Review | V ‘Welcome to the War’

Boy, what a hiatus makes as the sci-fi remake comes back, leaner, faster and filled with great pay-offs
Grade: B+

the wonderful Elizabeth Mitchell

With only four episodes to prove itself last fall, V – the remake of the classic 1980’s mini-series and TV series – started off cool and slowly de-volved into muddled storytelling and little pay-off.

Boy, what an extended break and a new showrunner – former CHUCK executive producer Scott Rosenbaum – does to help get things back on track.

First of all, “Welcome to the War” is leaner and meaner, moving storylines along much faster and tying up loose ends from the previous four episodes as quickly as possible.

There’s obviously a much bigger game plan under Rosenbaum’s guidance, and one that includes not beating around the bush. There will be war, and if the accelerated storytelling this time out is any indication, it will be breaking out before season’s end.

The V story began innocently enough (okay, not really) with the arrival of mysterious alien visitors who covered our cityscapes promoting tranquility and world peace. What we soon learned was they’re not what they seem (they’re actually lizards pretending to look human) and they’re planning a war on the humans. The only way to win the war, is to win over their trust.

This begins with the Queen Bee of the V’s – the telegenic Anna (Morena Baccarin) who manipulates her disciples and the planet with her good looks and even-keeled charm. But don’t cross her path – she’s the master manipulator here and she’ll stop at nothing to get her way.

On the side of earth’s slowly growing resistance is F.B.I. agent Erica Evans (the wonderful Elizabeth Mitchell) who discovered over the four episodes the V’s real intentions and who is trying to find a way to stop her 17-year old son Tyler (Logan Huffman) from becoming lizard food (or something greater) at the hands of Anna’s daughter Lisa (Laura Vandervoot) who has taken a liking to him.

Meanwhile, Erica has partnered up with Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut) who is part of the Fifth Column, a group of aliens who don’t believe in the V’s world-domination intentions and who are against their colonization of earth; Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) whose faith is tested when he sees the aliens are a false God; and Georgie (David Richmond-Peck) who wants revenge on the visitors for slaying his family.

And finally, there’s TV newscaster Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) who has been given so many exclusives by the V’s that he’s their de facto mouthpiece and the person earth trusts with the truth about the alien intentions (which unbeknownst to him, are a pack of lies).

“Welcome to the War” takes all these disparate stories and slowly brings them together. This episode moves at super speed and doesn’t beat around the bush (something Rosenbaum, who scripted here, learned from his time on CHUCK).

After our renegades blew up a factory which contained a flu vaccine called R6 that the V’s are manufacturing (at the end of the last first-run episode), a renegade V stabs Father Jack and comes after Erica. Erica, of course, is one badass mama and dispatches the V pretty quickly. The Father though is taken to a V healing center, where he’s given a dose of R6.

What we learn is R6 actually bonds with the human genome to produce a quasi-tracking device that will allow the V’s to monitor that person’s ever move. Their goal – to inject their version of Lojack into every human so no one escapes their grasp.

Erica is ready to rip apart the V’s for keeping her son captive, but common sense prevails, and she plays it cool. The V’s are using her son, to get info on how to manipulate her into letting him go, as their plans for him (and Lisa) start to fall into place.

Ryan also has to deal with his now pregnant girlfriend, who is having strange cravings now that she’s impregnated with a V (she is not aware that Ryan is a “good” visitor and this kind of union is supposed to be impossible). There’s even a nod to the rodent eating moment in the original V, when her food cravings almost lead her to chow down on a dead rat.

When the V’s set-up a known terrorist (and ex-military bad guy) named Kyle Hobbes for the factory explosion, Erica realizes she must make a deal with the devil – she has to find Hobbes first and convince him to join their resistance and train an army to fight the V’s. Hobbes is distrustful of her and the resistance, but soon realizes which side he must be on.

The V’s are also starting their own army too. As they await for back-up ships to commence their war, Anna jump-starts it by jjumping a fertile V-specimen who will give her, her army.

In one of the weirdest scenes of the entire episode, Anna does a little porn dance around this guy, secretes some eggs and then turns all sharp-teeth feeding frenzy on him before the episode cuts to black (another great nod to the original series).

So all the puzzle pieces are in place. We know what the V’s are planning, we know earth is in danger, and the resistance finally got some backbone with an actual resistance fighter leading the charge.

Now, all we need are those little baby V commandoes to emerge from their eggs and the real battle is hopefully just around the corner.

While Rosenbaum certainly has his work cut out for him, he does get things moving faster than any other V episode to date. Anything that didn’t work, is quickly discarded. And as far as dragging out the mystery of the V’s intentions, by episode’s end, we know everything we need to be hooked for the remainder of Season One.

One person who does get short-changed a bit is Decker. The V’s convince him he has a brain tumor that will develop some time in the near future and they will cure him at their Healing Centers. He’s reluctant at first, but Anna can be very persuasive.

While this subplot continues down the same pattern as the first four episodes, the show needs to move toward hooking him up with the rest of the resistance so sides can finally be clearly defined.

For whatever reason, shows like V and FLASHFORWARD start off so good and then turn horribly bad very quickly. FLASHFORWARD hasn’t recovered, but V has a good chance at getting a second season reprieve if this latest episode is any indication of the clarity that has now been solidified.

That said, some of the CGI does need a little more goosing. Many of the shots feel half-finished and are inferior to work done in lower-budgeted Syfy Channel movies. And that whole Anna laying the eggs scene was shot and looked like something out of bad porn. All it needed was a little “wah-wah” music and you could sell the damn thing to Pay-Per View and nobody would know the difference.

So, aside from the one scene of bad (and poorly directed) porn, V has its mojo back. Let’s hope this is a step in the right direction, because all the ingredients are here. It’s all about how they’re used in the coming weeks that determine if many of us who lost interest after the pilot, actually stick around.

Stars: Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Logan Huffman, Lourdes Benedicto, Laura Vandervoot, Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf
Writer(s): Scott Rosenbaum
Director: Yves Simoneau
Release Date: March 30, 2010

Source: if magazine