Falling Skies episode 4 review: Grace

Does Falling Skies need to be a bit more downbeat? Ron checks out the latest episode...

This review contains spoilers.

4. Grace

Well, this week’s adventure sees Tom and his team out in the world, with their new ‘friend’ Pope (Colin Cunningham) in tow, to find a storehouse of motorcycles that Pope seems to know about, due to his criminal past. We know what motivates Tom. He wants to help the resistance, but mostly he wants to get his son back, and the Second Mass leadership gets its greatest bargaining chip. They keep Tom working with the hope that, after he does (fill in the job), he’ll get to go rescue his son.

They continue to abuse this privilege this week, which makes me wonder just how much more of this Tom will take before he says, “Screw the resistance. I’m getting my son back one way or another.” After the events of last week, in which one of Tom’s own team loses his cool and blows Tom’s chance at getting his son back, even the most mild-mannered of history professor has a breaking point, right? That’s not this week, but I get the feeling it’ll be soon, and that Pope will be involved somehow.

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Speaking of Pope, one of the things that bothered me about this week’s episode is that they telegraphed what happened with Pope and the away team miles in advance. When Pope and Dai (Peter Shinkoda) wander off together to gather fuel and scrounge for motorcycle parts, well, you know what happens. It’s not a spoiler when the obvious happens, is it? Even though Dai is a fighter, Pope is a dirty fighter, and Dai’s the one distracted by looking for useful stuff, while Pope gets to just plan his escape. It’s obvious, and the military makes several stupid mistakes this week, which I blame on screenwriter, Melinda Hsu Taylor.

Meanwhile, Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and Harris (Steven Weber) are having a little debate vis-à-vis the skitters. Do you try to be peaceful and talk to them (Anne’s take), or do you simply torture them until they somehow magically communicate with you? As it turns out, the secret to interspecies communication might lie in the humble radio, either the one Uncle Scott (Bruce Gray) is working on, or the one that allows the skitters to control their harnessed slave children via what I can only assume is telepathy.

Enter Mike (Martin Roach) and his son, who’s the collared boy they rescued last week. As it turns out, Harris’ solution to the harness removal issue is to drug the children with massive amounts of morphine to kind of ease the pain of returning to the real world. There’s one problem with that, aside from the fact that you’re hooking children on enough opiates to knock out Charlie Sheen, and that problem might be that the kids are better off with the harnesses on. As it turns out, Mike’s son had cystic fibrosis, until his robot/alien spine bracelet cured it.

Are the aliens all bad, or are they just creepy? Well, it depends on your philosophy, I guess. The same questions could be asked about the purpose of the skitters, the reasoning behind the two-legged mechs and whether or not they’re skitters in suits or robots, and (of course) why they have kids collecting scrap metal? There’s no telling what’s going on here, and so far, the show isn’t letting on. The clues we’ve gotten mostly concern the spine harnesses and the potential way the skitters communicate.

The episode moves well enough, and director Fred Toye (Alias, Fringe) knows his stuff behind the camera. The shots are framed well, especially the POW skitter torture scenes, which are both affecting in the sense that we feel bad for the skitter, and impressive, in that the skitter itself looks great and is wonderfully Giger-y in terms of its creepiness.

While they’re spending all the special effects budget on the captured skitter, they’ve found other ways to use the slaves as weapons under the supervision of skitters, kind of like how the Mongol hordes used to have an army of conscripts, or how the ancient Roman legions used auxiliary forces for the stuff that the citizens didn’t want to do (or just as cannon fodder). They’re pushing the humans into direct combat with the very children they keep trying to save, and sooner or later the Second Mass is going to have to make a decision as to just how far they’re willing to go, and how many losses they’re willing to endure to get their children back safe and sound and free them from the clutches of the aliens.

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I like where the show is going, but it seems like they’re holding back a little too much. This should be bleaker, even downbeat at times, but it seems like it’s a very optimistic show, in spite of all the horrible things that keep happening. We need less cute kid, more disturbing moments like the armed slave kids surrounding the motorcycle shop.

Read our review of episode 3, Prisoner Of War, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan has no idea what to say here. Probably something about slimy aliens. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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