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'V': Devotion is dangerous

V_pilot They have arrived.

The series premiere of "V" doesn't waste any time bringing the Visitors to our doorstep, heralding their arrival with tremors, enormous ships in the sky, and finally a message of peace from their very sultry high commander. After all, these are aliens with a mastery of mass media, publicity and propaganda. Which makes their mission all the more deadly.

A word of warning: I didn't go back and watch the original 1980s "V," so I'm coming to ABC's sci-fi series "V," which launched tonight, completely fresh and without any preconceived notions about what the series should be. (Sure, I have some foggy memories of reptilian visitors, an alien baby, the guinea pig, etc., but I wanted to keep this reimagining completely separate from what came before.)

This iteration of "V," overseen by "The 4400" creator Scott Peters, is clearly meant to invoke our post-9/11 paranoia and our innate xenophobia. But the alien Visitors who arrive on Earth, their motherships hovering over 29 cities around the world like dark clouds, claim to bring not death and destruction but hope. Of course, the skeptics among us know better, like FBI Counter-Terrorism Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) and the questioning Catholic priest Father Jack (Joel Gretsch). But for the most part humanity is welcoming these would-be saviors with open arms. After all, they're spreading a message of universal health care, stylish uniforms, and an eradication of dozens of known diseases. All of which makes Earth ripe for the plucking, really.

The Arrival. I thought that the Visitors' arrival on Earth was really well handled; there was the foreshadowing of something momentous about to happen via those tremors, which quickly magnify and the initial chaos of those ships dropping into the atmosphere, downing several military jets in the process. As people began to freak out about an alien apocalypse, the calming face of Anna beamed down at the humans from the underside of the mothership, bringing a universal message of peace in several  languages. 

It's a very different moment than, say, the chaos of ABC's own "FlashForward," which kicked off its series with death and destruction rather than the (false) promise of a better tomorrow. Like "FlashForward," however, we're given an ensemble to track, all of whom are caught up in the Visitors' arrival on Earth and each of whom has very different reactions to the story unfolding around them.

Erica. At the heart of the story, of course, is Mitchell's Erica Evans, a grimly determined single mother attempting to raise her teenage son while also saving the world as a member of the FBI's counter-terrorism force in New York. The Visitors' arrival on Earth coincides with Erica's investigation into a terrorist group and Erica quickly uncovers evidence of a sleeper cell ... of aliens. It's a nice twist that proves that the Visitors aren't newly arrived on Earth, but their decision to reveal themselves to the humans is just the latest link in their master plan to exterminate the human race. It makes sense that Erica, trained to ask questions and get to the truth, would doubt the message of the Visitors, and she found herself quickly sucked into a human resistance force that knows the truth about the Visitors: They walk among us, they look like us, but if you cut them deeply enough, they are reptilian creatures that want to destroy us all.

Dale. Erica, of course, learned that lesson the hard way when she discovered that her partner, Dale Maddox (Alan Tudyk), was in fact a Visitor agent posing as a human. Erica doesn't trust easily, so the knowledge that Dale was an alien sleeper agent is not only a shock but the ultimate betrayal to her. I do wish that this reveal had been handled just a little more deftly. We know that there's a mole within the FBI that's tipping off the sleeper cell that Erica is tracking and, well, we know it's not Erica doing the tipping and there aren't any other suspects we've come across. Ergo, Dale had to be the baddie in the feds' midst. I am surprised, however, that the writers tipped their hand so early on and had Erica discover Dale's true identity and attempt to kill him. Now that she has (or has she?), there's no way Dale can go back to the FBI or remain within Erica's orbit, so it's buh-bye Tudyk.... for now anyway.

Father Jack. Fortunately, Erica now has someone new to place her trust in, namely Joel Gretsch's Father Jack Landry, a priest who is concerned about the faith that humans are placing in their alien Visitors. Both he and Erica are worried that this could translate into full-blown devotion, which is an extremely dangerous proposition. I'm glad that the writers opted to bring a priest into the mix, particularly one whose faith in the divine isn't shaken but who is wise to be skeptical about the blind trust the humans are placing in the Visitors. After all, he's right to wonder why the Visitors showed up just when we needed a savior the most. Coincidence? I think not.

