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First Episode of V Makes Me Want to Watch the Rest

November 6, 2009

As you know, I have vowed not to get excited about any movie or TV show ever again, after the crushing disappointment that was Terminator Salvation.  I have realized, like the Buddha, that desire is the root of all suffering.  As such, I could not have cared less about the remake of the 1980s show V even though as a kid it was the coolest shit ever watching lizard-aliens swallow rodents whole while being all fascist and stuff.  So I sat down on my couch at 7:58p Tuesday night and waited nonchalantly for a show that I can never care about.

OK, I’m kind of excited.  Since a lot of people remember bits and pieces from the original, the pilot didn’t screw around and got straight to the alien arrival.  Vibrating coffee cups, broken vases, a falling Jesus—you name it and a giant hovering extraterrestrial ship caused it.  We get loads of exposition right up front: the “visitors” need water and an unnamed mineral from us.  In return, they’ll give us advanced technology, good health, and the final, irrevocable death of Two and a Half Men.  In other words—actually, in the aliens’ words—they are “of peace.”

They don’t fool anyone, except for the millions Earthlings benefitting from the visitors’ largess, which includes healing the sick and giving people free shuttle rides to the mother ship.  Such a trip is taken by suitably angsty Tyler, the teenage son of FBI agent Erica Evans (Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell) who is pursuing a “terrorist” cell somehow linked to the aliens’ arrival.  The second-most annoying thing in the pilot happens to be the acting of, or perhaps the writing for, Tyler and a friend, who spout “dude-man, totally awesome!” lines the entire episode.  The pilot also introduces a stock divorce storyline to add mom-son tension between Erica and Tyler, but also to create an intra-family rift regarding the “V”s (Tyler hearts them, Erica does not) meant to mirror society’s ambivalence.

The first-worst thing about the pilot is the dialogue.  There are truly terrible exchanges that could have been fixed with a few simple tweaks, but they weren’t.  Instead, we get moments like one between human resistance organizer Georgie and former resistance member Ryan (Morris Chestnut) in which Georgie actually asks Ryan if he’s just going to “sit on the sidelines.”  That is the exact phrase I was asked to recite when reading for the part of Old Military Dude for a terrible movie called The Detail.  (Fellow Tweeder Tomlin read for the part of “Orphan #?”  Remember that, Chris?)  Ryan responds that he’s “not that guy anymore,” and his fiancé “doesn’t know about [his] past.”  Later, when Ryan and fiancé Val are communicating honestly, she says “so you still love me?”  Ryan answers with (say it with me) “More than you’ll ever know.”  I actually vurped during that scene, but probably because I’d had several beers and a half-pound of sliced pepperoni and olives.

Other than a few tiny plot holes, everything else seemed to be in place.  The pacing was excellent—enough exposition to clue the viewer in, but enough action and mystery to keep people interested.  Very little is revealed about the visitors’ true plan, though we know something’s up due to the brutal disruption of a human resistance meeting.  In one of the most well-done scenes, resistance leader Georgie’s speech about the Vs’ sinister intentions is intercut with alien leader Anna’s too-good-to-be-true speech to humans.  The editing and the contrast in set construction and lighting are brilliant: we know Georgie is correct and that we shouldn’t trust the visitors, but we don’t entirely trust him.  We know we can’t trust Anna, but she is so disarming that we almost give her the benefit of the doubt.  It’s a great commentary on emotion and insinuation vs. ration and proof, and is played out on a larger scale throughout the pilot.  Morena Baccarin as V leader Anna makes this possible.  She is a little too open and accommodating, a little too nice.  We know to be suspicious, we know something is off, we know she’ll end up being treasonous and duplicitous.  Somehow, though, we still like her.

Although a little rushed, V’s pilot does a great job pulling in the viewer and setting up what will become an epic conflict.  Get past the dialogue and some overacting, and we’ve got a real series on our hands.

(V airs Tuesdays at 10:00p on ABC.)

V, Episode 1 (Pilot)
V, Episode 2 (There Is No Normal Anymore)
V, Episode 3 (A Bright New Day)
V, Episode 4 (It’s Only The Beginning)
V, Episodes 5-8

  1. November 6, 2009 4:21 pm

    Matt, I wasn’t nearly as pleased with the pilot as you were, which I attribute to one thing: I was amped for the show and came away somewhat disappointed. You were skeptical and came away impressed. I had a really hard time with the dialogue and the fact that Erica was all, “screw aliens…TERRORISTS, man!” I’m giving it a second go around next week, but it’s got some work to do to get to Flash Forward level for me.

    • Matt Shorr permalink*
      November 7, 2009 12:23 pm

      Tyler: I was super-stoked about Star Wars I, II, II; The Matrix I, II; and Terminator Salvation. I got burned by all of them, so I have decided not to get excited about any movie or show henceforth. (This is why I expect nothing from Avatar.) It’s a hard way for a sci-fi/horror fan to live, but it allows me to enjoy stuff I may otherwise have dismissed due to high expectations. So while we approached V from opposite sides, we came to the same conclusion: crappy dialog, but we’ll give it another shot. Good luck to both of us.


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