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What the Heaven and Hell!? (V gets religious)

29 Jan

Or, how a show I used to really enjoy has suspended my suspension of disbelief.

I wanted to write this a week ago, but there is no wrath, after all, like an atheist socked in the face with preachy religious messages in the middle of a science fiction program that’s supposed to be about, well, science fiction, and I didn’t want to have a completely incoherent rant splashed all over search engines for the rest of time.  After two-ish years of science fiction blogging, I still have some dignity.  Maybe.

So here goes:

I’ve been reviewing ABC’s alien invasion drama V since it premiered last year.  I was thrilled with the show: Elizabeth Mitchell and Morena Baccarin are both fantastic actresses, and to see them face off in an intergalactic war seemed pretty exciting.  I’ll admit–part of me was trying to fill that LOST-shaped hole in my heart, and FlashForward just wasn’t doing it.  FF had the plot twists, but V had the characters worth caring about.

There’s the FBI agent turned terrorist, the omnicompetent mercenary who can kill soldier aliens with a shovel, the slick tv anchor with access to the mothership,  the turncoat reptiloid traitor, and the Catholic priest who lets them plot and plan their revolution against the Visitors in the basement of his church.  Meanwhile, they banter and make Thorn Birds references.  This season they added that son of Satan from Reaper as the smart-ass scientist, and at last the cast was complete.  It would sound like the premise for a really bizarre sitcom–if the fate of the universe weren’t at stake.

It’s not surprising that the priest, Father Jack Landry, grated on my nerves at first.  He was so dreadfully naive–letting vital information slip to all the wrong people, and biting his fingernails over violence (this is a revolution, buddy).  But he grew on me–mostly because he’s just such a terrible priest.  For God’s sake, there’s a mercenary weapons expert torturing a captive in the middle of the rectory!  Not to mention the whole Jack-Landry-breaks-the-Seal-of-the-Confessional-to-his-own-personal-confessor,-the-FBI-agent thing, which is kind of a bad sin, for a priest.

Simply put, I liked the show–and I defended it against Kate the Lostie, who was all the time pushing me toward Fringe and Minecraft videos.

But I stopped watching halfway through episode 2.2, “Serpent’s Tooth,” and haven’t started up again.  Here’s the thing:

Season One dealt very well with the differences between humans and Visitors.  At that time, it was all about emotion–namely, love (and even more namely, love of a mother for her children).  Reason’s great and all, but love was what worried V Queen Anna most of all.  And in a fantastic season finale twist, Anna herself experienced her first burst of human emotion (rage) when her own children (well, creepy soldier children reptile eggs) were… er… frozen to death by the Fifth Column.

This season, the emphasis has shifted.  In one of the most ridiculous television scenes I have ever had the misfortune of watching:

Apparently, what makes humans human isn’t emotion, empathy, love–it’s The Soul.

“I have human skin, I feel, but I need you to tell me something…” Ryan begs of Father J, “Do I have a soul!”

(Cut scene) “I will isolate it in the medical bay!” Anna exclaims.

(Cut again) “Every creature can feel the grace of God!” Jack tells Ryan.

(And again) “It’s too complex!” cries Diana.

*cue creepy piano music*

Oh, I’ll pick V up again when I can find it on Megavideo, I guess.  But I won’t be so naively happy about it myself, and I don’t know that I’ll ever get that immersion experience that a good story–print or film–can give you if it successfully suspends your disbelief.  If the show continues along this path, viewers have to accept that “humanity” in the world of Anna and Jack is defined in terms of religion.

No, the idea of a soul isn’t very controversial in the United States, but to base an entire science fiction series on it is… jarring (and a lot harder to deny in V than it ever was in the at-times-somewhat-spiritual LOST).  I’m an American Studies major–I’ll learn to look at V the way I do any other historical artifact: as a product of its time and culture.  But who really wants to be a scholar watching tv?

Mommy Issues (ABC’s V, ep 2.1: “Red Sky”)

5 Jan

There was a time in my life when everything I read, or watched, or thought reminded me of LOST.  I’m not saying that’s quite over, but Kate the Lostie is Kate the Fringe Fan these days, and more and more I’m seeing J. J. Abrams’s other show in everything I read, watch, and think.  I’ve been texting myself descriptions of my déjà vus just so I can learn about what Parallel Universe Isabela’s like.

So when we learned last night on the season two premiere of ABC’s V that Erica Evans, FBI agent and Fifth Column High Commander, may have been experimented on while pregnant with her son Tyler, my first thought was, quite naturally, “Cortexiphan!”  More like a phosphorous supplement, but still.  Erica and her son are the Chosen Ones.  No wonder Erica had that weird psychic dream about acidic red rain.  No wonder Tyler’s so effing annoying.

But let’s back up:

The Ensemble

Season one closed with “Red Sky”—remember?  The episode where Lisa the Lizard Princess gives Erica a Blue Energy alien bomb and Erica explodes Anna’s spawning soldier children, causing Anna to experience her first human emotions and, in a fit of vengeance, “initiate the sequence.”  All these months I’ve been wondering what that meant.  All we saw on the finale was that it made the sky turn red.

Well I admit, that’s pretty freaky.  The people of V thought so too, and all the adoration, appreciation, and adulation the masses had for the Visitors last season quickly turned to riots, wrath, and religion.  Tyler was stupid enough to wear his peace ambassador uniform on the street and got beaten up.  I was kind of pleased about it, but, admittedly, that’s probably a bad sign about the state of society.

And when the titular “Red Rain” starts to fall, it doesn’t become a YouTube musical sensation—it’s pure chaos.

Father Landry goes back to the church (figures), Kyle Hobbes starts stockpiling guns (figures), and Chad Decker has an emotional breakdown (finally).  Erica shouts at Anna for an explanation about the Red Sky.  No harm done—Anna’s pretty sure they’re besties now.

Things would seem good for the Fifth Column right about now.  A random New Yorker and fervent Tea Partier (okay, so that part’s speculation) sums up the public attitude:

“If Anna’s bringing Armageddon, I’m goin’ out fighting!”

Hell. Yes.

Anna and Marcus

There’s even dissention in the ranks of the V elite.  Marcus, ever the cold-blooded reptile, warns Anna that some of her ships’ captains are suspicious that she’s being infected by that perfidious human emotion.  Anna has to flense and impale one of them just to prove she’s still the reptile queen at heart.  I mean… er… well you know what I mean.

The killing continues in the nursery.  Out of the hundreds (thousands?) of soldier eggs she laid last season, only six survived the bomb.  In “Red Rain,” Anna and Marcus take a little trip to the intensive care unit, in which Anna takes her babies off life support in a symbolic act of destroying the thing that made her weak and emotional: her children.  Marcus approves, but then, he doesn’t see the pain on her face when she turns away and… sniffles?

Then there’s the problem of the rioting humans down on the ground, who are pretty convinced that she sky is bleeding and the End of Days is just around the corner.  The people are ripe for a revolution, but the people are fickle, and they easily accept Anna’s explanation that it’s a cleansing gift that’s going to clean up the ocean, stop global warming, and save the polar bears.

