V Review: Pilot

M: If you have been reading us for a while, you will have caught that all the Quibbling Siblings have been really looking forward to two new shows this fall.  The first was FlashForward, which has not yet lived up to our expectations, though this week was a step in the right direction.  The second is V, which premiered with much fanfare (E: and the heavenly choirs of angels singing) this week.  Clearly first impressions are not everything, as FlashForward proved with a really good premiere and then a string of solid if unspectacular episodes.  However, first impressions are important, and they can give you insight into what may be to come.  In the case of V, the first impression is a really good one.  Sure, there were some issues, but they were less important than the good that there was.  As always, spoilers after the jump.

Before we get into details of the pilot we need to give you a little background.  As you likely know, this new show is a remake of a 1980’s sci fi icon, which started with the miniseries V, was followed by another miniseries, V: The Final Battle, and then turned into a full blown series, albeit a short lived one.  (E: And a novelization!) We are all big fans of the original V, to the point of at one point getting a group of friends together and watching the two miniseries in one weekend.  Some of the lines from it became part of our vernacular (E: I’m hip!).  However, the series was pretty hokey at the time, and has not aged well.  The special effects were weak, and the writing and acting not exactly Oscar worthy.  However, it was fun, had a brilliant concept, and was eminently watchable.

When we heard they were remaking it, and that it would be staring Elizabeth Mitchell (who has been very good in family favorites Lost and Frequency), we got excited.

E: Seriously, this cast is a goldmine for us: Morena Baccarin and Alan Tudyk of Firefly (M: and he’s Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball!!  Woo!), Scott Wolf and Lourdes Benedicto of The Nine –  heck, the showrunner is a former Chuck writer and producer.

M: Then when we saw the trailers, we got more excited.  As we were all also fans of both the original and remake of Battlestar Galactica, we saw a lot of conceptual similarities here.  Taking a beloved, dated, campy sci fi franchise and remaking it, updating it for the times and making it grittier.  It’s kind of funny, though, as Galactica took a show and first remade it in a mini-series, then rolled it into a full show.  V is remaking a mini-series that turned into a full show into a full series.

E: The IMDb says that Georgie (David Richmond-Peck) was on BSG, but I can’t for the life of me remember him.  Given your parallel I had to mention it anyway, though.

M: I don’t remember him on it either, which is odd.  Anyway, moving on to the pilot itself.  Through the first scene we are quickly introduced to our main characters, both just before and then as the space ships of the “Visitors” arrive.  The introductions seemed quick, a little too quick, but were at least well done, and the initial introduction of the ship “rolling” in over New York was well done, not cheesy and also not over the top with special effects.  The only other real complaint I have was also with the pacing, and it was that after the initial introduction of the visitors, they immediately jumped to three weeks later, skipping over the building reactions to the Visitors, dropping us into plots that we seemed to have missed a little bit of.

E: I thought that was an odd choice as well.  The effects are gorgeous, though, and the image of the dead jet pilot parachuting into the street?  Really arresting.  Not to mention, a little bit later, Tyler’s magical shuttle ride?  And the entire city inside the New York mothership?  Wow.

M: Although, I always have trouble with space ships with huge, cavernous spaces inside them.  Even for more advanced civilizations, space is at a premium when traveling in places your species is not able to live, and that just seems wrong.  But that’s nit picky of me, and other than that and the early pacing, I lacked complaints.  We got a good start to a plot, with a few twists, some really solid writing and acting.

E: I’ll give you a complaint.  It’s not a huge one, but what I was less enchanted with was their choice to reveal the reptilian nature of the V’s so early.  It took quite a bit longer in the miniseries to know the Visitors were evil.  Now, I know there isn’t the same level of surprise now than there was when the original aired, but you have to care some about internal storytelling, right?  I mean, the film version of Twilight took more time to expose Edward as a vampire, and you can’t get more media saturated than that storyline.  Still, I think it’s a choice I can live with.

Well, actually, I also think the whole “universal healthcare” thing isn’t developed enough, either, but I’m sure they’ll get there.

M: To me that again goes to pacing, but I was ok with that, since most of the show’s audience already knows the “twist” of them being bad, why waste time faking it?   Instead, through several different characters, they start to build the tension between the Visitors and the humans, playing on the opposing feelings of them as saviors or as conquerors.  I’m not sure that’s the right word, but its at least close.  One of the scenes that stuck out to me was a conversation between one of our budding protagonists, Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretch) and his fellow priest Father Travis.  They debate the merits of the Visitors, with Father Travis welcoming them as a force driving people back to God, while Father Jack is worried that given the right set of circumstances they will replace God.  I found it to be a very realistic and genuine discussion between two people with similar beliefs but slightly different points of view, and one of the more accurate and respectful depictions of clergy I’ve seen on TV.  As I complained in a recent FlashForward review, I find the TV depiction of clergy and of religious people in general to be woefully caricatured and negative, the depiction of both priests in V was everything that most shows are not.  To me this shows not only excellent skill by the writers crafting dialog, but also putting the specifics of the characters aside, skill in crafting realistic characters and scenarios for those characters to be put in.  That is a very good sign.

