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V Series Premiere: Instant Edification

Is there anything more exciting than a sci-fi reimagining? You get all the tingly nostalgia of a beloved show from your youth (Battlestar Galactica), but souped-up with slick effects, superior acting, and all-grown-up allegorical resonances (Battlestar Galactica). You can have your nerdcake and eat it, too!

That said, the new V is no nerdcake.

It all starts ominously enough: Shaking water-glasses, sudden tremors, the obligatory sequence of Average Americans Gathering in the Streets to Gawk at the Skies. Twenty-nine UFOs are hovering over the planet’s major cities. But fear not! The aliens are friendly! And hot! Once their leader, Anna (Morena Baccarin), assures Earth “We mean no harm,” she’s greeted by ... a prolonged ovation, as though the entire planet had just watched Nathan Lane on Broadway.

At this point, you might expect that we’d cut to, we don’t know, the White House or the UN or Glenn Beck’s hot tub or something, as presumably world leaders would be scrambling to deal with this epochal event. But apparently the governments of the world, previously unable to agree on things like tire tariffs, fall quickly in line behind these unexpected alien Visitors, because suddenly it’s three weeks later and the Visitors have basically charmed everyone on the planet, like they’re practiced real-estate agents closing a sale.

So instead, we focus on how Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch), a New York priest, feels about the Visitors (strangely suspicious!). We follow attractive FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell), who’s hot on the trail of a terrorist sleeper cell. And then there’s this other guy (Morris Chestnut) of indeterminate occupation (banker?) who’s about to get married but has some sort of shady past. When the oily journalist Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) lands the first big interview with Anna, she asks him to — bum bum bum! — agree not to ask unflattering questions. Who does she think she is, Dick Cheney on Hannity? Wait — she’s no Cheney. She reveals that the aliens want to offer widespread medical treatment to Earth, to which Decker replies, “You’re talking about universal health care.” Oh no! The Visitors are ... Canadians!

From here, the exposition comes hot, heavy, and clumsy, like a fat, loud drunk stumbling into a room. Agent Evans and her partner, Dale Maddox (Alan Tudyk), track the sleeper cell to a secret meeting in Brooklyn, where a bearded guy conveniently fills them (and us) in on the backstory. Apparently, the Vs have been here for years! Infiltrating society and stuff! The supposed visit by the spaceships is only the final part of their insidious takeover plan! Which no one thought to mention before!

Thus, the show magically skips the whole “figuring out the Vs are actually evil” part of the story, much as it magically skipped the whole “world governments react to an alien invasion” part. (We do, however, get an extended scene of Agent Evans chewing out her V-smitten teenage son for using the Internet.) All of which means we can jump straight to: fisticuffs with the lizard people, who wear cloned human skin over their damnable lizard faces. Which means if you hit one with, say, a serrated piece of metal, their incriminatory lizard skin will peek out. So ... why not just kill one, peel his skin off, and drag him to the authorities? Enough with your questions!

This skin-reveal does look kind of cool — just like it did in the first series, 25 years ago. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out if this new series has any novel thrills of its own to offer.
 
More Recaps:
Time’s excellent James Poniewozik details the Obama resonances: a telegenic messiah with offers of change and — gasp — universal health care.
... as does Chicago Tribune reviewer Glenn Garvin.
Sci-fi site io9 offers a definitive run-down of the show's pre-airing troubles (demoted showrunners, extensive tinkering) — along with a plea to watch.

Related:
V’s Scott Wolf on Flirting With Aliens
Know Your V History: Sternbergh on the Original Miniseries [Vulture]

Photo: David Gray/ABC