Saturday, November 7, 2009

V 1.01: "Pilot"

“We are of peace. Always.”


V was the new show I was most looking forward to this season. The news out of Comic-con that it would be premiering in November instead of January was welcome indeed. I’ve been a bit concerned due to all the reports of production shutdowns and staffing changes and ABC’s last minute plan to air the episodes in “pods” that they claimed was what they were planning all along. Although V didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had built up since hearing the premise and seeing the amazing (and sometimes very creepy) commercials during FlashForward, it was still a very enjoyable hour. Within the realm of ABC’s new genre fare (yay for ABC embracing some genre, by the way), I think V has more depth than FlashForward, so I am definitely excited to see where the characters go from here.

The episode opens on a typical weekday morning, showing most of what I presume will be the major characters beginning their day. FBI Agent Erica Evans (Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell) is awoken by shaking. If the show took place in LA, I assume most of the characters would think it was an earth quake, but V takes place in NYC, so nobody quite knows what to make of it. Erica runs to her son Tyler’s (Logan Huffman) room to find that he’s not there. She calls him on his cell, and thankfully he answers. He snuck out last night and got into a fight. He’s at a clinic getting patched up. Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut), who appears to be a business executive of some sort, is buying an engagement ring for his girlfriend Valerie (Lourdes Benedicto), who is at home in her kitchen. Father Jack (Joel Gretch) is opening his church for the day. Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), a TV news anchor, arrives at work to find out a hard hitting story has been assigned to someone else.

As Erica runs towards the clinic to find her son, the shaking becomes more intense. Everyone is panicked, especially as a fighter jet falls out of the sky. After they each use some quick thinking to get past police guarding the perimeter around the neighborhood where the clinic is located, Erica and Tyler are reunited. Up in the sky, a massive spaceship, almost like it’s out of Independence Day, appears. Everyone is fearful as parts on the spaceship begin to move and reconfigure. Is it about to wipe out New York City? It turns out that the underside of the ship was just turning into a massive TV screen. A striking woman with short, dark hair appears in front of a white background. This is Anna (Firefly’s Morena Baccharin). She says that her people are a long way from home and are delighted to meet other sentient life. She says that if the people of Earth give her people water and minerals they need to survive, they will share their technology with us, then leave. The message is met with applause, which is kind of weird. I guess everyone’s just really happy they weren’t vaporized!

There’s a quite abrupt time jump after seeing the initial First Contact with the visitors, and part of me thinks that probably could have been handled better. Suffice it to say a lot has changed about the world. Tourism is up in cities that are hosting V (short for Visitor) motherships, which is a welcome boost to what had been a very struggling economy. The Vs have also opened Healing Centers where they are able to cure 65 ailments. Not everyone is happy about the arrival of the Visitors, however. Host cities have also been the site of violent protests.

Erica has noticed something strange in the terrorist chatter that she analyzes at work. Terrorist activity has been way down since the arrival of the Vs except for one sleeper cell. That cell has been putting out feelers to acquire C-4. Erica and Dale Maddox (Firefly’s Alan Tudyk), Erica’s partner, make a breakthrough in the case. A truck suspected of transporting drugs was stopped on Long Island. There were no drugs, but there were traces of C-4. Using satellite photos, Erica and Dale find where the truck came from. At the location, they go inside what looks like an abandoned shack, but there’s a trap door in the floor. It’s very Lost, like going inside one of the hatches. In the underground bunker, they find two interesting things. A dead guy sitting in a chair, and, of course, C-4.

The arrival of the Visitors has also brought about changes in the professional lives of Father Jack and Chad Decker. Father Jack’s church went from a very small congregation to a packed house for every service. Father Jack is still skeptical of the Vs, though, and he preaches caution in his sermon, much to the chagrin of his boss, Father Travis, who wishes to follow the Vatican’s pronouncement that the Vs are God’s children, too. Father Jack has a brief moment of doubt when one of his parishioners, formerly wheelchair bound, shows up at the church completely healed, but he soon learns he was right to be skeptical. A bleeding man enters the church and says he has evidence that the Vs are out to destroy mankind. He gives an envelope to Father Jack and, before dying from his V-inflicted injuries, instructs Father Jack to take the envelope to a meeting. Chad, meanwhile, has been singled out by Anna to be the media platform of the Vs. She invites him to do a one-on-one interview, but Chad regrets what should be a huge career move when Anna asks him not to “ask any questions that could paint us in a negative light.” Career ambitions win the day, though, and Chad agrees to do the interview as instructed.

The arrival of the Vs has affected the personal lives of Tyler and Ryan. Tyler and one of his friends have become obsessed with the Vs. They put a video online of themselves tagging a building with a red “V,” and they managed to get tickets to see the inside of the New York mothership. While there, Tyler meets a beautiful young Visitor named Lisa. Lisa wants Tyler to become a “Peace Ambassador” to spread knowledge of V culture throughout his community. The only problem is that since he’s 17, he needs his mom’s signature. There is no way Erica is going to sign that paper, and Tyler ends up forging the signature. Ryan, meanwhile, has been getting mysterious phone calls that he prefers not to answer. This, naturally, makes his girlfriend mighty suspicious.

While investigating the otherwise abandoned house of the dead guy from the hatch, Erica and Dale find a cell phone. The cell phone has a text message instructing the guy to be at a meeting that night. Erica thinks they’ve found their sleeper cell. She and Dale go to the meeting location. Erica is going to actually go to the meeting while Dale waits outside in the car. It turns out that the meeting isn’t a terrorist group- it’s the beginnings of a movement to resist the coming V invasion. It turns out that Vs are actually reptilian creatures under cloned human flesh, and they have been secretly living among us for years. Their big reveal was the beginning of their endgame, not at all the true beginning of their plans. I kind of wish the whole reptilian thing was revealed visually instead of just through a throwaway line of dialogue. Erica is skeptical until Father Jack shows her the envelope. In it is photographs of suspected Vs. One of the men photographed is the same person who’s Passport she was earlier analyzing as part of the sleeper cell/C-4 investigation. It turns out that the sleeper cell is actually a sleeper cell of Vs.

The meeting is interrupted when a small round device that looks like the remote Luke uses in Star Wars to hone his skills with the Force floats into the warehouse. Seconds later, it explodes, causing havoc. The explosion is followed by Vs rushing into the room, displaying ninja-like fighting skills. One in particular makes a beeline for Erica. It’s Dale. She works past her horror and manages to fight him off. She thinks she has killed him with a blow to the head (which reveals some reptilian skin), but I’m not so sure. Ryan also appears at the meeting, but he fights on the side of the humans. Surprisingly, he’s actually a V as well, but he’s considered a traitor to the V community. He pledges that others like him will join the resistance.

The fact that I’m overjoyed that such an unapologetically genre show has made it to network television and found success helps me overlook any of the flaws I’ve pointed out in this recap. The only thing that really still bugs me is the fact that the pilot contained so many important plot points. It felt like we were on fast forward. I hope that now we’ve established the conflict between the Vs and the human resistance, the pace will slow down a bit. I do think that, for all of the plot twistiness, the pilot did a decent job developing some characters with unique voices. I look forward to seeing where the show goes next.

No comments:

Post a Comment