Still, Anna’s on shaky ground, and that’s a change for the Lizard Queen, who was calling all the shots last season.  This time around, she has something to prove—and notably, she needs to prove it to Marcus, her closest advisor and the epitome of V violence and dispassion.  If Anna wants to keep her power, she needs the approval of this guy.

Oh right, and her mother, who apparently lives in some jungle nest in the bowels of the ship.

Anna and Erica

Agent Evans is sitting pretty in “Red Sky.”  No matter that the FBI’s been infiltrated by the reptiloids and Erica’s leader of a terrorist cell—Anna has complete confidence that Erica, Fifth Column mastermind, is her most trusted ally on Earth.  Erica’s close enough to the seat of power that she can just fly on up to the mothership and talk to Anna pretty much whenever she wants.

The linchpin in this relationship is (gag) her son Tyler, Lisa’s paramour, who has decided once again that he wants to live up on the ship.  On the one hand, it keeps Erica in the inner circle.  On the other, Anna has some seriously nefarious plans for Tyler that definitely involve breeding.

Erica, we learn in “Red Rain,” had an unusually high level of phosphorous in the blood while she was pregnant with Tyler—after being experimented on by aliens.  And that’s what the red rain is: phosphorous.  Turns out Anna doesn’t care about climate change (gasp!) unless it’s about making the climate more suitable for raising reptile babies.  Fun times.

Lisa and Tyler and Joshua (oh my!)

There have always been a lot of mommy issues in this show.  Lisa’s mommy dearest, recall, had her legs broken as a public relations stunt against the Fifth Column.  That’s pretty harsh.

For her mother, the princess plays the dutiful daughter: meaning, she seduces Tyler once and for all, as Anna surveils them.  But Lisa’s character is growing increasingly complex: she’s not the tortured teenage V of last season.  She’s actively conspiring with Erica against Anna, actively conspiring with Erica against Marcus, actively conspiring with Anna against Tyler, actively conspiring with Joshua except that he seems to have lost his memory—and all the while I still can’t tell who she’s really in love with.  Still rooting for Josh; still guessing it’s Tyler.

Oh, dear dear Tyler Evans.  It’s no secret that I can’t stand your blank expressions and terrible acting.  As Kate the Lostie commented: “I tried to watch the first episode, but his smile was too annoying.”  Per usual, he didn’t do anything exciting last night except get hit on the head and have his face dissolve with terrible special effects in Erica’s psychic dream about Anna threatening to kill Erica’s child for payback.

Of course it won’t happen—not now that Tyler’s all phosphored up and going to be the Lizard King or whatever.

Ryan and… It

But let’s not forget Ryan and Val’s hybrid baby girl, currently unnamed.  With Val out of the way, and Ryan all Blissed up, Anna snatched the ugly little thing away and appointed herself both mother and captor.

“Every being in the world understands a mother’s pain when her child suffers,” Anna tells Erica, truthfully for once.  That pain made Anna weak last season, and in “Red Rain” it looks like Anna’s using that lesson to weaken Ryan.  Marcus is shocked when Anna decides to send Ryan back to Earth—he’ll join back up with the Fifth Column!  Of course, that’s exactly what she wants: a man on the inside she can manipulate.

Jack and Chad

Erica might be buying Ryan’s sincerity, but Jack (Jack!) is finally on the same page as the ever-paranoid Kyle Hobbes.  “What would you do to protect Tyler?” the priest asks, “At some pt, Ryan’s going to have to make a choice: his daughter or us.”

I’ve been ragging on Father Jack Landry as the most naïve member of the Fifth Column for a whole season now, and it seems that at last he might be learning the pilot episode “Don’t trust anyone” lesson.  But this season, for the first time: Jack’s actually in a position to do something.

This time last year, Chad Decker was wheedling information out of Father Jack, just like any good reporter can.  He was Anna’s mouthpiece, praising the Live Aboard Program (AKA, abduction and experimentation initiative) the high heavens and allowing V doctors to save him from a potentially-fatal aneurysm, all on live tv.  But Chad realized what I’ve been thinking all along, that the Vs gave him the aneurysm.  Now, after witnessing Anna’s experiments on humans firsthand in the season one finale, Chad’s feeling responsible.  And where do you go when you need absolution?  A priest.

Chad wants forgiveness, and practically begs Jack to let him into the Fifth Column clubhouse.  He wants to fight back—publish a report and broadcast interviews about and from the victims of Anna’s experimentation.  But just as Erica shrewdly keeps Tyler close to Anna, Chad has to preserve his relationship with the high queen as well.  If he can make Anna believe he’s still her town crier, he’ll be the Fifthers’ most valuable inside man.

Chin up, Chad, you’re a journalist—you’ll be a great actor.

Hobbes and the New Guy

The Fifth Column, after all, doesn’t need more soldiers yet—at least not when they have a badass like Kyle Hobbes.  Hobbes did have some shady dealings with Marcus last season, but it still seems like he’s committed to the Fifth Column.  And the writers still seem committed to giving him the best lines ever.  Him and the new guy, anyway.

The Fifth Column has a new recruit, and whoever’s in charge of casting did a great job.  So maybe Bret Harrison (of Grounded for Life and Reaper semi-fame) doesn’t look like a PhD.  But the Fifth Column lost Georgie last year, and some comic relief is definitely in order.

When the Visitors take out Ellis Watts, an environmental scientist beginning to suspect the true nature and purpose of the red rain, they overlook the true brains behind the operation: his young associate Sidney Miller, who’s squirreled away “Alpha,” the skeleton of a V he found in a mysterious mass grave in New Mexico, in his janitor closet-like office.

Needless to say—and especially after he sees Hobbes kill a V tracker on their trail—Sidney Miller isn’t going anywhere.  “I’m not a fighter!” he protests.  And Hobbes:

“We don’t need your fists, we need your brain.  And if you say no, we’ll kill you…  Ahh, relax.  I’m kidding.  Maybe.”

So the Fifth Column club gets themselves a scientist with comedic timing to rival Hobbes’s.

“Anna’s a lizard?” Miller asks.  “That sucks.  She’s so hot.”  (cue incredulity)  “Sorry… I joke when I’m nervous.”

When Miller calms down, he explains what’s been hinted at throughout the episode: the red rain is changing the planet and human physiology to make them capable of bearing little Visitors.  Cue horror, and Hobbes:

“So, first they want to invade us, then they want to shag us.”

Pretty much.

“Red Rain” is, essentially, about children.  Using them, manipulating them, breeding, killing, protecting them, and all that jazz.  And in my opinion at least, that’s a smart way to handle a galactic plot: make it about relationships.  Humans vs. Visitors boils down to Erica vs. Anna, a much more manageably-scaled sort of conflict.

V is for Vengeance (Recap: Season One, ABC’s V)

3 Jan

As we all celebrate the last year before the end of the world, ABC’s awesome alien invasion drama is coming back tomorrow night.  But let’s recap: V finished off season one with a surprisingly satisfying finale.  The last scene left us with a major question for next season, to be sure, but the major enjoyability factor was definitely the interesting twists the writers put into a number of characters’ fate lines.  So here’s a look at where our favorite terrorists and alien invaders started off, and ended up on the season one finale of V:

Here’s the recap/review for season one.

I’m with Team Human (review: Peace Warrior)

12 Dec

There’s nothing like enslavement by brutal alien overlords to bring people together, right?

