Despite its solid start, V-Wars has arrived at a precarious point in its run as the line of nonsensical character actions and incoherent narrative decisions pull at the threads of its positive canvas. As of now, the potential can still be realized, but I have concerns if the quality continues to dip. “Bad as Me” begins by addressing one of those small but nonsensical issues when Luther suggests that Mike remains in Seneca county not because of bad writing, rather a part of Michael Fayne remains in Seneca possibly to reconcile with the monstrous nature of his actions.
It’s a fair assumption but there are still too many holes surrounding the events of the series. Certain aspects of the infection still being a mystery makes sense; the audience is in the front row as Luther races to gauge the cofactor responsible for some people turning while also determining the gestation rate and area of effect. Others not so much — particularly the time frame since the initial infection are not touched in “Bad as Me”, an episode that introduces a major addition to the narrative that would have been better left for the finale.
The most common result of hastily expanding a narrative is that things become sloppy. The DNS subplot is a prime example. From the lack of adequate security surrounding the black, no military presence, or a Director that is absent a gravitas of command, nothing aligns with a government’s response to such a potentially catastrophic situation.
Things worsen when O’Hagan is apparently blown to bits after sharing her concerns on Niklos’ duplicitous nature with Luther. Her demise paired with the shocking turn of Fields is a jarring turn for the entire DNS. With Fields, nothing about his behavior suggested he was infected, not until he attacked Theresa in the middle of the lab.
A positive in all this research is the discovery of a new type of vampire: the Verdulak. Those affected by this mutation still feed on blood but also inject an addictive venom (think heroin) that keeps its victims docile and craving its bite. The idea of diverse vampire phenotypes adds a welcome dose of variety to the story. As yet there’s no explanation for what triggers some people to diverge towards this particular strain of vampire, that at least is an understandable omission, considering that Luther’s still in the nascent stages of his research.
While it’s not necessary for V-Wars to provide an exact time frame from Luther and Mike’s initial infection to now, the series is in dire need of, at the very least, a general remark on the passage of time. This is especially clear in this episode where Mike runs into Ava (Sydney Meyer, Shadowhunters, The Expanse). He saves her from two hunters (the ones who shot him in the first scene) after they kill her vampire dad. Ava returns the favor, taking down a sniper targeting Mike during his rendezvous with Luther. She introduces Mike to the Bloods, an underground organization of vampires that have banded together as the authorities hunt them.
Putting aside the drool nature of the moniker (it’s just too on-the-nose), the idea for those of this new evolutionary species to come together is a sound idea; the trouble arises in how it muddies the time frame. It’s not just that the series lacks a frame of reference as far as time is concerned—if the groundwork set was more solid, that would be less of an issue. But with each episode suffering from choppy editing, it prevents story elements from a seamlessly connection. That leaves us with a disjointed experience where, as the audience, we’re forced to make unsubstantiated and dangerous suppositions on what’s happening.
This may be ideal in a who-done-it caper like Murder on the Orient Express or Knives Out, but when the narrative is expanded beyond that of a train or a family’s estate and encompasses something that is affecting a city, a state, possibly the entire country, those types of errors that call into question the series’ continuity make it all but impossible for viewers to follow along and not be distracted by those gaping plot holes.
As harsh as this review may sound, “Bad as Me” is not, well, bad. Again, its issues lie in what’s come before it, compounded by rush to introduce new narrative points that, while wholly plausible, are explored much too quickly. Ava drafting Mike into the Bloods as the group’s leader is a sensible progression for his character; as Patient Zero, he’s the poster boy for this new evolution and, in that, he’s also the most powerful and most able to control his urges. Still, it’s something that would have been much more effective had it been held off until the finale. Season One should have focused more on Mike’s struggles with his new reality (and a select few others, like Ava and Danika) and those in the shadows who are looking to exploit the infection.
But this is what we’ve got and while V-Wars remains an up-and-down affair, it has just enough nuggets of goodness that, while concerned for the future prospects of what’s to come, I remain cautiously optimistic.