V is an ambitious show for a network to undertake. It’s sci-fi to the core, with visual style and an effects budget that superior series’ would have loved. The show gets just about everything right. Moral questions are addressed about the fundamental nature of the human spirit, strong characters (and often equally strong actors) are at the center of the story, and a battle of chess is played between the humans and Visitors. Despite all of this the first season of V was something much less than it should be.
Season two picks up the story begun by season one, and it uses the same trappings. But in the interim the show runners have begun to find the heart of V. There’s still a distinct lack of substance to the story, but the addition of Diana changes a core dynamic of the series. There’s potential for the battle between Anna and her mother Diana to elevate the series to a level akin to Battlestar Galactica. V already shares much with Ronald D. Moore’s remake of a classic sci-fi show, including a hybrid baby.
The issue is that V is too involved in itself, with characters explaining every nuance of their plans and feelings. It gets a bit tedious to watch, and you can’t help but feel the writers are as scared about cancellation as the fans that try to stick by the show. Almost as if they’re shoving all they can into what few episodes ABC may air. That desperation feeds the sense that while everything should work with the show, it somehow doesn’t.
Unlike FlashForward, which went through a creative overhaul during it’s hiatus, V is taking a more practical approach. Gone are the days when the Visitors were just humans running around all the time. In the season two premiere alone we get numerous glimpses of the lizard-like aliens that lay beneath the skin, some of them quite clear. Elizabeth Mitchell’s Erica is much more the leader she needs to be for the show to succeed, and newcomer Bret Harrison (Reaper) as Dr. Miller brings a bit of levity to a show that may have been taking itself too seriously.
Unfortunately as the second season begins Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) has decided to join the 5th Column. A noble endeavor to be sure, but for anyone hoping Decker would be the Baltar of the series it would appear there are other plans for the newsman.
It would be nice if ABC could just let V do it’s thing and not scare everyone by decreasing the season episode order from 13 down to 10. That’s below the common number of episodes for a cable series. But cable has proven over and over that a great story can be told in just a handful of episodes. The problem is that V is just as scared of the axe as the fans, and that lends itself to slapdash storytelling. Season two starts on the right foot, but it’s not clear whether the other will follow.
Season two of V premieres Tuesday, January 4 at 9:00pm ET on ABC.