'V': Upsetting the apple cart
Like "Battlestar Galactica," "V" imagines a world where no one is quite what they seem, where everyone you encounter — whether stranger, lover, co-worker — could be an enemy. After all, when the enemy you're fighting looks just like you, how can you tell your friends from your foes?
Having learned this fact, you might begin to look upon everyone with a mixture of fear and suspicion. On "Battlestar Galactica," the human survivors learned that the Cylons looked human, leading to outright fear that anyone could be a sleeper agent (and, surprise, several were). On ABC's "V," the audience and its two main characters have learned of the true visage behind the Visitor's gleaming white teeth and Cheshire cat smiles. Enemies come in all sorts of packages, after all.
It's in this mind-set that we find Erica Evans and Father Jack Landry. After witnessing the truth of the Visitors in last week's pilot episode, they are thrust into a world where they can trust no one but themselves ... and even that seems hard for Erica and Jack to pull off.
It's an instinct that seems more or less ingrained in Erica. She's been betrayed by not one but three men in her life (more on this in a bit), which could perhaps explain the chemistry she shares with Father Jack. It's an attraction that can never be reciprocated, never be consummated, and it's incredibly safe for a woman who has had her heart broken several times already. If only she knew that her son Tyler was lying right to her face.
I was glad that this week showcased more of Erica as an FBI counter-terrorism agent, albeit one who should know better than to use her real voice on the phone with 911 when she's trying to be discreet. But she smashed the hell out of that Seeker, so I give her kudos for proving to be a take-charge woman who's handy with a bat, rebar or anything she can get her hands on. Likewise, I thought she was pretty crafty when she managed to steal her badge and gun out of Dale's car before anyone else searched the vehicle. So crafty Erica = good Erica. But the fact that her teenage son is so blatantly lying to her face is what concerns me. She wants to protect Tyler and trust him, but he's so shifty and unconvincing when he promises her he'll stay away from the Vs that I would have seen through him right away (and I'm not a federal agent).
I thought Elizabeth Mitchell played her anguish at Dale's betrayal beautifully, as well as her frustration with Father Jack for doing the right thing and attempting to upset the apple cart. Her fleeting nightmare — that Dale had returned to take Tyler hostage — was unnerving and palpably felt, even if it was clear that it was in her mind. Erica is smart to keep what she knows a secret for now and to be suspicious of the members of the FBI Visitor Threat Assessment Joint Task Force (even Jack admits that's a "mouthful"); there's no telling how far the Visitor infiltration has gone. I even suspect the older priest at Jack's church of being a Visitor.
Which could be a problem for Jack, who is far more concerned with doing the right thing than keeping his head. He was right to question the Visitors' intentions and the so-called divine plan for them, but he's far too altruistic and myopic about his own actions and his involvement. With that FBI agent (Rekha Sharma of "BSG") sniffing around about the stabbing death of that Visitor conspiracy nut in the church, Jack will need to be very careful. He's not concerned about upsetting the apple cart, as it were, but he should be. It's clear that the Visitors' reach is quite long.
Tyler, meanwhile, has been completely taken in by the Visitors' message of tolerance and peace. As a (secret) member of their Youth Ambassador program (and, yes, there are blatant shades of the Hitler Youth at work here), the utterly vapid Tyler has fallen for the Visitors because they look as hot as Laura Vandervoort's Lisa, who shamelessly flirts with Tyler but gets upset when he resorts to physical violence to stop a protester. I'm a little confused by the timeline here, however; it seems as though Tyler's story should be set over two days, but it's shoehorned into a single day.
The same is true of Chad's story as he attempts to score one over Anna after she forces him into treating her with kid gloves during their one-on-one interview. In just one day, Chad sets up a pro/con discussion of the Vs ... and gets it on the air ... and then visits Anna on the mothership ... and then reports on the news that the United States government has given diplomatic status to the Vs and allowed some of them to obtain visas and travel openly among the American public. (Whew!) Why did the narrative have to be conflated into a single day? There's so much going on in this episode already that it stretched my suspension of disbelief that all of this took place over 24 hours or so.
Loved Anna's wardrobe selection scene. Morena Baccarin plays the sultry high commander pitch perfectly, and her performance this week was fantastic as she conveyed Anna's confidence in the master plan (see: kimono) and her vexation with Chad Decker after he ambushes them. I'm curious to see just how dirty Anna is willing to get her hands. She didn't turn up to witness the torture of the human prisoner they took from the warehouse. Is she the sort of high commander who leaves dirty work to those beneath her? Or is she even more dangerous than she seems?
I'm still waiting for Ryan and Valerie's story to cross more strongly into the main narrative, but this week's episode gave us a glimpse into Ryan's back story and the presence of several other Visitor traitors who are lurking about. Loved seeing Angelo fix Ryan up ... only to drug him and leave him with a warning about how easy it was to find out about Valerie. Something tells me Ryan is going to have to come clean about his true nature very soon ... before Valerie ends up a hostage of the Visitors.
As for the reptilian aliens, it seems like their technology is pretty advanced. Not only do they torture that human prisoner with a snake-based hallucination (more apt than he realizes), but they're also able to successfully revive Dale Maddox. Which means that we'll be treated to some more Alan Tudyk in the future.
Which is a Good Thing indeed.
What did you think of this week's episode? Did you enjoy it as much or less than the pilot? With only two episodes to go before the hiatus, just what do you think will happen to Erica, Jack and the others? Head to the comments section to discuss.
— Jace Lacob (follow my musings on television, food and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)
Photo: Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) and FBI Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) have a terse showdown at the FBI's New York office on ABC's "V." Credit: Jeff Petry/ ABC.