Thursday, 20 January 2011

'V' 2.3 - "Laid Bare"

Thursday, 20 January 2011

I can't deny V's doing a better job with pacing, action, and sense of forward momentum this season. Those are improvements the show desperately needed and the writers have delivered them. There's barely a five minute window before something visually stimulating happens (explosions, torture, car crashes, CGI tails, Jane Badler's cleavage), but unfortunately V's still missing one key ingredient: gripping characters you actually care about and want to watch. The fact the people on-screen are mostly nonentities who exist to deliver exposition and nudge the plot along to the next inciting tent-pole is a weakness I can't see V overcoming. I like maybe four of the regulars (Morena Baccarin, Laura Vandervoort, Mark Hildreth, Morris Chestnut), while the rest could die shocking deaths and I'd probably punch the air.

"Laid Back" offered another tangle of storylines: Erica (Elizabeth Mitchell) fought with alien Agent Malik (Rekha Sharma) following last week's car crash, eventually gaining the upper hand and taking Malik to the resistance hideout for interrogation; Anna (Baccarin) asked Chad (Scott Wolf) to give Father Jack (Joel Gretsch) a media outlet so his anti-V dogma can be aired, only to manipulate events to paint the priest as a bigoted, violent hypocrite; Lisa (Vandervoort) realized her body's going through changes as she reaches maturity, while being brainwashed by her mother into becoming a callous dictator; Ryan (Chestnut) was blackmailed by Anna into reporting details of the Fifth Column to her, in order to keep his baby daughter safe; and Malik was cruelly skinned to extract information about a runaway girl the V's are going to kidnap for experimentation.

I approve of the direction V's taking and the fact it's less ambiguous and easier to understand motivations and points of view, but I still don't feel connected to most of the characters. In fact, quite a few can be exasperatingly inept or naïve -- best exemplified here with Father Jack blindly walking into what was clearly going to be a trap, despite Chad warning him Anna would have ulterior motives for allowing him to speak freely. But there are flashes of subtle inspiration, such as the way Erica's becoming maternal towards her enemy's daughter (turning her more human), while Anna is likewise becoming a mother figure for Erica's son (turning him more alien).

This episode was rather uncomfortably violent, though. While there's a distancing effect to screen brutality when it involves fictional elements like aliens, "Laid Bare" was still delivering scenes of someone having flesh torn off their back. When you think about it, that's a more extreme torture than anything 24 served audiences over seven seasons, and I'm not sure the fact Malik's only an alien-lizard excuses it. I get the feeling the writers are trying to make V more shocking to draw in an older teenage crowd who, they assume, didn't watch last year because it wasn't nasty enough. Is that the way to go?


  • Does anyone else feel awkward when characters almost retch when they realize the V's are green reptiles beneath their human skin, whenever Ryan's in the room? Why does Ryan never say anything when his people's appearance is being insulted?
  • It's revealed that Tyler's (Logan Huffman) DNA has been scraped of half its structure by the V's, making him genetically as empty as his personality. Someone tell him he's dating a space lizard now, please. There's no reason not to, if his girlfriend and mother are in cahoots.
  • Remember season 1's finale, when Hobbes (Charles Mesure) was seen being blackmailed by Marcus (Christopher Shyer) into helping the V's? That hasn't even been mentioned since! Have the writers forgotten? Has that idea been quietly dropped? It seems like the writers realized any blackmailing worked better with Ryan's character, hence his daughter storyline this year.

WRITER: Gwendolyn M. Parker
DIRECTOR: David Barrett
TRANSMISSION: 18 January 2011, ABC, 9/8c