Or at least in most science fictional scenarios.  But in Peace Warrior, author Steven L. Hawk takes that classic story set-up and turns it around.  Excepting John Lennon (rest in peace, btw), most of us probably can’t imagine a world without war, hatred, poverty, misery, and all-around horror headlining the news every night.

Grant Justice is one of us.  He swears up a storm even when he’s not directing military maneuvers in one of earth’s endemic wars.  He’s a good guy who can handle a gun who happens to die in a particularly gruesome manner (insert description here of shattered bone and bloody, ragged stumps where limbs used to be.  Oh, and drowning).

But 600 years from now, when a young N’mercan scientist resurrects him with the power of cryogenics, Grant Justice is a social deviant, a dangerous “Violent” far removed from the Peace-loving culture of the distant future.  And seriously, those future humans need to chill out.  “What the fuck?” are entirely acceptable first words for a guy whose consciousness has been drifting in a deathly abyss of memories for the last six centuries.

But the world Grant wakes up to isn’t anything like what he remembered.  And it’s probably more of a shock than waking up in 1410 would be.  At least people swore back then.  But Hawk has created a world where world peace has been achieved and beauty pageant contestants have to think of some new cliché to talk about (insert gasp!).

Peace isn’t just some geopolitical goal either—it’s a lifestyle.  Welcome to Planet Pacifist, where the “verbal violence” of a bewildered “What the fuck?” is enough to excommunicate a time traveler from society.  Oh, and where an alien race called the Minith enslaved earth’s entire human population to die in the millions mining for natural resources—and did it without quashing a single rebellion.  Why?  Because there weren’t any.

The appropriate response here would, indeed, be: What the fuck?  I mean, ABC has a Catholic priest becoming a terrorist to fight alien subjugation (and it’s awesome).

Humankind’s last hope is the revived warrior with the violent psyche of a twenty-first century human, good ol’ Grant Justice—and while the name reeks of cliché, Peace Warrior doesn’t.  There are a very few weak points (the Grant-Avery love interest subplot happened a little too fast, perhaps), but Hawk makes his story, characters, and future world entirely plausible.

Good science fiction tells a captivating story, making readers empathize with believable characters and tense with anticipation as the story builds to a climax.  Peace Warrior does all this, hands-down.  The book had barely started before I was entirely invested in the success of Grant and his army of Violents.  Example: the other day I was reading in my sister’s room while she painted.  When I cheered out loud, she asked simply: “Did Grant kill another alien?”  Hell yes he did!  And I, well how could I not be with Team Human?

There’s nothing like good storytelling—but great stories go deeper than that.  Science fiction can take us into the far future, but the best SF reflects the present world too, incorporating contemporary social issues and ideas into the plot itself (there’s nothing worse than a preachy novel, after all).  Peace Warrior is a damn good story, even as Hawk raises complex issues about Nature vs. Nurture and the role of violence in society.

I’ll be concise to sum up, because I think that’s how Grant would want it: Rebel humans are super badass, and Peace Warrior is a great book.

Peace Warrior is available as an ebook on Amazon for $2.99.

Now Reading: Peace Warrior, by Steven L. Hawk

5 Dec

Now that ABC’s alien invasion drama V is coming back next month (Can I get a “John May Lives!”?), I’m preparing with a military SF novel called Peace Warrior, by indie author Steven L. Hawk.  From the Smashwords book description:

600 years after his death, SFC Grant Justice is re-animated by a team of scientists. Grant awakens to a civilization that has abolished war. A civilization that has outlawed violence and cherishes Peace above all else. A civilization that has been enslaved by an alien race called the Minith. Grant is humankind’s final hope against the alien menace. He must be… the Peace Warrior.

All the classic tropes of science fiction: time travel, alien domination, a really creepy future earth, and a lone renegade with a conveniently-apropos name.  There’s the possibility for cliche here, but also for a thoroughly interesting story: the classic tropes of science fiction, after all, are classic for a reason.

I’ll let you know.

Flashback to FlashForward (finale recap)

31 May

Despite all the hype as a potential successor to ABC’s cult science fiction drama LOST, the infant FlashForward ended up airing its series finale just days after LOST’s own.

Irony’s a bitch.

Like LOSTFlashForward presented viewers with a Byzantine plot, philosophical puzzles, and Dominic Monaghan.  Unlike LOST—and the reason why, I’m convinced, FlashForward didn’t get another season—it wasn’t a character-driven show.  However engaging the storyline and mysterious the subject matter, a show still has to hook us on an emotional level, something Mark Benford and his lackluster FBI cohorts just didn’t manage to do.

The series did have some high points, however.

Physicists, it seems, are hot in contemporary science fiction (you can make anything plausible with reference to quantum mechanics).  Losties got twitchy Daniel Faraday with his endearingly spasmodic hand movements, inevitable skinny tie, and at-times-inaudible science-speak mumbling.  FlashForward brought us Lloyd Simcoe and Simon Campos—the first one being as romantic as Faraday but considerably less socially awkward, and the latter being absolutely effing terrifying.  The most engaging subplots of the show generally involved these two—Simcoe and his relationship with Olivia, and Campos’s teeter-tottering between sociopathic scheming and genuine inner turmoil.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these were the most emotionally fraught storylines, either.

In the penultimate episode The Countdown (1.21), in fact, Lloyd and Olivia have a short phone conversation that might just sum up the entire reason FlashForward failed.  When Olivia decides to drive off with Charlie the night of the blackout to get away from Lloyd (who desperately needs her to be with him at her house, mainly so he can solve an important equation he was supposed to write in lipstick on her bedroom mirror), we get this:

Lloyd: Certain conditions have to be met!

Olivia: Don’t make this about fate, don’t make this about free will.

In other words, make it about the characters.

Well alas alack, it’s a trifle late for that now.  But since the show has gone the way of other sadly misbegotten science fiction (see Dollhouse and Firefly), at the very least a series recap is in order for FlashForward to rest in peace.

The Countdown brought up an interesting idea that probably would have been expanded upon if the series were to have continued: two people having mutually exclusive flash forwards about each other.

After enduring a lengthy speech from global blackout mastermind and sharp dresser Hellinger, Mark seemed to have resigned himself to his own death.  And after being thrown out of the FBI for snapping and beating the crap out of the interrogee turned interrogator, Mark laughs like an hysterial madman when he shows up at a “Flash Forward Day” party (ironic, isn’t it?) and gets a flask pushed on him by another man who’d seen himself quitting drinking.  At this point, Mark’s thoroughly frustrated by his own impotence.  And yet, he can’t entirely give himself up to The Universe.  As Hellinger says:

All of this is so futile, but your faith is admirable.  That board in your office—how much time have you spent on it?  How much time have you spent looking at it, all on faith.  But deep down you must know what that board really is—it’s nothing but a scrapbook of your failures.  A freed Nazi, a failed trip to Somalia, dead birds—but you keep believing, you keep fighting, because that’s what you do.

All this in a condescendingly contemptuous tone, naturally, made all the worse by an upper-crust British accent.  British accents always make me feel inferior.

