Hey, kids! Remember that pop-cultural phenomenon launched by ABC that had the entire nation in its thrall? That’s right — Lost. Well, there’s this (sort of) new, (potentially) great show on after Lost. In fact, you may have noticed the V countdown clock in the corner of your screen last night as you watched Lost — or, as Time’s esteemed James Poneiwozik tweeted, “Dear ABC: Thanks for the countdown clock during ’Lost,’ letting me know how long until I should change the channel and watch ‘Justified.’”
ABC’s betting that, instead of changing the channel, you’ve been hanging on the edge of your seat since November, waiting to find out the fates of Morris Chestnut, Lady Cop, Father Jack the Angsty Priest, and that Other Guy Who Looks Like Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. They are earth’s last hope in the fight against the visitors, or V, a bunch of scheming, mouse-eating, lizard-faced alien invaders who’ve done entirely not enough eating of mice or showing of their scaly lizard faces.
When we last left them, Father Jack had been shanked by a bald V baddie; Erica the Lady Cop was Fretting About Her Son; and Morris Chestnut (his character is called Ryan Nichols, so we’ll just go with Morris Chestnut) was Fretting About His Pregnant Fiancée Who Is Unwittingly Carrying a Half-Alien Baby. That’s one thing this show definitely delivers: A little shanking, a lot of fretting. (Also: Is it weird that the V, who’ve mastered holograms and space travel and all manner of technology, use the pointy stick as their weapon of choice?)
And so we pick up with Father Jack being rushed to a V healing center to be instantly healed from his shanking. So he’s all better. Except: Those sneaky V have planted something into Father Jack. Maybe a personality? No such luck!
Morris Chestnut’s fiancée, in the meantime, is feeling weird and voracious. “This isn’t your average pregnancy,” says Chestnut. She asks him what he means. He stares at her blankly. Hmmm, he thinks, maybe now isn’t a good time to reveal I’m actually a lizard. So he says, “Your heart condition.” She stares at him blankly.
Meanwhile, Anna, the V leader, is raking through Lady Cop’s son’s memories for the key to defeating Lady Cop. And it turns out to be … her bitter divorce. Yes, America, our broken marriages will be our undoing. So Anna sends Tyler off to assure Lady Cop that he won’t leave her “like dad did.” Unfortunately, this scene plays out like a lost plot thread from Ryan’s Hope. More unfortunately, the Erica-Tyler dynamic seems to be a central focus of the show. Which causes us to wonder: Who is this show for, exactly? And how did the producers manage to promise us alien invasion, yet end up delivering Once and Again?
Also: The V’s vaccine turns out to be some kind of beacon-emitting tracking something or other. They are trying to track us! Like animals! We’re in a zoo!
Also: The V try to frame a mysterious quasi-terrorist character named Hobbs for the bombing of the vaccine factory way back in November, thus leading our hardy freedom fighters right to a new ally. In a related story, the producers of V try to ape Lost by introducing a mysterious character named after a famous seventeenth-century philosopher. Next up: A fat dude named Burly joins the fight against the aliens.
Hobbs is a shadowy mercenary type who only cares about money, but seems to have some as-yet-unrevealed skill set that actually threatens the V. In response, Anna decides to breed a clone (?) army of her own, which involves selecting a beefy man-servant, then retreating to a private chamber full of smoke for one of the cheesiest sex scenes you’ll ever see (or sort of see — damn you smoke!) on TV.
There are two almost-satisfying moments on the show: In one, the voracious fiancée picks up a dead mouse in a trap and stares at it, contemplating eating it. She is horrified. We would have been horrified — and thrilled — if she actually ate it, which would have been awesomely incredible and daring. Instead, into the trash with the mouse. Whew — awesomeness averted!
In the second and climactic moment of interest, Anna finally shows her fangs. Literally. Right at the very end. So … that was cool. With any luck, next week she will eat everyone in sight, starting with Booger.
The Chicago Tribune’s Maureen Ryan is digging the V reboot more than we are: “The question was, could they wring more suspense and character drama from that premise? … I was happy to see that the answer is yes.”
At Television Without Pity, Lulu Bates recounts the climactic sex scene between Anna and Captain Beefcake: “Anna decides to start an Army of One with a hulking hunk of a V man in a hot tub scene that would make any Harlequin romance proud. And would make any praying mantis proud, too.”
And EW’s Darren Franich runs down the show’s strengths (Anna) and weaknesses (Father Jack has no personality to speak of) while asking the very reasonable question: “Why can’t it let its sci-fi flag fly?”