Darren Franich
April 07, 2010 AT 10:28 AM EDT

Image Credit: Jack Rowand/ABCLast night’s V started off with an eye-popping sequence. Anna was giving her people a little taste of the Bliss — one Visitor was immune. He mumbled some love poetry in a blissed-out girl’s ear, then opened up an ACME brand Flying Ball of Doom. A suicide bomber? Look out, viewers, it’s a topicality grenade! Over the top, out of nowhere, a little bit ridiculous… and utterly awesome.

V is capable of luscious brain-prodding entertainment. Unfortunately, it’s also guilty of some severe dramatic lapses. Let’s do a quick rundown of this schizoid episode:

Good: Groovy Science-Fiction

Anna was testing her people for emotions using a machine that played video of human tragedy: explosions, war, crying babies, Buzz Aldrin on Dancing With the Stars. After applying the test around the mothership, she decided to test the margin of error. She dragged the people who failed the test into her Window Room, handed them pills, and told them to redeem themselves. The ones that were faithful were incinerated, an effect that recalled how people exploded into bloody mist in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.

Between that scene, the suicide bomber, and the cover-your-boyfriend’s-eyes glimpse of Ryan Junior snaking around inside of his human mother’s belly, you have to give V credit: this show can really conjure up disturbing sci-fi imagery. And I got a little tingle when I saw the words “John May Lives” appear in bright red on the V ships.

Bad: Goopy Melodrama

There are gigantic freaking alien spaceships in the air. Why do we keep getting shovelfuls of bland character drama? Tyler’s dad (played by – geekgasm! – Nicholas Lea, a.k.a Krycek on The X-Files) spoke to Erica about “the truth about Tyler.” I’m betting Krycek isn’t Tyler’s real father. Who’s the real father? Do we care?

I’m no mathematician, but by my count, that makes roughly 50 pregnancy-centric plotlines this season. In this same episode, Ryan’s Doctor Friend showed Pregnant Wife a fake ultrasound. (What is this, Glee?) And we had to hear the words “Anna is birthing soldiers.” And we don’t know exactly what Supergirl has planned, but it’s probably pregnancy, right? And Chad’s oncoming hemorrhage is kind of like a pregnancy of the brain. The only character on this show who isn’t pregnant is Marcus. But he’s prone to pregnant pauses.

Good: A sense of humor

So far, V’s been painfully straitlaced. There’s no Hurley character here, no one to relieve the monochrome tension. Last night, though, we saw some minor flashes of genuine humor. Mercenary Kyle Hobbs snuck into FBI HQ, and there was a slight glimmer of Josh Holloway in the relish he took with the costume (glasses, slicked-back hair.)

Meanwhile, the writers slipped in a little inside joke about V’s curious release schedule. Chad Decker noted that his series about the V healing centers will air “in 5 parts… for sweeps.” “Good luck in sweeps,” said Father Jack. Hooray for meta-giggles!

Bad: A tin ear for dialogue

There’s a wonderfully Orwellian flow to the dialogue between Anna and her subordinates. (“Your situational empathy is well within normal limits.”) Unfortunately, some of the dialogue sounds like the world’s cleverest kindergarten playwright. Example 1:

Erica’s Ex: What are you not telling me?

Erica: Nothing.

I’m not telling you nothing! Double negative! Infinite loop! Viewers, what could be worse? Example 2:

Father Jack: I may not have the answers you need.

Chad: Who does?

Father Jack: You.

Who has the answers? You has the answers! You are the person you have been looking for! Gee, if only all priests were this helpful!

Did you think the good outweighed the bad last night, viewers? Are you also confused as to how the Visitors seem to be able to see everything, except for anything that might incriminate our heroes?  Can Joshua get his own spin-off? Can Georgie please get killed by the Vs, so all the characters can wave their fists in the sky and scream “Jor-JEEEEEEE!”, and then we can all forget that Georgie ever existed?

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