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V, Episode 2 (There Is No Normal Anymore): I’m Still Watching

November 11, 2009

Pretty good, some bad.  FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) gets raked over the coals for her ignorance surrounding her partner Dale’s disappearance, until she is forced to tell her superior the sort-of truth: she suspects Dale is working with the terrorist cell they have been tracking.  Erica fails to tell her boss that she killed Dale, since it would be difficult to explain that she impaled her 7-year colleague after he turned out to be a lizard covered in human skin working for aliens who seem good but are really evil.  Mitchell does a fine job portraying someone who must act normal while harboring a terrible secret, hardly the first time this has occurred in a TV show.  Aided by good camera work, especially close-ups, angles, and slo-mos, she shows signs of stress and some curt gestures to indicate the toll it’s taking on her in the form of growing paranoia and isolation.  The short hallucination/vision she has in the shower involving Dale holding a gun to her son Tyler’s head was appropriately short and well-played, and actually served the plot.  Yes, the “my superior found out I was lying but is letting me pursue my theory that is crazy on the surface but just believable enough to make him give me enough time to try to prove it, although he hopes I’m wrong,” cliché was completely predictable, but necessary to move things along.

Erica teams up with Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch), who plays confused and dopey pretty well.  He’s the skeptic, in contrast to Father Travis (Scott Hylands) who believes that the Visitors are all part of God’s plan and accepts them without question.  Father Travis could easily be the second-most annoying character, given that so far he’s been a one-note foil for Landry’s outward ambivalence.  This makes me think Father Travis knows a bit more than he lets on, which makes him interesting for the time being.  In this episode alone, though, Landry has a few too many flip-flop before his “come to Jesus” moment, as it were.  Perhaps I should give him a pass.  Faced with letting the authorities handle the intricacies of an alien invasion I knew to be sinister, or joining the fight knowing it could mean being shot with spikes by hovering alien probes, I might think on it for a bit, too.

Tyler Evans and his friend Brandon win “most annoying characters.”  Besides disobeying his mother to chase some hot alien chick, Tyler and Brandon utter the most ridiculous dialogue of the episode.  (This critique, then, should probably be reserved for the writers.  However, Tyler and Brandon deliver their silly lines with such aplomb.)  Brandon actually says to Tyler that he must have some “serious brass clankers” not once, but twice.  Tyler then calls Brandon a “dumbass,” and says about his mom, “seriously, she’d totally freak” if Erica knew he’d become part of the Peace Ambassador’s brigade.  Seconds later in the scene, Brandon actually says, “Two words: Awe Some.”  I vurped again.  I’ve got to stop eating pepperoni and chicken dip before watching this show.

You know what?  Forget that.  I like eating heavy, greasy stuff during my TV viewing.  Which means I’m also going to have to hold down my gorge during scenes with Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut) and fiancée Valerie Holt (Lourdes Benedicto).  They get crappy, lovey-dovey lines and have the most syrupy, treacly interaction in the series.  This is upsetting, since the show is setting Ryan up to be the most interesting character, a dissenter among the ranks, and episode 2 has certainly foreshadowed that something interesting and not very happy might happen to Val.

Overall, the acting is passable, with flashes of brilliance (some of Erica’s scenes this episode were great, though some, like her interaction with Dales’ wife, were pretty underwhelming).  Among Ryan, Erica, and Father Jack, more brows are furrowed than in any other non-crime-procedural show.  Again, I can’t fault the actors so much as the writers/director(s) for giving them pretty stock lines and not much to do.  The one bright spot so far is Morena Baccarin, who knocks it out of the park as the calculating Visitor leader Anna.  Baccarin plays calm benevolence then switches to subtle menace and back with a simple hardening of expression or softening of the voice.  Her scenes with telejournalist Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) work well, with each one thinking the other is being manipulated (my guess is that Decker will be on the short end of the stick).  Like the other actors, Baccarin hasn’t been given much to do yet but has worked very well within her script confines.

Episode 2 moved the plot along, though a little slowly.  We found out that ultra technologically advanced floating alien recon-and-assault probes somehow take shitty, grainy pictures.  Some character roles solidified (Ryan, Father Jack, Erica,) and some muddied (Chad, Erica’s FBI colleagues, and I still say Father Travis).  We know that anyone could be a Visitor.  I’ll keep watching to find out who.

(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

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