Stars: Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Logan Huffman, Laura Vandervoort, Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf, Charles Mesure
: Gwendolyn M. Parker
: David Barrett
Original Telecast
: Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2011

It’s no surprise that V has struggled during its run to find its voice and remedy pacing issues. And the first two episodes of Season Two offered up promise, but still felt like the series was dealing with the wayward plotting ghosts of Season One.

However, “Laid Bare” has remedied many of those issues. A solid episode packed with action, revelations and some very cool effects, it’s one of the best episodes of the series to date and promises a major upheaval in the personal lives of all the characters.

The episode starts off with a pretty awesome fight between F.B.I. agents Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Sarita Malik (Rekha Sharma), the latter who was revealed to be another V mole.

Erica takes her licks pretty hard, but comes out victorious. With Sarita still alive, she and her counter-Visitor resistance buddies torture her and keep her hostage in order to find out what the visitors are up to. It seems that the only way to make the visitors feel pain is to skin them alive – take that Jack Bauer.

Meanwhile, Erica, along with good guy V Ryan (Morris Chestnut), discover that the visitors are abducting random people for a major experiment. That experiment turns out to try to find a way to “extract” the souls from the bodies of humans. This leads them on a mission to save these unfortunate souls, but they manage to only save one of them from this horrible fate.

Of course Ryan is being blackmailed by V leader Anna (Morena Baccarin) to give her information to save his hybrid human/V child that she’s holding on the mothership. By episode’s end, it’s still unclear if he’s playing both sides, or just playing Anna.

Parental relationships are a big theme of this episode, and Anna engages in some interesting conversations with her mom Diana (Jane Badler) who she overthrew many years ago and has kept locked up in the Mothership’s basement (or wherever that part of the spaceship would be). Anna is concerned that her daughter Lisa (Laura Vandervoort) is soft, and will have a hard time taking over for her when the time comes. Lisa is also developing “breeding skin” which is allowing her to change into a Queen. Erica’s son Tyler (Logan Huffman) looks to play a key role in this, as she discovers part of his DNA has been stripped bare – as if the visitors are waiting to put something in its place.

And finally, Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) ends up on Anna’s radar and wants news reporter Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) to build him up with a big interview, so Anna can take him down.

There’s an interesting shift in allegiance during the course of the episode. Tyler seems to be trusting (and bonding) more with Anna, while Lisa visits Erica, needing someone to talk to. She doesn’t like what she’s becoming and needs, well, an actual caring parental figure to guide her in the right direction (plus, I can’t wait for Tyler to hear that the green scales she’s growing is actually called “breeding skin” – way to destroy a budding relationship).

Yes, this was a big episode for V and was handled quite well by both writer Gwendolyn M. Parker and director David Barrett who juggled all the disparate elements quite nicely.

I also have to say the VFX on the show have gotten much better. It took awhile to get used to the digital sets the show employs (and some of the questionable V teeth-transformations), but the VFX producers have wisely learned that the best way to hide the seams of the digital world is to showcase them primarily in dark places or at night.

That said, I’m still finding the place where Anna is holding Diana to be a bit silly. It’s supposed to resemble their home planet, but it comes off rather cheap and low budget. Every time Diana comes out of her little hair chair, it makes you want to chuckle a bit. Hopefully they’ll get her out of the basement soon and put her in the thick of some action – otherwise it’s a waste of Badler’s considerable talents. Diana’s wonderful in this alternate universe, and the show would benefit having more of her.

It’s taken some time for V to truly find its footing, but with all the main characters and motivations slowly getting defined, and the action (and surprises) coming at a much faster clip, the show is finally bringing back that sense of fun and awe the original series from the 1980s possessed. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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