Thursday, 3 February 2011

'V', 2.4 - "Unholy Alliance"

Thursday, 3 February 2011

We're only four episodes into V's second season, but it feels like the show's been back much longer. Is that a good sign, because these four hours have crammed so much material in? Or a bad sign, because things feel like they're dragging? It's definitely the former, actually. The writers have amped up the pace this year, with a dizzying amount of information being delivered, which is helping distract you from the (mostly) dull characters imparting it.

In "Unholy Alliance", three Peace Ambassadors were viciously murdered by a radical faction of the Fifth Column, prompting Erica's (Elizabeth Mitchell) resistance cell to find the faction's leader Eli Cohn (Oded Fehr) and persuade him to stop his hard line tactics that endanger innocent lives. Erica also got a new partner in Chris Bolling (Jay Karnes), an old friend she went through FBI training with, who got a hunch that Father Jack's (Joel Gretsch) involved with terrorists. Meanwhile, Anna (Morena Baccarin) travelled to the Vatican City to persuade the Catholic church to give her people their official support and condemn violence against the Visitors, or risk her using "miraculous" technology to convert a billion Catholics to her own cause. Elsewhere, Tyler (Logan Huffman) reacted badly to news of more anti-V suicide bombings and helped vandalize Father Jack's church, and Ryan (Morris Chestnut) was again manipulated into doing Anna's dirty work to keep his baby daughter safe.

The abiding memory of "Unholy Alliance" is seeing V tackle the issue of religion more overtly than ever. It's not intelligent enough to do a astonishingly complex job, but you have to admire its bravery in daring to broach the subject . Most alien invasion stories allude to the spiritual questions that must arise when extra-terrestrials are discovered, but you rarely see the aliens blackmail the Church into giving them their support. It's an idea that could have been even braver (was The Pope busy?), but it makes sense that Anna would want a billion Catholics obliged to treat her people with absolute respect. Also fun to see Anna learn more about the human soul, when she's told it's immortal and cannot be destroyed, leading to a moment when an undercover V still loyal to her mother (Jane Badler) claims the V's should be embracing what humanity has to offer their species. This also acted as proof that Anna's mother was a more revolutionary Queen who was ousted from her position by her intolerant daughter, and not an equally malicious matriarch deposed by her jealous child.

Giving Erica a new FBI partner feels like a good step, particularly when it was revealed Bolling's actually been recruited by Erica's suspicious boss, and is going to be gathering evidence that she's up to no good. I doubt Erica's cover is going to be blown anytime soon (the show needs to have someone in her position of authority), so it's likely Bolling will come to share her anti-V sentiments and feed her boss comforting lies. Or will the show take things down a less predictable path; maybe with Erica being forced to kill her friend to guarantee his silence once he realizes what's going on?

The introduction of Cohn could be interesting, as we learn his own pregnant wife was experimented on by the V's as Erica was, and he's a character with an extremist view on terrorism and what it'll take to defeat the V's. I'm not convinced the whole idea of Peace Ambassadors (an allegory for the Hitler Youth) has worked the way it was intended, as the members are all clearly innocent young people who have no reason to fear the V's. It would be more interesting to me if the V's asked their human Ambassadors to do dubious things "for the greater good", to at least make them responsible for bad things that give Cohn's group a stronger reason to want them dead. As it stands, they're just naïve dupes, and it's hard to see why Cohn's group bother targeting brainwashed victims.

Overall, "Unholy Alliance" was much like every other episode of V this year: a surprising amount of stuff happened, it was fast and fairly entertaining, but the expositional dialogue and dreary characters are a big weakness (with the obvious exception of Morena Baccarin, who remains marvelous.) I actually feel sorry for showrunner Scott Rosenbaum, who inherited certain things from his predecessor it's unfeasible to change (like Logan Huffman), because if V could somehow recast 80% of its actors the show would be improved immensely. The fact is, if there are scenes that rely on the human characters interacting on a personal level, V's a washout. They're just not interesting characters, and most look extremely bored. Mitchell relies on her signature close-lipped smile so often it's becoming comical.


  • I have to admit, I'm interested to hear the explanation of what the V's were doing 20 years ago on Earth. They were being led by Queen Diana at that point, who was apparently placing V's on the planet in undercover roles to report on humanity, while experimenting on selected pregnant women so their children would have chunks of their DNA missing (thus easily replaceable with alien DNA.) I suspect Diana came to realize her species' plan to breed with mankind (in secret?) wasn't going to work, and then her ambitious daughter Anna saw her softening attitude as weakness and took over, with a new plan that took 15 years to perfect?
  • I had to laugh at the scene where Anna's shuttle, unannounced, rapidly descended from the sky and almost flattened hundreds of Vatican City tourists, who nevertheless gathered to applaud her exit from the craft. Hilarious.
  • Why is Chad Decker the world's most famous news anchorman? He reads an autocue with all the charisma of a hip geography teacher.
  • The face-skin of Agent Malik was a surprisingly horrific visual. V's been doing a lot of gruesome stuff this year, probably to lure some teenagers in. Just be grateful we didn't see Malik's body being dissolved in that bath of acid. Or are you upset we didn't? You sick puppy, you.
  • This episode was written by Rockne S. O'Bannon, the creator of Alien Nation, which was a TV series from the '80s about visitors from outer space trying to exist alongside humanity and facing prejudice. He must love that stuff.
WRITER: Rockne S. O'Bannon
DIRECTOR: Dean White
TRANSMISSION: 1 February 2011, ABC, 9/8c