The second half of the mini-series is less dramatic, though it does pack three times the action and a whole lotta Star Wars-style laser effects. I should also mention that the story doesn't really "end" here -- enough is resolved to satisfy viewers, but the real climax takes place in the second mini-series, V: The Final Battle. And even then, they leave a lot up in the air to pave way for all of Diana's sexy vinyl outfits on the weekly television series. God I'm spoiling everything. :(
Donovan returns to his old neighborhood to find some kid wandering around, alone and helpless. Everyone else has been kidnapped by the Visitors, including his ex-wife, played by the mother from Growing Pains. If you don't enjoy V for its intense science fiction melodrama, you've gotta appreciate the fact that it's like a big New Year's Eve party for sitcom stars. This is even better than watching Judge Harry share a turkey leg with Jack Tripper in It. Donovan's son recalls the story of what happened the night before, narrating a flashback scene so long and detailed that I can't believe the kid didn't skip high school and go straight to Yale's "Find Kids With Huge Memories Something Useful To Do" division. "FKWHMSUTD," as its known in more time-sensitive circles.
Retrieving a key previously written off a just another memento, Donovan plans to invade "the belly of the whale." The key will grant him access to all of the Visitors' secret chambers. It's one of those superkeys I think.
Elsewhere, other notable characters are smuggled in and out of places in a variety of creative ways. For example: Pedro, a member of the Resistance, hides a bunch of humans under piles of vegetation. The police continue working with the alien troopers to uphold justice, but certain cops are rebellious enough to help out in secret -- in this scene, a cop notices Pedro's secret stash, but keeps hush and lets the pack ride off into the sunset. It's a good thing the Visitors lack the technology needed to catch on to such things. They can make themselves look perfectly human and own spaceships the size of Chile, but if you hide wanted criminals in piles of grass, you totally beat the system.
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Donovan spots some of his pals being herded onto Visitor ships and taken off to God knows where. It'll depress the Hell out of you, especially when you find out just how sick the aliens' plan really is. In a temporary lapse of invincibility, Donovan is then captured and taken to Diana's chambers, where she plans to dog him for his failure and make fun of his hair over and over again.
After Diana explains all of the terrible things she plans to do to his old partner, Donovan is faced with the same fate...until one of the aliens lends a helping hand. His name is Martin, and he's a good guy! Apparently, not all of the Visitors blindly believe in their leader's cause. Martin explains that there's little they can do on a large scale, but things like helping Donovan escape and tossing out classified info -- that's the kinda shit they can handle. Another human sympathizer, this time female, offers her Visitor uniform to Donovan to aid in his escape. They show the whole clothes-swappin' process, too. Lizard lady got all hot and naked for a second there. She then begs Donovan to shoot her to make the story she'll tell her superiors sound more legit. Mr. D hesitates, but eventually wails her in the chest with forty rounds of special effects. Poor girl. I liked her.
Martin wants to join Donovan on the trip back to Earth, but is persuaded to stay onboard the Visitor shuttle, where he'll be of most use to the cause. Man, when Donovan gets up on the podium, he really lets loose with the holier-than-thou stuff. You wouldn't believe the stuff he said. I can't believe Martin didn't convert himself right back to alienism.
Finally, Donovan meets and becomes a full-fledged member of the Resistance. He'd be a card-carrying member if carrying membership cards wasn't so counterproductive to their whole "let's be covert" motif. Donovan and Julie look at each other in that sensual way, but at least for now, it's all platonic. Donovan's still carrying a torch for his ex-wife, and Julie's too busy holing up each and every member of the Resistance to voice how unconfident she is in her ability to be leader.
