When Aliens Attack: ‘V’ Returns With Renewed Energy (and Some Cheese)
‘V’ (9PM ET Tuesday, ABC) certainly had a rocky time of it in its debut season. After a swell pilot, the show slowed down considerably, and ‘V’ didn’t always know how to use its mostly able cast. As the elegant alien leader, Anna, Morena Baccarin acquitted herself well, as did Elizabeth Mitchell, who plays Erica, an FBI agent leading an underground resistance. But the quality of everything else on the show fluctuated quite a bit.
Yet there were hopeful signs toward the end of season 1 that the show had gotten a grip on how to depict Anna’s campaign to win over Earth’s population and Erica’s attempts to reveal Anna’s unfriendly agenda.
This season, there’s clearly an effort afoot to give ‘V’ more forward momentum and to delineate the differences between the scrappy Earth resistance and the calculating aliens. Yet there are signs that ‘V’ itself still doesn’t know what it wants to be — a realistic sci-fi thriller or an alien-invasion melodrama complete with mother-daughter shenanigans befitting a daytime soap.
There’s more energy on display, but it’s not always channeled in encouraging directions.
A few months ago, the news broke that Jane Badler, one of the cast members of the original version of ‘V,’ would make appearances in the second season of the ABC remake. It must be said: Bringing aboard Badler and her ‘V’ character, Diana, was probably a mistake. The story line involving Diana is an overwrought, hammy distraction.
Until now, ‘V’ had walked right up to the line of camp but resisted going over the edge, but the scenes Badler shares with Baccarin are cheesy in ways that distract from the overall air of realism that the rest of the show is going for. That’s a shame, because Baccarin’s subtle, thoughtful performance has been one of the highlights of ‘V.’ On the rare occasions when Anna lost it, it meant something because the character was usually so firmly restrained.
This season, however, the stories involving Anna and Diana or Anna and her daughter, Lisa (Laura Vandervoort) are often either too melodramatic or just plain silly. Baccarin is a very resourceful actress, but even she can’t rescue scenes that play like outtakes from a sci-fi remake of ‘Mommie Dearest.’
Actually, maybe a sci-fi remake of ‘Mommie Dearest’ isn’t such a bad idea. But ‘V’ needs to either camp it up completely or go in the other direction and model itself after propulsive dramas such as ’24.’ The show’s attempts meld those two very different tones together just makes for an awkward mismatch.
The good news is, the plots involving Erica’s Fifth Column resisters are generally energetic and watchable, even if they are a little predictable at times. Intriguing new elements of the show’s mythology are introduced, and the resistance cell recruits a likable new scientist, Sidney (Bret Harrison), who helps uncover new aspects of the aliens’ schemes. Even though a number of human characters aren’t given much depth (Charles Mesure’s character is there, as far as I can tell, to wear tight black shirts and utter threatening remarks), at least the resistance finally begins to rack up a few wins.
‘V’ could do a better job of giving viewers a sense of the big picture, however. The average Joes and Janes on Earth, for example, seem to be awfully quick to forget the red skies that Anna unleashed at the end of season 1. Then again, context and subtle allegories aren’t the show’s strong suits. Anna is obsessed with finding out what it means to be human, but it’s hard to take that theme seriously when she’s unleashing clunky lines like, “Even when it makes no sense to fight, they do.”
Having said all that, the third episode of the new season was the strongest one of the three ABC sent for review, so perhaps ‘V’ will really begin to cohere as the season gains steam. It’ll have to. There’s so much good new TV coming down the pike that I’m only going to give ‘V’ a only few more chances to prove that it can fulfil its promise on a consistent basis.
Let’s hope the show builds toward more killer scenes between Anna and Erica, who had some great moments in season 1. There’s also quite a bit of potential in the story of Lisa, a V who can’t help having compassion for the humans she’s been ordered to betray. Lisa came off as disposable eye candy at the start of season 1, but thanks to good writing and Vandervoort’s steely performance, Lisa has emerged as one of ‘V’s’ most interesting characters.
Maybe Lisa can build a bridge between her own warring instincts — not to mention the show’s clashing tones.
Source: TV SQUAD