V: Series Premiere

[10 November 2009]

By Marisa LaScala

Unveiled

V wasted no time. No more than halfway into last week’s series premiere, beings from space arrived. Smiling for cameras, they made a promise to share technology in exchange for water and an as-yet unspecified mineral sorely needed on their planet. FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) was immediately suspicious, which meant she was soon dealing with increasingly tense relationships with her partner Dale (Alan Tudyk) and son Tyler (Logan Huffman). But her concerns were mostly backdrop for the episode’s focus on the aliens as an idea and the plot that delivered that idea to earth.

By the end of this episode, it was clear that the visitors’ intentions were not as peaceful as they portrayed, evidenced by the fact that a group of them busted into an underground anti-visitor meeting and massacred a room full of humans. There is no subtlety or ambiguity in this storytelling. The aliens are evil and the underground resistance movement is good. They explained that the visitors have been masquerading as humans and infiltrating all aspects of human society for years. Moreover, not one, but two seeming humans were unveiled as visitors, during which process we were granted glimpses of their icky, reptilian faces.

Of course, any familiarity with the original V miniseries would mean that none of the above is a surprise anyway. That didn’t keep the twists from being deliciously fun, if rather fast in coming. Viewers barely had time to wonder at the potential metaphors embodied by the extraterrestrials before we were hit with another shift in identity or expectation. Surely, there will be more instances of the this-character-you-thought-was-human-is-really-a-visitor trick, just as similar flips were used in Battlestar Galactica and now again in Dollhouse. (In fact, one twist in the premiere of V was very, very similar to one in Dollhouse. If TV has taught me one thing, it’s to not trust Alan Tudyk, after Firefly, anyway.)

While that trick may get old quickly, there’s still plenty going on in the V ambitiously delineated universe. Already, V has targeted several current-events topics. Softball journalism came under fire via Scott Wolf’s TV reporter, the perfectly named Chad: when told not to ask anything that would paint the visitors in an unflattering light, he instantly complied to get ratings and advance his career as the Vs’ go-to interviewer. The Vs also offered up universal healthcare, in the form of their super-healing powers. The episode even stuck a toe in the murky waters of religion as a source of understanding or haven from skepticism, as young Father Landry (Joel Gretsch) made clear immediately his distrust of the visitors, though others tell him they’re a gift from God. Though there’s no doubt that the visitors pose a threat to earth, the many ways people react to that threat are only beginning to materialize. And therein lies all of V‘s possibilities.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/116027-v/