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'V': Deliver a villain and a hero will present itself

March 30, 2010 | 11:00 pm


Welcome to the war, indeed.

ABC's sci-fi series "V" returned Tuesday night with a feeling of newness. Since the first four episodes of "V" aired in November, the series has undergone a series of metamorphoses, not least of which includes former "Chuck" writer/producer Scott Rosenbaum coming on board to handle showrunner duties on the series.

Under Rosenbaum's watchful eye -- and his pen, this week -- "V" already feels more fresh and vivid than it did in its initial outing last fall. There's a tighter pacing, an ominous feeling of dread hanging over the action, and some new characters who were introduced this week. There's also a certain tension that's been ramped up here, resulting in a new beginning for the series that jolts as much as it welcomes.

This week's episode found Jack rushed to the Visitor healing center after his stabbing; Erica fending off an attacker in her home; Tyler revisiting some fond memories; Val dealing with pregnancy-related cravings; Ryan investigating just what the Visitors' vitamin supplement R6 really is; Chad debating whether to pursue medical care for his "future" aneurysm; and the resistance reaching out to someone extremely dangerous in order to gain an advantage over Anna.

It wasn't exactly the gang sitting around and eating fugu for an hour or so.

Erica. As if Rosenbaum knew what we were all thinking, Elizabeth Mitchell got to kick some alien backside this week. In her first scene in this pod of episodes, Erica manages to not only fend off the creepy, lumpy-headed Visitor security guard, but dispatches him to the afterlife with an ease that's as disconcerting as it is awesome. Using everything from a picture frame to a shard of glass, Erica proves her brutality as well as her survival instinct. It's abundantly clear that this is a FBI agent who knows how to use force to protect herself. She also gains an important bit of knowledge about Visitor physiology: their hearts are on the opposite side as ours, a fact that Erica uses to ram a shard of glass into her attacker's chest. Boom.

While Erica is more hot-tempered than we've seen her to date -- the Visitors do have her son, Tyler, after all -- she's smart enough to keep her emotions in check when faced with the possibility of exposure as a member of the resistance. After learning that the Peace Ambassadors' jackets have hidden cameras sewn into the pocket, Erica clams up when she's questioned by Tyler about what she's afraid of. Instead, she's forced to admit that she's afraid of losing him.

But Tyler isn't the only thing she's lost this week. Erica sacrifices her morality in order to make a deal with a man she refers to as the devil: mercenary Kyle Hobbes. Hobbes is a former British SAS officer-turned-hired gun and he's on every federal agency's most wanted list. Apparently, the Visitors' too as they finger Hobbes for blowing up the warehouse containing their batch of R6 and the human flu vaccine. It's a setup, of course, but Hobbes is a very dangerous man able to assemble a militia on his own and Anna wants him removed from the gameboard. Giving him up not only serves that purpose, but also wins her points with the human law enforcement agencies to boot. (Or as Anna succinctly puts it, "Deliver a villain and a hero will present itself.")

Erica, meanwhile, rationalizes that the enemy of her enemy is her friend and sets out to recruit Hobbes to their cause. (Hobbes, meanwhile, is only after cold hard cash.) I'm glad that we're seeing Erica and the resistance make some hard choices here. What price is liberty and freedom? Are they terrorists or freedom fighters? It's a provoking dialogue to open up in the context of the series. What lines can they not cross? Would Erica have been so willing to murder the security guard and have Ryan destroy his body had he been a human?

Tyler and Lisa. While Erica believes that her son is being held prisoner by Anna and the Vs, it's not quite the truth. I'm still not sure what Anna has in mind for Tyler, but it clearly has something to do with Lisa "fulfilling [her] destiny," which is an odd argument for a race of creatures who claim to lack emotional capabilities. (Prophesy isn't, after all, an exact science, but Anna seems to embrace certain predetermined events.) The mother and daughter team of Anna and Lisa have managed to convince Tyler to enter a Visitor memory chamber, which results in them witnessing formative events in his past, vivid memories brought to life from which they are searching for one particular moment: a tipping point that they can use to exploit Tyler for... Well, I'm still in the dark about just what.

