ABC's remake of the classic "alien trojan horse" show V comes back tonight. We've seen the first few episodes, complete with thrilling stunts, WTF moments and Morena Baccarin vamping it up. Here's our spoiler-free review.
Bottom line: the first few episodes of season two aren't bad, by any means. The show sticks pretty close to the format it established in the first season. The characters remain not quite well-rounded enough to be one-dimensional, and the dialogue is often a bit... let's say stylized. The plots chug along at a reasonable pace, and there are the occasional blow-out action scenes. Anna, the lizard queen leader of the alien Visitors, has the occasional "did she really do that?" moment. Each episode has a Theme, which is usually repeated over and over by various characters, lest you miss it. The whole thing feels like a sturdy science fiction melodrama.
If you liked the first season, you'll like the second. If you didn't... you won't.
And this show does have a lot going for it — it has a mostly rock-solid cast, including Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell and Firefly's Morena Baccarin, who do quite a lot with the material they're given. The visuals are often really nice — the shots of the alien motherships hanging over major cities look even more impressive this year than last year. The greenscreen shots aboard the alien ships look even more sterile and weird than before, and the direction is often really deft. It's all nicely creepy, including the treacly way Baccarin spouts platitudes while she's plotting some undefined but horrible fate for the human race.
It's just not terribly well-written. There are lots of scenes where the characters seem like they're reading from the Cliff Notes of what's supposed to be happening in a particular scene, rather than actually talking about what's going on. And none of these characters ever quite breaks out of their one-sentence description, and develops a whole paragraph worth of character traits. The anti-Visitor rebels, the Fifth Column, seem completely clueless, and when they talk about their strategic thinking, you'll probably have a bit of a chuckle. Anna, the show's villain, is sort of an old-school evil overlord, like Servalan with less va-va-voom. And the attempts at philosophizing, Battlestar Galactica-style, really are incredibly heavy-handed.
On the plus side, the addition of Jane Badler, from the original 1980s series, brings the show much closer to being actually campy, rather than just overly serious. And fans of Reaper will be thrilled to see that show's star, Bret Harrison, play a new ongoing character who gets one or two funny moments. Plus, the writers have remembered that Father Jack is actually a priest, and he gets a fairly decent story arc in the first few episodes.
All in all, after watching the first few episodes, it's clearer than ever that V is never going to revolutionize television, or even produce anything terribly memorable along the way. But if you relish the prospect of Elizabeth Mitchell kicking ass and Morena Baccarin being ridiculously inappropriate, with the occasional moment of squickiness or splodiness thrown in for good measure, then you'll want to make a date with V.
V airs tonight on ABC at 9 PM, after No Ordinary Family.