Tag Archives: elizabeth mitchell

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.

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!

“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.

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.

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.

V: Take Me to Your (Ratings) Leader

7 Nov

I’ve never been so excited about the end of the world.

Most people probably think it’s an earthquake—the rumbling and shaking that rocks the planet for a few moments as massive spacecraft enter the planet’s atmosphere.  But, as the pilot’s opening questions make clear (Do you remember where you were when JFK was assassinated?  On 9/11?), the arrival of the “Visitors” in ABC’s new sci-fi drama V isn’t going to be mistaken for a relatively harmless natural disaster for long: in terms of “flashbulb memory” potential, first contact with an extraterrestrial species (genus, family… kingdom, domain, life) wins hands down.

The only question for us viewers is whether this remake of the 1980s miniseries is going to be memorable too.  As a rabid science fiction fan looking for a Lost replacement, I’m going to give an enthusiastic yes, and I’m not alone—the V pilot’s viewer numbers rank it as the best debut for any new show this season.

Of course, avid sci-fi (should I say SyFy?) fans could get excited strictly on the basis of casting.  Morena Baccarin of the ill-fated cult hit Firefly features as a sinisterly serene alien named Anna, along with another Whedon veteran, Alan Tudyk, whose role—I don’t want to give too much away, but…—might bear closer resemblance to Dollhouse’s sociopathic Alpha than the joke-cracking Wash.  And because no new series this fall could be complete without including an ex-cast-member from Lost, Elizabeth Mitchell stars as a (rightly) skeptical FBI agent with a smart-ass hormone-crazed son (honestly—could you really not find a human girl to date?).

Now I realize that alien invasion scenarios have become one of the tropes of science fiction over the last century (yes, H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds was published in 1898), but if the End of Days arrives any time soon it’s likely to have more to do with the Maya than the final frontier.  In other words: V will to stretch our suspension of disbelief, but that’s not a bad thing.  Science fiction has always been more about revealing something about the present than predicting the future—there’s a reason the 1980s Star Trek: The Next Generation inspired terror with the Borg Collective.  Captain Picard, taking the Cold War to the Neutral Zone.

And for millennial viewers V has already done an excellent job taking newsworthy issues from today’s headlines and applying them to a situation completely alien to us (cue groan).  A couple brief examples—

Technology and its frighteningly-fast advances:

When Anna is questioned by a gaggle of reporters on some of the V tech, citing human scientists who claim it’s impossible, she replies: “Our scientists can explain it.”  “That’s not an answer,” a reporter quickly rejoins.

And it’s true, it’s not an answer.  But most of us can’t keep up with human technology at its current pace, let alone extraterrestrial—there’s a certain point when technology looks a lot like magic, and we don’t need to wait for the Singularity to get there.

Terrorism:

Sleeper cells of extraterrestrials stockpiling C-4?  Nothing highlights the concept of enemies among us better than aliens wearing cloned human flesh.  Anyone who flies regularly probably doesn’t think twice anymore about walking barefoot a yard or two in the middle of an airport (who knows what you can hide in the soles of those flip-flops), but all that means is that we’re getting very used to uncertainty.

Government Expansion:

Remember the boom and bust of “compassionate conservatism” two election cycles ago?  Both major parties today seem locked in battle trying to prove who cares the most.  The victor?  Anna.  (Shoot—“universal healthcare” is mentioned by name as a system the Vs can make available to backward humanity.)

But that’s not as positive as it might sound; we may not know their complete plan for homo sapiens sapiens yet, but the Vs are portrayed as thoroughly dangerous characters with a suspicious desire to hide their true motives:

“Just be sure not to ask any questions that would portray us in a negative light,” Anna tells her bewildered interviewer.  And when he insists he won’t work with (for) them again, the ambitious reporter is told that “compromising one’s principles for the greater good isn’t a shameful act—it’s a noble one.”

Government programs are growing almost as rapidly as technology today, and it’s immeasurably more difficult to comprehend—but one thing politicians make perfectly clear is that we should sacrifice for the common good.  Maybe someone trades in their gas-guzzler for a hybrid, and maybe the rhetoric goes in one ear and out the other, but it all sounds a lot more sinister coming from a smooth-talking extraterrestrial PR agent.

But what excited me most about V is how quickly the pilot moved into the actual storyline.  Alien arrival itself is a concept that could take up forty-two minutes easy, but already we’re shown the wheels turning, and already the Vs are (spoiler alert!) revealed—at least to a select few—as vicious reptilian beasts bent on the destruction of humankind.  Well, excepting another select few.

I fully expected that revelation to come two or three episodes in (if that), but the quick pace of the plot was a very welcome surprise.  The secret meeting of the “resistance” was chilling, and the brutal attack of the Vs and their superior weapons is shocking.  And it just makes you think—if the skies did darken with alien spacecraft, who would run in terror, who would fight back, and who would applaud?  V depicts the whole gamut of reactions, but as for me, I’m just looking forward to Tuesdays.