V Episode One: Pilot

Hmm. I don’t know. I might not hang in there with this one.

All across New York, the ground starts to vibrate. FBI agent/single mom Erica Evans (Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell) tries to find her teen son Tyler (Logan Huffman), but he’s nowhere in the house. When she calls his phone, she discovers he’s in a medical clinic receiving treatment for minor injuries after getting into a fight at a party. Tyler’s a rebel. He’s also one of the more obnoxious teens on television, and there’s some mighty stiff competition in that area. I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to find him perfectly odious, though, so we’ll be able to see his growth as the series progresses. I hope so, at least.

In St. Joseph’s Church, Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) notices the rumbling and vibrating. Stuff starts to topple down, and he has to scurry to push a wheelchair-bound man named Roy out of the way of a random toppling crucifix. Roy narrowly avoids getting impaled by Jesus. Ah. Symbolism.

Hunky anchorman Chad Decker notices the vibrations while he lathers himself up in a hot, soapy shower. This scene is totally not just an excuse to get Scott Wolf’s clothes off. Meanwhile, equally hunky Ryan (aw, Morris Chestnut! I love Morris Chestnut!) is picking out a wedding ring for his beautiful fiancée Valerie when he notices the rumbling.

A fighter jet careens between skyscrapers and crashes to the ground. Reflections of gigantic alien spaceships, which sort of resemble extra-large, extra-bloodthirsty ticks, appear on the shiny glass-and-steel buildings. Against his mom’s fervent pleas for him to stay put until she can reach him, Tyler leaves the clinic and hops on a motorcycle. Remember: He’s a rebel. Don’t forget. It’s his defining character trait. Tyler tries to get a closer look at the ships, then throws a fit when the National Guard tells him to move back. Oh, Tyler. You’re loveable.

Erica finds Tyler in time to see shiny reflective panels appear on the underside of the ship. The humongous (but very pretty!) face of a dimpled pixie appears on the panels. The pixie introduces herself as Anna (Firefly's Morena Baccarin) and describes herself as the leader of her people. All in all, 29 alien ships appear over major cities across the world; Anna appears on each ship, speaking the native languages of the various regions. She explains that her people just need water and will give the humans their advanced technology in exchange. On the ground, everyone bursts into applause, because in the V universe, alien invasion movies don’t exist.

Odious Tyler and his odious friend Brandon talk about how the aliens, who have been officially dubbed “Visitors”, have a lot of hot chicks. Erica calls her partner Dale (Alan Tudyk -- hey, it’s a Firefly reunion!) to tell him she observed a sharp spike in the activity of one specific terrorist cell just prior to the arrival of the Visitors.

During a news conference, Chad watches Anna go through her “we come in peace” spiel with admiring eyes. Chad wins Anna’s interest by flattering her, and they flash their dimples at each other. Back on the Visitor ship, Anna tells her henchman Marcus re: Chad, “I want him.”

Three weeks later: The cities hosting Visitor ships are seeing an economic boon as people flock to get a closer view. The Visitors set up healing centers to treat 65 different human ailments to which they’ve discovered cures. Despite a few protests, all appears to be well.

Erica and Dale, on the trail of the splinter cell, find an underground corridor filled with C4 explosives, plus fake IDs and passports. There’s also a dead man tied to a chair.

Ryan fields an urgent call from someone named Georgie, who tells him “They’re here. It’s starting.” Ryan replies, “I’m not that guy anymore,” and hangs up.

Tyler and Brandon take a tour of the Visitor ship, the interior of which looks like an amalgamation of every alien spacecraft interior seen in films or on television in the past decade. Cute blonde Visitor Lisa (Smallville’s Laura Vandervoot) flirts with Tyler, and he falls in love. You can tell by the way his smirk broadens. The Visitors demonstrate their ability to manipulate gravity, then Lisa encourages the boys to join the Peace Ambassador Program, where they’d get to hang out with the Visitors to learn more about them. Tyler and Brandon think this is, like, way cool. Argh. Why is it so hard to write believable flesh-and-blood teen characters? I’m not trying to pick on V -- two-dimensional clichéd teens are an epidemic on network television -- but the flatness of Tyler and Brandon is the episode’s big weak link.

