By Sarah Stegall
Copyright © 2010 by Sarah Stegall
ABC, Tuesdays, 8PM
Written by John Wirth & Natalie Chaidez
Directed by Bryan Spicer
There are some twisted people on our world. —Erica Evans
Well, look what happens when Erica Evans finally clues in. She becomes resourceful, brave, and smart. Just like a heroine ought to be. This episode shows her facing off with Anna more satisfactorily than we’ve seen so far. When a homeless man finds Lizard Lisa in an alley, beaten all to hell and marked with a “V” cut into her cheek, Erica’s first reaction is compassion. This must come as a shock to Lisa, whose own mother Anna is actually the one responsible for her injuries. When Lisa fails to persuade Tyler to live aboard the V ship (actually, she deliberately steered him away), her mother punishes her by having her legs broken, and so forth, in order to generate sympathy for Vs among humans. Lisa the pawn plays her role semi-convincingly, but we can see that the difference between Erica’s maternal sympathy and her own cold-blooded mother’s cruelty is affecting her. No matter what your skin is like, you have to appreciate it when someone feels sorry for you.
What I don’t understand is how Earthlings have not yet figured out that the Visitors are lizards wearing human suits. When Lisa is discovered in the alley, where she has been carefully staged, the first response team would be humans in an ambulance. They would normally take her to an ER, where X-rays and other scans are bound to show the differences. Heck, an EMT with a flashlight checking her eyes would find the lizard eyes of a V. So how come Lisa’s “attack” doesn’t reveal her to be a V? I can fanwank that the EMTs who responded are actually Vs—it’s highly likely that Anna would have included this detail in her plan—but couldn’t the writers have spared a line to let us know that? Otherwise, the doctors and nurses of New York City, not to mention Earth, look mighty obtuse.
Lisa “identifies” two men as her assailants; one of them is Hobbes and the other is a weapons designer named Lawrence Parker (Paul McGillion,Sanctuary), whom Hobbes identifies as someone he was recently hired to kill. Parker has gone underground, and everyone is looking for him. Although Erica tries to steer the FBI away from him, she finds them only minutes before they do. In those few minutes, she has to persuade Parker not only to not talk to them, but not to betray her involvement in Fifth Column. Parker tells Erica that he has been targeted because he was part of a team of researchers whose work accidentally discovered a weapon to which the Visitors are vulnerable. Erica takes a heck of a lot of chances.
I am reminded that the original version of V, back in the ’80s, had the Visitors targeting scientists rather than journalists because they knew scientists would be able to figure out who they were and where they were vulnerable. How telling is it that today’s dupes are the media; could it be that the Vs understand that we are a significantly less scientifically literate culture today than we were 25 years ago? And that the media have less integrity than they did when Uncle Walter brought us the news? Given the scene where Chad injects an editorial into his “news report”, calling on humans to rally behind the Visitors, maybe it’s the latter. This show certainly relishes showing us journalists as dupes.
So. Lizard Girl heals up, Anna threatens to take her toys and go home, and Earth erupts in rage against the Fifth Column. These events just about exhaust the plot for this episode, which is okay because for once, we got some real bonding between Erica and Tyler. Granted, she doesn’t tell her son the actual truth about anything, but I’m not sure Tyler can handle the truth. However, as an unwitting dupe, he’s tailor-made. Finally, Tyler has a purpose: spy. What a delicious twist on Anna’s plans for him. I cannot believe we are this far into the series, and only now is Erica learning that Lisa is not only a V, she’s Anna’s daughter. I guess she really doesn’t talk to Tyler.
We still can’t manage any believable forensics/investigation in this show. When Erica goes to Lisa to show her some mug shots, she hands her the photos of the two that she thinks beat her up. This is bad procedure. In real investigations, cops believe nobody without corroboration; a real FBI agent would have inserted those photos into a dozen dummies, and asked Lisa to pick out the men who targeted her, without prompting. This fumbled technique just makes Erica look incompetent, which we’ve had more than enough of.
Hobbes suddenly got more interesting with this episode. After snapping at everyone else about their incompetence, he appears to be ready to sell out the Fifth Column in exchange for immunity. But Hobbes is far, far too savvy to believe the Vs will keep any bargain they strike. Hobbes is many things, but he is not naïve. So my money says Hobbes is setting up Marcus and the Visitors, perhaps to deliver some disinformation. It would play perfectly into Anna’s paranoia if Hobbes were to “out” Anna’s own spies by calling them double agents. Anna is not known for her compassion, her patience, or her adherence to what we would call law. I’m not even sure she understands the concept. She would probably skin first and ask questions later.
Anna: Heal her legs so she can walk, but keep the gash and the bruises on her face until she can return to the ship. I want the whole world to see what the Fifth Column has done to my daughter.
Anna is absolutely ruthless in this episode. I haven’t seen a mother this cold since Rome went off the air. Maybe one’s maternal instincts are diluted when one has several thousand offspring, as Anna seems to have. Morena Baccarin continues to outshine everyone else on this show; her Anna looks reptilian even when she is at her most “human”. It’s the eyes, the unblinking stare, the body language that tells us she’s not what she seems, but something utterly sinister. Best of all, her constant smirk, when she thinks no one is looking, shows us the cat toying with the mouse, just for the fun of it. And this time, Erica sees the smirk and realizes it for what it is. Her suspicions of Anna go up several notches. About damn time.
Anna must feel her control is slipping, however. She does the naked-bathtub scene again, sweet-talking all her minions with her usual line: “Everything will be fine.” I wonder what line she’ll take when things start not going “fine”. Ryan, down on the planet, hears the siren song and almost succumbs, but pulls back from the edge when his baby mama’s doctor texts him that Val’s water has broken, and his child is about to be born. Something tells me this is going to piss off Anna no end. She doesn’t strike me as a hive queen who would permit anyone to reproduce without permission.
Despite many flaws, this was still a stronger episode than any I’ve seen during the entire run of this show. Erica is finally showing some intelligence—she is figuring out that Anna is her enemy, and how devious this lizard queen may be. She is growing hard-nosed enough to exploit her own (useless) son. Father Jack, mercifully, did little more than hand out homilies this episode; no one is dumb enough to tell him anything any more, knowing he can’t keep his mouth shut. And Hobbes is absolutely the most capable and interesting character on this show. Except for Anna. Morena Baccarin continues to completely own every scene she is in, and appears to be having lots of fun playing one of the most delicious villains on TV. Maybe this episode is a turnaround, and we will be getting some smarter episodes next year.
I say “next year” because, amazing to report, V has been renewed for the Fall 2010 season by ABC. The numbers have been slowly climbing, and on May 11 the show actually beat Parenthood. ABC has announced that it has ordered 13 more episodes, half a season. Let’s hope they’re not dumb enough to do what they did last year, and go on hiatus after only four airings. I was not at all sure this show would be picked up, but apparently ABC has seen something I haven’t. Such as, perhaps, next year’s scripts. It is still possible to turn this show into something either deliciously campy and fun, or compellingly creepy and paranoid. The writers either need to play this scenario very tongue-in-cheek, or make their characters much, much smarter. So far, Anna is still queen of this show.