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?