So when a stranger in a bar says that his flash forward involved talking to Mark—a major departure from Mark seeing masked men with rifles searching him out in his office—the strain might have been just a little too much.  Benford snaps and beats the crap out of his second guy in forty-two minutes.  And gets thrown in jail.

As for everyone else—

At the end of the second-to-last episode, some futures are coming true and some have already shattered:

Nicole starts feeling guilty for hiding her information about Keiko’s whereabouts from Bryce (and thus fears getting drowned and liking it), so she confesses; Bryce, naturally, is angry and shocked, and rushes off to find his illegal immigrant lover.

Aaron’s saved his daughter Tracy from Jericho and learned from a captured Jericho interrogator (Aaron can do some serious Jack Bauer strategic finger-jabbing) that the private defense firm hadn’t killed anyone—as Tracy had thought.  It had been yet more blackout beta-testing, and Tracy was a target because she’d been in the radius but remained awake.  Except, since she did die after all, I guess we’ll never know why she was important (kind of like Walt and the Others…).

Olivia and Charlie are ditching the physicist and his son, the latter two of which are understandably pissed.

Demetri admits to his fiancé that he slept with Janis so she could get pregnant—while he though we was about to get murdered—and then has the gall to ask, “Please marry me.”  Zoey stalks off to Hawaii with her parents.  There goes one escape from the inevitable.  So the once-again-fatalistic Demetri teams up with a guilt-ridden Janis and a vengeful Simon Campos to sneak into the particle accelerator and see if they can figure out whatever crazy system Hellinger used to cause the first blackout—and so stop the next.

End act one.

Future Shock (1.22), the season/series finale, opens with just an hour and eighteen minutes to the time seen in the blackout: April 29th, 10:00 pm.

Let’s start with the good news—Tracy’s alive after all!  That was sure unexpected, and it might even be touching… if I actually cared about her and Aaron.  Bryce meets Keiko as hoped for, and Nicole, though she was drowning, isn’t actually murdered but saved y the sinister man above the watery abyss.  Janis’s baby’s still healthy, and a boy And from Lloyd, another great scientist pick-up line: “You’re part of the equation, and I can’t do it without you.”  (That equation on the mirror, by the way, is Dillan’s.)

Meanwhile, in a creepy octagonal (or something) room filled with large computers and flashing panels, Simon tries in vain to find a file on the computer before the time on the clock runs out and the electromagnetism is released from the Swan hatch and—

Sorry, more flashbacks.

In any case, because of Simon’s physicist inside jokes and because Olivia agrees to recreate the circumstances of the flash forward and ends up looking deep into Lloyd Simcoe’s eyes—“I fought it, and resisted it, and… the future happened,” she explains—Lloyd solves his math problem and discovers that the next blackout is… sometime in the next two days.  In fact, it’s in twelve minutes. Which is shockingly convenient, considering the episode needs to wrap up the entire series and answer that pressing question of another blackout in, at this point, thirteen minutes too.

But there’s worse—Hellinger’s been messing with Mark the whole time.  As it turns out, he has men on the inside (besides Janis), and they’re all ready to shoot up a re-instated Mark Benford just as he figures out the time of the new blackout and channels Jack Bauer in a super intense gunfight.

During all this, Hellinger’s cronies–presumably–activate the accelerator in secret.  Remember all those doomsday predictions about the LHC back in September?  It’s like that.

And just like that, Simon gets a conscience as he tries to shut down the hackers—“I’m not going to let them do this to me—to use my mind, my machine!  Millions of people, Demetri!  Millions of people don’t deserve to die,” he says at gunpoint, in an impassioned tone (see image above).  It would be redemption for the evil scientist… if it were a little less hurried.

In fact, it’s not even clear whether Simon did turn into a good guy at all.  Back a couple episodes, Simon Campos and Hellinger had a major battle of British accents in a seedy hotel room.  But while Simon does demonstrate his contempt for the men he’s been unwittingly working for his entire life, we never do actually hear him answer the Big Guy’s ultimatum: Join us and finish your great scientific work, or die in ignominy.

The finale includes a pretty long scene with Simon hacking into the mainframe–and the only assurance that it’s Hellinger’s men comes from… Simon.  No corroborating evidence (no wonder Demetri’s so close to shooting him).  If he really was not working for the enemy, he failed to stop the blackout with all his rapid keyboard pounding.  Personally, I think he wanted to fire that NLAP particle accelerator up again.  He warned Demetri to take a seat for his safety, and despite his talk of saving millions of lives, his first words were–“I’m not going to let them do this to me—to use my mind, my machine!”  They could be Benford and co.  “I,” “me,” and “my” are pretty self-explanatory.  He values his mind and his work.

Maybe he was still working for the enemy. Simon Campos has a good track record for lying, anyway.

And so the second blackout does happen, though with ten minutes forewarning to world governments, which, I guess, saved a couple million.  The flights that couldn’t be grounded in time, however, might end up on a mysterious island run by the mysterious Hurley and his ambassador Ben.

As for our protagonist—Mark Benford is last scene running toward a window (fourth story at least, I’d guess) in the exploding Los Angeles FBI hq.  His daughter, however, comes full circle with her flash forward: while first she saw her father being reported dead, on April 29, 2010 Charlie sees a much older self (in 2015) telling someone, “They found him.”

All in all, FlashForward gave us a neater tying-up of ends than LOST and a pinch of ambiguity in the end, but neither the story the creators intended, nor the depth of its older sibling, nor nearly as much sobbing by fans.

Though, I will miss that kangaroo.

V is for Vengeance (season one wrap-up)

19 May

ABC’s alien invasion drama finished off season one Tuesday night with a surprisingly satisfying finale.  The last scene left us with a major question for next season, to be sure (congratulations V, you outlived FlashForward!), but the major enjoyability factor was definitely the interesting twists the writers put into a number of characters’ fate lines.

Here’s a look at where our favorite terrorists and alien invaders started off, and ended up last night on V.

Ryan Nichols

Ryan’s had a rough relationship with his girlfriend Val.  First she found out ahead of time that he wanted to propose to her, then he decided to wait on it, then she started having weird pregnancy cravings for dead rats, then she found out he was an alien—it hasn’t been easy for the originally-quite-happy couple.  When Val finally found out Ryan had been hiding his reptiloid self for years, she did the completely logical thing and left him.  Only one problem: she was pregnant with a human-alien hybrid baby (which I’m still really confused about—I thought different species couldn’t interbreed?  And the Vs aren’t just homo neandertalensis, they’re friggin extraterrestrials!  Maybe that’s a season two plot point).  So she did the next most logical thing and brought along a V doctor for her pregnancy.

Too bad Anna sent a V soldier after her.  The gang escaped the soldier once before, thanks to Kyle Hobbes’s impressive hatchet-wielding skills, but the start of “Red Sky” saw the soldier healthy as ever and chowing down on a deer in the forest.  Considering that was the first scene of the episode, I had to doublecheck to make sure I hadn’t accidentally stumbled upon Twilight.  Val, whose water had already broken, gets snatched up to the mothership.