Chad. But the Visitors aren't the only opportunists here. Scott Wolf's Chad Decker, a network news anchor for a cable channel, is the classic case of a man willing to sell out his morality for a taste of success. After Anna selected him for her exclusive interview, she surprised him by saying that he can't ask any questions that paint the Visitors in a negative light. Rather than refuse the interview, Chad made a decision to forge ahead, to deny his journalistic impulses, to craft not a balanced interview with tough questions but a puff piece that will advance his career. He took the carrot dangled by Anna and became part of the problem, giving the aliens a human platform on which to spread their false message. Let's just hope that Chad finds a backbone before he winds up dinner for these reptilian creatures.

Anna. Already loving Anna, the Visitors' high commander. Morena Baccarin is perfectly cast as the icy and dangerous Anna; there's a reptilian intelligence to her eyes, and she nails that creepy sort of blinking pattern of reptiles way too well. We're not given all that much information about Anna, but she is definitely attempting to pose as a higher emotional being, in touch with her feelings yet quickly able to expel negative energy. She's a meditative yoga instructor crossed with a supermodel crossed with a power-hungry lizard. And I can't wait to see just what hoops she makes Chad jump through next. I have a feeling that we're going to be very, very scared of Anna before long.

Ryan. The V's aren't all bad, though. And we find out via Morris Chestnut's Ryan Nichols that some of the Visitors are actively helping the human resistance force. Ryan has been on Earth for at least a few years, long enough that he's in a long-term relationship with the unsuspecting Valerie Holt (Lourdes Benedicto) and that he crossed paths years earlier with resistance fighter Georgie Sutton (David Richmond-Peck). So what made him betray his people and side with the humans? That's a mystery for another time. But despite attempting to shrug off his responsibilities, he came clean to Georgie, didn't dump Val, and is going to help the humans battle their alien invaders. 

Tyler. Erica's 17-year-old son, Tyler, quickly wound up being drawn in by the Visitors' propaganda and their peace ambassador program. Sure, it might all be an effort to get close to the gorgeous V named Lisa (Laura Vandervoort), but Tyler also seems to believe in their message of hope, even going so far as to start tagging and "spreading hope" all over the walls of their community. Given his mother's position in the FBI, this quickly put the two of them at odds, but Tyler forging his mother's signature and becoming a peace ambassador will likely lead to some rather heated confrontation between the duo soon. And just who is Tyler's dad? Anyone else wonder just when he'll be showing up this season? Hmmm...

What did you think of the first episode? Did it strike your fancy? Curious to see what will happen next? Head to comments section and weigh in on the series premiere of "V" below.

-- Jace Lacob (follow my musings on television, food and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)

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Complete 'V' coverage on Showtracker

Photo: Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) and FBI Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) await their turn at the test on ABC's "V." Credit: David Gray / ABC.

Comments () | Archives (21)

I thought the premiere was decent. Actually better than what I was expecting given ABC's waning confidence in it (my interpretation w/the schedule shuffling & then lack of a final push before the premiere). I think it's nice you're coming to V w/o a lot of baggage from the old series. So far, everyone I know who's familiar w/the old version already dislikes the new one. (Everyone lovessss to be a hater.) But I'm going to just try & separate the 2 & give this reboot a chance.

It was ok. I hope it gets better.