E: Agreed.  I did think, however, that there was the implication that the Vatican had been infiltrated by the Visitors, which produced their “we’re all God’s creatures” response, and  – since the Vatican is a top down organization – could certainly lend weight to Fr. Travis’ (honestly held) beliefs.  Of course we also see that the FBI (another top down organization) has been infiltrated, so it’s going to be fascinating to see Father Jack and Ericka figuring out who to trust through the season.  And to see how she copes with her son’s devotion to them; can she protect him and help further the resistance?  Can he continue to preach against trusting the Vs without calling undue attention to himself?  Or would a change of heart look even worse? Devotion was the big watch-word this episode – they both used it – and I think we might see a lot more intelligent discussion of religious and moral themes.

M: What a welcome raising of the bar that would be!

E: Can we talk about Alan Tudyk for a minute?  He and Mitchell’s Ericka had such nice chemistry as FBI agents, and then, whoa! Why is Wash suddenly a bad guy, I wonder – first on Dollhouse, then here?  I suppose it’s because he looks like such a nice, nice guy, which lulls you into complacency.  He creeped me the heck out when he showed up at the resistance meeting.  I was only moderately surprised to find that he was a Visitor (we knew there was a mole in their investigation), but really freaked out by him trying to kill Ericka.  Her change of expression when she assumes her partner’s there to save her, and he attacks her instead?  Elizabeth Mitchell is good.

M: Agreed.  For most of the episode I kept hoping they’d have him throw in an “Arrrrr!”, just to give a nod to Dodgeball (phenomenally underrated movie!), but when he came in with the V’s and attacked?  That was a great twist.  Well, well done.

E: I’m glad that they aren’t relying on the previous set of characters, much as I loved them.  Instead of a doctor and a reporter, we have a priest and an FBI agent.  Ryan the underground V is pretty interesting.  (After the way he fought, btw, I wasn’t surprised to learn what he was; it’s a cool twist, but I was sort of surprised – again – that they revealed it right away.)

M: And as much as I loved it in the original, I think Morris Chestnut will make for a better “traitorous” V than Freddy Kreuger did in the original.  Call me crazy.

E: Crazy.  😉  Actually, I agree – Morris Chestnut has it all down; he’s good looking in this too-perfect V way, and he can really bring the street fighting.  There’s even something in his posture that’s Other.  Freddy Kreuger wasn’t a strong hero; he played the pacifist as weakling.  This is a nice change.  And of course I love his girlfriend, Val, just because she’s played by Benedicto, so charming as doomed Eva Rios on The Nine, even thought hey haven’t given her much to do yet. Now, who else do we have?  Scott Wolf’s Chad Decker, the morally compromised, ambitious reporter who is becoming a mouthpiece for the Visitors.  We had collaborators last time, too, but this is a fascinating way to play out that theme. I’m not entirely sure that the gender switch is going to work with the teen “love” story, though.  In the original, callow Robin falls for a young blonde (Aryan!) V named Brian, who (intentionally) knocks her up with a hybrid baby, who turns out to be the key to everything.  Sure, Lisa’s super Aryan looking, but will her seduction of Ericka’s rebellious son Tyler carry the same weight?  I’m not sure that intimacy is going to be so scary without the threat of invasive harm, that terrifying allegory of victimization.  Can Lisa impregnate Tyler?

M: That was an interesting reversal, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.  I have a feeling that, especially with the BSG parallels, they may try to drop the hybrid child plot line to distinguish themselves, and I can honestly say I won’t be upset to see it go.  They have a lot that’s good that they can work with, I’m not sure they need that.

E: I’m certainly intrigued; if nothing else, the gender twist means I have no idea where (or how) they’re going with it, and that’s particularly a good thing in a remake.

M: In the end, as we began by saying, this was a really good start.  I am already chomping at the bit for next week’s episode (E: me too!), where the resistance begins to grow, and it appears Steve the Alien Pirate eventually comes back from the dead (E: shiver!), a neat trick that could make for some really tough times for our fledgling resistance fighters.

E: I can’t wait!  I’m just as excited for this show as I was before the pilot aired, which honestly is saying something, don’t you think?

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6 comments on “V Review: Pilot

  1. Heather says:

    While I did enjoy the pilo, I found the pace unsettling. I was looking forward to the big reptillian reveal (not to us, of course, since who doesn’t know that the V are reptiles?) to the characters. I’m hoping that there are many twists up their sleeves, since most of the “surprises” came out so quick in the first episode. And, I’m really looking forward to the next episode.

    Oh–and I completely stopped watching Flash Forward. Talk about not living up to the hype!

    • M says:

      Heather, did you watch last week’s episode of FF? It was the first one since the pilot that started to approach where it should have been all along. If you didn’t, maybe wait until after this weeks, we’ll let you know if it continues to go in the right direction, and you can give it one last shot…

  2. Heather says:

    That should read: While I did enjoy the pilot…

  3. Nancy says:

    I was a little put off by the pacing. I think they should have done a 2 hour prem. to spread things out – it all just went to fast for me! And then when they had their “meeting” it seemed to come out of nowhere – like there were parts of the show missing or something. I know were all “know” that they are reptiles, but what about the “kids” <aka teenagers and 20 year olds that maay not have known the original?) I don't know…I will keep watching it for now, but I am just not sure. Although, I was impressed by the people visitors that had "infiltrated" and no one new! I was SHOCKED by the other FBI Guy. I am thinking that the older priest is a visitor too.

    • E says:

      You know, I was very surprised that the pilot was only one hour. I thought it could have benefited a lot from being lengthened out. And yeah, there have to be plenty of people younger than us who don’t know that the V’s are lizards. I think they could have gotten a lot more traction out of that reveal.

      I think it’s entirely possible the other priest is a V. I wonder now if their Pope is!

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