Reviews · TV

V Review: There is No Normal Anymore

By  · Published on November 11th, 2009

Synopsis: Erica and Father Jack, having quickly determined they’re both against the arrival of the Visitors, suddenly find themselves being tracked by a “Seeker” from the V’s. Meanwhile Chad, thinking he blew it for 80 million viewers with his exclusive first interview with Anna, looks to pick himself up and becomes more investigative in his next newscast.

Review: Let me start by commending our rejects who regularly review television shows; not easy work. Personally I find reviewing television shows week to week like trying to review a film after watching only twenty minutes of it. Sure, ideally it’s compartmentalized enough that the task is not terribly different. Too bad nobody told V not to make this process seem so alien. Puns! If you hearken back into the annals of FSR history, a week ago, you’ll remember that I was none too fond of the pilot episode. It was a forty-eight minute train wreck with a strangely encouraging finale. Will episode two mark the beginning of a tremendous comeback? Or is this miniseries headed into new frontiers of ineptitude?

Turns out, neither. Episode two of V is a marvel of mediocrity. While it it never achieves the levels of drek found in the pilot, it also makes no visible improvements whatsoever. V is still dry and tepid with little to no understanding of suspense or drama. It pretends to, it wears the skin of an exciting, compelling series, but we are not fooled. Let me break this down like a fraction.

The biggest problem that stands out to me with episode two, and honestly a big problem with the pilot, is the balance. In the first episode, the issue was striking a balance between inciting action and exposition. The aliens arrive and the emphasis becomes how these characters’ lives have changed before the audience has any concept of what that life used to be. In this episode, the balance problems have to do with the pre-commercial “punches”. These are the moments typically reserved for either startling revelations or moments of foreboding intrigue, but episode two offers very little revelation at all. For all the things we learned right at the end of the pilot, you would imagine some startling truth would surface in episode two, right? Well, the aliens can hack 911. That’s…something. This episode tragically misuses the big buildup to break and the stingers are frustratingly bland. The lead-in for the title graphic is a conversation about Japanese fashion portraying the “allure of submission”. While I get the metaphor here, it makes for a very weak kickoff for the episode and illustrates the balance issues that plague the whole episode.

The acting is still fairly sub-par. Elizabeth Mitchell is slightly improved, but still seems distant from everything going on in the world of the show, even when she should be most involved. And, apologies to die hard Party of Five fans, but Scott Wolf is a hack and a half. His newscaster character is hokey, contrived, and flat. Most of that is directly related to the way Wolf smirks his way through scenes with no real chops. It reminds me of the Michael J. Fox character from Mars Attacks except that we are actually expected to take him seriously. Logan Huffman and Jesse Wheeler, who play the son and his best friend respectively, display a charmless stupidity that perfectly suit them for the next American Pie installment. I will say that Morris Chestnut has been solid throughout and I hope there are more episodes centered around his character.

I desperately want this show to hit its stride, but at this point I would settle for an upgrade to average. The sophomore episode of V offers very little in the way of new information and the biggest conflict of the episode is largely fought offscreen: the visitors trying to obtain diplomatic relations with the United States and getting issued visas. There is actually a totally predictable twist at the end of this one, but I wouldn’t want to spoil what you will all figure out from minute five. The acting is still piss poor and the imbalance of surprises makes for clunky story progression. Here’s hoping episode three gives us something to sing about.

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