I'm too young to have seen the original V, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I really enjoyed the pilot! So much happened in just the first episode, I'm excited to see where it goes from here. With all the troubles that happened with the delay, and the 4 episode pod roll out, I'm worried how it's going to go.

too much revealed in the first episode

Now I am concerned that the partners at my last firm might have been one of those alien sleeper cells

As a devotee (Yikes! Devotion is dangerous!) of the original series, I feared the worst about the new series. But despite some reservations I had based on both the trailer when it was released on youtube months ago, and the weak review in the L.A. Times the other day, I actually enjoyed the pilot episode quite a bit. A word about the Times review: it appears somebody didn't do their homework and jumped on the "its about the Obama administration" bandwagon, and this only goes to show how much the LAT is just conforming to mainstream media mentality of CNN and FOXNEWS. If anything, the new "V" suggests that Scott Peters and the writing staff have digested a lot of David Icke conspiracy theory wacko-ness, and peppered it with some recent social and political concerns (war on terrorism, the recession, etc.). This is ironic given that anyone who is familiar with Icke's
nutjob obsession with alien lizards infiltrating our world's leaders knows that his ideas were probably influenced by the original series from the 80s. Given that the 80s version had all kinds of clever references to fascism and the kind of police state repression that we got a glimpse of during eight years of Bush, we'll see if the new "V" can provide any social commentary or insight on post 9/11 America for a new generation, and outside of the currently fashionable mainstream Obama-bashing.

Very good show. I was surprised that they revealed Tudyk's true identity too soon. It was good to see him and Baccarin together again after Serenity.

I dug it. I was a huge fan of V as a kid and in later years bought the DVDs and still loved it. I hope the reboot lasts. Elizabeth Mitchell and Morris Chestnut are big draws for me as well. Pretee Nama!

I thought the pilot got to the big reveal too fast and would have preferred several episodes before we find out the Visitors are evil mofos, but overall I was highly impressed by the visual effects and the story. Morena Baccarin gave a spectacular performance as Anna with a near perfect delivery and behavior.

I like the original V and the original Battlestar Galactica, but if you watch the originals and remakes side-by-side, it's obvious scifi has come a long way in 30 years.

Full review of the episode:

To Sonny Blaze,

I see that you used the "mainstream media mentality" to describe CNN and Fox News, but not MSNBC. Based on that comment plus the Bush-bashing comments you just couldn't restrain yourself from making, as most die-hard liberals do as a pathetic attempt to dispell any Obama criticism, it's pretty clear that you are an irrational nutjob. Seriously, police-state repression? Please. You obviously have no idea what police-state repression actually means, because if you did, you'd probably have been murdered before your blog could be posted for millions to see. But because it sounded intelligent in getting your point across, you ran with it. Typical of most liberals. Talking loud, saying nothing!

I really enjoyed the pilot and think the series will have great development!

I wonder what Jordan Maxwell and David Icke might think about this TV Series....I guess they'd feel pretty enthusiastic about it. Everything they've been publicly saying for years is finely portrayed in the television show: the Dawn of a New Day... Whoever participated in the creation of the script is certainly aware of Maxwell and Icke.

Re: Right-wing nutjob "Tom." Interesting to note that right-wing trolls are monitoring a comments section for a LAT television blog concerning a science
fiction show. Don't these guys have real jobs to tend to when they're not whining about "big government." By the way, I'm not a "liberal" (a meaningless term these days, just like "conservative") and I didn't vote for Obama. I was just noting how the mainstream media has taken to bashing the first black president for things that are leftovers from the Bush dictatorship (recession, wars, lack of healthcare reform). Take a chill-pill dude, your ilk took the N.J. and Virginia governorships last night although that loser Hoffman just proved that you can push out any moderate elephant that doesn't conform to your dogma. This guy has obviously been wearing blinders over the last eight years if he didn't see the repression of social activism at the elephant and donkey conventions last year and the
silencing of critics of GW in the mainstream (even Obama is not allowed to criticize the jerk). In the meantime, lets get back to basking in the entertainment value of Scott Peter's excellent re-envisioning of "V" which, along the lines of the comments above, was perhaps too fast-paced in revealing its guts, but you have to do that with today's storytelling if you want to keep the attention span of today's 20 and 30 somethings. The show went on to win its time slot, so it looks like it worked. Although I can't stand his absurd conspiracy theories, David Icke should see a spike in his book sales.

Postscript to right-wing "Tom":

By the way, I can't stand MSNBC either, where they fawn over Obama despite his retarded continuation of Bush's foreign and domestic policy, and they bend over to FOXNEWS any time Keith Obermann offends Roger Ailes and their own stockholders.

