Review: V — “Pilot”

I was too young to watch/remember the original V miniseries/ongoing series, but I learned the basic premise growing up as a geek.  I’ll be talking about stuff that constitutes as spoilers, but not really, as ABC is foregrounding the ‘Big Sekrit!’ of the V’s identity even in the previews.  Most of what I’ll talk about is the not-hard-to-find Vs = Obama reading.

The leader of the Vs is played by Morena Baccarin, a Brazillian woman whose looks are easily pushed past beauty to the edge of the uncanny valley, her mixed-ethnicity background easily positioned as ‘exotic’ from a US-American gaze.  All of the Vs who are seen in the public eye would count as attractive, and even in the pilot, the Vs are leveraging attractiveness into manipulation (one sub-plot features the FBI-Agent lead’s son being attracted to a female V played by Laura “Supergirl” Vandervoort).

The Pilot episode gets all the way to the ‘Vs are actually Lizards and trying to take over the world’ stage, with Elizabeth “LOST Juliette” Mitchell and Joel “4400” Gretsch as FBI Agent and Pastor who are witness to a V attack on a word-of-mouth group spreading word of the Vs’ real agenda.

A note — unless you go in looking for the Obama = V reading, it may be rather easy to miss/not think of it.  It’s not that the show pounds you over with it.  The show’s pacing is strong (stronger than the original miniseries in the equivalent section that I watched), and goes quickly to the ‘The Vs are tricking people, time to fight back!’ stage of the story, where our two adult leads will develop a resistance, with assistance from another lead — how quickly he’ll connect with the group is hard to tell.  Interpersonal conflict will come from the FBI Agent’s son getting deeper in bed (literally) with the Vs and refusing to accept mom’s warnings/explanations of the V’s villainy.  This is exacerbated by the fact that until the resistance can get a V corpse to show the lizard under-parts, they don’t have a very strong case.

It was great to see Alan Tudyk in the show, though I don’t think he’s listed as a full series regular.  He brought a great balance of seriousness and levity to the show, remind us how awesome an actor he is (as if we needed any more reminding after “Briar Rose/Alpha” in Dollhouse.

The new version of V seems to be written and executed in a way that invites an anti-Obama reading. The rhetoric of the pilot episode includes mentions of Hope!  Change!  Universal Health Care! and features a charismatic leader of mixed ethnicity.  There’s an interesting degree to which this version of V is a dream come true for the Fox News Opinion Show crew.  Many of the most outrageous fears about Obama are made manifest in the series — The Vs come with a message of hope and change, with people flocking to them, clamoring to be saved.  The Vs insinuate themselves into people’s hearts, but are secretly not who they say they are and will take over and destroy the world.

Basically, the premise reads like an unused script from the Glenn Beck show with space-lizards instead of Chairman Mao.  The show’s basic premise is much as it was in the 80s series (as far as I know/have read), but it just goes to show that as times change, a story can remain more or less the same but be read very differently.  It seems that the new ABC version of V is specifically written to highlight the Vs as Obama reading (the rhetoric about hope and change and universal health care),

Overall, the Pilot isn’t magnificent, but it is a solid start and I’m interested to see how this version continues and develops like or unlike the original.

Now I leave review-land and go into ‘I’m a writer-land’ — I realize that I’d be as interested or possibly more interested in a series where the aliens really were trying to improve humanity’s lot, with conflict coming from paranoia and quibbling over cultural differences/expectations between the Vs and various US cultures.  Basically, if it were a script from Keith Olbermann/Rachel Maddow instead of Glenn Beck. 😛  A story that highlights the tension between a well-meaning group with technological advantage and an ambivalent community that doesn’t want to bow to cultural demands but does want those technologies.  This presents a different metaphor, more analogous to western humanitarian campaigns in the 3rd world/Global South — where cultural imperialism comes part-and-parcel (intentional or unintentional) with humanitarian aid.

Sadly, this would probably not work as a TV show — it would lend itself much less to explosions and gunfights and the like.

3 thoughts on “Review: V — “Pilot”

  1. Kevin

    “…who are witness to a V attack on a word-of-mouth group spreading word of the Vs’ real agenda.”

    You know, they claim the “Vee Party” movement is grassroots, but I don’t know…

  2. Siobhan Carroll

    I liked the V pilot more than the Flashforward pilot. Its concept may be less intriguing, but the characters seem more developed, & it’s certainly getting to the point pretty quickly.

  3. Chad

    I though the pilot was dull. I thought plot-wise things were too convenient and glossed over. I thought character actions were inconsistent and most of the characters were trite. I thought the sources of real drama were tossed aside to burn through the set-up that everyone knew was coming and quickly get all those “see we’re a different V” moments out there.

    You’ve got an alien race that is capable of traveling across the galaxy. They are advanced enough to manipulate genetics to the point where they can grow a human suit. They can make people walk again and cure a myriad of diseases.

    They’re sneaky and manipulative enough to secretly plant members in all aspects of society. They do this so well they’re able to have one of their members infiltrate the FBI. (*cough* Producers watched BSG and plan on having the Fifth Cylon Vee *cough*) The FBI Vee is there long enough to deeply earn his female partner’s trust. They’re friends. The FBI Vee knows all about her divorce. He covers for her when she needs to be with her son. He’s the person she calls when she needs a pep talk.

    The Vees can accomplish all this and have members everywhere, but apparently they’re not smart enough to keep their “terrorist cell chatter” off the FBI radar. They don’t think about satellite photographs marking their comings and goings. Even though they can fake things well enough to get a Vee into the FBI and through all those backgrounds checks, their passports (and why do they need passports) can’t pass an FBI check as a valid.

    For some reason, they allow the human FBI agent partnered with a Vee to stumble onto all this. Investigate it. And allow her to go into a secret meeting and don’t bother to crash it until she has proof that there are in fact aliens. And when they do, people are able to get away because the Vees fight with old Klingon weapons. Meanwhile, little Alan Tudyk the Vee is able to use his lizard strength to choke slam his partner but gets bitched by her kick.

    But that’s okay; because even though she knows there’s an alien conspiracy that’s infiltrated the FBI she’ll go to work the next day.

    Oh, and the Vees for some reason can’t kill an old guy and keep him from giving pictures to the ass-kicking priest. But the writers just glossed over that (like they glossed over three fourths of the things that might have proved interesting). They glossed over what the priest told the cops. Did he lie? Obviously, because he lied about the pictures, the pictures that didn’t reveal ANYTHING until he arrived at the meeting and the female FBI agent could look at them and put two and two together, but oh, right, that was convenient to the plot.
    Oh, and speaking of the priest. Let’s gloss over how aliens would change the face of religion and totally fuck up a number of peoples’ world views. Especially, for Joe Average the Evangelical. So, let’s have a Catholic priest, who I suspect will be “conflicted” when he develops feelings for the conveniently divorced FBI agent in random moments of “original” drama.

    Oh, apparently with all the things the Vees are capable of and even though they’ve been here for a long time, a teenage boy having a hard-on for a “female” Vee is important. I’m sure this will be the first time they can try for a Vee/Human hybrid.

    Which makes sense, because you can have a character like the newscaster who wants desperately to be a “real reporter”. But when confronted with a real news story he’ll admonish another reported for asking a real question only to follow with fluff on par with, “What’s your favorite color”. But later, for five seconds at least, he’ll be conflicted about not being able to ask hard hitting questions. See, he’s conflicted…the writers told us so and this will be a source of drama when it becomes convenient.

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