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V Review: It’s Only the Beginning

By  · Published on November 25th, 2009

Synopsis: Erica works with newly-formed allies to uncover a biological threat they suspect the Visitors have been plotting. Aboard the Mothership, Anna meets with a special guest while managing the investigation into the murder of a V. And Chad does a segment on the V Healing Centers, demonstrating their amazing medical abilities, but then finds himself conflicted by some of his findings.

Review: Let me first issue this warning. I am the kind of person who tends to avoid spoilers at all costs. Part of the reason people read reviews is to determine whether or not the item up for review would be something they would want to watch. Meaning that a good deal of people read reviews prior to watching that movie or show and therefore should not be spoiled to the surprises within. Unfortunately, I am having a difficult time effectively evaluating this show without supporting my claims with details from the show itself. So in this review, and possibly more to follow, there will be spoilers. But I am hoping the fact that my reviews go up after each episode suggests that most people have actually watched it prior to reading. If not, my apologies.

The fourth episode of V is messy, but pleasantly kinetic. The opening employs a story telling device that is becoming commonplace in television and film. You know exactly the one I mean, we get tossed amid a frantic action sequence with no setup and just when the tension reaches an apex, the screen goes black. The next thing we know, all is calm and a pronounced piece of text occupies the screen letting us know that we have traveled some distance back in time. It is at this point that the machine is set in motion and we’re privy to the how the pieces of puzzle fit together to create the image we have just seen.

While this usually makes for compelling drama, it seems utterly wasted here. First of all, it is very abrupt and jarring; spending little time establishing itself before bouncing backward. Secondly, this kind of device only works when the events depicted are the “game-changing” moments of the story. But the moment revisited in V is not the crux of the episode but rather the first conceivable plot point; as if we are getting a double dose of the inciting action. It’s as if the creators of the show are very aware that this kind of playful chronology is “cool” and want to use it, but have no real understanding of how to use it properly.

On the plus side, I really do like the continuing progression of the rebellion story. I enjoy that the antagonists are formidable enough to have resistance factions fighting against them composed of both humans and visitors. I also love the fervor demonstrated by the Fifth Column insurgents aboard the New York ship and their willingness to sacrifice themselves. Interesting stuff. I could do without the Elizabeth Mitchell mistrust of Morris Chestnut angle mostly because, while I guess I understand her distaste for the visitors, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that Georgie wouldn’t explain the Fifth Column to her. At this point, she and the priest are deeply embroiled enough in the resistance to be made aware not only of the existence of this group but of the clear value of having their own “sleeper agents”.

Speaking of the priest, his story is really starting to become intriguing. A man of the cloth who is also a former soldier plays on the contentious relationship between religion and war quite nicely. It also provides an interesting parallel between his past and the dangerous situation in which he now exists. The scene where Georgie tells him that he is going to have to decide what he is makes for another great exchange between the two of them and beautifully sets up that wonderful scene where the priest examines his old service pistol. I like that the most conflicted character in the resistance is the one who may very well be facing emminent death.

There is one fascinating twist in this episode that thoroughly impressed me. The visitors are offering a vaccination that is designed to enhance the human immune system andstave off many deadly diseases. It’s pretty obvious that their altruism is a front for far more sinister ulterior motives. But when the resistance goes to investigate a warehouse operated by the visitors, they make a startling discovery. It is not at all their advertised vaccinations that are the threat, but rather our very own flu vaccines with which they have been tampering for years. It really adds another layer to the overall concept to think that the wonder drug is simply a red herring and that something terrestrial in which we have all been placing our faith could now be our downfall. Well done.

Overall, this is the most action-y, exciting episode of V but the miniseries is still suffering from missteps. The opening Tarantino-esque storytelling demonstrates no real awareness of the fundamentals of its usage. I did enjoy the priest’s continuing character arc and the plot point involving flu vaccine is a glimmer of yet undying hope for this series. The ending of this particular episode also instills an unshakable desire to watch again next week and that is…something, right?

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