Erica and Dale search the house of Owen Chapman, the dead man they found in the terrorist cell. Erica finds a text on Owen’s phone about a Super-Top-Secret Informational Terrorist Meeting.

Georgie meets with Ryan and invites him to the Super-Top-Secret Informational Terrorist Meeting. Ryan brusquely tells him he doesn’t want to get involved.

From the pulpit, Father Jack preaches about the dangers of getting on the bandwagon and how the Visitors have to earn trust before it can be given. It’s not entirely clear why he thinks this is good sermon fodder. Wheelchair-bound Roy stands up and shows Father Jack how the Visitors healed him. Later, Father Jack finds a mortally-wounded parishioner bleeding all over his pews. The parishioner tells him the Visitors tried to kill him. He gives Father Jack an envelope and tells him to go to the Super-Top-Secret Informational Terrorist Meeting.

Chad gets hand-picked to do a one-on-one interview with Anna, live from the Visitor ship. Just before the interview, Anna instructs him not to ask anything that would portray the Visitors negatively. Chad initially refuses, but backs down when Anna threatens to cancel. In the interview, Anna maintains that the Visitors are a happy and tranquil people. They want to open more healing centers and offer the world universal healthcare. Chad looks vaguely appalled at this. Why is everyone so afraid of universal healthcare?

Erica attends the Super-Top-Secret Informational Terrorist Meeting. Yeah, she just kind of wanders in, and nobody asks her any questions. She leave Dale sitting in the car in case of trouble, but the meeting is mostly filled with a bunch of uncertain-looking folks, Georgie and Father Jack among them. Before the meeting starts, a doctor injects everyone with an anesthetic and carves a bit of skin behind the ear down to the skull to confirm that all attendees are human. Erica asks everyone a whole bunch of prying questions about the purpose of the meeting. Way to be undercover, Erica. Georgie fills her in on the Visitors: Underneath their cloned human skin, they’re reptiles. They’ve been on Earth for years, plotting the eventual extermination of all humans. In the meantime, they’ve caused worldwide instability: Wars, the recent economic meltdown, religious extremists… Nope, I’m pretty sure us humans did that all by ourselves. Nice try, though, blaming our failings on aliens.

Father Jack opens the envelope given to him by the dying parishioner, which turns out to contain photos of Visitors. Erica recognizes the photos from the fake passports and realizes the terrorist cell she’s been tracking is comprised entirely of Visitors. Their meeting is interrupted by a hovering metal ball, which shoots out spikes and kills a bunch of the attendees. Then the room is swarmed by… I dunno, ninjas or something, and pretty much everyone else dies. Dale shows up and, oddly, starts to strangle Erica. Erica fights him off, whacks him on the head with a pipe, and discovers reptile skin under his flesh.

Ryan appears and gets Georgie to safety. Along with Erica and Father Jack, they’re the only survivors of the massacre. When Georgie thanks Ryan for showing up, Ryan reveals he’s a Visitor, too, but he’s loyal to the human cause.

Tyler forges Erica’s signature on the permission slip to join the Peace Ambassador Program, where he flirts with Lisa and gets his own snazzy Visitor jacket. The Visitors make Chad their official spokesmodel. Erica and Father Jack, who are evidently this version’s Faye Grant and Marc Singer, decide to start an anti-Visitor resistance group.

So that’s where we are. That’s the new V. Mixed reaction, mixed rating. It’s a little flat, especially compared to the high-energy cheeseball earnestness of the 1984 version. I think it misses something with trying to draw a connection between the Visitors and terrorists; the Visitors = Nazis analogy of the original was probably a better fit. In general, I liked all the Visitors -- Anna, Lisa, Marcus, secret kind Visitor Ryan, secret nasty Visitor Dale -- more than the humans. Still, not bad. We'll see where it goes from here. Up, one hopes.


