Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review: V "Birth Pangs"

Non Spoiler Review:
A week later, Tyler is staying aboard the mothership living out a mundane fantasy version of alien Top Gun, but trouble brews when Anna learns his phosphorous levels (and personality, charm, charisma, etc...) are much lower than anticipated, despite Red Rain, meaning her alternate plan needs to kick in if he doesn't work out. As newly anointed head of the Fifth Column, Erica must prove her worth with Eli's lieutenants, requiring a trip to Bangkok that ultimately results in a massive infodump about the Visitor breeding program.

While we get the usual marathon plot antics to push forward the necessary information this week, it's unusually gratifying (gasp!) when we learn the truth behind the Visitors. It's actually a decent twist on the alien invasion that sets this series apart from its predecessor's "We need your food and water" trope.

Characters continues to flounder, though, and I won't even start about Tyler. Erica has found a lot of backbone since last week, so much so that Hobbes looks like a puppy dog around her. Anna had a helluva lot of walking around the mothership to do doling out smack and schemes, misplaced trust and secret reveals. But the revelations this week were worth sticking it out for. Maybe a sign the final episodes will ramp up the quality?

Oh, and guess who's still alive. *sad face*

The Global Fifth Column. Alien invaders are doomed.
Spoilers Now!
Anna greets Tyler after a week aboard, expressing her sympathy for his loss (like she's been too busy until now, but I think she just hates being around him). He's in one of the examination chambers, and Thomas advises he needs to take a final physical examination (hair cut) before deep space flight training. 

Anna is quite happy with the way things are going—destruction of the Fifth Column, Concordia underway, and soon, with Tyler aboard, the next phase of the interbreeding process. As Anna exposits, the examination will ensure his DNA is ready

Jack moves in with Hobbes at the headquarters. It's kind of like the Odd and Tedious Couple. Erica shows up and we get another round of "Sorry about what happened". She hasn't talked to Tyler since Joe's funeral.

But enough of that sappy business. Erica's brought Fierro in on their branch of the Fifth Column. She's hell bent on starting a war with Anna, but first she has to solidify her own power base, as Eli's lieutenants are gathering in Bangkok to talk about the new status quo, and she needs to be there.

Joshua advises Anna that there's a bit of a hiccup with Tyler—his phosphorous levels are not where they should be, and his body seems to be rejecting it. He isn't sure adding extra phosphorous will work, so Anna needs to make some backup plans. And there is a plan...there are alternates, and she chooses a guy from Spain named Raphael, which means Lisa is going to meet (breed) with him and check him out. Anna orders a phosphorous injection for Tyler, and if his levels remain low, he will be no use to them anymore, anway—please be low, please be low! Oh, and Tyler's haircut is a fail!

In Bangkok Erica meets with group of Fifth Column leaders. She starts laying down the law about injuring innocent civilians and all that suicide bombing nonsense, and instead bring the war to Anna. She has contacts on the mothership, which is access they don't have. So there. This seems to lessen their doubts, as long as she presents a plan, otherwise they'll pass leadership on to someone else.

Anna advises Lisa that Tyler is leaving on his first overnight training trip. In the meantime, her new assignment is to meet Raphael and entertain him. Lisa treads dangerously close to questioning her mother and betraying some emotion, considering she's (cough) in love with Tyler, but Anna orders her to do as she's told.

Erica Skypes with the gang, including Sydney (and hopefully the Visitors are not monitoring any signals worldwide with the keywords breeding, Visitor plan, Anna, etc.). They need to know what Anna wants (and since no one ever asked Ryan for his input, and since he's dead now...okay, maybe not). Chad has something to contribute—Anna is stopping the live aboard program, meaning she has what she needs. Erica reveals to Chad that Lisa is on there side, and he needs to go and ask her if she can find out anything.

Next, Sydney says he's reached out to the global scientific community and learned of other boys who have missing DNA segments like Tyler (??), so she advises him to try to locate where those boys are.

