Tonight’s episode of “V” concludes with a scene where one guy we don’t care about cuts a deal with an alien we don’t care about. And that deal is one we’re pretty much just finding out is in the works. And we don’t really care about the deal either, even though it’s supposed to be setting up the big season finale next week, the episode that’s supposed to make us want to see the show come back from the brink of cancellation. Now, theoretically, this is all interesting, since it should have some big implications for both sides of this war, but in actuality, it’s really kind of pointless. Why should we care? “V” doesn’t know. It just wants to do some things that it knows serialized dramas are supposed to do.
[Full recap of Tuesday’s (May 11) “V” and things the show might want to try in the future, after the break…]
Here’s the thing: “Fruition” is a putting-the-pieces-into-place kind of episode. These are among my least favorite kinds of episodes of TV, but they’re necessary on a show like this, where the over-arching plot is one of those important things the show needs to keep moving along and heading toward its destination. And, all things considered, as that kind of an episode, this isn’t all that bad, really. It’s one of the better episodes the show has produced, and it does raise some intriguing possibilities. I like the idea that Ryan is tempted by the idea of returning to the Bliss, now that he’s feeling bad about Val leaving. And I also like the idea that Anna is so callous about just tossing her daughter to the fake wolves. Furthermore, watching Erica learn that Lisa was a V was a pretty good scene, the kind of emotional core scene that the show hasn’t done a very good job with in the past.
And, hey, Chad was back, and he was still doing stuff that was vaguely interesting. After weeks and weeks of being Anderson Cooper, he was suddenly Walter Cronkite, with his heartfelt plea to the Vs asking them to stay somehow turning into a moment that created a public groundswell to get the aliens to stay. Sure, this had to do with everyone realizing just how much they’d miss V tech when it was gone, but I did enjoy the way Anna so expertly played Chad and the way he knew he was being played but sort of didn’t care. Anna’s all about the mind games, and every time she engages in them with Chad – who is simultaneously a genius and the stupidest man to ever have lived – it approaches lively. Tonight it actually got there.
But here’s another thing: I just don’t get why Anna is always playing these mind games with everyone she meets. This gets back to one of my central problems with the show. There’s just nothing here that gives us any sense of why Anna is so bad beyond the constant mentions that she’s bad and the fact that she’s breeding an army of soldier eggs (who are right on course to hatch in next week’s episode or – please, no – in the season-ending cliffhanger). Anna plans to do … something to the human race, but so far, she mostly just seems to stand around and look cutely menacing. There needs to be something more here, and the show is missing a golden opportunity every week as she launches into yet another mind game that Ryan and our heroes will see through in a matter of moments.
Now, the news out of ABC is that “V” is more likely to be renewed than fellow struggling sci-fi freshman series “FlashForward.” I can see why this is the case. “V” started out bigger and has mostly had higher ratings throughout its run, and it’s a more easily promotable concept than the weird torpor of “FlashForward” (which punished me for saying positive things about it in this space last week by having an absolutely terrible episode). Also, honestly, it wouldn’t take that much to improve the series. I know we’ve talked about these ideas over the weeks here, but since this episode was sort of pointless, beyond just generally being competent, why don’t we outline them all over again, in handy list format?
1.) The series needs to stop being a cop show. Every time the show gets a groove on with the main characters embarking on a mission to take down the Vs, it gets bogged down in Erica having to use her mystical FBI powers to defeat the alien menace. The series had been building to a big meeting between Erica and Anna for a while now, and when the moment came, it fell flat because Erica is nothing more to the Fifth Column than easy access for them to law enforcement. Take the show past this obsession with having a procedural element to hang its hat on, and you might have something. And, honestly, you could still do standalone stories. Every week could be a mission. Every episode could feature something blowing up. Rinse. Repeat.
2.) Let’s find out just what the Vs are up to. They are evil aliens. They are emotionless, evil aliens. They have nothing good in mind for humanity, and we know it already. We even see them talking about how they have a giant plan. If the series lays out exactly what this plan is next week, my respect for it – regardless of how stupid the plan is – will grow exponentially. There’s really nothing that should be keeping us from knowing just what’s up with the aliens on the show, aside from the fact that it thinks it has to be mysterious because it’s on after “Lost.” Here’s a fun news-flash: Before “Lost,” there were many different types of science fiction TV shows. “Star Trek” had the gang visit a new planet every week, and there were no huge Enterprise mysteries. “The X-Files” had a mythology, but much of the time, it was just a fun monster movie. And so on. Knowing what the Vs are up to raises the stakes. The show’s stakes are practically non-existent at the moment.
3.) Stop hinting that all of the characters are special. If Erica is somehow special – because she gave birth to the apparently special Tyler – just tell us why. If Tyler is special, just tell us why. It is almost never useful to tell us that a character is special unless you’re going to immediately follow that up with an illustration of same. Walt on “Lost” being special because he can make birds fly into windows? That works. Just getting a lot of talk about how these people are special? Only makes them seem more irritating. In general, “V” does not benefit from mystery. It’s a remake of a show, so we already have a good idea of all of the answers. Just open up and tell us, show.
Look, I don’t know that doing all of those things would make the show instantly awesome, but it would help take the show from where it is to something that’s more consistently watchable. I still return to the idea I had of the show back in its second or third week, when it seemed like the series might eventually get to a point where the Fifth Column was out in the woods, doing “Red Dawn”-style strikes on the Vs from their wilderness outposts, and Chad was filtering information between the groups. As it stands now, the show just feels like it’s trying to please literally every audience, and we all know how that turns out. Abraham Lincoln even had a saying about it. “If you’re going to make a show with aliens, make sure some stuff blows up.” I think that was it.
What would you do to make the show better?