Thursday, 24 February 2011

'V' 2.7 - "Birth Pangs"

Thursday, 24 February 2011

After last week's unmistakable move to invigorate V, "Birth Pangs" continued on a similarly propulsive note. The show is delivering a surprising amount of information and clarity about the Visitors and their masterplan this season, which is great to see, even if it sometimes feel like an hour of information dumps in-between action sequences. The character problems and grossly expositional dialogue persist, but it's countered by the handful of actors who elevate the material, while the focus on action and answers at least staves off boredom.

This week, Erica (Elizabeth Mitchell) had to persuade the Fifth Column to accept her as Eli Cohn's chosen successor, travelling to Hong Kong to meet with her predecessors lieutenants, before investigating the mysterious Dr Rai who was involved with her pregnancy; Anna (Morena Baccarin) was aggravated that Tyler's (Logan Huffman) phosphorous levels are too low for the next stage of her interbreeding plot, so put a contingency plan into motion by ordering Lisa (Laura Vandervoort) to start a relationship with one of the 28 alternative males; captive Diana (Jane Badler) tightened her bond with granddaughter Lisa, insisting she refuse to trust anyone in the mothership; traitor Ryan (Morris Chestnut) resurfaced, having survived Eli's bomb, and discovered that Anna has accelerated the age of his hybrid daughter, as part of a plan to ensure the hatchling of her last surviving egg matures quickly if Lisa needs to be replaced; and Chad (Scott Wolf) revealed his Fifth Column allegiance to Lisa, asking her for medical information on the live-aboard humans to determine why they're being experimented on.

"Birth Pangs" also debuted the new uncompromising and aggressive attitude of Erica, which seemed to go down well with Hobbes (Charles Mesure), although Mitchell still doesn't look comfortable. It was discussed in the comments of my review last week, but I'm not sure if the actress is simply weak, or just uncomfortable with this character. There was a moment hinting a romance with Hobbes could be on the cards (as TV characters of opposite gender can't lie next to each other without giving off signals), so maybe that will stir some life into Mitchell. I still have good memories of her performance in Lost, so it's very confusing that she looks so awkward in this show.

The dehumanizing of Tyler (symbolically having his hair shaved off), worked well. The character's such a bore that turning him into a jarhead, brainwashed V devotee is a wise move, and I like the suggestion he's becoming more like a Visitor with every passing day. Tyler's even opted not to grieve for his dead father, but instead throw himself into flight training, which spares Huffman some acting. There are only two big issues with his character now: (a) it's impossible to see why Lisa cares for Tyler so much, as there's zero chemistry between them, and (b) the show still hasn't explained why Erica doesn't just tell Tyler the truth about the Visitors. If Erica revealed what she knows and her son went into hiding, Anna would simply turn her attention to one of the "alternatives" for her daughter to sleep with, so surely that's an option now.

I also liked how both Tyler and Lisa were revealed to be expendable in Anna's eyes, which puts them both on very shaky ground. Seeing Lisa standup to her mother (refusing to cheat on Tyler and slapping Anna across the face) was also a great scene that gave Lisa more a backbone. She also proved to be rather smart by avoiding Joshua's (Mark Hildreth) trap, when he pretended to have regained his memory of being a Fifth Columnist in an effort to obtain an incriminating reaction from her. Some of this is down to the guidance she's receiving from granny Diana in her dungeon, who aroused my suspicions in this episode. We're being led to believe Diana's a benevolent queen who was ousted by her ambitious daughter, but I'm not so sure. There are too many scenes where Diana gives the camera a devious, villainous stare. I have a feeling that if Diana is released, she'll be an equal threat to humanity, but would just approach the problem from a different angle. The only difference between Diana and Anna might be that the former is pro-emotion, so wouldn't be wasting her time trying to eradicate the human soul. If so, Lisa may regret helping her grandmother escape to regain her throne, which must surely happen before the season's over.

Overall, "Birth Pangs" managed to push the mytharc along very well, and it really helps having a good idea what the Visitors are up to now. Anna's masterplan, with the 29 motherships hovering over cities that each contain a genetically-modified human mate for Lisa to breed with, doesn't make total sense, but it's the kind of pulp sci-fi you can accept. The original '80s series was all about eating humans and stealing Earth's water, so this remake's genetic manipulation and interbreeding is far more interesting and intelligent scheme. It's just a shame V's ratings remain so low, putting the likelihood of a third season in serious doubt, because this year's been a definite improvement and I'd like to see how things develop.


  • What was up with the heavy use of sunglasses in Hong Kong? Was it really that sunny? Wouldn't it have been a good idea for Erica and Hobbes to show the Fifth Column their eyes, if you're trying to gain their trust?
  • The special effects for the suicide of Dr Rai was really good, as she jumped off that skyscraper and disintegrated in freefall. A genuine stunt, mixed with CGI. Impressive.
  • Tyler's suddenly unsuitable for interbreeding because of an immunity to phosphorous? Ryan's daughter can no longer be affected by the pain Anna inflicted on her, which could only be soothed with her bliss? Both are changes that happened because otherwise the writers will encounter dead-ends, but it still caused some eye-rolling from me.
written by Cathryn Humphris / directed by David Barrett / 22 February 2011 / ABC