Rebel, the show—just like the character—comes with plenty of baggage.
They call themselves Visitors. And they say they come in peace. But there are those who are skeptical of the intentions of these human-like aliens whose spaceships hover over our cities like storm clouds that won’t go away.
“Visitors are old friends who drop by for a drink,” says FBI agent Erica Evans. And these are not those. So what do they want—really? What are they after? Do they really come in peace? Or are they perhaps here for … dinner?
Just as in NBC’s original 1983 miniseries and the episodic drama that followed in 1984, ABC’s Visitors also hide lizard looks and foul intentions. But it’s just a matter of time before humanity—real humanity—learns the truth. And it’s a truth that fans are informed of by way of gory glimpses of the Visitors’ true form—often through gaping flesh wounds. This program pegs the ewww-o-meter every episode.
V does appear to have higher goals in mind than just turning our stomachs, though. Parenting issues come up as Erica is forced to grapple with her relationship with her son. The series also probes the questions wrapped around devotion and demagoguery. And that last bit has caused some critics to say it’s pointing political fingers:
“This is not just a right-wing worldview but the worldview of the paranoid Tea Party movement,” writes Jonathan Chait for The New Republic. “I’m really not sure how this made it onto network television. Maybe the calculation is that Glenn Beck will start urging his viewers to watch and a ratings bonanza will ensue.”
Glenn Garvin of the Chicago Tribune adds, “Nominally a rousing sci-fi space opera about alien invaders bent on the conquest (and digestion) of all humanity, it’s also a barbed commentary on Obamamania that will infuriate the president’s supporters and delight his detractors.”
More interesting than that, though, is what the show posits as the difference between us and them: the soul. The Visitors supposedly have nothing like it—they have to do with a diet of something called bliss instead—and they’ll stop at nothing to bring the human soul to heel. The human resistance network, known as the Fifth Column, seems to realize the gravity of this. And episode by episode, our human protagonists lean more and more on the concepts of faith and hope.
That’s noteworthy because V is one of the few shows on television that overtly uses spirituality as a pivotal theme. While some greet the Visitors as saviors, Father Jack—an important member of the Fifth Column—believes they’re prophets of the falsest kind, veritable antichrists in deceptively pleasing form. To him, the fact that the Visitors showed up when they did isn’t providence, it’s manipulation.
But for families, all that may be moot. Because just like the Visitors have shown up to obliterate all that humans hold dear, so V has arrived to flagellate us with violence, blood and gore—even extreme scenes of murder and torture.
While Father Jack is telling his followers to resist the Visitors peacefully, the Fifth Column is capturing a V (Erica’s FBI partner, Sarita) and plying her for information regarding both Erica’s son and a spat of recent abductions. And when we say plying, we mean torturing. Because the Visitors have such a high pain tolerance, Ryan says, “There’s really only one way. It’s to skin her.” And so they do. First they cut off one of her fingers (blood runs from the wound, and we see the gory stump), then they tear open the back of her shirt, unclasp her bra and start slicing through her human skin with a knife. We don’t see the blade penetrate, but we do see her skin pull apart (and off), revealing the lizard hide below. Sarita, in between screams, tells them everything she knows.
When Anna isn’t conniving to manhandle the viral nature of the Internet, she’s overseeing the development of a machine that kills while sucking out humans’ souls. To test her daughter’s resolve, she forces her to “push the button” on the first victim.
A V kills himself by way of a pill that causes him to self-immolate. Profanity includes “a‑‑.” The episode’s sole inspirational moment comes when a woman is reunited with her abducted daughter.
The Visitors shift into caffeinated overdrive in this season finale, with Anna eagerly anticipating the birth of her army of soldiers. But Erica, invited to the mother’s ship for din-din, decides to fry Anna’s alien eggs and temporarily save humanity. Val, meanwhile, gives birth to her half-alien offspring, who survives and wraps a cute tentacle around Ryan’s (Dad’s) thumb. Val is not so lucky: She’s killed by Anna.
The opening scene features a V—complete with fanged face and disturbingly distorted mouth—feeding off a deer, his (the alien’s) face dripping with blood. He knocks out a fellow V and kidnaps Val. Humans, “invited” to stay on the mother ship, appear to be treated as living anatomical studies. (We see one surrounded by blades, screaming as needles inch closer and closer to her face.)
Viewers hear the word “b‑‑ch,” along with other profanities (“h‑‑‑” and a handful of misuses of God’s name among them). Characters drink wine. Anna’s daughter, Lisa, chooses to side with the humans and, in so doing, betray her own mother. Jack, a priest, tells his flock—in violation of a direct order from his superior—that the Visitors are false prophets, and that humanity needs to turn its worship away from the aliens and back to God.
“Welcome to the War”
After being stabbed by a Visitor, Jack’s taken to a Visitor health care center to be healed—and given an injection of a mysterious drug. Erica struggles to get her son back, and Ryan’s pregnant significant other starts craving dead mice.
Viewers see one such deceased mouse, but that’s far from the only content they’re exposed to. Visitor leader Anna has passionless sex (we see her bare shoulders, a man’s bare torso and some gyrating) with a fellow V, then apparently eats her lover to provide nourishment for her “eggs” (The camera doesn’t show the actual killing, but we do see her grow some scary teeth in preparation for her “meal”). Someone gets stabbed in the chest twice, and we see a gaping flesh wound. Characters say “h‑‑‑,” “b‑‑tard,” “b‑‑ch” and misuse God’s name. Erica lies to her bosses to recruit a bad guy into the resistance army.
The show also proffers glancing references to faith: Jack says he’s joined the resistance because of his faith, Ryan’s main squeeze says her pregnancy “happened for a reason,” and Ryan himself says that though he didn’t think he could conceive a baby, “nature and faith can find a way.”
The Visitors rumble into town in their massive spaceships, causing worldwide havoc and anxious feelings. Silly humans. These aliens have come in peace!
They’re lying of course, and some humans know it. And so we see the beginning of a resistance movement. And we catch several glimpses of the Visitors’ inner reptilian shells—often through gory wounds. Humans, too, are cut deeply. And they take to slicing V-shaped wounds behind their ears to prove—by exposing bits of their skulls—that they’re human. Other carnage involves a man bleeding out on a church pew, hand-to-hand combat, machine gun fire and a huge explosion when a fighter jet crashes into a city street. Language isn’t great, either, with folks carelessly tossing around “a‑‑,” “d‑‑n” and God’s name in vain.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
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