“V” Review: Standing up at the water’s edge in my dream

So full disclosure up front: I didn’t make it very far through the first season of ABC’s update of “V.” I didn’t so much “drop like it was hot” so much as “leave it tepid on the kitchen counter.” I came for the Elizabeth Mitchell and the Morena Baccarin and left with people pontificating at each other as opposed to talking to one another. The whole endeavor felt unfocused, unfun, and a waste of a talented cast capable of far more than they were being asked to do.

So should you take my view on the start of Season 2 (Jan. 4, 9 PM EST) with some salt? Sure, though not much salt needed to be added to my uneducated palate before jumping into the action this year. Health centers, pregnancy concerns, blue energy, red sky, green clovers, purple horshoes…a rainbow of events that culminated in what should have been a game-changing event. Does that event truly bring change? Well, for about fifteen minutes or so, yes. Then, the status quo returned, my eye rolls returned, and by the end of the second hour of the second season, I decided that only a miracle would keep me going any further than I did last year.

baccarin.jpgThe Peter Gabriel fan in me actually enjoyed what could have been a pretty primal, powerful change in the overall scope of the show. Forget dawdling, fawning humans mooning over Anna and Company like a bunch of extraterrestrial boy bands: what Anna unleashes halfway through the Season 2 premiere gave me hope that maybe “V” was getting down to business, forgoing any pretense of peace, and making a balls-out survival show. But that threat is washed away long before that hour’s end, and with it any hope that Fifth Column would have more than just a handful of members on-hand in its fight for human survival.

As for Fifth Column: maybe prolonged exposure to them last year would have made them come off better in these first few hours of Season 2. But by and large, they remind me of those that attended “Save Burma!” meetings in my mid-20s, in which they gathered in someone’s too-small apartment in the nominal attempt to raise money/awareness but ended up only raising their blood alcohol level as they consumed cheap wine and made vague, increasingly slurred promises that would/could never be fulfilled. They overexplain both motivation and character to a degree usually reserved for shows such as “Smallville”: there’s no time for subtext when crazy lizards wanna breed.

“V” brings in “Reaper” vet Bret Harrison to ostensibly fill a “wacky yet brilliant scientist” role this season, and while I’m an Ellison fan, his role isn’t nearly wacky enough to lift this show out of its somber proceedings. In fact, I could level that charge against the entire show. There’s a time and a place for gravitas in genre fiction: I’m just not sure “V” is either the time or the place. Between Ellison’s insertion and the addition of Jane Badler (from the original incarnation of the show) don’t point to a levity in the overall proceedings so much as a crisis of tone. It’s one thing to add humor organically to reduce tension. It’s quite another when you change tenor so indiscriminately that you end up more schizophrenic than one of Shakespeare’s problem plays. (Can we just go ahead and rename this show “The Lizard’s Tale” and be done with it?)

“V” could use a lot more fun for these proceedings to actually be taken seriously. The characters don’t have to lose their seriousness, but the writers of the show should indulge their inner child and just run wild with it. Too many shows come up with fantastical concepts and refuse to have an ounce of fun with them. I got more enjoyment out of watching Anna’s horrifying, disgusting, yet effective methods of weaning Ryan’s daughter away from him than I did through any of her attempts to discover a weakness to the human spirit, yielding a solution so mind-bogglingly dumb that I tried to Google Baccarin’s address so I could send her a sympathy bouquet for having to deliver those lines with a straight face.

All of this saddens me, because how many genre shows feature a strong female protagonist facing down a strong female antagonist? Mitchell and Baccarin bring what they can to the proceedings, but I found myself doing my best Heath Ledger-as-The Joker impression throughout much of this season’s first few hours: “WHY SO SERIOUS?” A lighter touch on the hand of the production could go a long way towards transforming this show from a long slough to a nimble, exciting survival story. The end of the world need not be such a dour affair, especially when it involves a race of aliens trying to essentially booty call us out of existence.

In short: Turn down the pathos, turn up the Marvin Gaye, and let’s get it on, “V.” (Let’s see them put THAT in the promos.)

Will you be watching the second season of “V”? Sound off below!

One Comment

  1. aby
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I barely made it through season one. The only reason I did was that I took to watching Mystery Science Theater style and made my own comments and sound effects. The show takes itself way too serious and those camera shots of the bad aliens looking so ominous makes me giggle every time. I had already decided not to watch this season, but you just put the final nail in the coffin. Forget Save Burma, we need to start a free Morena Baccarin and Elizabeth Mitchell campaign.