V: The Complete Second Season (DVD)

Where’s the dude in the Guy Fawkes mask?

Warning: SPOILERS.

At the end of the first season of ABC’s remake of V, things were not looking good for the human race. The human resistance struck a severe blow against the alien Visitors, or Vs for short. The Vs responded by activating a device that turned the sky over the entire Earth blood-red. The second season deals the fallout of that event and its requisite plot twist, and then continues the tale of benevolent-but-secretly-evil aliens and the small group of humans hoping to find some way to stop them.

It’s only been three months (!) since the alien mother ships appeared over the skies of Earth’s major cities. Led by Anna (Morena Baccarin, Serenity), the Vs have promised to solve all of humanity’s problems. FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost), secretly takes charge of the resistance, called the Fifth Column, after learning the Vs are lizard monsters in disguise and up to no good.

Battle lines are drawn, and everyone picks a side:

The Fifth Column:

• Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch, The 4400), a priest who dares speak out in public against the Vs.

• Hobbes (Charles Mesure), a rough n’ tumble mercenary who never backs away from a fight.

• Chad Decker (Scott Wolf, Party of Five), a celebrity TV journalist and former ally of Anna’s, he switches sides and becomes a member of the resistance.

The Vs:

• Lisa (Laura Vandervoort, Smallville), Anna’s daughter, next in line to V leadership, she gives in to her newfound emotions and start delivering information to the resistance.

• Tyler Evans (Logan Huffman), Erica’s troubled teenage son, he leaves her to take up permanent residence on a V ship, continuing his romance with Lisa. Anna and Erica struggle for his loyalty all season long.

• Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut, Ladder 49), a father, with his late human wife, of the first human/Visitor hybrid baby. He turns his back on his friends in the Fifth Column and sides with Anna in order to be with his child.

Although renewed for a second season, the show’s creators must have known that the new V was not the hottest thing on TV, because their desperate attempts to draw in viewership is apparent. The main way they do this is courtesy of Hollywood’s favorite means of attention-getting, sex and violence. The Fifth Column catches a V and threatens to torture her by “skinning” her—ooh, ahh, torture! So controversial! They then introduce Tyler’s father (Nicholas Lea, Kyle XY) only to kill him off in the most brutal way possible. Drama! Heartbreak! Oh, and let’s have two characters who had almost no attraction until now fall for each other, just so they can have the most explicit sex scene outside a Bochco series in TV history. Because sex sells—even if it’s totally out of character.

The producers also do heir share of pandering to the fans. This second season has all kinds of shoutouts to the classic ’80s V, in ways both obvious and subtle. The biggest of these is writing in a role for Jane Badler, star of the original miniseries. She completely steals the show, out-acting the rest of the cast by a wide margin. She’s simply great. It’s as if her attitude is, “You think this crap is V? I’m going to show these punks how you really do V.”

Sadly, all the pandering and fan service in the world can’t save this show. As with the first season, these ten episodes are plagued with a constant amount of “Hey, wait a minute…” moments. Again, I don’t want to be one of those internet jerkholes who nitpick shows and movies to death for a cheap laugh, but the new V lends itself to nitpickery so much that I just can’t help it. Like, how can humans living aboard V ships be tortured and killed with no one on the surface asking questions? How can Vs have long whip-like tails hidden under the human skins? Are those things internal or something? How can characters travel to and from V mother ships so easily, without going through any kind of security? How can a V shuttle land right in the middle of Vatican City, sending pedestrians running in terror, without causing some sort of international incident?

Oh, yeah, the Vatican thing. That scene was part of an ongoing thread of the Vs curious about the human concept of a “soul.” The Vs have no idea what a soul is, and we see them experimenting on humans, trying to determine the biological and scientific mature of a soul. From a purely metaphorical/speculative point of view, this could be interesting. In terms of what V has already established, however, it’s ridiculous. A key component of the series, established way back in the first episode, is that Vs had been secretly living among humans for a long time before the mother ships arrived. Shouldn’t that have been the time when the Vs learned that a soul is a philosophical and/or faith-based concept, and not something that can be determined through scientific testing and, ultimately, dissection? Having Anna subject hapless humans to harsh medical experimentation to find evidence of a soul just makes Anna look stupid, which goes against what the producers want us to think of her.

Erica and Anna share very little screen time together, but their rivalry is as potent as it’s ever been, thanks to Tyler. Throughout this season, Erica and Anna compete for Tyler’s loyalty. Back in the first season, I thought it was ridiculous how Tyler, an angry but otherwise normal teenager, ended up welcomed aboard the mother ship and romanced by the mega-sexy Lisa. This season, smartly, introduces some surprise revelations about Tyler and Erica, which makes Tyler’s role on the show make a lot more sense. This is good, in what once looked like random coincidences are now part of Anna’s plot, but bad in that Tyler becomes an object, something for Erica and Anna to fight over rather than a genuine character with wants, needs, and interests of his own.

Other characters get some deep development, while others languish in simplicity. Father Jack tries to be the voice of reason, while also being a soldier in this cause. Here’s a character with one foot embedded in peace and kindness and the other embedded in fighting back, and I wish the creators could have gone even farther with his duality than they did. Faring better is Ryan, who joins the bad guys this season, but only because he wants to be reunited with his daughter. His inner conflict is palpable, and his balancing act between good and evil made him one of the most interesting characters this season. For him, everything he does is for his daughter, regardless whether others interpret his choices as “good” or “evil,” and that makes his actions unpredictable for both humans and Vs. Contrary to this, Chad’s turning on a dime and going from Anna’s pet to a member of the Fifth Column happens awfully quick, but it is a natural progression of the character, so I can’t fault it.

This season demands that Elizabeth Mitchell step into the dark side, transitioning from “concerned mom” to “hardened general.” She mostly does that, showing her character straining under having to make the really tough decisions, and this meshes with Mitchell’s overly-worried-about-everything style of acting. The rest of the cast performs as expected—Jack is stalwart, Hobbes is a tough guy, Anna is cold and manipulative, Lisa is conflicted, and so on.

The tension builds to the season finale, which is a wild one. The final episode is one surprise plot twist after another after another. Characters die, new characters are introduced, and the stage is set for an all-new status quo in season three—except that we’ll never see another season. Fans who have invested in this show will be thrilled at all the big shocks, and then frustrated that none of this will ever be resolved. I’ll spoil it—it ends with a “to be continued,” and cancellation.

This is a show with lavish, multi-million dollar production values and amazing special effects, which shine on DVD, with beautiful, razor-sharp picture quality. Sound does not stand out as much, but is clean and free of any obvious flaws. All we get for extras are deleted scenes for every episode.

As with season one, this show is at its best when it dips its toe in the heist subgenre. There are a few times this season when the resistance plans a major scheme against the Vs, with various Fifth Column members each given a specific task, all coming together for a main plan. This is the really exciting stuff—when we see the plan laid out, and then see the characters react and think on their feet when things don’t go according to that plan. My advice to the V producers? Give us an action-based thief and/or espionage series. This is when you’re at your best. Do this, and you could RULE TELEVISION. It’s when you stop to pontificate about souls and the nature of humanity that you lose audiences.

The new V is the worst kind of show, one that could have been great, but instead is barely okay. As the series ends, we’re not left with the memory of what it was, but the speculation of what it could have been.

The Verdict

I don’t care whether you come in peace, you’re guilty.

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