to bite you"), and I also think that the 4-month hiatus is going to spell rapid death for the series. Just as it begins building momentum, it stops for 4 months? I wouldn't be surprised if the ratings drop by 50% by the time the series returns. You remember what happened to "Now and Again" 10 years ago, when that show's 2-month hiatus caused the audience to forget about it once it returned.
    One problem from the original series that the new one is repeating is the concept that humans and Visitors can impregnate each other. A human couldn't mate with an earth lizard and create a baby, why should two vastly different life forms from different star systems be able to produce offspring? And, even if they do some genetic tinkering to allow Lisa to mate with Tyler, that still doesn't explain how the sleeper 5th columnist was able to impregnate his human girlfriend, when he's been out of the Visitor loop for over 20 years.

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  2. Happy Thanksgiving, Howard, my old friend!

    You're right about the momentum (and your Now and Again example is apt). When V returns, it may not garner the ratings it has thus far. On the other hand, maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder...


    On the mating of two species...it certainly strains believability.

    If I recall the original series, Diana planned to have Robin impregnated, and so may have done some experiments to assure a successful breeding. (The sex occurred under watchful eye on the mothership, I think...).

    But it's clear from the new V that Ryan doesn't have the resources of the Visitors at his disposal, just as you said.

    He just got...lucky!?

    best,
    John

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  3. Hey John, Happy Thanksgiving!

    I've been following your reviews of each episode and I found myself smiling every time they would address issues that you expressed they had overlooked, such as the dead fighter pilot and the option of revealing Ryan as a visitor on national TV.

    If anything, this "re-imagined" version of the show has only made me want to watch the two mini-series, which is exactly what me and Sarah did this week. You are correct, Robin was implied to have been impregnated on the mothership. Also, if you'll recall, the resistance had revealed the leader John as a lizard on national TV at some public function hosted by the visitors. The visitor's response was that to announce that it was an elaborate hoax and the skinning was faked. I imagine that this could be used by the "current" visitors as well, though I dont think at this point of the show they have as much control of the media and public perception as they did in the original.

    Anyway, just some thoughts. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching the original mini-series and 'The Final Battle' but was disappointed (like I was those 25 years ago) by the whole "pretenama" scene at the end when the half-breed child starts glowing and prevents the mothership from destroying the Earth. That just totally came out of the nowhere and is, in my opinion, a very disappointing final moment to an otherwise brilliant series.

    I never watched the original TV series that followed this so I'm not sure if it was ever addressed.

    Take care and have a happy and safe holidays.

    Henry

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  4. Hey Henry!

    Great comment! You know, I never cared for the ending of The Final Battle either. It seemd a real cop-out, even at the time. I understand it was a comment about races coming together, but I never felt that Elizabeth's super powers were adequately set-up or explained. I mean, neither humans nor Visitors were capable of such acts of magic!

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    JKM

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