V 1.03: Killing with Kindness

19 Nov

One of the biggest dangers the humans of ABC’s V might face this season is the cliché.  Alien invasion stories, after all, are nothing new.  Neither is the priest whose own doubts give him trouble handling the problems of his flock.  But three episodes in (and even if three weeks doesn’t quite constitute a hit), V hasn’t gone stale, a necessity in a season when networks are axing new shows that don’t deliver almost faster than they premiere.

Here’s hoping to a long shelf life.

The opening minutes of last Tuesday’s episode, “A Bright New Day,” were possibly the sweetest I’ve seen in the show yet—and no, they don’t involve Erica’s idiot son and his simpering space princess (he annoys me so thoroughly, you might have gathered, that I’m not even bothering to learn his name).

The show opens with Jack (Father Landry, to the faithful) sweating and fidgeting in his confessional as various parishioners file in or out, in torment or rapture, variously.

“Are the Vs demons, or angels?” one woman asks.

“Who am I to question the Pope?” says another man.

In the past few episodes, shifts in who you can trust and who count as authority figures have been major themes—here they are again, notably, in questions posed to a very human man with neither.  And he looks so uncomfortable trapped in that stiff collar and tiny room that we’re left wondering who he can talk to about these questions.

“I want to be able to look them in the eye and tell them God loves them, everything’s going to be fine.  How can I tell them that?  I don’t even know what to tell myself anymore,” he insists.

And here’s where ABC defuses the cliché: Jack’s sentiment might not be original, but most priests don’t ask their advice from FBI agents investigating sleeper cells… of aliens.

So much for prayer.

Erica and Jack’s conversation is particularly touching because, in a world where everyone has two faces (and for some of them, I mean that literally), this bizarre pair trusts each other completely.  Shoot—Erica leaves him alone in her house paging through the FBI database.  National security breach?  Too late for that.

And you have to admit that Erica’s game plan is a lot more practical than saying two Hail Marys and a Glory Be.

“Whatever their plan is,” she says of the Vs, “They need us for something.  And until we find out what that is, we need to fight them the same way they’re fighting us.”

In other words: pretend to play nice.

If there’s anyone I can see going head to head with Anna and winning, it’s Elizabeth Mitchell as Agent Evans.  Even as she assists V security in identifying a death threat against one of their officials, Erica demonstrates the skills she’ll need to build a resistance: brilliant observation, something close to photographic memory, and absolute control over how she allows others to perceive her.  Sound like any particularly conniving alien woman we know?

In the long run, it doesn’t matter that the whole shooter/assassination/death threat thing was a set-up: we already knew the Vs were sneaky, and the would-be rebels knew it as well.  In “A Bright New Day,” it’s the Vs who are out of the loop for once, and the great thing is, they don’t even know it—

By saving Anna’s slimy advisor Marcus, Erica gains his trust, as he assumes she saved him out of the same devotion most humans display.  Painful and seemingly-counterintuitive though this rescue must have been, Erica keeps her head and shakes his hand.

Infiltration doesn’t have to be one-sided.

With the return of David Richmond-Peck as George “it’s Georgie” Sutton (organizer of the ill-fated warehouse meeting in episode one), this becomes even more clear.  While well-meaning Jack (once again) demonstrates his blatant lack of street smarts, Richmond-Peck portrays a sapient homo sapiens who knows how to survive and outlast anyone (and when it comes to his family, tragically, he has).  The team is beginning to shape up.

Though “A Bright New Day” hints that there’s another V in the FBI (I’m guessing Erica’s boss Paul—he’s the one who let the Vs take custody of the “shooter,” after all, and seemingly without a fight), we also meet a traitor in a very high place, the New York Mothership (and I was cheering by the end of that scene, by the way).  Add into the mix the mysterious John May-or-may-not be a myth, and the rebels might just stand a chance.  Or, as the veterans call them: The Fifth Column.

More hope lies in the new knowledge that not all of the Vs are committed to the program of human destruction: Ryan Nichols’s old Fifth Column buddy Cyrus tries to turn him in, but only because of something he speaks of incoherently a “the Bliss.”

“The Bliss?” Ryan scoffs.  “The Bliss is how she controlled us, Cyrus.  Just like junkies, man.  And that’s what you are, you’re nothing but a junkie.  Just like the rest of them.”

Killing with kindness?  Anna’s killing with ecstasy.

But Erica’s “fighting them the same way they’re fighting us” now, remember, and that could make all the difference this time, in what’s shaping up to be the second rebellion.  We don’t know much about the first, but having Georgie Sutton around gives us some useful clues—

After 1.03, his emotionalism in the pilot’s warehouse scene is even more understandable (not that aliens overhead is something not to get upset about): the Vs murdered his wife and kids.  And like we treat most adults ranting about aliens in our own society, Georgie’s community stigmatized him.

“He went a little crazy,” one of his neighbors says, of the murders.  “He said aliens did it.”

Turns out he wasn’t crazy after all, but as Anna teaches us every Tuesday, perception is everything.  He didn’t look credible, however good his information was.

And as good in his role as the impassioned, almost-fanatical, and kind of ruthless survivor (he holds a gun to the head of a priest) as Mitchell is at playing cool-and-composed, Richmond-Peck’s Georgie is as much the counterpart to Erica as is Jack Landry, and just as important to the growing resistance.

Erica and Jack—an FBI agent and a Man of God—are the poster children of model citizenship, but Georgie Sutton and Ryan Nichols know the rules of the game.  And this time, they’re going to play nice.

For now.

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