Ryan, who manages to get on board strangely easily, finds his girl in the middle of a difficult pregnancy—understandable, considering the circumstances.  But he’s not in the room during the birth itself, and so misses out on Anna killing Val right after the mother gets a good look at her kid and lights up in… fear and horror.  Not quite the parental elation one would expect.  Ryan, aching with grief, believes Anna that she hadn’t killed Val (why does no one remember not to trust anyone?), and finds himself susceptible once more to Anna’s Bliss:

“This is what I was trying to protect you from, human emotion,” she says.  “I’m so sorry you lost her, but now… now you have me.”

So Ryan’s come full circle—he learned how to love from Val and went rogue, but lost her and came back to Anna’s creepy hive mind (“Welcome home,” she tells him, holding his baby—who we never actually see—rather possessively).  Since hindsight is 20-20, we can see some foreshadowing in last week’s episode, when Ryan almost left the Fifth Column because, without Val, he “couldn’t do it anymore.”

And just a random thought: is anyone else getting the feeling that the hybrid baby is going to be some sort of Chosen One?  I’m predicting that Anna’s plan for Tyler and Lisa involved impregnating the Lizard Princess with a hybrid baby, and that makes Val and Ryan’s a rival.

Joshua

Here’s another Visitor-turned-rebel, who’s spent most of the season at Anna’s right hand with Marcus.  We met Joshua back when everyone was still freaking out about Erica’s FBI partner (what was his name?  Dale?) trying to kill them all at George Sutton’s first Fifth Column meeting.  Joshua killed Dale for good, and got a big cheer—he was the first on-ship Visitor to reveal his true (dis)loyalties and earn appreciative applause from a captive audience.

More recently, he’s become the focus of Joshua/Lisa fanfiction, which seemed pretty on the mark in “Red Sky,” when the two beautiful Vs gave each other their last goodbyes from opposite sides of a blue energy forcefield.  Joshua knew he had to sacrifice himself after Chad Decker set up the on-ship Fifthers, and ended up ordering Erica to shoot him in hand-to-hand combat.

Pity it was only a human-made bullet, and easily healed by V medical staff.  Next season, expect to see Joshua with his cover blown (considering that his secret passcode was “John May Lives,” I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did.  Subtle.)—possibly turning back to Anna just like Ryan.  Because just like Anna, Marcus had a cheerful beside manner for the turncoat V: “Welcome back.”

Marcus

Imagine that—Marcus is actually starting to do something other than stand next to Anna looking creepy.  In the final scenes of the finale, Marcus actually got physical with Anna, trying to force her from “initiating the sequence” on a floating computer monitor.  We have no idea what “the sequence” is, but from the roiling red skies that resulted, it’s probably bad.

Marcus also revealed himself last night to have been the man behind Kyle Hobbes’s many contract killings (of course, I thought we already knew that)—and offered the mercenary another job, to infiltrate the Fifth Column.  He seemed to have some sort of leverage over Hobbes, a picture which we didn’t see and which he explained with one word: “Her.”

Kyle Hobbes

I’m thinking a daughter.  Maybe?  In any case, he already is in the Fifth Column, unbeknownst the Marcus and the Vs.  Being a double agent just turns things slightly more complicated.

Although, admittedly, I wasn’t sure Kyle Hobbes’s loyalties could even get more complicated.

Hobbes is a mercenary, but has appeared up until a couple weeks ago to be completely loyal to the Fifth Column.  He’s gotten them illegal weapons, built explosives from the ground up, and tortured other contract killers in the basement of a church with a medieval device called a “heretic’s fork.”  Which could just as easily be a byword for his own double-dealing and difficult choices.  After promising Marcus a hard-drive containing research that could destroy the Vs (reptile-killing algae, to be specific) last week, this week he uses that connection with Anna’s right hand man to get Marcus off the ship in time for Erica to blow up Anna’s babies.  (This was a pretty complicated finale.)  The question that remains is now this: Is Hobbes using his back-alley relationship with the Vs because he’s really loyal to the Fifthers? Is he hedging his bets, playing both sides until he sees who wins? Or does he even know, himself?  He did look pretty shocked when Marcus showed him “her,” after all.  My theory: he’s hanging around in church basements to watch Erica Evans strap guns to her thigh.

But that’s all speculation.

Father Jack Landry

Speaking of church basements, Erica and the gang might not have a place to hang out and plot next season, seeing that Jack’s been thrown out of St. Josephine’s.

I know I’ve been bashing Jack all season for being too naïve, too trusting, and all-around too priestly to be a very useful member of the Fifth Column.  But after “Red Sky,” I’m starting to think that being a priest is just as good as being a terrorist.  Father Jack is kind of awesome.

Tormented all season about whether or not to speak out publicly against the Vs, Jack finally did it with a super intense homily about the Vs as “false prophets.”  Disobeying the orders of the church pastor, who thinks the Vs are messengers of God, Jack stood up on Sunday to a packed crowd and finally challenged the Vs the best way he can—not with surface-to-air missiles, but the Word of God:

“I was lost, and now I am found.  I lost the courage to tell you the truth, that you need to choose who you are going to follow—the Vs, or God?  Because you can’t serve two masters… There is a war upon us, a war for our souls. With love, hope, and faith, we can overcome anything.  Who among you will join me? Let V no longer stand for Visitor, let V stand for Victory!”

By that point, only Erica, Hobbes, and half a dozen other parishioners sat scattered around the pews, but those who were there, stood.  Jack proved that he could do something for the Fifth Column—be its public voice.  As a priest, he had a both a pulpit (literally) and an aura of moral authority.  Though the final scene saw him exiting St. Josephine’s in a sweatsuit, in those vestments, Jack Landry has some influence.  Though he’d been unwittingly feeding Chad Decker information these past weeks, he’s shaping up to be the anti-Decker, the mouthpiece not of Anna, but the opposition.

Chad Decker

Of course, Chad finally realized in the finale what either ambition or naivete had been blinding him to before: Anna’s using him, and she’s definitely not the savior of mankind.

After following Joshua’s hint to check out the creepy V acupuncture rooms—where human Live Aboard Program members (I just realized—the program puts humans right in Anna’s LAP, get it?) get experimented on in their sleep, Chad had his epiphany.  Too bad it was too late to save all the on-ship V Fifthers he’d ratted out along with Joshua.

But Chad was one of the half-dozen parishioners standing in support of Father Jack, so maybe the tide’s about to turn.  In my first post on V, if I recall correctly, I labeled Chad Decker the most powerful man on the planet.  If he’s not with Anna anymore, that’s a pretty good sign—especially if she still thinks she is.

Erica Evans

By the season finale, I might say Erica Evans is the most powerful person on the planet, now, considering how close she is to Anna by way of her son—and just how much Anna (amazingly!) trusts her.

When Anna invited Erica and Tyler up to the mothership for a getting to know you dinner, she told Marcus—“With Agent Evans as my ally on the ground, and my new army, the humans won’t know what hit them.”

Wrong on both counts, Anna.  The V High Commander doesn’t have a more determined enemy.  As much as Anna chatters on about “the very thing that drives humans—love,” she still underestimates just what a mother might do to protect her son.  And Erica’s not above vengeance, either.  Last week, she started on her path to manipulating Lisa away from Anna (which culminated in last night, when Lisa betrayed her mother and her own kind by handing Erica a blue energy grenade to destroy Anna’s soldier babies).  This week, she froze all of Anna’s other reptile spawn.  As she threw the grenade, she made her position pretty damn clear: “Here’s to your children’s future, Anna.”

