V for Vanilla

Last week, when the V pilot aired, I was far from home in a place without decent TV (the horror, the horror!).

Which reminds me: you know how you get a meal on an airplane, and it comes on a little tray just the size you expected, and all the food is wrapped tidily in little containers clearly labeled, and you eat it because it’s there, but by the time you land you can hardly remember what you ate, because there was nothing wrong with it, but it just didn’t taste like anything?

In totally unrelated news, I caught up with the V pilot.

The pilot of V does exactly what a pilot should do: introduces the cast of protagonists, introduces the antagonists, and sets up the larger conflict you can expect throughout the season. In the former category, there’s the businessman about to propose—if he can shake the mysterious man from his past; the FBI counterterrorism agent (you know she’s counterterrorism because of the lingering shot of her badge lying open on her night table) and her rebellious floppy-banged son; the conflicted priest. In the second category we have the Visitors, who show up in enormous spaceships floating over major cities throughout the world to announce that they’ve come in peace.

Naturally, if they had come in peace, this would be a single hour and not a season of television, and so we find out quickly that the Visitors are not what they seem. Some of these revelations are subtle and effective, as when Visitor leader Anna smilingly and creepily insists of an interviewer that there be no questions that could paint the Visitors in a negative light. (Moments later, on camera, she assures the camera that she’s there to answer all questions honestly; it’s a creepy moment only slightly marred by journalist Scott Wolf making his Angry Tom Cruise face.)

Some of the revelations about the Visitors are a little more direct; as our FBI agent finds out, sleeper cells of Visitors have been on Earth for years undercover, and are responsible for “faith twisted into extremism,” for starting “unnecessary wars,” and for causing “economic meltdown.” Thanks, Visitors, for conveniently relieving humanity of responsibility for itself!

Even before the end of the pilot it’s clear that Visitors are, in some nebulous way, Out to Get Us with their promises of universal health care and their Hot Teen Alien Outreach Program (which gets our boyband idol hook, line, and sinker). It will be up to our ragtag bunch of heroes to mount a resistance against them and convince everyone in the world to…do something about their vastly superior technology and enormous numbers! Bookies, start your engines.

It would be easier to get excited about the coming fight if more of the characters seemed worth the emotional investment, or even likely to succeed; our businessman is a Visitor defector (a revelation which comes and goes without much sense of weight), our priest is more square-jawed than strategic, and our FBI agent is the sort that discovers a sleeper cell hideout from a single clue, but doesn’t notice that her partner is one twirled moustache away from tying her to the train tracks. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of intelligence floating around in resistance headquarters, if you get my drift. (The scene in which the huge whirring alien device hovers around the hideout unnoticed for ten seconds before exploding may or may not have been designed to illustrate this point.)

Of all the subplots, the most interesting promises to be Scott Wolf’s tortured journalist, who gets more honesty from the Visitors than anyone else, because they know he’s too fame-hungry to risk his new position as the world’s most powerful newscaster. The tension here is palpable, and the glimpses of him standing alone against colder, meaner Visitors is an evocative image. When you know more than anyone else, but the enemy is on to you, where do you go? That much is worth tuning in for.

As for the rest, it’s workmanlike, but unexciting (airplane food with a side of The Plan?). If the resistance manages to tap into some intelligence, the show has potential, but right now the polished and predatory Anna has no real opposition in the resistance. So, until the show gets on its feet, please put your seat backs in the upright position and hail our alien overlords!

Genevieve is happy to be back on land, where she can pick her own food.


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