The spray-painted "V," by the way, has by this point become the official Zorro-marking of the Resistance. God, I used to be so scared of that painted "V" as a kid, never knowing that it was actually something to be happy about. It's a sign of courage and all that jazz. Whenever they'd advertise V: The Series, it'd come with this ominous voice-over that made me think the "V" stood for "Voing To Kill Me." Come to think of it, I don't think any television advertisement ever frightened me as much as those having anything to do with V. They'd only ever show the lizard folks for a brief moment in the ads, and really didn't show much else but that, so my initial feeling was that the series was going to be about giant lizards who carved bloody symbols in our chests and ate our hearts raw. Turns out I wasn't completely off the mark, but I thought it was going to be like that 100% of the time.
Anyway, Donovan can't stand the fact that Julie is wearing two shirts at the same time, so he morphs into a lion and bites her arm off. Now stop skimming.
In one of the ballsier subplots of V, Robin, the annoying girl I mentioned earlier, gets captured and brought aboard a Visitor ship. Diana and Brian, Robin's would-be love interest, watch on from the next room and conjure up a devious scheme. We'd been led to think Brian was one of the "good" aliens, but looks like he was just ambitious: he jumps ship and sides with Julia, going as far as making a small pass at her. It's requited, but before Diana shoves him the love bone, she asks if he'd be willing to assist in a little "experiment" involving young Robin. We don't hear the exact details on the plot, but after Brian enters the prison cell and consoles Robin by fucking the shit out of her, it becomes pretty clear that Diana wants to see what kind of kid an Earth girl could have with an alien lizard. You know, just for the Hell of it.
Promiscuous sex was no stranger to the horror genre, and V is arguably a part of that. But in a made-for-television movie, where the girl is being tricked into sex by an alien lizard who wants to impregnate her? That's pretty bold. I mean, they didn't show them doing it or anything, but the implication is so there. This little storyline doesn't quite wrap up in this mini-series, but it pays off in a big way during The Final Battle. Like, in a really, really big way. Sadly, that's for another review, when the mood strikes me to spend another 81 trillion words on V in 2017.
Back on Earth, shit's hit the fan. The Resistance has grown, and their chief method of protest is by firebombing the many small shuttles the Visitor troops use from get from points A to B. The Visitors return fire, but not literally -- the more people revolt, the more often people are kidnapped. By the way, remember Abraham? The guy who gave "V" meaning? Yeah, he's been captured and presumably killed. Probably should have mentioned it earlier, but it's a great segue into talking about how his wife took revenge by blowing up one of the Visitor ships using a beer bottle bomb with a payload that exceeded that of any other beer bottle bomb I've ever seen. She even dedicates the bombing to Abraham's memory, making the always-cool "old lady kicks ass" scene prototype somehow become even better.
I wish I knew how much time was meant to pass during the mini-series. It seems like months would've had to gone by, but in theory all of this crap could've happened in just a few days. I only mention this because it'd be interesting to see if everyone wore the same clothes for a several month stretch.
On one of the motherships, Martin tells Donovan the true motives of the alien Visitors. First off, they want our water. All of it. Donovan's pretty miffed about that, but it doesn't explain why they've been kidnapping everyone and keeping them alive in cold storage on the motherships, as seen in the picture at right. Yup, you guessed it -- they're being collected as a food source. That's it, folks, that's the one that did it right there -- the fact that the Visitors wanted to eat us made V one of the creepiest tales we'd ever seen, or at least, the creepiest tale we'd seen during prime time on NBC. That's so much cooler than the more typical "we're here to drain your planet of its natural resources" plot that's so prevalent in alien invasion flicks. Hell, it's even cooler than invasion flicks featuring aliens who want to outright kill us. If the threat of all the hero characters being eaten by their oppressors can't hold your interest, you have a disorder that can only be destroyed by miracle pills.
Okay, I've spoiled everything else, why stop now: in this mini-series, we only see the humans-as-food deal represented as a rather obscured matte painting. It gets the point across, but the sight of it doesn't make us want to hide in boxes. In The Final Battle, we see the actual food processing plant, which is an actual three-dimensional set with bodies galore and a whole lotta devilish yummies. The Final Battle lacks the grounded, straight-played approach of the original, but it's more than compensated for by the food processing plants and the big green secret ready to explode from Robin's crotch.