Ouch.

But after Joshua staged his own murder at Erica’s hand, Agent Evans is now in the perfect place to get to Anna—mother of the princess’s boyfriend, trusted by Anna so much that she gets to carry a gun on board (“Its okay—she’s an ally.”), head of the FBI-Vistor joint taskforce against the Fifth Column, and head of the Fifth Column itself, if Erica can’t stop the Vs, no one can.

Anna

And the humans are going to need that sort of help next season, now that Anna’s “initiated the sequence.”

One of the biggest shocks of the season finale was the total breakdown of the ice cold, always-composed Anna, who practices facial expressions and vocal inflections in the mirror before speaking publicly.  After finding her thousands of baby soldiers frozen (only 12 survived, Marcus told her, and even those might not make it very long), Anna screamed, sobbed, and choked on a horrified question:

Anna: “What’s…happening… to me!?”

Marcus: “I believe you’re experiencing your first human emotion.”

Maybe she and Erica do have something in common after all—the grief and anger of a wronged mother.

Anna’s heartbreak left me gaping, but behind her, Lisa smiled—possibly pleased that the mother who would have her daughter’s legs broken was creeping toward the danger zone on the V empathy test.  Even so, my hope is that emotions weakens her in the face of the Fifth Column, but doesn’t turn her “good”—I think I’d die of the triteness.  Her emotion already did push her near the edge at the end of “Red Sky,” or as Marcus said, she was acting “rashly” and “irrationally.”

Which brings us to “the sequence” and the title of the episode: “Red Sky.”

In her grief, anger, and emotional breakdown, Anna stormed out of her birthing room to one of her ubiquitous floating computer monitor forcefields.  She typed in a code, and revealed an image of the earth surrounded by pulsing red V ships.  And then, the most cryptic conversation on tv since Ilana and Bram kept asking everyone what lies under the shadow of the statue:

Marcus: This is terrible to be sure, but we must not act rashly.

Anna: They must pay!

M: (grabs arm) This is too soon.  If we initiate the sequence now—

A: (grunts and tears arm away/ jabs at computer screen with red illuminated ships around the planet)

M: Do you know what you’ve done?

A: Vengeance.

(Yes, and I’m sure that’s exactly what the script looked like.)

So we can probably assume that the sequence has something to do with the total destruction of humanity, right?  The clouds turning red and rippling across the sky was ominous in the extreme (and rather reminiscent of Independence Day).  But there was pathos there, and I’m ready to find out what happens next not only with the story, but with the characters that make it work.

Love and War (V 1.11, “Fruition”)

12 May

To recap—last night on V, the “Lizard Princess” got Nancy Kerriganed by mommy dearest and ended up beginning to build a relationship (equally manipulative) with Tyler’s mommy as well, Fifth Column High Commander Erica Evans.

All quite apropos, because “Fruition” was an episode all about Vs acting like humans, humans acting like Vs, and, picking up on last week’s title, the battle between “Hearts and Minds.”

When Agent Evans got the call about a violent attack on a V, she rushed to the hospital to find—much to her surprise—that the victim was Tyler’s girlfriend Lisa (however bruised and battered the poor girl may have been, Erica certainly would have recognized the red bra and panties Lisa was sporting the first time they met).  But while Erica had known about the hidden cameras in the peace ambassador uniforms (and her son’s naivete), she’d broken her own rule trusting him even a little bit—and now got the biggest shock a parent could possibly have: my son is dating a reptile.

Of course, in characteristic low-key, low-voiced Elizabeth Mitchell fashion, Erica’s conversation at the end of the episode was a little less dramatic than the situation might have called for.

Tyler: I just wanted to make sure you’re okay with me… dating a V.

EE: It’s a little weird—not gonna lie.

Yes, yes it is a little weird.  But human teens lying to their parents isn’t so weird as parents ordering their kid’s legs broken and face slashed open to make good theater for a press conference.  Even before Erica found out that Anna was behind the attack, she saw the look of all-consuming terror on Lisa’s face when her mother came to take Erica’s place comforting her at the hospital.  Even Erica in her shock had been genuinely horrified, and stayed by Lisa’s bedside even while the girl was sleeping—brushing her hair back from her face and holding her warmly.  When Anna hugged her daughter, she smiled as sinisterly as only an evil alien queen can do, and Lisa, stiff, looked wide-eyed at Erica.

The two mother’s couldn’t have been much more different.  While Lisa told doctor Joshua “My son’s in love with a V,” Anna thought she was being convincingly sincere when she told Erica—“Lisa is very fond of Tyler.”

Touching.

But Lisa, as Joshua realized and told Erica later in this episode, is more than just “fond” of Tyler-of-the-vacant-expression (am I going to ship Lisa/Joshua one of these days?  Quite possibly).  She’s beginning to develop human emotions—which makes her perfect material for the Fifth Column.  Or at least, for manipulation by the Fifth Column.

It’s interesting to note here that Erica and Anna might have more in common than they think.  Anna, as we’ve known for a couple weeks now, has some nefarious plan involving Tyler—the details of which are still unknown.  And though Erica’s compassion score is probably off the charts (exceeded only by Father Jack, who’s passed compassion and edged into the betazoid empath zone), she’s quite happy to use someone else’s kid too.  Quoth Evans: “If she’s going to use my son then I’m sure as hell going to use her daughter.”

But Erica drew the line at involving her own Tyler.  When Hobbes suggested (supported by Ryan) that they might bring the boy into the Fifth Column quadrilateral of trust, Erica adamantly refused.  Consideration for her son’s safety?  Ostensibly.  But Tyler, they know now, is already in danger, and the only added danger that might come from telling her son about her secret life as a terrorist might be to the Fifthers themselves.

Tyler loved Lisa.  That’s pretty well-established.  And she, it seems, loves him back.  From a strategic standpoint, there’s no reason to put anything between that mutual trust—especially when Lisa’s human emotions nearly had her confessing to her mother’s scheme in framing Hobbes and climatologist Lawrence Parker for her attack.

Erica recognizes the value in teen love toward the end of the episode.  After Tyler apologizes for lying and calls her “my hero” for catching the man who (says Anna) attacked Lisa, Erica responds with this warm peace offering: “Tyler, I was wrong about the Visitors—you were right.  I’d like to get to know Lisa better, and Anna too, if that’s all right with you.”

Erica’s qualms, it appears, don’t lie with using Tyler—but with giving him more information than he needs to know.  She’s manipulating her son just as surely as Anna is her daughter.  Though, to Erica’s credit, she’d probably never take a crowbar to Tyler’s kneecaps.

Kyle Hobbes is another Fifther to reveal some suspiciously V-like tactics in “Fruition.”  But whereas Erica wants to promote the rebel cause by encouraging the development of Lisa’s empathy, Hobbes prefers eliminating emotions.

Ryan’s been sporting a relatively flat affect for the past couple weeks, even since Val found out his true identity and the fact that her baby’s some sort of hybrid (Val might want to consider checking out Splice in theaters for useful parenting tips).  On a stakeout outside Parker’s Chinatown apartment, Ryan confessed to Father Jack that he didn’t think he could continue fighting without Val, and the love she’d supported him with.

