Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review: V "Serpent's Tooth"

Non Spoiler Review:
Oh boy, this one was a doozy. I credit Jane Badler and Morena Baccarin for playing their scenes with a straight face, and not doubling over with laughter (as I did). The theme of this episode is the human soul, and we know that because it's stated often.

Fifth Column suicide bombers keep blowing themselves up in Visitor cities, vexing Anna to no end, who pesters her mother for the secret of human emotion. Apparently Visitor science hasn't bothered to research stuff like brain chemistry, hormones, and nuisance things like that. She's also decided, after just one episode, that she'll use Ryan to compromise the Fifth Column and carts out the hybrid baby ever five minutes (who she's also outfitted in human skin, much to the relief of the special effects team).

On one positive note, this week's shocker delivers us the archetypal V moment, done with a bit of a twist. We also get some more exposition about Visitor intentions, information which seems to be coming fast and furious given this shorter season.

Cylon Tori—er—Malik, comes back to be handled even worse than in passed episodes. Malik, Hobbes and Erica are running around, literally running into one another from crime scene to crime scene. Easily, this is one of the worst episodes, and leaves me feeling fatalistic about any hope for this series beyond season two. It's firmly in camp territory now, but perhaps it will become an enjoyable train wreck to watch.

"Dear Lord, please grant me the strength to recite this dialogue with a straight face."
Spoilers Now!
Diana has been imprisoned by Anna in the bowels of the mother ship for fifteen years, but she is wise to Anna's reappearance (surely someone must have looked in on her at some point, to at least feed her!)—that her daughter is now experiencing emotions and wants to know how to deal with them.

Diana is certain Anna will fail, given living in human flesh for so long has awakened these feelings. She recounts how the Visitors detected Earth's first nuclear test and saw it as a beacon of hope to interbreed and spread their species. Diana walked among them and began to experience emotion, which led to Anna usurping her power and leading everyone to believe she was dead. But if Anna uses Earth as their breeding ground, she'll give birth to a generation of Visitors with emotion and will ultimately fail. Unfortunately Earth is the only viable planet, with similar worlds too far away for them to reach. Anna is now infertile (shouldn't have put all her eggs in one basket—oh snap!), so that leaves Lisa as the only hope for laying eggs. It's Earth or nothing, Diana gloats.

Lisa comes to see Tyler, who is back home, and uses it as an excuse to chat with Erica. She lets her know Joshua has been resurrected, which puts them all in danger. Erica asks if she can also press Joshua about any experimentation on pregnant women eighteen years before (Sure, Erica, Lisa will be happy to do that while desperately trying to maintain her cover). Erica later gives Sydney Tyler's blood sample (she scored from a convenient shaving mishap). This is scientist Syd's one and only cameo this episode. It's nice to see Erica and Lisa working so closely together these days in manipulating Tyler.

Ryan goes to Val's funeral (whose death has been explained as heart problems related to her pregnancy). Her parents are pretty upset with him, especially given how aloof he is about the whole thing. Ryan can't seem to cry or even do anything remotely empathetic. His mother-in-law tells him he's cold. "Don't you have a soul?" she yells. One of Anna's men gives Ryan a card to allow him to keep in contact with his daughter. Ryan takes it, not realizing that it means Anna will be calling him every five minutes with a screaming baby.

Chad is broadcasting from the reopened healing centres and Marcus introduces him to a woman who will be the first to give birth entirely with V technology. Chad interviews her, but is pretty negative about the whole idea and puts a lot of doubts in her head. There seems to be little point to this particular scene aside from showing Chad's passive aggressive nature.

Jack (who apparently is still working at his church despite being forbidden by his boss in the finale) hears a confession from a man who's been inspired by his YouTube sermons about fighting back at against the Visitors—way to keep things on the down low, Jack—and needs to be assured that he's doing the right thing. The right thing, as we see in his flashback, is becoming a suicide bomber and blowing up the peace center. Jack blindly assures him it is a war for their souls, so that gives the guy his seal of approval. Later, Citizen Terrorist appears in front of the embassy and blows himself up. Chad is there, but, sadly, survives.

Terrorists have bombed sites in all 29 Visitor cities, so it's a coordinated attack. Being the only FBI agents in the city, Erica and Tori/Cylon/Malik show up to investigate. Malik takes a fragment from the evidence bin, literally walks five feet and hands it to Marcus, who says Anna will be pleased. Marcus gives it to Anna where they plan to lift a print and find the bomber's allies.

