Falling Skies: Non-Essential Personnel Review

Excitement and tension abound in this frantic episode, but narrative detours get frustrating at this crucial time in the final season.

This review contains spoilers for the latest episode.

Well, the good news is that this episode had plenty of action, some great speeches, and a return to the contentious days of earlier, more satisfying seasons of Falling Skies when aliens weren’t the only enemy. I loved seeing Pope in his bowling alley throne, and there were some wonderful moments from Hal and Weaver this week. Some of the best “WTF” scenes of the episode came right before the commercial breaks, and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the hour. The bad news is it was all a complete waste of time, and this show has precious little time left to squander.

Honestly, I was looking forward to seeing Pope return to his evil “biker king” personality, and the episode began with promise as he and Anthony came to the rescue of some inept survivors of a nearby ghetto. Pope, building an army? Cool! Leading Tom on a wild goose chase was deliciously cruel as well, and Tom’s vow to kill Pope when Hal’s arm was sliced had tremendous gravitas. But the resulting sloppiest shootout on record only left Pope with a wicked graze on his cheek and an escaped prisoner. I understand the man is grieving, but he seemed so much more prepared in the earlier part of the episode. Why was he caught so off guard? I don’t know; it felt slapdash to me.

I’m not sure what to make of Tom’s journey. Separated from the 2nd Mass at a critical time, his whole story comes across as isolated and abrupt. It makes sense that he has to go after Hal alone after being challenged by Pope on the subject of risking others to save his family, and his vulnerability creates a nice amount of tension. It’s a shame the prescient Dornia couldn’t stop him from infiltrating the camp where both Pope and a giant hornet were waiting for him. How many times does this make for Tom being carried away by the Espheni? I’ve lost count. The shock of his capture was a nice twist, though, I must admit.

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The biggest waste of time, however, was the pit stop for Weaver and company, and I’m sure they felt the same way. But from a narrative standpoint, what did the viewers get? More great speeches from Dan, who is quickly becoming the moral voice of the show, and a character we couldn’t possibly care about now that only five episodes remain. Aside from a satisfying but confusing “spikes” moment between Maggie and Ben just before they leaped to a second story window, a fun joke about back-seat driving from Cochise, and a cute line from Anne calling Weaver, “honey,” I couldn’t help but feel that this storyline went nowhere. The tragic story of a man who lost his whole family would have been fine in season two or three, but not in a shortened final season.

And why introduce another new character, the fake nurse from the ghetto survivors, this late in the game? Is it to give Hal a new woman in his life to replace Maggie? She had good instincts and played the tough situation very well, but it doesn’t feel right to let the new girl trick Pope and steal his keys. Some great acting from Drew Roy helped sell Hal’s strength in adversity and the drama of the whole situation, but his escape – with a vehicle no less – seemed way too easy. I certainly care about what happens to Hal as he circles fruitlessly in search of his father, but again I wonder, “Do we have time for this?”

My one remaining hope in watching this chaotic episode is that Anthony will see the error of his ways. When Pope casually killed a wounded man he just recruited, Anthony is clearly troubled even as the new people cower in fear. Obviously, the audience is meant to see how terrible Pope would be as a leader, and his treatment of these strangers clearly illustrates that. But does Anthony see it? I’m hoping he’ll be the instrument of Pope’s eventual downfall if that’s what the show calls for in the end.

There are only five episodes left to resolve this little Pope-Mason tiff and get to D.C. I’m extremely happy that the 2nd Mass is on the road again; the best stories in Falling Skies have come from when the group was traveling. But no more guys with missile launchers and a dead family holding the entire company hostage, please! Ain’t nobody got time for that!


3 out of 5