Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: V "Laid Bare"

"Um...maybe a good moisturizer...little less exfoliation?"
Non Spoiler Review:
What we sacrificed in craziness this week we made up for in cramming as many scenes as possible in one hour. It seemed like they squeezed in an impossible amount of events in a day's worth of story time.

Anna sets her sights on Father Jack and his suicide-bomber-inspiring videos on Earth's Internet (yes, she calls it that), so recruits some help in going after him. The Fifth Column debates what to do with Malik (that's not really a spoiler, given she's caught in the first two minutes). Lisa starts going through the change...which in Visitor lexicon means weird and wonderful scaly things are going on with her body. Meanwhile, evil Joshua tests out a theory on the human soul. Oh, and Marcus simply walks around relaying new to Anna that we've already witnessed in the previous scene.

I wanted to like it, and there were some good moments with Lisa and Erica, but the potential of Malik (providing intelligence to the Fifth Column) seemed wasted in the usual endless circles of debate among the resistance. The plot development that arose from the information they did get was pretty ridiculous in the grand scheme of things, which highlights the big problem with the resistance...their lack of any grand schemes.

Spoilers Now!
Erica regains consciousness, sees she's upside-down and crawls out of the car just as Malik tackles her and lays the smack down. Erica is a goner, except Malik takes a fatal moment to stretch her ginormous jaw as if to chow down on her, and Erica pushes her into a tree and knocks her out. Luckily Hobbes and Jack show up and Erica informs them Malik is a V and they can use her—so no killing, Hobbes! They head out after blowing up the car as a cover story.

Lisa wakes up in bed with her reptile skin going c-r-a-z-y. It's her breeding skin, her mother informs her, as she's coming into her fertility. Lisa's primal mating instincts will soon emerge and Anna will mold her into a great leader, in her own image. Cue Lisa's worried face.

As is the new normal for V, we get Anna trotting down to see her mother to gloat. But Diana knows she's suspicious Lisa will betray her, just like Anna did when her own mother's breeding skin grew. Anna vows she'll teach Lisa to lead, unlike her own mother—there's still some bitterness there.

Erica is interviewed by the FBI after saying the Fifth Column blew up their car and took Malik. She's told to go home while they investigate the case. And home for her is the secret hideout where they have their new prisoner, and Sydney has set up shop to start studying things.

Marcus advises Anna that Malik was abducted. She wants trackers to retrieve any evidence Malik may have left behind about her mission. As for the Fifth Column, she rings up Ryan again—Hey, there's Anna and the baby! But Ryan knows she made the child sick to get his help. She wants him to look for Malik and find those responsible by nightfall (when her Bliss wears off on the baby).

Sydney reports to Erica his findings on Tyler's blood sample. Tyler's DNA has been stripped of a lot of components, leaving much of the helix bare—allowing the V's to put something in it's place. A personality, perhaps?

Later, it's torture time for Malik, and Erica's all pissy about her pregnancy being interfered with so it is officially on. Ryan shows up to provide some convenient information—advising them to watch out for her fangs and tail. Visitors have a high threshold of pain, so the only way to really torture her is to skin her—that'll kill her in about half an hour. 

In a scene that comes completely out of left field, Tyler is suddenly commiserating with Lisa and Anna about how concerned he is for his mother who's been associating with this radical priest, Jack, who may be Fifth Column. Jack has all these anti-V videos on the Internet! Anna assures him she can help.

Back at the crash site, Hobbes had left a camera in a tree to see who shows up, allowing Ryan to identify the trackers,  until they notice the camera and punch it out. Ryan then cuts off Malik's finger and takes off with Erica to foil the trackers before they get to Malik's place. At her apartment they look for a safe box, which every sleeper agent apparently has. He uses the finger to open up a hidden panel to find cash, law enforcement ID and some V tech, which Ryan reviews. It shows dossiers on a lot of people going back several years. Visitors show up, so he blows up the place and they escape easily via the balcony. This all happened in like three minutes.

Anna meets with Chad, who admonishes her for acting like a god by using the Red Sky without asking. She pish-poshes that and asks him about Father Jack. He doesn't know anything about the priest except that the terrorist was one of his parishioners. She decides she wants Chad to interview him, as she believes every point of view should be presented—cut right to Chad telling Jack not to do it, but his mind's made up. Jack thinks if his profile is raised, the harder target he'll become.

Anna stands before a bizarre spiky contraption that Joshua says is engineered to locate and extract the soul. The test subjects will not survive, though, so he'll need hundreds of thousands. Despite Malik's

Erica can't identify any of the people in Malik's files from the FBI database. They're all missing persons. Hobbes wants to get torturin' as they're just waiting around for plot developments. But Ryan finds a clue—a girl has been reported missing. She's Sofie, the girl they just picked up in the previous scene! They go off in pursuit.

We cut back to Jack giving a sermon to condemn the suicide bombings, with Chad in attendance. Chad must have arranged this in, like, five minutes. A guy in the crowd confronts him about losing his wife in the bombing. The church is apparently full of people who lost loved ones, and a confrontation ensues with the anti-V crowd. Chad sees the one guy is a V because his eyes shift to lizard eyes (Chad doesn't know they're lizards yet, but he find this out of the ordinary). Jack intervenes and says their blood is on his hands, and he should fight him if he wants. The V guy storms out. But someone else has been filming this on their iPhone.

Next, we learn Anna is pleased with the interview, as she's taken a bunch of it out of context to look like Jack challenged the guy and is promoting violence. She thanks Chad for helping to expose him, as she's putting it on the Earthly Internets to go viral. 