Lisa, however, doesn't quite buy into her mother's thoughts that the Visitors are built for efficiency and therefore lack emotional responses. In fact, the Visitors that seem to be either loyal to the Fifth Column or are at least attracted to humanity all seemingly show evidence of very human emotions. Lisa would appear to be one such Visitor. Seeing Tyler forced to relive some of his more raw experiences, there's a distinct sense that she is falling for him in a way that Anna may not have foreseen.

As for Tyler, his deadbeat father (Nicholas Lea) would seem to be a trigger point. Tyler is carrying around a great deal of hurt -- and possibly guilt -- about his father leaving his mother and those feelings continue to rise to the surface the more Tyler strives for independence from Erica. Just how Anna will manipulate Tyler and use what she learned from the memory chamber remains to be seen.

R6. Ryan managed to take a sample of R6 and get it to a Visitor colleague, Dr. Leah Pearlman. Leah reveals that using conventional human technology, the R6 vitamin shows up as little more than a saline solution, but using Visitor tech, its true purpose becomes clear. Once injected into a human victim, it spreads through the body and attaches itself to human DNA, sending out something akin to a frequency. Ryan quickly realizes what the Visitors are doing: they are tagging humans just like we tag wildlife. Catch and release for humans, really.

While the resistance managed to blow up the New York supply of R6, the Visitor healing centers have a large stock of the vitamin and they are giving it to all of their patients. Which would include Father Jack, brought there after his stabbing instead of a human hospital. Jack dreams that the drug transforms him into a freakish, reptilian creature, but he can't shake the feeling, even when conscious, that he can feel it inside his body, unfurling its talons and digging in.

Which begs the question: Why tag everyone coming into the Visitor healing centers? To keep geographical taps on each of the humans they've come in contact with? Or is there something even more deadly about R6 that the humans haven't realized yet? Something that can injure or kill them remotely? Hmm...

Chad. Chad found himself between a rock and a hard place. His doctor says that there is no evidence that he will develop an aneurysm, but if he does develop the one that the Visitor doctors have predicted, it will be inoperable. So what is an ageless network news anchor to do? After dining with Anna, he's persuaded to not only run the piece he produced on the Visitor healing centers but also to go and receive treatment there. In doing so, Chad has made himself a further puppet of Anna and also has put himself at risk for being dosed with R6. Uh-oh. But could that be actual concern Anna feels for Chad? Or is she just simply manipulating him?

Val. Poor Valerie, meanwhile, is feeling the effect of a hybrid pregnancy. Despite only being six weeks along, Val is uneasy due to her insatiable hunger, the fact that she can feel the baby moving inside her, and that she's, er, tempted to eat a dead mouse she picks up from a mousetrap next to her garbage can. (Could this be the start of the "rodent desire" that Scott Rosenbaum teased us with?) It was extremely unnerving the way that Valerie locked her eyes on the dead mouse and moved her head rather like a cat before flinging it into the garbage can and feeling thoroughly disgusted with herself. But she's not quite herself, not anymore, since she conceived Ryan's baby. And needs must, as they say, when the devil drives. I can't help but think that things are going to get a lot worse for poor Val.

Anna's plan. I'm still not sure what to make of Anna's master plan, but it clearly involves R6, Tyler, and Lisa. This week, we got a little more information about just how Anna rolls, getting to see her enjoy some Japanese blowfish with Chad Decker (using a two-pronged fork that resembled a talon, no less) and engage in an act of coitus that allowed her to conceive a Visitor army... and unleash her razor-sharp fangs as she then devours her mate in order to provide her eggs with nourishment. 

A fantastic reveal that demonstrates Anna's true face as well as what lies beneath any of the Visitors we've seen before. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that we'll get to see a Visitor's full face sans skin before the season is out.

Best line of the episode: "She has my son. If I have to cross a line to blow [her] out of the sky, I will." -- Erica

What did you think of this week's episode? Did you think it was an improvement on the first four that aired last fall? Are you excited to see what else Rosenbaum has up his sleeves? Were you as shocked as I was when Anna unhooked her jaw and revealed a row of gleaming, deadly teeth? Head to the comments section to discuss. 

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

Photo: Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) faces off with a Visitor attacker (Yuris Kis) on ABC's "V." Credit: Jack Rowland / ABC


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