Falling Skies season 4 episode 10 review: Drawing Straws
Falling Skies' family melodrama is never its strongest suit, and this week's episode is chock-full of it...
This review contains spoilers.
4.10 Drawing Straws
Falling Skies works best when it's blasting aliens and having fun with its sci-fi, or when it dabbles in horror elements to try to be creepy. The Mason family drama is not the show's strongest suit, though it has worked at times in the past. This week, however, the Mason squabbling throws a spanner into the works and detracts from some very good special affects on the beamer ships. Lexi travels to the Dianetics commercial lava world, overhears an alien plot, and destroys some valuable alien hardware in her return to the good side, but we spend much more time listening to people bicker than we do watching Lexi turn good and kill some fish heads
Tom bickers with Anne about his inability to let anyone else be the hero, since Tom feels like he's the most competent pilot even though Dingaan has thirteen hours' flight time and I seem to vaguely remember Pope once had an airplane at his disposal. I doubt he'd have an airplane if he has no flying ability. Granted, I can see that Tom has a point about blind draws being a terrible way to assign duties, but he's also not the person that should be undertaking this mission if only because Hal is the guy that built the bomb and Dingaan, Pope, or both are experienced pilots.
As if that wasn't enough, Ben, Hal, and Maggie continue to be a thing. They tease a reconciliation, then Hal goes to accept his brother's apology about the time Maggie is ready to make out with Ben and use the spikes as an excuse. While this is a great place for Hal to be the bigger man, shrug off the possessiveness, and make a smirky joke about how Matt might marry her before all is said and done given what's happened, it's not enough to save what has been a dud plot. I like Maggie as a character, but I like her more when she's not the girl tearing a family apart (unwitting though it is). I like Ben and Hal better when they're shooting up aliens and not snapping back and forth at one another over Maggie.
However, one of the bits of family drama actually works for me, and that's the tale of Matt. Yes, he was dumb to betray the team last week, but it's naive hope and the ghost of a first crush that really triggers Matt's teenage rebelliousness. It's annoying, but teenagers are annoying. Even relatively good teenagers like Matt Mason can be obnoxious, and Tom seems like he's taking his stress out on Matt a little bit in the process—after all, he's the one who figures out how to fly the alien ship, not them, and while he did nearly get them all killed, he's far from the only screw-up in the Second Mass. Matt's tight hug and confession of love for his father near the end of the episode are a good reminder that he's still a little boy, in spite of everything he's been through, and Tom's still the most important person in his life.
Josh Pate's work in that scene feels real in a way that Pope's scene with Weaver doesn't, when Pope is sneaking Weaver and Mason's names out of the sorting hat. Pope's had a dead ex-wife and dead kids for ages at this point, he's been a gang leader, a hero to the berserkers, a guy who basically had his own town in Charleston, and he was the kingpin of the ghetto. Are we to believe that one girl walks off on him and he's suddenly ready to go on? Perhaps his world-weariness has been a cover for his actual weariness with the tormenting world around him, and it's a great bit for Colin Cunningham as an actor, but it doesn't feel quite right.
The things director Adam Kane gets right this week are really well done. The beamer ship is a credit to the special effects crew, and ditto the scene in which the invading beamer force gets blown out of the sky by Lexi. Her dramatic return looks great too, as Lexi is the only person in camp who doesn't look like she smells like body odour and malnutrition. Kane is able to deftly blend his special effects with his practical sets and actors in a way that ends up being fun. He cribs a bit from Scanners for Lexi's destruction of her alien partner/parent, but that's fine; stealing is always encouraged when it's stealing from the best, and unlike an exploding head, this unlucky Espheni monk gets imploded into atomic dust.
With the two-hour season finale coming up, and the fifth season being the final outing for Falling Skies, I can't help but feel hopeful despite the melodrama being a millstone around the show's neck at times. Having an endgame in sight typically perks up a tired show, and Noah Wylie will get the freedom to work on the Librarian TV series that TNT's developing to replace what is one of the most popular shows on summer cable. Hey, Noah Wylie might be in this same time slot two years from now!
US Correspondent Ron Hogan wants more action and less Mason family feuding. He's probably not the only one, given the attitudes of the folks in Camp Tom. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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