Hopefully, some good Sci-Fi social commentary in "V" will help people consider how both the right-wing and the moderate, pseudo-left in power are both lame.

I've never heard of "V" before reading about it in TV Guide, so no preconceived notions here. Also, I've never seen BSG. I am a BIG fan of Lost and now Flash Forward. With all of that said, I really liked "V" and can hardly wait till next week...one critism though...I agree there was a little bit too much reveal so soon.

I'll keep watching...I love Elizabeth Mitchell and Scott Wolf. The character of Anna is going to be something else, I think she'll be someone I love to hate! HA!

Ryan and Anna are the only interesting characters. That is going to be a problem for the show.

I was disappointed with the show overall. I had too high of expectations.

They should kill off Tyler. His character is annoying and the guy is not a good actor.

An interesting storyline they could explore would be for the priest to go radical with religion. It looks like they are interested in showing the journalist is willing to go against his principals for fame and it is likely they could do the politicians and show how they are corrupt.

We have seen when secular govt orgainization become corrupt radical religious groups can try to fill the void. If you look at the Gaza strip you see this with how Hamas was able to take over. The mostly secular Fatah became corrupt and didn't fulfill the (I thought unrealistic) promises to the Palestinian people. The people got tired of the corruption and Hamas was able to take over.

It would be an interesting storyline to watch the priest get more and more radical followers to start blowing themselves up to kill the aliens and how that route will not lead anywhere good.

As a diehard fan of the original mini-series from the '80s, I had some serious reservations about this modern version. Much to my surprise, I found myself enjoying every minute of it. I too wish that the character Tyler would just die. He's annoying as is the actor who plays him. IMO Morena Baccarin has nothing on Jane Badler. Jane remains my favorite villainess from V. Anna lacked the creepiness and sinister persona that Diana embodied. Still this was just one episode. It will be interesting to see more of Anna as the series unfolds.

Initially I had no desire to watch this reboot of "V," because I had heard that the original creator, Kenneth Johnson, was not involved. In fact, he'd been trying to secure his own remake. But the hype..and my own curiousity...got the better of me. I'm glad it did.

I had goosebumps during the first 10 minutes or so, along with a big fat smile! I really enjoyed it.

Whether or not it moved too fast depends on what the future holds for 'V.' What came before is pretty much out of the way now, and the new writers will have to weave their own mythology. Hopefully they can maintain the thrills and the commentary for several seasons.

Regarding Dale Maddox, I think the writer is incorrect in assuming his character is about done for now. While Erica knows the truth about Maddox, the rest of the FBI doesn't. I wouldn't be surprised to see them run into each other at work... what is she going to do? Tell her superiors her partner is an alien lizard man that tried to kill her but that she ran-him-through and thought he was dead, yet he is somehow still alive? Yeah, that would fly over well. What proof could she give? I doubt they would let her skin him to see the lizard underneath. If the writers are on the same thought path, Maddox might be a major player for some time.

People actually liked this? I remember the first V being heavily viewed, and fairly bad, along with a nation-wide groan at the horrible ending. Giving this version a second chance, I must say I was extremely disappointed. Was it produced by Karl Rove? Did the glaringly obvious symbolism escape everyone but me? You got a good looking, trendy, charming outsider, taking the world by storm, wooing us all with messages of "hope" and "change", promising to clean up the environment, cure our ills (stem cells), and basically be our "Messiah". While many are taken in by this charismatic new celebrity, especially the young and naive, as well as the biased, ratings-hungry media; there are a few, namely responsible, traditional family, patriotic types and of course religious folk, who are suspicious. The producers even throw in that "universal health care" zinger for those of us who were just a little too dense to pick up on the subtleties. I can't wait to see how this pans out. I think at some point, the "leader" will address Congress and one of the Republicans will shout, "you lie"! The whole thing had a bit of "Left Behind" feel to it. Will Kirk Cameron be making a cameo? I have to sit through enough political propaganda infomercials already; I refuse to subject myself to an hour long one every week.

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