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V-torture
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  • TV Show
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  • NBC

Image Credit: Jeff Petry/ABCThe best thing about the new season of V is how unabashedly pulpy the show has become. I know some people liked the slow pace of the first season, but personally, I’ve been loving the show’s newfound appreciation for creature-feature gore. (Last season, Anna gave lots of scary speeches. This season, she gives a speech, and then stabs a dude through the heart with her serpent’s tail. Much more effective.) Admittedly, all the teasing glimpses of the Visitors’ true form are sort of campy. (Ooh, a reptilian back! Gross, a serpent’s tooth!) But “campy” is always better than “boring.” And one scene in particular in last night’s episode was an absolute can’t-turn-away treat.

The episode focused on a complex decision for our plucky rebel band. They had a Visitor in their clutches — Agent Malik, formerly Erica’s partner — but they didn’t quite know what to do with her. They knew that Malik was involved in a bizarre alien-abduction scheme (which tied into what appears to be the season-long narrative: “Anna Searches for the Human Soul.”) They also knew that the clock was ticking — if they didn’t find out the whereabouts of the kidnapped people ASAP, they’d never find them.

Now, this was actually a disappointingly standalone set-up. The show quickly cast aside any possibility that Malik might have access to any more far-spanning information, like the true nature of Tyler’s birth, or Anna’s master plan, or really anything at all about the Visitors. (Also, according to Ryan the Visitors have a rare biological defense mechanism that might just be the plot contrivance to end all plot contrivances: “If we’re taken or killed, we can’t be studied.” Thanks, evolution!)

But if the set-up was disappointing, the follow-through was ickily fascinating, not to mention morally troubling. Hobbes decided to torture the information out of Malik, but Ryan noted that they would have to get more creative: “You wanna torture her into talking, there’s really only one way: To skin her.” What followed was a seriously brutal sequence that probably only got by the broadcast censors because of the veil of science-fiction: Hobbes tore off Malik’s back, and then Ryan cut off her tail. In the end, the rebel gang gave Malik a strikingly blunt choice: Die slowly, or die fast.

As far as torture scenes go, this was more late-period 24 than golden-age Lost. The moral ambiguity wasn’t really that ambiguous, since individual Visitors rarely appear to be three-dimensional characters. (We didn’t really know anything about Malik before last night.) The fact that Malik actually caved and gave the rebels all the information they needed also made the potentially troubling sequence feel a little bit too easy. (You could argue that the moral of the episode is: “Anything is justified as long as we can reconnect a lost daughter with her sad mother!”) Still, I admire how V seems to be really settling into a more complex atmosphere, where it’s not always clear that our favorite rebel group is doing the right thing.

Viewers, what did you think of the torture scene? Too much? Are you as bored as I am by the “Father Jack Goes Viral” storyline? Which part of the Visitors’ body will we see next? Knee caps? Femur?

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