Erica interviews Sophie's mother, who hasn't seen her daughter in months. Erica gives her her card to call if she finds out anything, but they mostly talk about being mothers and stuff like that. Erica knows what she's going through (hmm, not really given she purposely sends her only son to have sex with a lizard princess to keep her close to Anna). Ryan says he has a daughter, but he's not a mother, so it's not the same thing. They go back to the hideout.

Hobbes decide they've waited long enough and starts to carve up Malik's back. Sydney gets to work analyzing the results. After having her finger and tail cut off, and her back torn up, Malik at last gives up the V driver who is picking up the runaways in New Jersey. Sophie was picked up that very night. And Tyler? Malik doesn't know Anna's plans for him. Erica decides to believe her, so opts to be merciful. Hobbes gives her the sedative that will put her out of her misery. A tear rolls down Malik's face as she dies.

They head off and find the van (very easily), but it's empty. Luckily a scream points them in the right direction. They chase the V guy and his captive through the woods, and he drops her as he flees into a clearing and Erica shoots him. But he pops his pill before they can get to him and disintegrates. Sophie's been drugged so she won't remember a thing, Ryan says. They see a Visitor shuttle loading up the other captives, and they watch it fly off.

Lisa is being instructed by Joshua as he does his soul work under Anna's observation. They will remove all the physical components of the human body, and what remains in its dying breath should be his soul (Umm...). But Anna notices Lisa's reaction to the poor guy in the machine and admonishes her. She tells Lisa to continue the experiment. The young man in the machine begs her for mercy, but Lisa goes ahead and activates it. 

On a happier note, Erica and Ryan take Sophie back to her mother. Erica tells her she's safe now and that's all she needs to know (Well, safe until the Visitors use all the humans on the planet to gestate their reptile eggs). So they have a happy reunion. Ryan can't savour the moment though, but Erica assures him they'll get his daughter back. They can't lose hope. That's what this fight is all about. Yes, Erica, this fight is about saving one person rather than dozens.

"This is what they look like? *yawn*. Sorry. What were we saying?"
Meanwhile, on the Internet, Chad shows Jack the video that's gone viral. Another great decision, Jack. Jack says he'll weather the storm. He chooses to have faith. Chad must remain close to Anna. That's his role in the fight. And he decides its time Chad meets the others.

So Chad is introduced to them all. Erica thanks him for the Malik tip. They show him the dead Visitor with her back stripped off. Chad's a bit shocked to find out what they really look like, but like everyone else, is over it in twenty seconds.

Meanwhile, it was Tyler who took the cell phone footage at the church, and Anna thanks him for all his work. Together they have somehow made Father Jack's video achieve virality on the Internets. She muses that he's like a son to her. It's surprisingly not creepy at all.

Lisa then shows up at Erica's. She's in shock after all the stuff Anna's been putting her through and feels she can't continue on like this. Lisa has no one to talk to. Erica says she has her. They hug. This isn't creepy either.

Anna heads down for her post-episode Diana sneer. Her mother advises her to watch Lisa carefully. Diana tried to make Anna like her too, but they were too different. Caution has never been Anna's nature. But foresight is, her daughter points out. Good, Diana says. She'll need it.

Ryan's back on the mothership and meets with Anna. He looks at his baby and tells her he's found the Fifth Column.

What Worked:
As contrived and unsurprising as it may be, I like Tyler being in leagues with Anna and Erica taking over mothering Lisa. And maybe they're implying Tyler's going to get a whole dose of Anna's DNA to fill up all those missing segments so he can help father the next batch of eggs?

The writers remembered that Chad used to hang out with Anna a lot. We finally get a meeting with her. And they also realized it's about time someone caught up to Father Jack's preaching, as well as his associations. Funny it took Tyler, and not Visitor surveillance to do the job.

What Didn't Work:
Why does Ryan only give up new information in the context of the moment? He's had ample opportunity to sit down with everyone and say "Listen...this is where it's at with the V's." Instead, it's always "Oh, yeah, by the way...". He's their greatest source of intel—why can't Sydney just ask him about Visitor physiology rather than relying on samples from Malik?

And speaking of information, Chad is the latest in a string of people who learn the truth about the Visitors with just a "So that's what they look like," and a shrug. Where's the horror and absolute despair that a superior power is going to enslave all humanity?

Anna's been abducting people. Wow, that's big news. And the whole focus of the last half of the episode is Erica and Ryan trying to save this one runaway girl because Erica's a mother, and, well, you know what it's like then...Seriously, this is the state of the dialogue? Erica tells Ryan this is what it's all about—saving one person when a whole shuttle load got hauled off to the mother ship to be tortured. Actually, Erica, that's not what it's about. If you're going to win this war for humanity—not just one girl—you're going to have to think big and play the numbers game in order to save humanity!

So did we get an explanation on the human skin? Do they need it to survive on Earth? Could it even be permanent? And what's the deal with queens giving birth? Do they initially have their successor, then a whole batch of eggs afterwards? That sounds like what happened with Diana and Anna both (unless Anna has had a nest of eggs prior to all this). But it sounds like Lisa's going to have a whole bunch soon.

This week's continuity question: What happened to all those mother ships who arrived in the season finale? In addition to the twenty-nine already on Earth, there were dozens and dozens of them en route. They were initially cloaked prior to Red Sky, but are they still hanging around in orbit? Has anyone noticed? Like the writers?

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