When I first heard that ABC was re-booting the “V” franchise, I got to admit the fanboy in me lit up like a Christmas tree. I loved the original series back in the ’80s, along with its guinea pig swallowing villainess, and “Twilight Zone” inspired message that “To Serve Man” was, in fact, a cookbook. I mourned the show’s untimely passing in 1984, and was totally ready to see what a new take on the Visitors would look like with modern VFX, and a different spin.
The pilot that aired in 2009 was nothing short of amazing. It was a hard-edged allegory with a pretty clear point of view on terrorism, and government fear-mongering, lingering very close to the surface. A little too close, perhaps, for ABC Executives, who fired show creator Scott Peters before the first episode even aired. Show runner Jefferey Bell was soon to follow.
The regular season commenced under the leadership of Scott Rosenbaum, who in direct contrast with Peters and Bell seemed to have absolutely no point of view for the series beyond “Humans Good, Aliens Bad”. The initial run, which was interupted by a hiatus for the Winter Olympics, was mostly bland, and kind of wandered aimlessly to a season finale which, by and large, wasn’t bad. At any rate it was good enough to suggest that another season might not be the worst idea in the history of worst ideas, and was worth a shot.
Well, after watching the season finale Tuesday … Maybe not so much.
The second season moved forward with the Visitor’s queen lizard, Anna, played by Morena Baccarin, advancing her plot to have her daughter, Lisa (Smallville’s Laura Vandervoort), breed with the genetically-enhanced son of FBI Agent-cum-insurgent Fifth Column Leader Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) prior to taking over the World and anihilating the Human race.
At the same time Mitchell’s character is enacting her own plans to make matching pairs of lizard-skin boots out of Anna and her fellow aliens.
But wait, there’s more.
Down in the bowels of the mothership, Anna is secretly keeping her mother, and rightful queen of the Vs, Diana, in a dank and mildewey prison where she has been rotting for the last 15 years. To make it even more confusing, Diana is played by original “V” badass reptile-girl, who was also named Diana, Jane Badler.
Not confusing at all. No.
Anna apparently overthrew her mother while still in her teens, and told all the other reptiles that she had died while, no doubt choking on a guinea pig.
Badler was brought in mid-season as a ratings stunt. Her overacting, and withered look, give her performance more of an air of the aging Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson vintage), than a deposed monarch.
Why? One of the great mysteries of the season, as she seems little more than a feather-duster in ballroom drag.
Anna goes down to visit every now and then to exchange recriminations with her Mom and brag about how much better a job she’s doing at planning global domination than Diana ever did.
Diana, on the other hand, drones endlessly, and in a rather awe-inspiring fake quasi-British accent, about how Anna will never amount to anything.
You know, typical mother-daughter-alien-lizard crap. It’s sort of a sociopathic space alien version of “Gilmore Girls”, without all the funnies.
The mystery is, people go down there, they visit, they conspire, and by the end of the season it seems like half the damn ship should know she’s down there and done something about it already. But no. Nobody thinks to spring her until the season finale.
The mother-daughter-alien-lizard crap is complemented on the human side by Agent Evans constant struggle to keep her son out of Anna’s evil clutches, which translates into a lot of teen-angsty interchanges and an endless barrage of mother-son crap.
From Tyler’s perspective, Mom’s a total drag … He’s a teenager who just wants to go out and do all the normal teenager kind of stuff … Like flying space shuttles and sleeping with lizard girls (it is said that beauty is only skin deep, and in this case it’s quite true …). So what’s your damage, Mom?
Meanwhile, Agent Evans and the Fifth column, who have been colluding with queen-to-be Lisa, get her agree to kill her mother as part of a faux-kidnapping where Anna will be without her bodyguards. Anna conveniently see Lisa pulls the gun on her in a mirror, and turns on the waterworks while giving a heart-wrenching (not really) performance about how she loves Lisa, now understands the humans, and human emotions, and just wants to live in peace with all man-and-lizard-kind.
The insane part is that the dizzy little blonde falls for it! As she later tells Agent Evans, “My mother has really changed, I could see it in her eyes!”
Well, duh … Did she forget that all the Visitors wear special contacts to cover up their alien lizard eyes? WTF?
Meanwhile, back on the ship, Diana gets a couple of her old spawn to jailbreak her, and assembles all the Visitors to tell them she is back, and is their rightful queen and … That’s when Anna spears her through the back with her nine-foot long tail (and where do they keep those things … they never seem to have visible nine-foot-spear-tipped-tail lines showing through their skin suits), before turning to Lisa and proclaiming …
“Now that’s how you kill your Mother!”
More like, “Now that’s how you kill a franchise!” Talk about cheesy. Yikes.
Then she throws Lisa in the dungeon, but not before going down there to exchange some recriminations.
Like mother, like daughter, even in the lizard world.
The payoff to all of this is Anna, long suspecting her daughter had fallen prey to human emotion and was conspiring against her, hatched another queen egg that she had been conveniently keeping in storage, just in case, and used some new alien ageifying tech to make her hatch at full maturity. Anna has her dressed in a skin suit that looks exactly like Lisa, and sends her in to sleep with genetically-enhanced-Tyler, the son of Agent Evans, while Lisa watches, aghast, via video from her dungeon.
After they are done, Tyler barely has a chance to bask in the afterglow before Evil-Lisa-clone rips his throat out with her alien head-o’-fangs and drinks his blood.
Yeah, even aliens like a good meal after sex.
Next there is some business about, Amy, the half-human daughter of one of the lizards and her ability to stupify humanity with her brain (which is not unlike a metaphor for this show), even though only the Queen’s supposed to be able to do this on her subjects, and even she starts getting all nose-bleedy if she tries to do it on humans. The result is all of Humanity standing about staring up at the sky like a bunch of brain-dead zombies at a Grateful Dead concert, while being bathed in sunny god-rays in the middle of the night.
All of this is happening while Agent Evans, who we are led to believe has been exposed as a Fifth Column terrorist by the FBI, is taken into custody. We find out she is really being recruited by a super-secret government organization working from an underground high-tech compound somewhere under Manhattan Island. The leader of this organization is Lars Tremont, played by Mark Singer from the original series, whose shadowy organization has known about, and been tracking the visitors for years.
So, basically, Agent Evans has been recruited by The Initiative, and if renewed, Season 3 will be Season 4 of Buffy, and where the hell is Maggie Walsh when you need her? And why does Mark Singer look like Quentin Travers? Is the Watcher’s Council somehow mixed up in this.
All of this comes at the end of a season where the plot has flowed as slowly as 30-weight oil in Antarctica during an ice storm. In short, ABC has taken a cutting-edge sci-fi thriller with a ton of potential and dumbed it down into a meandering series of encounter sessions on parent-child relations.
As much as I would have like to see this series succeed, it just doesn’t deserve to.
Here’s hoping that ABC will truly want to save Humanity, by killing the show now and sparing us from another season of “V”.