Dan said…
Did Vandervoort show her navel? Because I'm pretty sure that's her defining characteristic. It may also help sway my decision whether or not to watch.
levitatethis said…
I was interested to see what you thought of this since I saw the pilot at Comic Con and wasn't too impressed with it. Whether I remember (romanticize) the original too fondly, I also felt this fell flat. It was also very rushed in my opinion. A lot, in terms of going from 0 - 260, happens in the hour and I never felt a particular connection or interest in any of the characters. By the end of it I wasn't as invested as I should have been.
Morgan Richter said…
Vandervoot wore a tight-fitting jacket, Dan, and thus did not do any navel-baring. But she was cute and dimply and very likeable, in a thinly-disguised-evil kind of way.

I'm sure I romanticize the original, too, but this version seemed a little colorless. I don't want to be too hard on it -- it's possible it'll build momentum as the plot progresses, but right now, it seems a little limp and noncommittal. I'm going to give it another couple of episodes to see if it perks up.
levitatethis said…
I'll definitely watch the next couple of episodes to see if it finds its footing...and becomes more compelling.
Morgan Richter said…
I wish they'd go ahead and embrace the natural shlock elements of the premise: Evil pretty aliens who rip off their human skin to reveal their reptillian nature! Nothing boring about that. Too many stock characters, too: It's probably revealing that the two human characters I thought showed the most spark -- Dale and Ryan -- were both revealed to be Visitors at the end.

The secret meeting/attack at the end was weirdly low-energy -- Father Jack and Erica both seemed bizarrely nonchalant about discovering that the kind, pretty Visitors were actually evil reptiles and that this was all part of a far-reaching plot to exterminate all humans. Seems like the sort of thing that should provoke a bit of an emotional reaction, but they kind of shrugged and said, "Eh, I suppose we should form a resistance group or something."
Dan said…
So, hey. I finally saw this.

Kinda meh about it.

Gosh, Bailey's news reports were incredibly expositionary in the opening half hour, weren't they? "The Visitors have been here three weeks now, just so you all know. And they're becoming increasingly more beloved, thanks to their advanced medicine curing everybody of everything. Some people don't like them and are protesting the Visitors' presence, but these protestors are widely considered nuts among the general populace. Next plot update at 11."

And, yes, somebody needs to smack some sense into Tyler.

OTOH, Elizabeth Mitchell is The Awesome. Previews indicates she has a shower in an upcoming episode. Presumably for the same reason Bailey had one this episode. Regardless, I'll watch until at least then.

Also, I'm pretty sure the Visitors attacked the nascent resistance group with one of Obi-Wan's Jedi training orb things right at the end there. Although, why they bothered, I don't know. If they'd just let them be, I'm pretty sure they would have all grown tired of the crazy-dude's conspiracy theories and impromptu ear-surgery and wandered off. Now, the spacefaring lizard creatures with the hyper-advanced technology stolen from Jedis have got an FBI agent and a priest teaming up against them. Advantage: Earthlings.
Morgan Richter said…
I'm pretty meh on it as well. The last episode before this long break showed signs of improvement, enough so I'll give it another shot when it returns at the end of the month, but... yeah. Hard to get excited.

Bailey's entire purpose on the show is to deliver clumsy chunks of exposition disguised as news reports. And to take showers. I really have no objection to any of that, I guess. I imagine you'll be wholly pleased with Elizabeth Mitchell's upcoming vital-to-the-plot shower scene, Dan. Since V is currently such a bland, noncommittal pudding of a show, I think it should continue to play to its few strengths by working in as many shower scenes as a 44-minute episode can reasonably handle.
Dan said…
Shower scenes worked wonders for Smallville. I recall one season where there were about four episodes in a row containing some character or another showering.

And it's just been renewed for its tenth season! V could learn much from this.

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