Broadcast Date: 18 January 2011
Director: David Barrett
Writer: Gwendolyn M. Parker
Cast: Morena Baccarin, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Mark Hildreth, Logan Huffman, Charles Mesure, Elizabeth Mitchell, Christopher Shyer, Laura Vandervoort, and Scott Wolf
Anna: “You’ll become just like me.”
Well, all right then! I kind of like this one. Now that they’re done shuffling the board, executive producer Scott Rosenbaum and exiting producer Gregg Hurwitz have handed the reigns over to the rest of the writing staff so they can flesh out the season with a string of self-contained stories, advancing the plot incrementally while creating the illusion of perpetual payoff. If the first season is any indication, the formula works well for V, perhaps because it invites us to focus on the moment instead of the overarching structure. In fact, the difference here is flabbergasting.
As a standalone yarn, “Laid Bare” moves along at an enjoyable pace, by which I mean breakneck speed, delivers a couple of kick-butt stunt sequences, and, for the most part, steers clear of lengthy expository dialogue, thus avoiding the soul-crushing (pun intended) embarrassment for which the show has become known. More importantly, I mentioned in my previous review that V ought to say more than, “Soul good, aliens bad,” if it’s going to pull off its sudden spiritual turn, and, to my surprise, this episode does exactly that.
V Is for Vehicular Manslaughter
“Laid Bare” starts with the series’ most exciting action scene yet, resolving last week’s cliff-hanger with a literal bang as Erica crashes her car and takes down Malik with a little help from her friends. Owing to the episode’s particularly dense plot, our heroes display an untypical level of efficiency, rushing to get every beat out before the commercial break. I dig the abridged way Kyle and Erica formulate a new plan, moving straight to option B as soon as A is declared a no-go. Also, the V choppers of doom look a lot cooler in the dark, perhaps because we can’t see them as well.
Anyway, la Résistance’s newfound competence is carried over to the main story as the team searches for Sophie, a teen runaway on whom Malik was keeping tabs. The revelation the V spy acquired a high-ranking position at the FBI so she could spot missing kids to shove in a van is admittedly silly, but the investigation itself allows Erica, Kyle, and Ryan to act like grownups at last, letting the events inform their thoughts and actions instead of imposing the same shallow worldviews on each situation. Have you noticed, Father Jack, how they don’t question every play without offering an alternative, hmm?
V Is for Viral Campaign
In fairness, Father Jack makes an effort this week to follow through on his decisions and even own up to them. Each proves the wrong call, of course, but, you know, baby steps. Besides, his reasoning strikes me as sound: Anna can hurt him whether or not he’s in the public eye. In fact, when you think about it, her scheme, which involves a candid video of the priest making a fool of himself, doesn’t require him to prepare for a conference, though the irony does make for better headlines.
As an aside, Anna needs better market researchers. “Priest Packs a Punch” would never attract viewers on the Web. It reads like a bad newspaper caption. The video would need a more ironic title like “Priest of Fury” or “When Clergymen Attack on Fox”. To keep the alliteration, they could also have gone with, “Padre Pwns Protester”, but I digress. What’s really piqued my curiosity is how the alien queen knew Father Jack would use the exact words, “Fight me!” to stop a fight instead of the more common expression, “Stop fighting!”
V Is for Virtue Dropped for the Win
Oh, right, we’ve gone nearly three episodes without a gory interrogation scene. Naturally, “Laid Bare” makes up for it by dishing out not one but two over-the-top torture sequences, each more disgusting than the other. Hurray. In fairness, the slow motion shot following Malik’s demise indicates the show meant to put us off. La Résistance has proven itself as monstrous as Anna and her soul-sucking machine, which incidentally looks nothing like my ex, and this may have affected Ryan’s loyalties.
More to the point, the parallel brings interesting dimensions to the soul storyline, repositioning it to address the fragility of human compassion rather than the cheese-flavoured power of love. Erica sublimates her sense of decency with remarkable ease, just as Anna keeps letting emotions cloud her judgment. In other words, no matter what side you’re on, war can cost you both heart and mind. The symbols here are far from subtle, what with the two mothers switching children, but again they provide V with a more pertinent message, so I’m not going to complain.
Bits and Pieces
- Super cute baby!
- Chad officially joins la Résistance this week. He also has a scene with Anna, which makes me happy.
- Once again, our heroes can’t help discussing all their schemes in front of the prisoner. It’s like they were raised by Bond villains.
- Tyler has an incomplete DNA helix so the Visitors can superimpose their own genetic code over it. I’m pretty sure that’s not how DNA works.
- Why does la Résistance always act so revolted when confronted with the Visitors’ true appearance? Did our heroes expect Jessica Alba? I’d take offense if I were Ryan.
Every week, the writers invite my derision by using an idiom or technical term wrong. No, seriously, check out my old reviews. Anyway, I’ve decided to reward their questionable mastery of the English language with what I like to call the Alanis Morissette Award for Outstanding Misuse of a Thesaurus. Here’s our first laureate:
Anna: “I’ll teach you to lead in my own image.”
Apparently, the alien queen plans on giving leadership lessons in a classroom shaped like her noggin.
Anna: “My mother helped me through it. Before she died, I promised her I’d mould you into a great leader.”
Oh, now you use the word “mould”! Again, I’m nitpicking, but associating special significance to filial attachments and deathbed promises constitutes an emotional reaction, so Anna’s speech ought to have flown over the head of anyone raised in the V culture.
Kyle: “If Malik won’t give us answers, maybe her body will with Science Boy on the case.”
Sydney: “That would be Science Man.”
Yes, Sidney, you are a generic science man with no apparent specialty or field of research. Thank you for reminding us.
Anna: “Every point of view should be presented. Isn’t that the basis of good journalism?”
No, that’s the basis of a good roundtable discussion. Contrary to popular belief, “fair and balanced” has no place in objective journalism, which pertains to one side only: the facts. If your story has other sides to balance, you’re not reporting. You’re editorialising.
Lisa: “I can’t do this. I’m not like you. I’m a Visitor.”
I like the irony of Lisa praising Erica’s ability to repress her emotions and moral sensibilities or, in melodramatic V-speak, abandon her human soul.
Erica: “To be continued!”
Allow me to break the ice! Tonight’s forecast: a freeze is coming! What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age! Stay cool, bird boy! I’m afraid that my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy! You are not sending me to the cooler! Let’s kick some ice! Cool party! It’s a cold town! All right, everyone, chill! Winter has come at last! Revenge is a dish best served cold! Chilled to perfection! Can you be cool, Batman? Take two of these, and call me in the morning!
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!