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Image Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/ABCSniper rifles are awesome. But there’s never really been a great sniper movie, besides Enemy at the Gates, which unfortunately gets really bad when anyone besides Ron Perlman starts talking. A filmmaker’s natural instinct is to make a sniper action movie, and a sniper rifle isn’t really an action-movie weapon at all. Sniper rifles conjure up tension, not shoot-em-up thrills: You know the shot’s going to come sooner or later, but the characters onscreen are mostly clueless. It’s a Hitchcockian weapon, and it’s a big reason why last night’s episode of V, which featured the best-dressed sniper team on the planet, was such a surprisingly involving hour of television.

The episode really took off at the midpoint, with a thrilling bit of crosscutting. In one corner: Erica in FBI Headquarters, describing the security layout for Anna’s big party to her co-workers and visiting Visitor officials. In the other corner: Erica in the Fifth Column’s basement, describing how they were going to bust through the FBI security layout. You could feasibly complain that the plan was a bit simple — seriously, has the FBI ever appeared more doltish than they do on this show? But I liked the slow-building tension, as Hobbes and Cohn waited in the rafters to kill the Queen. Unfortunately, Marcus stepped up at the last minute to take Anna’s place — Ryan sold out his fellow Columnites for the good of his daughter. I figured the Columnites would cancel the plan, so I threw up my hands and screamed, “Cop out!”

But surprise! Hobbes and Cohn wanted to shoot Marcus, because Cohn thinks he’s actually important to Anna, and because Hobbes hates lizards. The scene culminated with my favorite whipping boy being brought onstage right into the line of fire, honored as the first human to pilot a V vessel. Erica joined him onstage to hug him out of harm’s way. Boom went the sniper rifle and down went poor Marcus! (Don’t worry, he’s vaguely alive off-camera — so, yes, throw up your hands and scream “Cop out!”) But the moment that really caught my eye came right before the gunshot. Erica hugged Tyler close to her, and her for-the-cameras grin shaded into an apologetic, sorrowful grimace for just a millisecond. Man, Elizabeth Mitchell really knocks it out of the park on this show every week! If ABC cancels V, I’m hoping Mitchell can find herself a lead role on an FX drama, perhaps as a morally ambiguous politician, or a morally ambiguous investment banker with a prescription drug addiction, or a morally ambiguous ninja from the future. (I’ve just trademarked all of those elevator pitches, by the way.)

The episode also had a surprisingly fun Chad-centric subplot. Chad’s boss at the Fake News Channel thinks that public opinion has turned against the Visitors a little bit. Since Chad is so clearly pro-Visitor, and since the rules of modern broadcasting prefer two biased viewpoints to one unbiased viewpoint, he opted to bring in an anti-Chad. A Paul Begala to Chad’s Tucker Carlson. A thoughtful Kathleen Parker to Chad’s morally-compromised Eliot Spitzer. The resulting plotline brought out a lot of Scott Wolf’s charm, mainly because it finally gave Scott Wolf something to do besides listen to Anna and/or Father Jack. For all the improvements V has made this season, it still hasn’t quite figured out what to do with Chad, and this episode proved that that’s a real shame — Scott Wolf’s one of the most talented actors on this ensemble.

Personally, I’d rather see more of Chad and less of Ryan. Last season, everything Ryan said could be summed up as: “Blah blah blah my pregnant wife!” This season, everything Ryan says can be summed up as: “Blah blah blah my baby girl!” Not to be bloodthirsty, but if I could pick any C-list half-character to be killed off immediately, I’d pick Ryan’s half-breed baby. (Or at least I’d toss her in a magical aging machine and turn her into an evil teenager. Seriously, babies ruin TV shows, guys.)

Viewers, did you enjoy the heisting shenanigans of the Columnite’s assassination plot? Were you as happy as I was to see Nicholas Lea return as Tyler’s dad? (He’s gonna turn out to be evil eventually, right? He’s Krycek!) Has any Queen ever worn a dress with quite so much exposed cleavage as Anna? Also, we can all agree that Full Metal Jacket features the most mesmerizing/terrifying sniper scene in movie history, right?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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