Wednesday, November 4, 2009

V - The Pilot

If you plan to see the pilot and haven't yet, don't read this post. Spoilers abound.

I am certain that V was either my most anticipated or my second most anticipated new series of the Fall TV season, neck and neck with FlashForward. Well, we all know that I thought of FlashForward. But let's not dwell on that right now.

I'm not sure why V started so late in the season. It will be aired for 4 weeks, then will take a break until March, 2010, after the Winter Olympics. A lot of people are upset about this, because they feel that the break will be disastrous to the show. I don't know. I do know that V got excellent ratings last night for its pilot.

I can't tell you where I was when JFK was shot, but I do know where I was when I first heard of a plane crashing into the first tower on 9/11. The pilot of V started by asking where you were during those events, then added, "Where were you this morning?" This morning being the morning that 29 alien ships appeared over cities across the globe, of course. After a few minutes of suspense and anticipation, an apparition of Anna, a leader among the Visitors in the alien ships, talking in the language of the city the ship is over, assuring us that the Visitors are thrilled to find another planet with intelligent life, and promising to bring healing and peace to the world.

As might be expected, some people find hope and believe in the message, while others protest their presence. The news channels are abuzz with what little information they can gather about the Visitors, while the aliens arrange for trips from earth to their ships. Anna arranges to meet with the UN.

In the meantime, our heroine, Erica Evans, an FBI counterterrorism agent, notices that the activity of a particular terrorist cell spikes. She and her partner, Dale Maddox, investigate, but unfortunately, seem to be one step behind the suspects throughout the hour. Erica must also deal with her teenaged son, who is, of course, troubled. Tyler is clearly fascinated with the Visitors, taking a trip to their ship and agreeing to become a V Peace Ambassador Program. Tyler becomes attracted to a Visitor named Lisa.

In the meantime, a businessman named Ryan Nichols is disturbed by nearly constant calls from an old acquaintance named George, who wants Ryan's help, but Ryan wants nothing of it. He plans to propose to his girlfriend, but she becomes paranoid about the number of calls Ryan refuses to answer.

Father Landry finds his church, formerly a congregation of 3, has standing room only during Mass. His fellow priest encourages Landry to praise the Visitors for bringing peace and healing, but Landry is skeptical. One of his original parishioners, Roy, has visited a healing center, and can walk. But another of his congregants gives Landry an envelope with an address on it, telling him to go to the meeting. The man has been wounded, and dies in the church.

Chad Decker is a television news anchor who reports on the Visitors. He scores an exclusive interview with Anna but is shocked when told right before the interview that he is not allowed to ask any questions that would embarrass the Visitors or make them look bad. He agrees to the interview, but clearly finds it distasteful.

Erica's investigation leads her to a clandestine meeting run by Ryan Nichols' friend, George. All attendants have to undergo a slicing of skin over their ears to ensure they are all human. Then George announces that the Visitors are lying - they've been on Earth for decades, infiltrating various institutions. Their intentions are not peaceful but nefarious, though we didn't learn much about that. Erica almost left, but Landry, who was at the meeting in mufti, showed the envelope he had been given. It contained pictures that coincided with Erica's investigation. As she discussed this with Landry, a metallic ball flew into the room shooting bullets. Then men came in, including Dale Maddox, Erica's partner. He tries to kill Erica, but she wounds him instead, and uncovers his lizard skin on his face. Dale is a Visitor. Landry grabs Erica and they escape.

Meanwhile, Ryan Nichols shows up to rescue George, but is injured while doing so. Ryan apologizes for not coming earlier, saying that there needs to be a resistance against the Visitors. He then reveals his injured arm, which shows lizard skin. Ryan isn't the only Visitor traitor who is working against the Visitors' aims.

Okay, now that I have the recap over and done with, I must say that I found myself very engaged in the show, with one notable exception. The actors were all excellent, and the storytelling structure was interesting. I am curious about the moral quandary facing Chad Decker as he finds himself the reluctant spokesman for the Visitors but also getting worldwide exposure. I found Landry's uncertainty to be intriguing. I was a little confused by Ryan Nichols and his involvement with the main storyline, so I certainly didn't predict that he was a "sleeper" Visitor. I did guess that Dale Maddox was a Visitor - Erica kept mentioning how the suspects seemed to be tipped off in time to escape. It also didn't help that the actor playing him is listed as a guest actor. And let's face it, Alan Tudyk did a version of this in last season's Dollhouse.

The exception is the tired cliche that is troubled teen Tyler Evans. In a conversation between Tyler and his mother, he accuses her of not caring about him because she's never home. Essentially, the lines have been written and spoken in thousands of shows before now, and will be written and spoken in thousands of show afterward. Hopefully, the dreaded teen angst will be minimized in future episodes.

Lost Fan Alert: Duh - Elizabeth Mitchell, Juliet Burke on Lost, plays Erica Evans. Damn those Lost producers for letting her go. She remains beautiful, smart, and fabulous.

Buffyverse Fan Alert - Dale Maddox is played by Alan Tudyk, Hoban "Wash" Washborn in Firefly and Serenity, and Alpha in Dollhouse. Morena Baccarin, Anna, was Inarra Serra on Firefly and Serenity.

The 4400 Fan Alert - Joel Gretsch plays Father Landry. He played Tom Baldwin in The 4400. That show ended way too soon.

Other actors of note: Morris Chestnut plays Ryan Nichols. Scott Wolf from Party of Five and The Nine plays Chad Decker. Lourdes Benedicto, also of The Nine, plays Valerie Stevens, Ryan Nichols' girlfriend.

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