In a way, it's a little frustrating designating ourselves cheerleaders for this show. We're not completely ignorant of the flaws so far, but we like the show in spite of them and because we see a tremendous amount of potential in the concept. There was a hint of a germ of an idea in the pilot when political buzzwords like the deliberately familiar "hope and change" as well as the anvil-heavy "universal healthcare" were tossed around. A lot of people jumped on that and assumed that the show was somehow an anti-Obama tract dressed up as a science fiction show but we think it goes a bit further than that. We touched on this when we wrote about the pilot, but we want to revisit it for a second here to explain why we see such potential.
The original V debuted in the early '80s and we suppose someone could make the argument that it was somehow a response to Reaganism but frankly we think that's a stretch. Anyone with a base understanding of recent history knows that the differences both political and cultural between 2009 and 1983 are vast and we think the show is attempting to play off of that. We live in hyper-politicized times and for all the talk of cold war-era fears being reflected in the television shows and movies of the time, our art has only really tangentially touched on post 9/11 fears, even though we'd argue as people who lived through both periods, the fear of nuclear annihilation was no greater than the current 21st century American fears of terrorism, immigration, economic collapse and environmental degradation. In addition to those fears weighing down on us, we are stuck in the grips of a two-decade long "culture war" that shows no signs of letting up. This is why we think the show has such potential: because it can easily play off of the post-millenial hysteria and use it to give the story more layers and more meaning.
Unfortunately, it's just not quite there yet. We have reason to hope, however. Production on the show was halted after only 4 episodes were completed and the showrunner was replaced. There's a retooling going on at the moment and we hope very much that it happened because someone involved with the show saw the potential that we see. Because of that, these first four episodes have the feel of a prolonged prelude. It's when the show returns in March that we'll really see if the creators involved get what they have on their hands.
Part of what frustrates us about the show is that very few of the characters have any, well...character to them. With the exception of Anna and her daughter (!!!!) Lisa, the rest of the characters have a stock feel to them. Further, the show has no style to it. Everything is shot and art directed in as bland a "network television" style as possible. Take away the aliens and it could easily pass for any basic police procedural on television. In particular, the show suffers terribly from a "Canada passing for New York" aesthetic that sets our teeth on edge.
Another thing that irritates us is that the show doesn't quite have the courage to "go there," to use a phrase. When Ryan had the gun to Cyrus' head last night, we were shouting "Kill him!" Not because we're bloodthirsty but because if you're going to do a story about the potential annihilation of the human race by alien invaders, then you need to take the tension to that level. The literal fate of the world is at stake and everyone who knows that seems to be pussyfooting around quite a bit. It may seem unfair to compare this show to Lost but to our way of thinking, it's unavoidable. Both shows have large ensemble casts and a sci-fi-influenced plotline. The difference is, Lost was never afraid to go there and as the seasons went by, the body count went up and up as the stakes got higher and higher. We need to see that level of intensity here. We need to feel like the stakes really are that high.
None of this is to say that we don't enjoy the show. We do. Immensely. And in fact, we think last night's episode was the strongest yet as multiple plot strands were introduced and existing plot strands moved forward slightly. The creators need to realize what a gold mine they have in Morena Baccarin as Anna. Almost every other actor on the show appears to be struggling a bit to find their character and she alone gives off the impression that she knows her character inside and out. Sure, we love her because she's fabulous and wears fierce clothes, but we also love her because she inhabits the skin of that character (no pun intended) 100%. She's both fabulous and creepy as hell and that's not an easy trick to pull off, especially when you're not dealing with the strongest of scripts. Laura Vandervoort as teen slut V Lisa deserves some credit too. It's funny. We didn't see the "Mother" line coming at all but just before that we were discussing that she was just as fabulous and as coolly creepy as the Anna character is. Now we know why.
Elizabeth Mitchell still seems to be struggling a bit in her role. She needs to be bumped up a bit in the scripts in order to go toe to toe with Anna's character because whether they intended it or not, she is Anna's counterpart in the resistance. This is further illustrated by the fact that her child is about to sleep with Anna's child and if it's anything like the original series, that will result in a hybrid baby, which means both of them will be grandmothers to the same child. Right now, she's a generic TV series FBI agent.
We actually like the work they're doing with Father Jack, who is a bit of a moron when it comes to the spy work he's taken on, but that only makes sense for the character. If he had inexplicably become "Father Jack, Action Priest" overnight, we would have been rolling our eyes. We're glad they finally got the four main characters of the resistance together. We think that took a little long, actually. They shoved so much information at us in the pilot that we assumed every episode was going to move that quickly.
But we're being a little unfair here because like we said, a LOT happened last night. Along with getting the resistance up on its feet, we were treated to several intriguing twists. Number one would be the revelation that Anna is Lisa's mother. Never saw that coming. Also never saw coming the revelation that apparently, there are Fifth Columnists on board the motherships. Is Dale dead? It would make no sense for him not to be, but that's kind of a shame. He had the makings of a great villain. Also, what did Cyrus mean when he talked about being "reconnected" and "the bliss?" And who are the other sleeper agents in the FBI office that Dale mentioned? And how did Ryan seemingly reduce Cyrus into a pile of ash? And how many sleeper agents need to turn on Ryan before he realizes he can't trust the guys? Most importantly of all, who the hell is John May?
It kind of sucks that there's only one episode left before they go on hiatus, but we have to admit, much as we love it, we realize it needs the time to iron out the kinks. Until then, we are of peace. Always.
[Photo Credit: ABC TV]
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Labels: V Season 1, V Series