Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are the Visitors Leaving So Soon?

Well, that was fast. Before I could even write up a pilot review for V, it's already time for the fall finale, which means no more V eps until March. We saw back in Lost season 3 how successful the fall "mini-pod" of episodes works, and I'm not optimistic about ABC's decision to treat V the same way. I'm even less excited that other networks are scheduling similarly sized breaks in their shows' seasons, most unfortunately in the case of Glee, which Fox announced today will not be returning until April (?!?!?!?!) after its December fall finale. Word to the higher-ups: having a show disappear for months at a time kills momentum and buzz WAY worse than a few weeks of repeats.

I'm only bothering to complain about the scheduling because, while four episodes may not have been enough to all-out hook me, it certainly left me intrigued. In many ways, V is the show FlashForward should have been. Less concerned with trying to be the next Lost, V has no higher aspirations than to be an enjoyable action show with cool twists and fun shoot-outs in every episode. The characters may not be any more developed than on FlashForward, but they don't need to be. While FF is about how a group of characters deal with a single event, so we're meant to care about them, here the characters serve the bigger story.

Plus, whatever the characters don't have in the writing is made up for in an appealing group of actors, none of whom seemed to learn TV acting from David Caruso (I'm looking at you Joseph Fiennes). The show's got mad geek cred, not only putting a popular Lost alum (Elizabeth Mitchell) in the lead, but finding room for not one but two Firefly alums in the cast (Alan Tudyk, not straying too far from his role as Alpha on Dollhouse, and Monica Baccarin as Anna, the head of the Vs, whose line deliveries kind of remind me of Betty Draper). Add in Scott Wolf as a reporter, and you've got a good group.

And unlike the dreary, exposition-heavy FlashForward (what did you see in your flash forward? What did you see in your flash forward?) V keeps the story moving. Already in these four episodes the main resistance fighters have found each other, we've found some unexpected Lost-like connections between other characters, and the mythology is building up with talk of the Fifth Column and the mysterious John May. And every episode has had a couple of different action sequences to keep things exciting. Wherever the plot may be heading, at least it's moving somewhere.

Still, despite all that's happened in these four episodes, tonight's "finale" still felt like a fourth episode. While there were cliffhangers (the priest getting stabbed, the image of the V fleet waiting on the other side of the universe), it lacked that huge twist to make you say, "Ok, I definitely need to watch that when it comes back." An appropriate comparison is Battlestar Galactica, which also began with a four hour miniseries. While I generally think the miniseries is nowhere near as good as the series that follows, what got me to keep watching was that final "Sharon Valeri is a Cylon!" reveal. Without something that big, a four month wait may leave most of us forgetting what we saw.

Of all the new sci-fi offerings this fall, V to me seems to hold the most promise. Interestingly enough, it seems a lot of sci-fi fans like Entertainment Weekly's Doc Jensen have been quick to turn against V for disappointing when they would normally say to wait and see (and he's a FlashForward fan. Huh?) But personally, I've found each episode satisfying enough to want to see what comes next. It may ultimately disappoint, but it would be more disappointing if it's this scheduling experiment that ends up dooming it.

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