Wednesday, April 14, 2010

V 1.06: "Pound of Flesh"

“We’re scattered all around the world in different cities. But I can assure you, Mr. Hobbes, we’re a sleeping giant.”


There’s not much that can be said about “Pound of Flesh” that can’t be said about any other episode of V. The plot was propelled forward. The conflict between Vs and humans is coming closer. It felt like items were being checked off on a list. “Mobilize Fifth Column,” check. “Sort-of sad character sacrifice,” check. “Attempt to give the Evans family a mysterious past so they might actually be somewhat interesting,” check. “Expose the true stakes of Val’s pregnancy (sort-of),” check. “Make Chad start to act on his suspicions,” check. There were some attempts at character development in this episode, but the characters still didn’t really connect with me. It could just be a case of too little, too late. Which is just a shame because I desperately want to see genre survive on network television.

The episode opens with Anna and some of her lieutenants watching a video of a bombing taking place on the Sydney mothership during the Bliss. Incidents like this make it clear to Anna that the Fifth Column is getting more brazen, and she is more determined than ever to come up with a way to crush them. She’s also enthusiastic about the new “Live Aboard” program that she will be announcing later in the day, and she wants to make sure that humans think that it’s a great show of hospitality by the Vs. She decides she’s going to again enlist Chad to help give the program the best PR spin possible. I’m sensing a kind of recurring theme in these first two new episodes since the hiatus. Anna has several nefarious schemes she’s in the process of executing, and she wants humanity to embrace them.

Erika is preoccupied with Tyler through most of the episode. She’s concerned that when Live Aboard is announced, Tyler is going to want to live on a mothership. Ryan tells her to be careful. If she tells Tyler the truth, he’s going to believe her and stay away from the Vs, and the change in his routine will rouse suspicion. Erika eventually decides that she will keep Tyler from living with the Vs by taking him to live with the one person he could possibly love more- his dad, Joe.

Tyler feels like his motorcycle accident is responsible for his parents’ split, and at one point in this episode, he even apologizes to his dad for that. This sends Joe into quite the quagmire of guilt, and he confronts Erika about it. Joe thinks it’s time to tell Tyler the truth about who he is. Now, at the time this was broadcast, I was wondering what the heck Joe was talking about. My mind started racing to fantastical places like “Could Tyler be a secret V?” It definitely stirred up some interesting speculation for a little while, although not because I really feel a connection with the characters. It was just an interesting little mystery to potentially be solved. Erika’s plan seems to be working until Lisa shows up at the very end of the episode.

Meanwhile, Hobbes is thoroughly unimpressed with the current state of the rather ragtag Resistance, and he thinks they need a plan to mobilize in greater numbers ASAP. Hobbes suggests they hijack the signal from Anna’s Live Aboard program broadcast. Ryan is pretty skeptical (this seems to be a bit of a recurring theme). He thinks it would be too dangerous to try and get aboard the mothership and mess with the signal. Hobbes is pretty persistent, though. He even sneaks in and blends into the FBI to prove to Erika that his skills are really that good. It’s not any persuasion that changes Ryan’s mind, though.

What changes Ryan’s mind is a visit (along with Val) to his V doctor friend. Forsaking any semblance of medical ethics, the doctor shows Val a false ultrasound to make Val think her baby is just fine. The doctor pulls Ryan aside and shows him the true ultrasound, which is a bit freaky. She also says that the baby is rapidly using up the phosphorus Val has stored in her system. A V female naturally possesses much higher phosphorus levels for just this reason. The only place to get phosphorus in the concentration Val is going to need is the V mothership. So Ryan agrees to take on the “mess with the signal” mission in the hopes that he can nab some phosphorus too and kill two birds with one stone.

Even with the rest of the team helping to get Ryan on the mothership by finding him the perfect identity, making him fake fingerprints, forging ID papers, the whole nine yards (the part of me that loves heist movies wishes they had spent more time on this aspect), Ryan’s mission is going to be more difficult than he anticipates. Anna decrees that all Vs on the mothership shall undergo a “situational empathy test” to determine whether or not they are Fifth Column. Vs still under the control of Anna and her Bliss should have no emotional response to disturbing imagery. Anna is extremely ruthless in her administration of this test. She doesn’t really care that there’s a margin for error, and out of the people who failed, she figures out who the real Fifth Column members are because those who are loyal would rather kill themselves than be thought disloyal. Another interesting little twist that could have ramifications for the Resistance is that Hobbes has been checking up on the rest of the team. He met with a woman who provided him with files on everyone. I’m not sure what that means just yet, but I’m intrigued.

Despite the risks (and Ryan calling way too much attention to himself by standing apart from the security line and gazing at the inside of the mothership for an extended amount of time), Ryan’s attempted infiltration actually goes pretty well at first. His ID papers don’t scan the first time, but they do the second, he passes the core temperature/fingerprint test, and he’s admitted onto the mothership. The first real problem comes when he sees a woman holding a baby and pauses when he hears the baby cry. What looks like a V security officer takes notice of this and starts following Ryan. He catches up with Ryan as Ryan is taking some phosphorus and takes Ryan to the situational empathy testing room.

While Ryan is up on the mothership, Father Jack is trying to help the cause in his own way. He goes to talk to Chad Decker. He tells Chad he’s got parishioners who are concerned about the V’s, and he asks Chad to make sure that the Healing Centers really are safe. I didn’t expect this would actually get through to Chad, considering he was scared enough to agree to run the piece on the Healing Centers exactly as Anna wanted it, but I think the conversation did start to get him thinking somewhat. Chad comes to Jack’s church, asking for some sort of reassurance or absolution. Jack assures Chad that he’s on the right path. Chad has a hunch something’s wrong, or he wouldn’t have visited Father Jack.

The climax of the episode begins as Georgie pays a visit to Val. Ryan had asked him to do so if he didn’t make it back from the mothership in a certain amount of time. Ryan wanted Georgie to tell Val the truth about everything. When he sees Val is pregnant, though, Georgie just can’t go through with it. His own family was destroyed by the Vs, and he can’t bear to see that happen again. He calls Erika and says he’s going up to the mothership. Erika and Jack find Hobbes and are appalled to learn that Hobbes encouraged Georgie’s stunt. Hobbes figures Ryan is more valuable than Georgie, since Ryan has first-hand knowledge of everything V.

Georgie, tragically (I’ll get to that), didn’t have anything to worry about yet, since both Joshua who is administering the test and the V who brought Ryan to the testing room in the first place are both Fifth Column. When Ryan fails the test, Joshua essentially welcomes him to the crew. Joshua offers to take care of sending the message during Anna’s broadcast so Ryan can get off the mothership and back to safety. Georgie’s plan does end up coming in handy though, as a security guard tries to stop Ryan as he’s about to get on a shuttle back to Earth. Georgie sees this going down, and he kills the security guard while screaming “Long Live the Fifth Column” as a distraction so Ryan can get out. As this is happening, Joshua succeeds in making sure Anna’s broadcast ends with “John May Lives” written across every V mothership.

When Ryan gets home, he offers to make Val a cup of tea because she’s had a stressful day. Of course, while she’s in another room, we can see Ryan surreptitiously mixing some phosphorus into the brew. He then heads to the church, where the team minus Georgie has gathered to regroup. They all agree that they need to find some way to get Georgie back, but the last shuttle for the day has already gone up to the mothership. Any plan will have to wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Vs begin to torture Georgie, hoping he’ll spill the name of fellow Resistance members.

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