Fierro has learned that eighteen years ago, a Doctor Rai treated several pregnant women around the world, and Erica's like, "OMG, that's my OB-GYN!". Many of the babies died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but several survived. Dr. Rai just happens to be living in Hong Kong which is just a convenient hop, skip and a jump away, so they take off there to see what she has to say.

Anna asks Joshua for discretion as she includes him in a new scheme. She's thinking Lisa is experiencing human emotions. She wants him to lie and tell her his memory has returned and that he knows what it's like to have emotion. Report back to her what Lisa says.

Lisa goes to visit her grandmother again. Lisa confides about Anna's plan for Tyler and now her new Latin beau. Anna is changing her plans, Diana muses. Diana tells her to embrace the can give them power. But Anna must never know of her feelings for Tyler. She must convince her mother she's loyal and obedient for now.

As is so much the case, Chad runs into Lisa on the mothership and wants an interview about being the first daughter. Pulling her aside, he tells her Erica sent him and they're working together. He wants to know why the live aboards have been tortured.

So she sneaks into some security room to review the files on the live aboards and Joshua happens by that room in the corridor (because the mothership is obviously as big as a small bungalow) and spies on her. He tells her he remembers being Fifth Column now, and feeling all those cuh-razy human emotions. He wants to talk about them. Obviously he remembers wrong, Lisa replies. Joshua apologizes, then calls her queen and leaves.

In Hong Kong, the gang meets with one of Cohn's men who tracked down Dr. Rai. She's living under an assumed name. Fierro can apparently get them into her secure apartment as hacking is one of his specialities, and so he gets them fifteen minutes off the building security cameras.

Hobbes can speak Chinese, so that's handy. He gets into the apartment and Erica terrorizes Dr. Rai for a moment before she admits to being the one they're looking for. Then Erica cuts her behind her ear and sees she's a Visitor. With promises of skinning, Rai gives up where her safe is. Unfortunately, before she can reveal the combination, she makes a break and jumps off the balcony, taking a suicide pill before hitting the ground.

Hobbes is liking the new Erica. They find a handy drill and flashlight and get to work on the safe. While they're working in close quarters to break in, they have a moment. Hobbes opens the safe. They grab a holo device and a bunch of passports, and run like hell, with two minutes left on the clock. 

Back in New York, Ryan finds Jack on the street. He has a scratch on his face from the big explosion. He defends his actions, trying to save his baby, blah blah blah. He needs help to get the damn baby away from Anna. Everybody needs a second chance. Sigh. Jack says it's not his job to absolve him, and walks away.

Back at Hong Kong headquarters, they see that Rai visited the same cities over and over again for 19 years. The holo device shows 29 boys in 29 cities, each with a mothership over them. The ships are there because of the boys, and there's a picture of Tyler, as well as others on the data, which means Tyler is expendable. Hobbes assures her they'll keep him safe.

Rai also has some prenatal vitamins—the same ones which Erica took when she was pregnant. Hobbes cracks one open and some crazy tiny bug thingies spread out all over the table. Not good.

Everybody converges for the big infodump of overdue revelations—Hobbes and crew return, and update what they found in China. Lisa phones Chad and sends him information that will explain everything about the live aboards and he heads to the hideout to report in.

Here we go...Anna chose the live aboards who are genetically exceptional to steal the best DNA of the human race, which explains (according to Sydney) why the Visitor skeleton's DNA and Malik's DNA are quite far apart...there's thousands of years of evolution between the two samples. The Visitors are using human DNA to fast track their own evolution. Sydney's analyzed the robot bugs, which were programmed to go after anything with the Y chromosome (those robot bugs are damn big to be crawling through cells and stealing DNA, and must hurt like HELL!). 

Joshua reports to Anna that he saw Lisa looking through medical files but he doesn't know which ones. Lisa meets Raphael and gets to first base right away. But then she gets all hot and cold (like Katy Perry's Hot N' Cold) and pushes him away. He has to go. Raphael appears confused.

