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V Review: A Bright New Day

By  · Published on November 20th, 2009

Synopsis: Chad reports from the Peace Ambassador Center as 100 diplomatic visas are being issued to the first wave of American Visitors, with Anna getting the 1st, but not everyone agrees with the decision. Meanwhile Erica has started tracking a death threat while paired with a V officer, as she actually has to protect the V’s, and Ryan starts reaching out to his old friends to build up opposition forces and help fight-off the V’s.

Review: First and foremost I must apologize for the tardiness of this review. Apparently ABC hacked their way into my DVR and erased this week’s episode of V because I had been bad-mouthing their new show. Either that, or I just didn’t set the timer correctly…it’s one of those two things. I was expecting the episode to be up on the ABC website the next day but as of this afternoon it still was not available. I eventually had to download it from XBOX’s Marketplace feature. Hooray! After going to all the trouble of tracking down the episode, spending coveted points to purchase said episode and watching it on a night when there 100 other things I wanted to watch I estimated my review of the third installment of the V miniseries would be especially harsh. What I found surprised me quite a bit.

Oh snap kids, the third episode is pretty damn good. I don’t mean to sound completely shocked but we are talking about the miniseries that has so far been bland at best and abysmal at its worst. The problems that have been so evident in the first two episodes were issues of hokey story elements, stuttering pacing, and horrid acting. In a turn of good fortune, the third installment fixes almost every single one of those problems. I’m not saying that suddenly V is a flawless show, but it shows tremendous improvement at long last.

The second episode, while not quite as terrible as the pilot, suffered from the overwhelming lack of surprise. Nothing major was revealed, no villains unmasked, and there existed a general stagnation of plot. I can tell you with no small measure of sincerity, this is a problem rectified by episode three. This is the chapter that offers intrigue at every turn. Suddenly no one is who they say they are and the story focuses on the impending conflict between the two species. It became a sort of Sci-Fi spy thriller with double, and yes even triple, agents doing more backstabbing than a truckload of Survivor castaways. I was genuinely impressed with the tension and very pleased with the progression of plot. After a while, I began to suspect an over-zealousness on my part spurred by the overall lacking of the show. In other words, I was worried I was being generous just because this episode was NOT a travesty. I started to notice that the double-crossing/traitors everywhere storyline was getting a little repetitive. But as if the show itself were cognizant of my concerns, it dealt even more surprises outside the twisty framework it had established. Well done!

I am enjoying the fact that V is starting to carry philosophical weight with more competence. The visitors seem to be facing a more legitimate resistance from both violent factions of humanity and organized political interests. I really like the more believable elements of public relations manipulation that they are exhibiting. I still think Scott Wolf is a hack and his character is way too easily duped, but they appear to now be working outside his influence as well. I also really enjoyed the concept of fostering understanding through deception and the practical implications inherent in that. Wow, I am shocked by the paragraphs I am able to write about the the third episode considering where this show started.

A quick warning, this paragraph may contain spoilers not only for the episodes prior but for this particular episode as well so if you haven’t seen it, skip to the next. I really enjoyed the angle they took with Alan Tudyk’s character. I guess the only marginally surprising thing about the second episode was the fact that he was not in fact dead, but that wasn’t exactly Earth-shattering. However the amnesia he suffers upon waking allows for some clever story devices and interesting special effects. I really enjoyed his slow realizations and I think he delivers on the performance end so that we buy his quiet, mounting rage. The conclusion of that whole exchange is one of the better moments of the whole show so far.

The only problems I really had with this particular episode were very minor. For example, Elizabeth Mitchell is still the dumbest FBI agent on television. At this point I don’t even think it’s a problem with her performance but with really shotty direction. There is a scene where she is standing in a room full of view-screens feeding from cameras on the lapels of the jackets of the peace ambassadors. Now, I figured out they were mounted on those jackets, but the fact that she didn’t is not what bothered me. When she noticed that one of the feeds was an image of her standing in front of all those screens, she turns around to see who is filming her. Behind her is a blank wall, a closed door, and a hanging jacket. The only object behind her is the jacket, but she makes a production out of waving her hands up and down trying to gage the source of the image. Really? Takes her that long to figure out it’s the freaking jacket?! Is this why she is in “special” investigations? (I know it’s really anti-terror, just a joke)

By all accounts, this third chapter of the V miniseries is by far the best. I can only cross all of my digits and hope that the remainder of the show will follow suit. There are not only major improvements to the mechanics of the series made in this episode, but it also effectively lays the groundwork for what should be a compelling conclusion.

Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.