Jack Landry gives the conventional priestly response— have faith.

Kyle Hobbes’s advice is a little different.  In the Fifth Column bunker, surrounded by his spy gear and stolen hard drives, he gives us this gem of personal insight:

“When special ops soldiers go to war, they don’t carry any family mementos, no photos, nothing.  You know why?  Because they can be taken from you and used against you.  In war, emotions can get you killed.  Leave your feelings for her behind—burn any trace of them out of your heart.”

It’s an interesting comment, considering that Erica, just minutes before, gave Lisa a picture of her son to carry with her—“for strength.”

Hobbes is, in effect, teaching Ryan how to be a V.  Because while Anna kills those who fail the empathy test (failure meaning showing empathy), Hobbes’s ruthless pragmatism would make him a perfect lieutenant.

And so, with this insight into the mind of a mercenary, we learn that Hobbes really doesn’t have too much emotional attachment to… anything (there goes my Hobbes/Even theory).  That is, anything except himself and his own interests.

Anna’s minions framed Hobbes and Larry Parker for the supposed Fifth Column attack on Lisa.  Of course, Hobbes was too busy blowing shuttles out of the sky to possibly be involved—and Parker was a chubby academic with thick glasses and a twitchy demeanor (but to be fair, being on a V hit list might do that to anyone).  The reason Parker was a target stems from his research on global warming.  Apparently, he and a team of scientists developed a compound that would help reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.  Unfortunately, the compound had a dangerous side-effect—it produced fish, amphibian, and reptile-killing algae.

No wonder the Vs wanted him gone.  What’s more confusing is why Hobbes would steal his hard drive without telling his Fifth Column compatriots that he had potentially the most important weapon against the Visitors in his possession.

Answer: Because Hobbes isn’t as human as the rest of them.

Meeting with Marcus in a dark alley, Hobbes makes a deal to trade the research for a fat bank account and a “clean slate,” or, “everything the Vs have on me.”  Which begs the question—what exactly do the Vs have one him?

Likely they don’t know he’s Fifth Column.  They do know that he very likely murdered five helpless scientists (Parker’s fellow researchers, who had all “disappeared” in the previous months).  They also framed him twice, and got him on the FBI’s most wanted list.

That’s a pretty dirty slate—and if he can be cleared with the human authorities, he won’t have to shave his sinister (and quite recognizable) mustache and goatee—but Hobbes’s betrayal makes it entirely possible there’s a whole lot more.

Ryan asked him, “Since when do you worry about anyone else but yourself?”  After this week, we can pretty safely say the answer is—never.  And in another case of human/V crossover, Hobbes’s characterization is starting to parallel Anna’s more and more.  As Joshua said to Erica, when she couldn’t believe Anna would injure her own daughter: “She’s not human.  She will do anything to get what she wants.”

That’s the problem for the Fifth Column these days.  Will stopping the Vs make them like their enemies?  Father Jack raised the question last week in “Hearts and Minds,” but the debate raged on and came to (get ready for it) “Fruition” last Tuesday.  With the season coming to a close, we’ll find out soon.

On a lighter note, Anna’s eggs are about to hatch and Lisa’s considering fratricide (that’s what human emotions bring—love for Tyler and the desire to kill thousands of babies).  And Anna, I’m pretty sure, was reading off a Kindle.

-

This has been the one-year anniversary post of the Scattering’s birth.  Happy birthday blog!

God Emperor of Quantum Physics

7 May

The universe wants what the universe wants.

I think I started reading Frank Herbert’s Dune series sophomore year of high school—I’m pretty sure it was sophomore year because freshman year I was obsessed with Watership Down for some reason I can’t quite remember, but ended up using the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear as my senior yearbook quote (a decision I shall never regret).  So it was between year one and four, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t three as year three I was keeping a Word document of Algernon Charles Swinburne poems.

But that’s not really relevant.

What’s relevant is that next Tuesday the Scattering will one year old, and in celebration a return to the beginning is in order.

Shockingly, this blog does not derive it’s name from the scattered nature of my thoughts and the tangents that posts often go off on [see first paragraph].  “The Scattering” is actually a far-future event that takes place at the end of the fourth book in Frank Herbert’s famous series—God Emperor of Dune.  It’s a species-wide diaspora of sorts, with human beings spreading out across the universe after the (spoiler alert) murder of Leto Atreides II, half-human/half-sandworm dictator.

– begin tangent –

Whenever I hear Bozz Scaggs’s “Lido Shuffle” (and I hear it quite a bit when my iPod’s on shuffle), I subtly change the lyrics to pay tribute to said God Emperor’s death:

Leto (woah-oah), he’s for the money, he’s for the show—drowning in the Idaho-o-o-o-o.

– end tangent –

The Scattering was the ultimate end of Leto’s Golden Path, a prescient vision that turned into a guide for all the horrible choices he had to make in his 3,000+ year creepy hybrid life—the only path that would prevent the total destruction of homo sapiens sapiens.  Essentially, if humans scattered to the millions of planets and billions of stars, no force (not even themselves) could ever destroy them all.

And thus, Leto II saved humanity.

But the most interesting part of the series, for me, was Herbert’s idea that simply seeing the future made the future.  When Leto’s father Paul (a messiah himself, if not a god) had his visions, he was tormented by the terrible things he saw.  And yet, the very fact that he saw them predisposed him to follow the paths he’d glimpsed—for all he knew, the alternatives he was blind to could be worse.  But Paul couldn’t take the pressure, and left his son to choose the devil he knew.

But after watching the most recent episode of FlashForward (“Course Correction”), I’ve begun to wonder whether Herbert’s ideas weren’t entirely science fiction.

For those of you who aren’t watching ABC’s new series in the hopes that it can fill the void that LOST will leave in just a few weeks, FlashForward is a science fiction drama focused on an event known as The Blackout—a couple minutes of time when the whole world went unconscious, or rather: the whole world shifted consciousness and mentally traveled six months into the future.  Everyone glimpsed what would happen (or not happen—if they’d be dead) to them on a particular day in April, and everyone freaked out.  Free will versus destiny debates broke out everywhere, and philosophy professors all over the country saw a sudden spike in their research grants.  (Well that last part’s speculation, but I’m pretty sure ABC has it in backstory somewhere.)

Central to the mystery of the blackout are Simon Campos as Lloyd Simcoe, two quantum physicists whose experiments may or may not have had something to do with the world-changing event.  In any case, they’re experts now, making talk show appearances and working with the FBI.  And in “Course Correction,” Simcoe makes a particularly interesting statement about what happens when people see the future.  To avoid butchering science, I’ll leave explanation to the experts—

From a 1998 Science Daily article:

One of the most bizarre premises of quantum theory, which has long fascinated philosophers and physicists alike, states that by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality.

In a study reported in the February 26 issue of Nature (Vol. 391, pp. 871-874), researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have now conducted a highly controlled experiment demonstrating how a beam of electrons is affected by the act of being observed. The experiment revealed that the greater the amount of “watching,” the greater the observer’s influence on what actually takes place.

