Here is the thing.
“V” could have saved itself with a truly great finale. It wouldn’t have redeemed 11 episodes of meandering, pointless plotting. It wouldn’t have redeemed a show that seems to have a major identity crisis at every turn. It wouldn’t have redeemed the misuse of many of the characters. But it could have given the sense that there are things that are going to happen on this show, that it won’t just all be things occurring, seemingly at random, and vague portent. The show has tried to coast on just being coolly mysterious for so long now that it often seems like no one involved knows where any of this is headed, even if the questions that have been raised aren’t all that compelling. It just assumes that we loved the original and are willing to go along with it because of that love, without really understanding that the original, while entertaining, is also not all that good, really. Good for its time? Maybe. But also pretty non-dramatic and dreary.
[Full recap of the May 18 “V” finale after the break…]
But the finale very much feels like an episode that probably could have been episode two of this season and wouldn’t have had to change all that much. Don’t get me wrong. If this had been episode two of the show, I might have been far more engaged by the show from the first than I was when the series actually began. Had episode two featured, say, Erica becoming Anna’s envoy to Earth while also joining the Fifth Column or the death and resurrection of Joshua or Father Jack speaking out against the V’s to the chagrin of his boss (though some of his parishioners would side with him), it would have felt like the show was going somewhere. I’m not saying that everything that happened in this episode would have needed to happen then – Erica blowing up the super army and Chad finding out about the alien torture and Anna going nuts and filling Earth’s skies with red, swirling clouds could have waited – but had there been more build-up, these events could have felt more significant.
In particular, those red skies are pretty pointless. They’re already in the title of the episode, and there’s basically no suggestion of what this means, other than the fact that they’re bound to make lots more people suspicious of Anna and her motives. It’s yet more ominousness from a show that specializes in things being ominous without actually giving us a reason to think that these things should be ominous at all. I liked seeing Anna go completely nuts at the loss of all of her soldiers (save 12, who are in fragile condition), but I wanted that to go somewhere. Just leaving things at the precipice makes it too easy for the show to chicken out when it comes back next season.
Now, honestly, given the show’s ratings, this was probably conceived of as something that could work as a season and series finale. I get that. But now that the show IS coming back – and I realize this is completely unfair – I wished there was more to go on. At this point, it would be too easy for Anna to just say, “But I thought humans would like red skies!” and smile her silly little smile and back out of this whole development. It would be a lot harder to back out of Anna, say, blowing up Los Angeles. That would lead to the writers having to figure out a way around introducing that element next season. They’d need to figure out a way to push things even farther. Instead, they have everything set up for them to back down just when they need to be ramping up.
Back when Scott Rosenbaum took over the show, he talked about there needing to be big moments that made you gasp in every episode. I agree with him. I also think he did basically nothing to make this happen. There were moments that came close – like Val craving the dead mouse in the show’s return from its hiatus – but most episodes glided along on a blend of back science fiction show and bad cop show cliches. (And this is to say nothing of logic flaws.) Now, a season finale is the one time when you can do something so shocking that it makes everyone gasp, but the hour was sort of light on that sort of thing. Val’s death might have had more impact if she had been an actual character, not just a Ryan love interest. Chad seeing the V’s torturing live-aboard members might have had more impact if we had any sense of what he was going to do with that information. Erica blowing up the soldiers might have had more impact if the soldiers had seemed at all like a threat, and not just weird dudes who like to eat deer. Ryan and Lisa switching sides might have had an impact if it felt like either were doing so for non-plot-related reasons.
I think the show missed a big opportunity here. It could have showed us a skinned V. It could have taken us inside Anna’s nefarious plots. It could have let the Fifth Column win a big victory that came at a terrible cost. It could have done something, in other words. Instead, it piled up a bunch of incidents that didn’t really add up to an episode. Some of these incidents were kind of cool in isolation, but most of them just didn’t make sense together. Did I like the scene of Ryan accepting the bliss again and communing with Anna? Sure. But it didn’t really jibe with the fact that he didn’t even bother to think that she might have been at least somewhat responsible for Val’s death. Similarly, it didn’t make sense for Erica to be standing up at the church after Jack’s big speech, simply because, well, she just agreed to pretend to be on Anna’s side and work as a double agent. Calling attention to herself? Not the best idea in the world.
Despite all of this, I still have some hopes for “V.” I want the show to be fun or cheesy or action-packed. I want the show to pull it all together. Honestly, the people who work on this show are pretty talented, and the series has a great cast (teenagers aside). I feel like maybe course correcting so soon after the premiere was going to be hard, no matter who was in charge, and the constant creative shifts probably didn’t help. If I’m ABC, I’m going to put trust in Rosenbaum, but I’m going to insist that the second season is one tight piece of television, carefully plotted out from the first. I’m going to insist that every episode is absolutely jam-packed with the kind of action you can’t see on other shows. And I’m going to insist that the plot finally have some momentum, not just the suggestion of same. I don’t think “V” should have been renewed, but with it off the air for so long, it has a chance to become the show it could be. Not many struggling shows get that chance, and I hope it seizes it.
Some other thoughts:
***Anna screaming in agony after the deaths of her soldiers was kind of funny. It needs to become a remixed YouTube sensation or something, a la Mark Benford’s “BECAUSE I WAS LOADED!” from “FlashForward” (RIP).
***Other unintentionally stupid stuff: Jack leaving the church beneath a BOILING RED SKY and stretching as though he just woke up from a long nap.
***That scene between Anna and Erica on board the ship? Not awful. And that’s a start.
This week’s question for discussion: Do you have anything you really want to see out of season two? And what will the show make of those red skies?