This Falling Skies review contains spoilers.
With an immediate and dramatic payoff for Pope’s grief last week, the somewhat transparently named “Pope Breaks Bad” delivers on the promise of its title. It’s easy to forget how far Pope has come on the road to redemption, and this feels like a return to the ne’er-do-well from earlier seasons, the one the audience loves to hate. Pope’s anger tied together nicely with Anthony’s frustration, Anne’s grief, and Cochise’s flood of human feelings, and although some of the 2nd Mass’ fortunes, good and bad, seemed contrived in the extreme, the episode succeeded greatly on an emotional level.
It’s easy for Pope to play on people’s incredulity at the survival rate of the Mason boys, and he’s right that an earlier version of Tom would have rescued Sarah if one of his sons had been in her place. The listing of names of those who have died, including many of Pope’s Berserkers, made a compelling argument. Nevertheless, Tom put Pope on the spot brilliantly by putting a gun to his head, and Anne did a pretty good job of putting him in his place as well. Altogether, I think the kidnapping of Hal will play out in a big way in the coming episodes. Plus I love the new, bald Pope, and I can’t wait to see what comes of his seething rage.
Some powerful emotion came out of the Cochise plot line as well, but it was soured somewhat by being completely out of left field. Cochise reaching the end of his lifespan was played such that the Volm kept it quiet because he was unaware it would upset the humans, but it came across as simply a convenient plot device to allow Cochise to express his deep attachment to his companions and to similarly give Anne a chance to say goodbye to Lexi. The tearful moments were deeply heartfelt (and it was nice to see Scarlett Byrne again), but everything from the transplant operation to Ben mentioning Lexi out of the blue appeared hastily assembled.
Likewise, the operation to retrieve more much-needed supplies came almost too easily just as similar missions did in previous weeks. Canisters of gas, walkie talkies, and that pristine sports car just lying around this far after the invasion? Even though I’m happy for the success of the find, it truly stretches all credibility! I almost had to laugh at poor Ryan, the latest redshirt, getting eaten by the bugs just as the accusations Pope was leveling against Tom were ready to be aired publicly.
At least there were tidbits of the larger story this season being nicely teased. There was the tantalizing mention of a “Mason militia” in Bolivia where the famous Nazca lines can be seen from the air and are often associated with ancient alien visitors. How will the pockets of humanity unite? The Dornia, posing as Tom’s first wife, Rebecca, once again show up speaking less cryptically at first but unfortunately only delivering a warning about Hal’s disappearance, which Tom would have found out about sooner or later anyway. Obviously the new aliens are here for the long haul and will play a big part in however this series ends, and the writers are drawing out this element for as long as possible.
These hints at future episodes, executed quite well, make it all the more puzzling why Falling Skies keeps dropping these crazy circumstances into a single episode instead of following its own example. Life-threatening situations like the loss of all food stores, the Skitter creation vats, or the potential loss of Cochise were all introduced in isolation this season and quickly dispatched within the hour. It’s just so choppy, and the more effective emotional moments suffer because of it.
As a result, although I loved this episode, I also sniff at it derisively. All I want is for this series to go out swinging. Hopefully, evil Pope and the Dornia can deliver on the promise of fun things to come.