There were times in tonight’s episode of “V” when I thought, “Finally! A show I might enjoy watching from week to week!” There were times in tonight’s episode of “V” when I questioned just why I volunteered to cover this show week-to-week. And there were a few times in between. It’s kind of a “best of ‘V,’ worst of ‘V'” scenario, really. You have a pretty fun plot about the resistance infiltrating the main “V” ship right next to a plot where Erica brings Tyler to hang out with his dad, a plot that seems like it might make Tyler worth caring about before just making him as boring as he always is. (Honestly, if the show had just seen fit to let him stay with Krycek up in the north woods for all time, I doubt too many people would have cared. Instead, Lisa’s going to hang out with him.) And, worst of all, the episode just ladled on the portent.
[Full recap of Tuesday (April 6) night’s “V” after the break…]
I think most of you are on the same page as me in regards to this series. Stupid, alien-killing fun equals good. Trying to be the next “Lost” equals bad. But every time the show heads in the direction of the fun, it ends up giving us even more “Lost”-ish glowering and furrowed brows. I mean, if you’re going to have your hero looking at a sonogram of his unborn alien child, for God’s sake, SHOW US THE SONOGRAM, INSTEAD OF JUST HIM LOOKING AT IT. There is nothing here that is going to be so shocking that we can’t see it now instead of several episodes from now. It’s going to be a little lizard fetus thing, and you confirmed as much with that final shot of the tail swishing against the inside of the mother’s belly.
I don’t mind introducing big, crazy mysteries in a show like this. It can stand to have a few of them. But “V” is simply introducing big, crazy mysteries all over the place without any clear sign that it plans to resolve them or, indeed, has any idea in its head whatsoever of what it’s driving toward. The problem here, I think, is that “V” is turning things that aren’t really all that mysterious into big mysteries. What’s the Island on “Lost”? Good mystery. There are a ton of possible and plausible answers, and you can debate them over and over and over. Who killed Laura Palmer? Pretty good mystery. There are lots of suspects, and all of them have plausible motivations for doing it, and that’s not to mention the whole “portal of evil out in the woods” thing.
Basically, you see what I’m driving at. The best TV mysteries have a bunch of possible answers that make some sort of sense. But too many TV mysteries have only a handful of plausible answers, and then the show delays the actual answer for so long that by the time it arrives, everyone watching the show has probably arrived at the proper answer on their own and finds the arrival anticlimactic. (To pull things back to “Lost” yet again, this is like when the writers tried to act as though Claire being Jack’s sister was a HUGE SURPRISE.) If you’re going to have a mystery with only a handful of answers, better to come up with something where you clearly tease the audience that you know the answers and are toying with them. Think of something like “Life on Mars” (the original, not the remake), where we got equal hints that Sam was actually in the past or stuck in a coma somewhere. (For the record, the remake is a good reminder of why the out-of-nowhere twist so rarely works. On the way to Mars? Please.)
The thing I thought worked in tonight’s episode was Ryan’s visit to the V’s mothership. It was obvious the show was going to go there from very early on, but I give the show props for going there this early. It didn’t go in as many interesting directions as I hoped it might, but at least it felt like a storyline that would arise from people trying to bring down an occupying power by hitting them where it hurts. Plus, the whole story of Anna trying to out the Fifth Column members in her midst worked quite well as a way for some conflict to dovetail with Ryan’s mission. While the whole montage of the gang performing all of their missions to get Ryan on the ship was a little stupid, I like this sort of thing, so I was more forgiving of it than I might have been otherwise. It was less cool that Ryan was REALLY going to get the phosphorous, but, whatever. I sort of bought it as personal stakes.
At the same time, while I liked Georgie going up to the ship to save Ryan when he thought the guy was in trouble (and at the behest of Hobbes, no less), I didn’t really like the execution of what happened next. How long, exactly, does Georgie think he can fool the V’s into thinking he’s a V? And why, exactly, does Ryan take off his uniform other than the fact that he needs to for plot purposes? (I actually thought I was missing something here, but I went back and watched it, and it sure seems like he just … takes it off. I get that he’s trying to sneak out, but wouldn’t he do a better job of hiding it or SOMEthing? It feels way too much like something he just does because the plot needs him to.) That shot of Georgie being tortured? Awesome. The sense that the gang is going to have to break into the ship to get him back? Even better, since it gives the show a sense of purpose. Everything leading up to that? A little muddled.
On the other hand, Erica dropping Tyler off with her ex was yet another example of the show doing something to make things seem OMINOUS without really earning it. I get that the show needs to fill in some of the details around the edges of why Erica’s marriage fell apart and just why Tyler doesn’t live with his dad, but, man, these scenes were just a lot of badly written domestic drama on top of some clumsily thrown in “THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MYSTERY!” dialogue. I don’t really care about Tyler’s purpose to begin with, so why would I care that Krycek says that he needs to know who he really is? For one thing, he can pretty much only be a human-alien hybrid or some sort of alien fighter type, unless the show is just going to do something boring. And that scene where Tyler thought he was the reason his parents split up? Pretty laughable, particularly from an older teenager like himself.
I feel like “V” has a better handle on what it wants to do in these first two episodes back than it did in the first four, but I also feel like it’s struggling with a lot of things the show has always wanted to be about without really committing. If you want to tell a story about how a shattered family deals with the arrival of aliens on Earth, then do it. Don’t waltz around the real issues with ominous dialogue and hackneyed after-school special stuff. And if you want to send your regulars onto an alien mothership, you’d better give us more of a sense of what’s at stake than some vaguely muttered dialogue about evil sonograms.
Some other thoughts:
*** Krycek, of course, is Nicholas Lea, who first became famous for playing, well, Alex Krycek on “The X-Files.” Since then, Lea has a contractual obligation to appear on every Vancouver-shot sci-fi series.
*** I still feel like this show moves too slowly. It should be crazier on some level. I don’t really know how to quantify it.
Your question for the week: I keep saying what I would like this show to be, but what would YOU like it to be? Do you dig the alien cops angle? Or would you rather it be a warm-hearted family sitcom?