Meanwhile, Anna's hair-brained idea for this week is to use Ryan to pursue the Fifth Column (which isn't too outrageous, except that she only set him free last episode). She thinks Ryan can be controlled with the baby. She's putting human skin on the child to prey on Ryan's loss—he'll think of Val when he sees her. It's hungry, though, so Anna takes a big white rat, distends her jaw and swallows it, then regurgitates it into the baby! She's also pretty good at it, too, as when she's finished there's not even a hint of rat bits or vomit on her or the baby.

Anna's special card is a holographic communication device she uses to taunt Ryan with the baby. Apparently he has no way to turn it off as her holographic image just pops up whenever she likes. She appears just to say hi and tells him to help protect humankind by finding the Fifth Column and he'll get everything he wants. Thanks, bye.

Erica and Hobbes debate the morality of humans killing humans to get the Visitors. Ryan and Hobbes wants to recruit them to create a global network. But Erica won't let them kill more people. Erica has gotten the name of the New York bomber, a librarian, and Jack recognizes him from taking his confession in the morning. Whoops. Jack gives them the address as the clock counts down to a new round of bombings.

Anna has Joshua in the memory chamber, planning to view his last memories, which should reveal the traitors. As she and a nervous Lisa watch, Anna sees Erica shooting him, which is good, because the rest of his recent memory has been wiped out by the trauma. He thinks he's a devoted V. Eventually they'll be able to recover them, though. Possibly. Storyline dictating, of course.

Hobbes and Erica go through the bomber's apartment. He has components that come from more savvy radicals, as well as a map of other targets in New York, including a building downtown. Erica wants to call it in, but Hobbes want to go and find the radicals before the Visitors swarm them. Erica calls it in, the building is evacuated and they sweep the area but find nothing. Erica makes an intuitive leap and realizes Chad is the target as he survived the first explosion. Right now he's just down the street and she watches a guilty-looking woman walk up to him. Erica takes her down before she can blow her up.

Anna returns to demand her mother tell her everything about human emotion and gives her a slap. Diana agrees, but she wants something—queue commercial cliffhanger—her iPod... yes, it's a fancy V necklace iPod thingie and maybe only plays one song, but Diana wants it. She puts it on and listens to the classical music. Classical music sparked her emotion—heartache, pain, sorrow—she felt it all in the music. This is where she advises Anna to find emotion...she must look for the light in the soul. What makes human human.

Anna always dismissed the existence of a soul. No, Diana says, and she takes her hand and puts it on her heart. The soul is the greatest threat to the V's. Anna vows to find it and destroy it. She decides she will isolate it in the medical bay.

Speaking of souls, Ryan and Jack are talking about the same thing. Ryan is copping an attitude about all this emotion everyone is feeling over the bombing. He just wants to act and do something and wonders why everyone has to feel things (he's apparently forgotten his season one character). Does Ryan have a soul, he asks? Of course, Jack says, who's really confident at giving advice because it worked out so well that morning.

The bomb reconstruction yielded no fingerprints, but do reveal some fibres that come from a company called Five Brothers, who is owned by an Israeli (ex-Mossad, of course), Eli Cohen. Tori/Cylon/Malik is put on the case by Marcus, so leaves Erica to go do her V stuff.

Erica interrogates the wimpy, most unlikely suicide bomber ever, Melanie. She shows the girl the cut on the back of her head (the V-test) to show they're on the same side. Melanie admits she never met anyone in person, and the whole thing was negotiated in chat rooms (kind of like V-Harmony). When she was ready she was picked up and blindfolded and given the explosives. 

Erica gets Hobbes on the case, looking for ex-Mossad guys in Manhattan. Surprise—he's already found Eli Cohen's name in reference to a textile factory, so everyone rushes to find him. Tori is there already, creeping around, but Hobbe's sees her and punches her. He seems to recognize her, as well, but he takes off, leaving her to get up shortly after.

He scored a good hit as she pulls out a loose tooth that's REALLY long and must really hurt—a serpent's tooth (the name of the episode!). But then Erica shows up too, so Tori sees her and beats it. Erica finds the blood on the floor. Hobbes sneaks up behind her for shits and giggles, and lets her know her partner Malik is also there and that means she's a V.

The FBI then shows up officially and find a hidden room full of suicide vests and such, as well as  shipment records for various cities worldwide. Hobbes found the first bomber's car had been to Ossining, the same town where they find one of the vests was shipped. Erica says she'll check it out, but Malik is to accompany her. 

Anna is growing pissy with Ryan's lack of cooperation, so she wants the baby made sick—something only her Bliss can alleviate. Jack takes Ryan to Val's grave to teach Ryan about the soul and God and praying and stuff. But Anna interferes with her Bliss and Ryan tries to shake it off. Anna tells him the baby is in pain, just let her in. It's unclear how him taking Anna's Bliss will also help the baby. But Ryan will have none of it—the more he feels, the more he will get hurt, he says, and walks off.