When a quantum “observer” is watching Quantum mechanics states that particles can also behave as waves. This can be true for electrons at the submicron level, i.e., at distances measuring less than one micron, or one thousandth of a millimeter. When behaving as waves, they can simultaneously pass through several openings in a barrier and then meet again at the other side of the barrier. This “meeting” is known as interference.

Strange as it may sound, interference can only occur when no one is watching. Once an observer begins to watch the particles going through the openings, the picture changes dramatically: if a particle can be seen going through one opening, then it’s clear it didn’t go through another. In other words, when under observation, electrons are being “forced” to behave like particles and not like waves. Thus the mere act of observation affects the experimental findings.

(today in 2010, this premise is generally accepted among the physics in-crowd)

And so, to oversimplify in every way: once you see something, you make it real.  Or as Lloyd Simcoe explained, the universe wants it to happen—and if you try to thwart your [fate], the universe will “course correct.”

This doesn’t only apply to the visions seen by all the poor denizens of FlashFoward world, but Paul and Leto of the Duniverse as well.

Paul Atreides saw the Golden Path, but found it too horrifying to comprehend—he didn’t find the idea of millennia of sandtrout cilia invading his privy organs terribly appealing.  By not following his vision, Paul should have changed the future, but the Duniverse course corrected through Leto.  From Children of Dune:

Already he could feel how far he’d drifted from something recognizably human. Seduced by the spice which he gulped from every trace he found, the membrane which covered him no longer was sandtrout, just as he was no longer human. Cilia had crept into his flesh, forming a new creature which would seek its own metamorphosis in the eons ahead. You saw this, father, and rejected it, he thought. It was a thing too terrible to face. Leto knew what was believed of his father, and why. Muad’Dib died of prescience. But Paul Atreides had passed from the universe of reality into the alam al-mythal while still alive, fleeing from this thing which his son had dared.

My advice: think twice before you let the spice flow.

“We’re Terrorists Now” (V 1.10)

6 May

There’s nothing like a priest blowing up spacecraft with a Surface-to-air missile.  All right, so it was Kyle Hobbes (big surprise), but Father Jack was standing right there with the other two Fifth Column men and didn’t say a word—until afterward, of course, when he had his little panic attack and nearly spilled everything to the V-infested FBI.

But let’s back up.

ABC’s V is fast approaching the end of its first season, and even with the time slot directly after LOST, the alien invasion drama’s still holding it’s own.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who started watching V and FlashForward with the hope that I could fill the hole in my heart where polar bears and Dharma jumpsuits used to be—so it’s quite appropriate that “Hearts and Minds,” the pen-penultimate episode, proved me right.

Even the uninitiated know that the LOST plotlines are hopelessly convoluted; I’m so confused, I don’t even know what questions to ask (except—what was Dr. Linus’s European History dissertation topic?).  But even in the first two or three episodes or season one, when things almost made sense and John Locke was just an ex-paralytic who liked backgammon and orange peels, the show was compelling for reasons other than plot: characters (see first half of sentence).  FlashForward has plot; V has characters to care about.

Ryan’s dropped to a minor role since his girlfriend absconded with their hybrid baby, but now, not even the on-ship Vs are completely heartless.  Joshua the Fifth Column doctor seems to be popular among viewers (if fanfiction forums are any sort of indication; there’s a Lisa/Joshua ship putting out the sea).  And though Tyler still annoys me to the nth degree, I’m starting to like Lisa ever since she failed the Voight-Kampff test.  Of course, maybe it’s just natural we’re going to start feeling sympathy for a teenage alien girl whose mommy just ordered henchmen to break her legs.

We’re the humans, after all.

Best scene of the episode might have been the boxing/boxing trivia competition between Jack, Erica, and Hobbes—there’s something bizarre and hilarious about a priest, an FBI agent, and a British mercenary hanging out together in a church rectory, making obscure literary references.  Quoth Hobbes, walking in on Jack and Erica getting very sweaty with a punching bag: “It’s like The Thorn Birds in here.”

The Thorn Birds, if I recall—mostly what I recall is checking it out of my Catholic high school’s library and getting dirty looks from the librarian, who said I was “corrupting myself”—centers on a handsome priest breaking his vows (and no, I don’t mean the vows of poverty) with a pretty red-headed girl on a farm.  Or something.  In any case, it’s a good line—and probably what everyone’s been thinking since day one.

But Father Jack Landry probably won’t be sinning any time soon, considering how freaked out he got when he, Hobbes, and Ryan shot down a V shuttle and discovered that they hadn’t killed a dangerous V tracking team after all—but (they thought) humans, and possibly children.  Jack should’ve felt guilty—but not for the reason he thought.  His secret vestibule meetings with Chad Decker aren’t doing him any good, especially when he hints at Fifth Column activities.  And after Erica shouted at him about just such mistakes in the season opener, remember?: “What part of ‘don’t trust anyone’ don’t you understand!”

(Though, speaking of Chad Decker—does anyone else think that his sudden loyalty to Anna ramifies from something more than ambition… an “aneurysm surgery,” perchance?)

In any case Jack, feeling blood on his hands, panicked (does this sound like any other Jacks we know on ABC?) and would have given everything up if Erica hadn’t shown him the light in an FBI interrogation room.  Light, or maybe the dark.

Because Kyle Hobbes, another compelling character, made a particularly astute remark—there’s no love lost between Hobbes and Jack, or Hobbes and Ryan, but the mercenary was right about one thing: “Make no mistake, kids—we’re terrorists now.”

Like Hobbes said, calling yourselves “freedom fighters” or “rebels” doesn’t change the facts—for whatever cause, shooting down shuttles with illegal weapons, wiping security tapes and hiding evidence from the FBI is definitely terrorism.

Jack doesn’t seem to be able to handle that—and I see more crises of conscience in store if the only thing keeping the priest in the group is the belief that they’re not going to kill anyone.  Morally upright?  Sure.  Naïve?  Absolutely.  And this even after “Heretics Fork” (1.9), when a similarly naïve computer programmer got sniped because why?  He didn’t listen to Hobbes.

Jack appears to rely on Erica instead as his slightly-cooler-under-pressure moral compass.  When he gave his speech that he wasn’t willing to lose one life and asked Erica if she was with him, her affirmative answer calmed him down and kept the fire and brimstone sermons at bay.  But when he left the room—

Elizabeth Mitchell is the star for a reason; she’s made Agent Erica Evans as torn as Father Jack, but with none of his histrionics.  Case in point: When Jack left the cellar Fifth Column HQ, Erica made an almost complete turnaround.  Hobbes gave his speech and got an I’m-with-you answer too, which might be contradictory if anyone besides Jack actually believes that Erica has Jack’s moral squeamishness.

She doesn’t, and there’s not going to be any Thorn Bird action in this show—at least, not this season.

I’m shipping Evans/Hobbes.  Terrorists flirting and bonding over favorite boxers… so romantic.

Update: So, I realized that Charles Mesure (Hobbes) was actually in an episode of LOST called–wait for it– “Hearts and Minds.”  Even stranger, the season one episode focused on Boone and Shannon’s creepy and semi-incestuous relationship; Mesure was Shannon’s off-Island boyfriend.  Which just makes Hobbes walking in on Jack and Erica with his Thorn Birds reference even more perfect, somehow.

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