Friday, December 25, 2009

TV REVIEW: V: "It's Only The Beginning"

TV REVIEW: V: "It's Only The Beginning"
Last night, ABC's V actually remembered that it is supposed to be a science fiction series.

The episode, entitled "It's Only The Beginning," featured a tantalizing glimpse of a Visitor narcotic called "Bliss," a view of the mothership engine room and propulsion system, and then climaxed with galactic implications: a cosmic pull-back from Mother Earth. It was a CGI push away from our world, through the asteroid belt, to the fringe of the solar system itself -- a move designed to reveal a fleet of V ships...waiting for the order to colonize.

This final, impressive shot seemed like a spiritual heir (and homage...) to an iconic shot from the original 1980s series: a similar pull-back through orbital space that revealed a slew of Visitor saucers hidden behind our moon. It was a nice, ominous touch.

Contrarily, the episode last night opened with one of those hackneyed "Fourteen Hours Earlier" tricks that is tell-tale sign of post-production editing pickles. I know: I had to deploy the same tired gimmick myself in one episode of The House Between when fashioning a difficult third season episode almost out-of-whole-cloth. But once beyond that underwhelming beginning, this episode moved fast and revealed a lot; much more, in fact, than the previous three episodes combined.

For instance, we saw that the Visitors are equipped with suicide pills that disintegrate their bodies should they be captured or discovered. The suicide pill leaves nothing behind but ash, and is surely an homage to another alien invasion series, the brilliant 1960s endeavor The Invaders. As you may recall from that Roy Thinnes program, David Vincent could never prove his case about the aliens because the corpses of the invaders always went up in smoke and spontaneously combusted before authorities could arrive.

Also -- finally -- this new V acknowledged in "It's Only The Beginning" that "skinning" a Visitor could be the very thing to wake up our people from apparent mindless devotion to our new extra-terrestrial "friends." When this idea is brought up, however, Ryan goes ballistic and tells the Resistance fighters he better not ever hear them talking about such a thing again. The reason, ostensibly, is that the Visitors would retaliate with tremendous force and wipe everybody out. I don't know how believable Ryan's explanation is, but I'm happy to see that the issue was addressed. This was exactly what I was seeking; just a simple acknowledgment that skinning a Visitor on TV was a legitimate battle option.

Last night's show also revived the anti-Obama subtext of the pilot. Ryan -- a secret Visitor -- has a faked birth certificate showing he was born in "Hawaiian Gardens," California. As Orly Taitz will tell you, Obama's purportedly "fake" birth certificate names Hawaii as the state of (fake) birth. Coincidence?

Also, the episode's central plot -- a Visitor scheme to poison our seasonal flu shots with an alien substance called R6 -- clearly parallels the tea bagger furor and resistance over government-mandated flu vaccinations. Again, I don't agree with V's paranoid right-wing view of Obama (I'm still waiting for the FEMA concentration camps -- or at least our taxes to go up -- before I resist). But if you want a timely subtext or context, there it is, enunciated between the lines.

V clearly has a long way to go before it becomes "must see TV," but I do feel the series is clawing itself out of the deep ditch it dug in the first two awful weeks. Personally, I find Erica Mitchell's character, Agent Evans, difficult to warm up to as a lead character. She's more reptilian and cold than the Visitors, to tell you the truth. No wonder her son, Tyler is looking elsewhere for warmth.

Yet last night -- for the first time -- momentum was undeniably building. I actually found myself caring about finding what was going to happen next.

And, of course, that means we must now to wait till March 2010 for the next episode...

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