Wednesday, November 18, 2009

TV REVIEW: V: "A Bright New Day"

If you've been keeping up with this blog, you know I'm not the world's most devout fan of the new ABC version of V.

However, last night's episode, "A Bright New Day," was aptly-named by my reckoning. It seemed like the first installment of the series that was at all promising. In other words...a distinct improvement.

I feel this way because some of my gripes about the new series were actually addressed. For instance, instead of merely hearing about the general reaction of Americans to the Visitors, in last night's segment we actually witnessed some of that reaction.

Early in "A Bright New Day," we got a lightning-quick montage of various confused people in the confession booth at St. Josephine's. "Are the Visitors demons or angels?" "Is everything we believe a lie?" "Can they heal my sister's cancer?"
They asked Father Jack. Again, this was a lightning-quick touch -- a token move, perhaps -- but it was nonetheless a start at constructing the larger global context that has largely been absent thus far.

We also met the wife of the U.S. Air Force pilot killed in the first episode, Mary Faulkner, and learned of her issues with the aliens. In the spirit of Diana, the tricky Anna co-opted this human leader and even (finally...) had a good scene (told in jump cuts...) during which she rehearsed the correct human emotions for dealing with grief. A very slippery lizard, this Anna.

"A Bright New Day" also afforded the series the first mention by name of the Visitor's Fifth Column, an important ingredient of the original series. And beyond that, we got more detailed glimpses of Visitor technology, Visitor written language...and Visitor's lady's underwear. These are all steps in the right direction and signs, I hope, that the show is making a much-needed course correction.

Most impressively, "A Bright New Day" featured at least two authentic, jaw-dropping surprises during the hour. I'm an old hand with genre TV, but I didn't see either of these shocks coming. Again, for perhaps the first time, I felt last night that V was actually making a concerted effort to entertain, rather than just kind of plodding around on automatic pilot.

My big concern with the series now is something that a clever reader brought to my attention last week. In the comments for the review of last week's episode, a reader named Pete noted "if the V traitor *really* wants to fight the V, why doesn't he just go on TV and expose himself as a reptile?"

As hard as I've tried to suspend disbelief since reading that comment...I just can't do it. This is the elephant (or reptile...) in the room.

The whole premise of V and a Visitor Fifth Column just crumbles when you consider this idea; that Ryan, the Fifth Columnist, could defeat the Visitors in one swift stroke by going on television and cutting open his human skin to reveal his scales before a live global audience. Last night, even Anna noted herself the importance of public opinion; and keeping public opinion in favor of the Visitors. Imagine how public opinion would swing against the aliens if Ryan went on TV and revealed to the world that the Visitors were a pack of liars? All the material in "A Bright New Day" about Ryan re-organizing the Fifth Column is a runaround; a time-waste., a cheat. If he wants to win in one fell swoop, Ryan would simply himself to the world.

Now two things. First, some people might say Ryan doesn't want his fiance to know he's a lizard. My answer: priorities, Ryan, priorities! How happy of a marriage can he hope to have if the Visitors are ruling the world? If their love is true, his girlfriend would forgive him his lizardly nature. Secondly, the series could get around this point simply by acknowledging it: by having a throwaway line from Ryan in which he says he can't reveal himself on TV because he's afraid of his girlfriend's reaction or something. It would still be stupid; but at least it would be acknowledged.

However, that's not the end of it. Here's my sinister, paranoid side coming out. There is one other way in which Ryan's unwillingness to reveal his lizard-nature makes narrative sense. What if the Fifth Column is not only anti-Visitor, but also anti-human? What if Ryan, as part of the Fifth Column, is actually carrying water for another malevolent force out to harm humanity, and thus can't reveal himself for that purpose? Remember, the original V miniseries ended with the Resistance sending a message to the Visitor's wartime enemy, another alien race. out there in space

So is V setting this subplot up with Ryan's refusal to strip for the camera? We'll see. I hope that I'm not being cleverer than the writers of the series here...

6 comments:

  1. You're being more clever than the writers. :)

    But I hope it happens -- it would be a great plot twist that would make this new version of V somewhate interesting. It's been deadly dull so far.

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  2. You presume revealing they are lizards would be enough for humans not to trust them or accept all their miracle cures and technology. Our selfishness outweighs our insecurities. So what if they are lizards? What does that reveal about their true intentions? For that matter, we don't know the exact purpose of the sleeper cells, or of the fifth column. We can't presume Ryan is keeping quiet because he's assimilated to life as a human and fallen in love with a human female. There's a million reasons not to, dissection being a big one. The fifth column could simply be the opposing political party.

    Just because they are lizards, doesn't mean they are bad guys, and lying about it only proves one thing - they understand our superficial prejudices. Say the fifth column does reveal they are lizards. Anna just comes out and says yes we've had people among you for years paving the way for us to reveal ourselves to you. They simply confirmed human prejudices that revealing their true appearance would likely result in the deaths of humans and aliens from conflicts that are based solely on their appearance.

    In short, there's a lot of plot details that have to be revealed before it's safe assumption about the elephant being in the room.

    I'm with you, disappointed by what the series has been because of it's overwhelming potential and the trite nature of the first two episodes, and encouraged by the last episode and what I hope are deep but slowly developing storylines.

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  3. I finally caught up to the third episode last night. It's getting better, but still not as good as the original and it's definitely not living up to its potential. The third episode finally started laying the groundwork for some interesting stories. Most of them are based on storypoints from the original show however, so the criticism that the new version doesn't hold any surprises is still valid.

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  4. Yeah. I still think V is underwhelming. This week's episode was an improvement, but the outlook still isn't good...

    best,
    JKM

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  5. “What if the Fifth Column is not only anti-Visitor, but also anti-human? What if Ryan, as part of the Fifth Column, is actually carrying water for another malevolent force out to harm humanity, and thus can't reveal himself for that purpose?”

    And therein the problem rests…this would be too good to be true. My fear is that this level of complexity would be lost on the average viewer, and it’s average viewers who give the show ratings and who thus keep the show on the air. I would indeed be impressed and blown away if this turned out to be the case.

    But your point about Ryan revealing himself is an excellent one. Even if *he* doesn’t want to reveal himself as a reptile, he could have revealed the V who attempted to turn him in. (At least in FirstWave the aliens vanished after being killed). That said, this is a plot hole so large that it really does ruin the show for me. It makes it impossible for me to suspend disbelief.

    (One quick and unrelated final note: why don't they have better security?? So they can travel across the galaxy, speak every language, put themselves in human bodies, but they can't make a decent door lock?)

    pete

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  6. Pete:

    Oh my gosh, your comment about Visitor security made me laugh out loud.

    You keep blowing real holes in V's credibility. At this rate, by next week's episode, I'll be unable to suspend any disbelief whatsoever! :)

    best,
    John

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