Anna is not impressed and has a little chat with her rebellious daughter. Lisa demands to be told what her plan is for her. Anna goads her, then gives her a smack. Lisa punches her back, then apologizes. Anna tells her not to be sorry. It's just her breeding skin fueling the aggression, but she's not queen yet, she adds with a little rough chin squeeze. And she'll do as she tells her. 

Later, confiding in Joshua, Anna believes the problem with Lisa will be more serious, but they can't proceed without her. But she has a Plan C, and tells him she needs to show him something...there's a queen egg in stasis that she had preserved from her last batch. If Lisa fails, it's her alternate.

Anna wants him to hatch it, but their experiments on growth acceleration have proven a failure so far (what what what? Last season's surviving soldier eggs grew up pretty damn fast!). And all of Anna's other eggs are grown to adulthood (so that's why we don't see any Visitor babies running around). But, there's that yackity hybrid baby that's lizardy enough she might be useful to experiment on, Joshua thinks aloud. Great idea for Anna (and us). She orders him to start experiments.

Erica consults with the global fifth column, filling them in that the Visitors have been foraging for the best DNA across the universe to advance their species, and now they're doing it on Earth. See how smart I am, she says, and they're willing to follow her as leader. Anna is about to welcome the final live aboards. Once she gets their impressive DNA, she'll have what she needs to proceed with their plan.

Tyler is back and has proven to be a capable pilot. Joshua has initiated the experimentation on the hybrid which survived the first aging experiment (which must have taken all of twenty minutes given it's only five minutes later), but her body has healed itself of its chronic pain as a side effect. Ryan just happens to be there (?) and asks to see his daughter...AGAIN, so Anna is happy to oblige, and when he sees a kid that's a few years older (and much quieter) she says "Mommy!" and runs to Anna.

Welcome back, Ryan, she says. Oh, and thanks for neutralizing the Fifth Column. As a reward, he can spend a few hours with his new pre-adolescent daughter. Anna remains pleased. But Ryan needs to be eliminated, as his cover with the Fifth Column is no longer viable.

Lisa sees Tyler upon his return, telling him she missed him, but he's more interested in flying shuttles now than icky girls. She tells him not to hold in his emotions. It's okay to be sad (about his dad dying and all). But Tyler doesn't want to feel anything anymore. He just want to be a shuttle pilot, and walks away.

Lisa returns to Diana, admitting she was right. She wants to be with Tyler. Diana recognizes the good in human emotion. She advises Lisa to trust no one, then gives her a grandmotherly hug, because her mother never did. Lisa gives her a communication device so they can keep in touch, and leaves. Diana smiles. *sniffle*

Anna's suddenly so trusting, and then she's not. Joshua is a traitor who just happens to have amnesia that's making him loyal, yet she comments how she trusts him implicitly with all the key elements of the invasion. Is he lying? He seems eager to turn in Lisa until he gives her that last "My queen," bit. Was that a signal, or am I reading too much into the dialogue?

Most important this week—no more damn baby. It looks like they're taking the starchild route of the original series, so we could be in for another growth spurt. But what's all this talk about the problems of growth acceleration? Anna had her surviving eggs grown to adulthood real quick last season before she killed them to prove she didn't have emotion.

Obviously the big reveal of the master plan is the main event this week. Birth Pangs could be a metaphor for the entire series, but the plan actually made a lot of sense given all the stuff the Visitors are doing. Whoever is the lucky boy to breed with the queen, Tyler must have been the best of the 29 to have his city chosen for Anna's mothership.

I must have grown dead inside to brush off all the dubious pseudo-science and gobbledygook about how everyone arrived at their answers—global scientific network, vast DNA databases, etc. This was the most information we got on the Visitors in the entire series, so a lot to take in, but it had me interested when Anna, Joshua and the Fifth Column were tossing theories and facts back and forth. Which meant for less heavy sighs and eye-rolling at the dialogue. Even Diana was surprisingly subdued without her daughter to play off of.

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