With two episodes left until probable annihilation, it’s becoming clear that V is probably never going to be a good show. Several creative teams have all tried rebooting the show in different directions: in just 20 episodes, V has been an alarmist political parable, a 24-style espionage thriller, a gory creature feature, and now a Leverage-style heist show. None of these sub-shows have been particularly successful. (If there was a golden age, it was the bloody, lizard-happy episodes that kicked off season 2.) But V still has a secret weapon: Elizabeth Mitchell, who can make the phone book sound compellingly morally ambiguous. So even though I thought last night’s episode was mostly a snooze, I have to admit that it featured one of the best scenes the show’s ever done — a head-spinning kiss that instantly sent the show into the stratosphere.
First, let’s get the bad stuff/everything else out of the way. The episode began with a young ambassador in China suffering from a curious ailment. Symptoms included bleeding out of his eyes, drooling pink vomit, and dying instantly. Seems all the spry young earth-boys Anna has been breeding for hybrid parenting were dying, because of DNA or something. That meant Anna spent the whole episode plotting an extra special way to get more DNA out of more humans, so she could save Tyler, because Tyler is THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON EVER for some terrible reason.
Meanwhile, the Fifth Columnites were planning an elaborate piece of espionage. Since Anna was harvesting DNA from the Live-Aboards, Science Boy had the nifty idea of embedding a virus inside of the Live-Aboards’ DNA. Hobbes intoned jockishly, “DNA-Bombs: The next evolution of attack!” which actually sounds like something Charlie Sheen is going to say any second now. (“I’m a DNA-bomb from Jupiter, and I’m gonna blow up your genes like a nitrogen Vatican volcano, baby!”) Unfortunately, in order for their plan to work, the Fifth Columnites had to break into somewhere and steal something. Maybe it’s just me, but all of the rebels’ sneaking missions are really starting to run together a little bit. (It didn’t help that Hobbes got shot in the shoulder, which is truly the most clichéd bullet wound possible.)
There was a nice bit of ambiguity when it finally came time to hatch the plan. Science Boy admitted that infecting the Live-Aboards with the virus could feasibly kill them, which led Father Jack into a rant. Erica pulled rank, and they went ahead with the plan. Of course, as we all know, every plan on V is doomed to failure, because the V universe is apparently ruled by a cruel lizard god who will never allow anyone to achieve anything. So the infected Live-Aboard collapsed the second he boarded the ship. That tipped off Anna, who captured the other infected Live-Aboards. Innocent men and women died. Guys, the Fifth Column is the worst rebellion ever.
(Aside: At the start of the episode, Anna said, “My plans can finally continue without interruption.” At the end of the episode, having narrowly averted disaster, Anna noted that if the Fifth Column had succeeded, “My entire plan would have been set back irreparably.” Every time Anna says the word “plan,” I imagine that a pretty butterfly in a rainforest explodes.)
But that was all just a lead-up to the scene that really mattered — and the one that could hold clues for the show’s salvation, if ABC is crazy enough to give it a third season. Erica was feeling miserable, all alone in her empty home, knowing that one of her best friends hated her and also knowing that she’s inadvertently killed a ton of innocent people. Hobbes picked just the right moment to knock-knock-knock on the door with some cheap rebel whiskey and a roguish faux-Jackman smile. (And his neck muscles! Incredible neck muscles!) Erica invited him in. They were joking around, and then Hobbes grabbed the picture of Erica’s estranged son and dead ex-husband — an ex-husband who, remember, Hobbes indirectly killed. Hobbes promised to help Erica get her son back. In so doing, he held the photo preciously close to her body. She grabbed for the photo…and then rubbed his hand. Chemistry!
It’s a testament to how good both performers are that the make-out scene that followed didn’t feel ridiculous. Instead, it felt suitably chaotic — both characters just sort of lost in passion, and for once doing something that didn’t follow some sort of preordained plan. Another key was the stealth weirdness underlying the scene. Since Hobbes basically ruined the family unit that used to surround Erica, he indirectly turned her into a more ruthless personality — making her more like him.
When I talked to Elizabeth Mitchell before the start of the new season, she explained her fervent belief that one of the things that can make science fiction really exciting is “the possibility of romance. I’m not talking about an icky romance, I’m talking a strong-person romance.” Sometimes, this can get taken too far: Witness the series finale of Lost, which was a veritable orgy of randomly sprinkled romance plotlines. (Hi, Shannon!) But what made this big scene so good was the real drama amidst the greenscreen spaceships and the lizards. It was a scene that was about pure human emotion — whereas so much else of what V has become is just weird plot mechanics and nonsensical storytelling.
Speaking of which, viewers, I’m not even going to get into the Ryan plotline. (How do you hide an escape pod on a freakin’ spaceship for decades? There only so much space on a spaceship! Doesn’t anyone ever, like, check inside of the mysterious escape pod-shaped hole in the ceiling?) With only two episodes left of the season(/series?), how are you feeling about V? Am I being too harsh on last night’s episode? Should they kill off the whole cast besides Hobbes and Erica and re-re-re-re-re-re-reboot the show as a sci-fi version of Hart to Hart?
Follow me on Twitter for regular updates on Elizabeth Mitchell’s general awesomeness: @EWDarrenFranich