V 1.02: What part of ‘don’t trust anyone’ don’t you understand?

12 Nov

ABC’s V sets up a scenario that should be an intergalactic politics nightmare:

Alien spacecraft darken the skies over the globe’s major cities, world governments debate establishing diplomatic ties with the non-human intelligent life, and, as it turns out, the so-called “Visitors” don’t plan to leave any time soon—in fact, they’ve already been here for years (at least).

And yet, we haven’t seen a hint of the president, or any world leader for that matter.  This is definitely a departure from the traditional alien invasion and/or disaster movie, in which a tortured president generally plays a clichéd, but prominent, role.

Personally, I like this model better.

As it stands after episode two, “There Is No Normal Anymore,” the (human) power-brokers on Earth aren’t anything like conventional authority figures.  We have—

FBI Agent Erica Evans: determined, observant, and unbelievably cool under pressure (it’s all that practice lying to Ben Linus, honest), she’s shaping up to be the natural leader of the incipient resistance movement, but has nothing in the way of institutional clout (except what FBI documents she can steal, of course);

Father Jack Landry: a Catholic priest who’s doubtless used to being told the truth (in confession and otherwise), Jack’s noticeably new to the subterfuge game.  Still, he’s not naïve, and in a world where it’s increasingly difficult to trust anyone, being a Man of God can’t hurt;

Chad Decker: Ambitious and slightly amoral, Chad’s psychology seems simple enough for Anna to manipulate—in 1.02, though, the glib news anchor puts an uncharacteristic look of shock on the usually-blank face of the alien High Commander with his unwillingness to act the docile mouthpiece of the Vs.  And with significant influence over public opinion, Chad Decker might be the most powerful man on the planet—God help us.

It’s this motley crew (and a couple V defectors, if they can ever trust each other long enough to get together) standing against an extraterrestrial force with surveillance capabilities that make wiretapping look like child’s play.  Here’s another example of bringing contemporary issues up for discussion in a theoretically non-politicized venue (who ever said science fiction was escapist?).  Modern technology makes an omniscient centralized government closer to science fact than fiction—it just looks a lot more disturbing when set on an alien mothership: because really, if you can’t trust your 9-1-1 dispatcher, who can you trust?

The answer Erica and Jack grapple with throughout the episode is: absolutely no one.  That’s one frightening world to live in—and the worst part is, it’s one we can readily recognize in modern America.  First lesson in primary school isn’t phonics anymore—it’s Stranger Danger.

Even Vs have trust issues—

Ryan Nichols, a “traitor” V who’s set up a comfortable life with a human woman he loves and plans (well, planned) to marry, struggles with the fact that his entire life is based on a lie.  And considering just how big that lie is, it’s unlikely he and Valerie could just kiss and make up if he ever told her.  But with Nichols convinced that he needs to get back into the resistance, he faces the choice of breaking both their hearts or putting Valerie in danger.  Tragic.

The major plot point here, though, might just be V medical technology.  Taking back up the rebel standard, Nichols suffered what a human might be a fatal gash down the arm—for a V, however, ‘tis but a flesh wound.  An potent injection (nanotechnology?) knits up a cut which had revealed his true scaly self up in literally seconds.  Little does Agent Evans know that it’s probably this very technology bringing back her ex-partner Dale up in the mothership, after she’d thought she killed him—with a stake through the heart, no less.

But even first-aid man (really a V) Angelo Russo, drugs Nichols and skedaddles after patching his old rebellion buddy up because, quote, “I’m sorry man.  I can’t trust you—I can’t trust anyone.”

It’s a line echoed throughout the episode by humans too: Jack, Nichols’s fiancé Valerie, Erica’s boss Paul, and Erica herself on multiple occasions.  In one memorable scene, she breaks her composure and shouts viciously at Jack—“What part of don’t trust anyone don’t you understand?”

I only wish the FBI agent would take her own advice. Erica, who’s borderline-paranoid (and who could blame her?) still trusts her son, who’s out daily frolicking with “space girls.”  Earth to Agent Evans: parents should never trust their teenage kids, not even when there aren’t alien invaders in the sky overhead.

Oh, the irony.

But human beings are never fully consistent, and contradictions are what make a complex character—the last thing we want out of Elizabeth Mitchell is a two-dimensional Rebel Leader.  That’s one thing V seems to be doing excellently, even so early in the season: casting and character development.

Morena Baccarin as Anna is an immediate standout.  She’s already mastered the (lack of) expression necessary to convey an identity as some type of reptiloid in utterly foreign human flesh.  With this unearthly schizoid impassivity as a backdrop, even the subtlest change in expression or tone of voice is clear as ice, and generally as chilling.

Too bad she’s evil.


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