After all this, Jack is praying, looking for direction. Who walks in but Chad, who's bitchy about being a target of the Fifth Column. Chad has been reviewing the tapes of the bombing, and saw Marcus and Malik together (apparently everyone recognizes her). He thinks Erica's in danger (as he also saw her in the church during Jack's sermon)—Can we see a pattern here of how bad everyone is at maintaining any semblance of secrecy?

Ryan's been sitting in his hotel room, doing nothing. Anna rings him AGAIN, with the screaming baby. She tells Ryan he has no soul, but can have her Bliss and his daughter. All he has to do is join them again. Ryan says okay finally. It's that easy. Just to get her to stop calling.

Malik and Erica are driving to Ossining, both of them playing with each other given they know the other's secret. Malik neglected to clean her shirt of a very obvious blood stain, so she pulls a gun on Erica and tells her to pull over. Erica decides to roll the car, but that leaves Erica  unconscious and Malik awake with her crazy V eyes.

Joshua is back to work and ready to return to his research (given his amnesia has made him a loyal V). Anna sets him searching for human emotion and he vows to find the soul and destroy it with SCIENCE!

Anna goes back to see her mother a third time, and Diana taunts her that she'll lose control and will feel the sting of her daughter's betrayal as she has felt hers. Anna rips off Diana's musical necklace and storms out. Diana says "Tick-tock, tick-tock." Because the Visitors also have analog clocks.

What Didn't Work:
The motivations of the characters are going off in all sorts of directions. What is Diana's goal, aside from having Anna fail, which means the end of her species from all counts. Or does she want Anna to achieve emotion? Ryan had fully accepted a life on Earth with Val, but the moment he loses her he's abandoned (and forgotten) the emotions he's developed, and acts like he never had them. Erica is now willingly using Tyler to get to Anna, and doesn't seem to mind what might be happening to him when she leaves him on the mother ship.

The weak dialogue doesn't hep. Elizabeth Mitchell was great on Lost, but the writers fill the script with so much exposition and state-the-obvious stuff the actors are talking at each other rather than interacting. This is especially hard on the V actors who can't even emote very much at all. Poor Marcus spends most of the episodes just watching other characters do things without being able to react aside from stale commentary. Even Rekha Sharma is a decent actress but she was absolutely horrible with what she had to work with here.

This episode was such a mess I could go on and on. Coincidences abound—The Visitors, the FBI, and the Fifth Column all manage to find out the relevant information within a few minutes of one another. The Fifth Column should be commended, because if they're able to recruit two of the most uninspired people off the street and turned them into suicide bombers, then they'll surely win against the Visitors. How does a terrorist/resistance group manage to recruit reliable suicide bombers in chat rooms with no face-to-face meetings until they deliver the suicide vest? And let's just forget Visitor surveillance capabilities for a moment.

On to the big WTF this week—what is the purpose of bringing in the notion of a soul? Is this the best the writers could do to reconcile the emotion problem? Jack and Anna's take on it sounded like a Sunday School conversation. Are they trying (miserably) to tie Anna's Bliss in with the already poorly handled religious themes? I thought Diana just said last episode that wearing human skin had sparked her to develop motions—it appears to have been retconned already.

I don't think the writers intended Diana and Anna's chat about the soul to be funny. But I laughed out loud. What is Visitor science all about if it can't analyze the brain chemistry of humans (maybe they could run some tests on the Live Aboards?—speaking of which, what happened to them?).

Now new and improved evil Joshua is going to find the soul for Anna, and I have visions of him coming up with some glowing orb in a glass that Anna's going to be able to smash. This whole emotion angle has gone off the rails and would have best been ignored completely. The Visitors are reptilian, we're's as simple as that. The writers seem determined to bring in some religious analogy, but their initial tendency to portray the Visitors as a replacement religion hasn't been followed through. With Jack's proselytizing to Ryan, I'm wondering if the writers think they can resolve the whole invasion by having Lisa find God, become queen, and leave?

Jack preaches against the Visitors in church (despite his superior pretty much firing him in the finale), and on YouTube, then wonders why Chad seems to guess that everyone in his church, including Erica, might be Fifth Column? What happened to the miraculous Visitor technology which last week found a single scientist who was uncovering the truth of the Red Skies? This week it can identify random fibres from the bomb blast but no one checks out social media. The omnipotent surveillance techniques of the Visitors are carted out and ignored with no sense of consistency.

And my final pet peeve for this week—Why do the Visitors refer to themselves as Vs, wear their human skins, keep referring to themselves by human names, and speak English all the time in the privacy of the mother ships? 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...