Donovan rescues Robin and escapes the mothership. Donovan has a lot on his mind, Robin has a mutant in her uterus. This section was my excuse to include more pictures of the cool mini-shuttles everyone uses. They look so Disney.
As Donovan pilots the craft (how he knows how to do this is beyond me; was there a cut scene with Martin?), the Visitors arrive in ships of their own to blow him outta the sky. Pedro, who's also aboard Donovan's craft, fights them off with a barrage of laser fire. Meanwhile, Diana and friends aim to take out the Resistance's secret headquarters, and wouldn't you know it? That's exactly where Donovan was going! It's all coming to a big head now, so grab your popcorn and throw on your 3-D glasses even though V was never broadcast in 3-D, and even if it was, I couldn't duplicate the technology in this article. But wear them anyway, they're fun.
In one of those scenes that absolutely would not be replicated should anyone ever decide to remake V (and they are, kind of), Julie watches her pals battle and gets so caught up in the moment that everything goes into dramatic slow motion with zany trumpet sounds, and we're zooming in closer to closer to Julie's nostrils trying to figure out why this was all such a catharsis for her. I think they needed to fill out an extra 30 seconds and just picked one random scene to convert to slow motion. Why couldn't it be the part where Diana downed that rat?
Oh, and about Diana -- realizing Julie to be the leader of the movement, she sets her sights on her and keeps on shooting big blue bolts of death. But they all miss, because Julie just had that catharsis and it wouldn't make sense to kill her off now. Instead, Donovan and Co. shoot down the other ships and blast a hope shot out towards Diana's shuttle, hitting it just perfectly enough to make her lose concentration and a small part of her face...
It's the greatest shot of the mini-series. Aside from the original unmasking of that inconsequential trooper, Diana's shredded mask is the most widely known image from V. This is thanks in no small part to all the kids who thought it was sexy and kept saying so until every sci-fi rag on the market included pinups of the scene from every possible angle for six months straight. Junior high lockers of geeky boys who weren't afraid to decorate were littered with this image, and would continue to be so until Deanna Troi dropped the accent and started dressing sleazier. And after her, Linda Hamilton for a while. It was never pretty.
Diana, only mildly shaken, decides to fight another day. The Visitors retreat, and the Resistance has arguably won their first real battle. They all celebrate, but it's a pretty hollow victory when you consider that they beat up four ships while there's still about sixty-million of 'em sitting up in those big motherships. See, that's why they had to do another mini-series. All because of that one plot hole. It wasn't even intentional.
The original mini-series ends with the Resistance collecting themselves and saying a prayer for their lost friends. The battle hasn't been won -- it's only beginning. The Visitors still control the brunt of the planet, and now that their true motives are known, the Resistance must stop at nothing to set them on fire and steal their high-tech gizmos.
As you can see, there's a heck of a lot still left unresolved. Robin's pregnant, but we don't know what'll happen with that. The Visitors' ships are still hovering above our cities, but we don't know what'll happen with that either. And of the missing characters, we don't know which are dead and which are being kept alive in cold storage -- and how can the Resistance save them? I could go on for hours, but it really hurts my right pinkie to type question marks. Judging V as a standalone, it's absolutely fantastic. It'll leave you longing for more, but not in that annoying unsatisfied way. The story would be continued in V: The Final Battle, an even longer follow-up mini-series that answers many of these questions and asked enough new ones to warrant a V television series.
Recommended to the highest degree. I've left out more aspects of the film than I've mentioned -- there's just so much to digest and so many characters to emotionally latch onto. It's been available on DVD for a while now, so don't think you'll have to go track down some used VHS copy from a liquidating Blockbuster or anything. It's out there, it's waiting, it's worth it. I'll get around to reviewing V: The Final Battle eventually, but in the meantime, keep watching these video clips. Especially the one where alien bitchlady eats a rat.