Episode Title: "Pilot"
Written By: Scott Peters (teleplay) & Kenneth Johnson (story)
Synopsis: Men, women and children all around the world are shocked and awed by the sudden arrival of the Visitors, an alien race that appears throughout Earth by way of massive hovercrafts. The various ships all echo the same projected message from Anna (Morena Baccarin), the leader of the V's: "We are of peace, always."
But discoveries over the course of the next several weeks lead some to realize that the Visitors do not come in peace, nor is their arrival as sudden as most people think — indeed, the Visitors have been among us for quite some time, and their intentions are anything but peaceful.
Plot/Pacing: Alien invasions are commonplace in the realm of science fiction, so it's really more a question of execution than it is originality. In the case of "V," I thought the pilot worked quite nicely as an introduction into the show's alien-filled world. I was a fan of FBI Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) investigating terrorist networks that may or may not have had ties to the Visitors, specially because that's how I'd like to think the real world would react — life doesn't stop for a cataclysmic event in reality, so it shouldn't in fiction, either. As they say, the show must go on.
That said, I thought it was pretty darn convenient that Erica's investigation led her straight into the first meeting of the anti-Visitors club, ending in a chance encounter with inevitable romantic lead and disgruntled holy man Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch). I would've preferred a slow burn on that front — which actually brings up my biggest complaint about the episode.
The way the pilot was paced, it feels like the series is hitting the ground running a little too hard and fast. We shouldn't move at a snail's pace, but there's a lot to be said for not blowing the full monty in one go. I think "V" fell into that latter category, which could stifle its intrigue going forward — something that ABC has surely noticed given the show's reported behind-the-scenes fits and starts.
The Cast: For the most part, I think the main cast is fantastic. Visitor-in-human's-clothing Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut) was a personal favorite — as are the aforementioned Anna, Jack and Erica — but there's really no shortage of characters to enjoy on "V."
On the other hand, I can already tell that there are some folks I just won't get along with. First and foremost on that list is Erica's son Tyler (Logan Huffman), the angst-filled teenager that's in full support of the Visitors. He's important for his emotional ties to Erica and his status as a point-of-view character into the world of the Visitors, but we've all seen these types of characters and plots before — typically, they don't end so well.
On the guest cast front, let's get one thing straight: the whole "Alan Tudyk is a bad guy" routine only works once, and "Dollhouse" beat "V" to the punch. Still, Tudyk was a welcome face in the "V" pilot, albeit a short-lived and secretly reptilian one. But future episodes are utilizing other geek-friendly actors such as Rekha Sharma ("Battlestar Galactica"), and you just know that she'll play a Visitor. As with Tudyk, that kind of casting can prove distracting and predictable.
Production Value: It's very difficult to say anything negative about the visuals of "V," since the show is absolutely stunning. The interiors of the Visitors' spacecrafts and their many technological advances are a complete marvel to behold. It's rare that network television boasts such amazing digital effects — "Battlestar Galactica" stands out as an elite example — but "V" is easily the sharpest looking new series I've seen in quite a while.
Thematic Potential: How did "V" do in terms of providing viewers with a relatable, emotionally accessible concept? Pretty well, I thought. Continuing with the "Battlestar" comparison — which is surprisingly fitting, as both shows are reimaginings of earlier franchises — there are clear political and social undertones in how humanity reacts to the arrival of an alien race.
Both shows clearly deal with issues of foreigners and terrorism. In the case of "Battlestar," mankind is virtually wiped out in one surprising maneuver, while "V" presents more of an infiltrative threat. Shows like "Sleeper Cell" have delved into this issue before, specifically because the idea that your next door neighbor — alien or not — could be plotting a wide-scale act of terrorism is absolutely frightening and worthy of exploration.
"V" is certain to focus on these topics — the very term "sleeper cell" is used more than once — and I'm interested to see where the writers go with it. Given the single episode aired thus far, I think the show's creative team did a fine job establishing the various themes and metaphors that we're sure to see more of. If nothing else, I'm curious to see where everything is leading towards.
V is for Verdict: Overall, "V" boasted a strong pilot that clearly demonstrates where the show can go and what it is capable of. Was it unbalanced? Absolutely, but I can't think of anything that gets a perfect ten on the first try. With any luck, "V" will find an audience and ABC will gain enough confidence in the series to give it the strong push it deserves. While I wouldn't say that we have the next "Battlestar Galactica" on our hands just yet, you never know what might happen given the proper love and care.
What did you think of the "V" pilot? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!