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V Premiere: V is for Awesome

v season 1 episode 1 _0022009 continues to be a banner year for ABC as they attract fans of intelligent sci-fi in droves; first with FlashForward, and now the premiere of V, a twisty, menacing, and multi-layered thriller that takes key ingredients from the classic 1983 miniseries of the same name and gives them the Battlestar Galactica treatment– that is to say removes the cheese factor, throws in a dash of political allegory, and haunts the entire series with a sense of “any character could actually be an evil alien” paranoia. But while BSG’s Cylons came after humanity with a chip on their shoulder and a whole crap ton of nukes, V’s “Visitors” are taking a more subtly sinister approach.

What starts out like any other day in the life of FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) takes a few turns when right on the heels of getting word that her rebellious son Tyler is in the ER after a night of partying, a hearty earthquake heralds the arrival of a big freakin’ flying saucer squarely above Manhattan (along with ones like it over dozens more international cities of note). But instead of an Independence Day destructo-laser, the world is greeted by the smiling face of alien spokesmodel Anna (Firefly’s Morena Baccarin), who claims that Earth is the first intelligent civilization they’ve seen other than their own (I bet that’s what they tell all the nice planets) and if we’ll just give them a moment of our time and some minerals to use as fuel, they’ll let us play with all their shiny toys, cure our diseases, and bring about world peace. Sounds spiffy, but Erica is clearly a woman who has learned her lesson about offers too good to be true. At work, intel on a sleeper cell hungry for C4 leads Erica and her partner Dale (Alan Tudyk, yet another Firefly alum!) to a mysterious meeting.

Elsewhere, disparate characters including Visitor-skeptical priest Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) and Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut), a man trying to escape a shady past and propose to his girlfriend, find themselves drawn towards the same meeting which turns out to be an anti-Visitors rally bearing claims that not only are they lizard people in sexy sheep’s clothing, but also that they’ve been among us plotting malice for years and their friendly revelation is just Phase 2 of a grand invasion. Things get shocking when a hovering death bullet grenade doodad takes out most of the would-be resistance and a Visitor death squad led by Dale (!) storms in to finish off the stragglers, but Erica fights back and kills her reptilian partner. Ryan helps save the day and in the process reveals himself to be yet another space dinosaur, but a good one who opposes the deceptive oppression being peddled by his superiors. A lesser show (Heroes) would have taken weeks or even seasons to unite potentially decentralized characters, much less unleash so many big character reveals, but V is clearly poised to hit the ground running and is off to a great start.v3davidgray

The ensemble also finds room for Scott Wolf (ABC clearly hopes to recreate the Lost formula of Elizabeth Mitchell + former Party of Five star = gold) as a news correspondent reluctantly sacrificing his credibility for exclusive (and manipulatively slanted) interviews with Anna and Smallville’s former Supergirl Laura Vandervoort as a dead sexy visitor who catches Tyler’s eye and makes him part of an ambassador squad with more than a passing resemblance to the Hitler Youth.

With its stunning visuals, epic structure, and seriously talented ensemble, V has set a mighty high bar for itself. But if the coming weeks can stand shoulder to shoulder to round one, brace yourself for one sweet invasion.

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot (Originally aired November 3, 2009)

For more V, click here.

Tuesdays 8/7c on ABC

Photographs courtesy of ABC, David Gray

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