Over the next few weeks, I’ll be summarizing my thoughts on many of the series that ended just as the “official” television season came to a close recently.
Sorry for the delay folks, it was my birthday this weekend and things kind of snowballed on me. That means we’re skipping over How To Make It In America, if you don’t care (I’m sure you do not). Let’s move on to V.
Overview: Throughout its rocky first season, V had to juggle expectations from fans of the previous series while creating its own, unique narrative and deal with a terrible schedule that saw four episodes air in the fall and the other eight not come on until late March. And that doesn’t include the multiple showrunner changes that occurred from the time the pilot was picked up to series and when the series came back in 2010.
It is then unsurprising that V was an uneven, oftentimes boring, mess of a series that had a number of fun and meaty moments, but none of which added up to substantial episodes or coherent plotlines. It is a series full of promise, but so far, it hasn’t been put together in the proper ways.
Pros: The cast. Even with some shoddy writing and poor dialogue, Elizabeth Mitchell, Morena Baccarin, Joel Gretsch, Scott Wolf and Morris Chestnut have made the program worth watching on a weekly basis. Baccarin and Wolf have been particularly solid, probably because they’ve been given the best material throughout. But that’s not to knock the other performers.
The series has also been good at creating shocking and disgusting moments. With aliens involved, it’s not overly difficult to create a situation that makes the audience uncomfortable, but in the same vein, it’s also sort of expected because of said aliens. Anyway, there was probably one moment per episode that shook things out of a boring lull and gave me hope that maybe V could be more than kind of cool in the future.
Despite my issues with the coherence of the overall story arc, the series’ writers were able to craft a few individual stories that were subtly successful and emotional consistent throughout. Wolf’s Chad Decker is certainly the most interesting character and although it’s not overly unoriginal to be playing a character with shifty motivations, Decker has never been portrayed at either end of the extremes. He’s not good, not bad, just a guy who’s looking out for his career but still with a conscious.
I was also impressed with the discussion of media manipulation and society’s relationship with makeshift demigods. There was some indication early on that the series was all about some Obama commentary, but even as that faded away amid the showrunner changes, remnants of that type of storytelling were there throughout the first season. It’s an interesting thing that will hopefully continue into the second season.
Cons: Like I mentioned up top, V never felt coherent with its stories. Things moved very quickly and from episode to episode, there wasn’t much that connected it all together except for “the Vs are here and we have to stop them!” I guess that framework allows for the individual episodes to be more self-contained, but oftentimes that meant that those individual stories had no heft to them because there was no exploration of the consequences.
We knew that the Vs were there and were bad — kudos for at least not dragging THAT out — but both sides of the battle were simply plodding along waiting for the other to flinch. It was hard to appreciate the plotting of Anna and the other Vs when we never really saw their true plans, aside from lying to the people and manipulating them through the media. The same could be said for the small group of resistance fighters; they would move from episode to episode talking about stopping the Visitors, but the situations that came up felt like constructed situations, not organic ones. It also didn’t help that there were only four or five people in this so-called resistance — as much as we could see, at least — and so even when they did accomplish something, it felt unearned.
Moreover, despite the excellence of the cast, most of the characters were wasted and had really no arc mapped out in the first season. The series was crafted as a vehicle for Elizabeth Mitchell after her work on Lost, but her Erica Evans had absolutely nothing to do in the season’s back half and a number of the other actors not named Scott Wolf or Morena Baccarin just stood around from week to week with blank looks on their face.
The result of all that meant that V‘s first season was generally boring with the random solid moment. There weren’t any episodes that I could outwardly call bad, but a number of them were wheel-spinning and middling and only a few were highly above average. They can do better.
Best storyline: Chad trying to figure out if being a puppet for the Visitors is really worth it.
Worst storyline: The B.S. about Erica possibly cheating on her husband, meaning her son Tyler has a secret, unknown father. But supposedly it’s not true!
Best performer: Morena Baccarin — It would have been easy to play Anna as a maniac behind the scenes, but Baccarin gives the character more depth without being too human.
Best single moment: When Erica and Father Jack find out they killed humans in a quasi-terrorist attack on the Vs (even though it was later seen to be untrue).
Three best episodes: “Pilot,” “Hearts and Minds” and “Red Sky”
Worst episode: “There Is No Normal Anymore”
Where does it fit within the context of the series as a whole: Well, it’s the first season, and a very rocky one at that. Let’s hope that all the external factors have pulled down the execution of this high concept idea and that it will get better in the future. But I’m not sure.
Final grade: C-
Past days of the wrap
Past days of the wrap