Falling Skies: Respite review

With precious few episodes remaining, Falling Skies examines its own navel instead of moving towards the expected high stakes conclusion.

This Falling Skies review contains spoilers.

As my patience with the pacing of Falling Skies wears thin, I have to ask myself what I really expect of the final season. It’s not that I want action-packed battles between the humans and the Espheni, especially since the CGI budget isn’t likely to be very large for this lame duck show. I just want more of the war and less of the character motivations, which have already been well-established in the prior four seasons.

The episode title “Respite” connotes a rest period from hard labor, but it also implies a lull, a stagnant period in the narrative that is frustratingly stuck in stories that don’t matter.

Tom’s visit with the family who has sheltered from the war was great, sure. Tom was able to move away from his “Find your warrior” self and return to the history professor that began the series. He could have easily drafted the 15-year-old soldier’s son into his war in the name of doing whatever it takes to win, but he didn’t. I like the message, and it will be interesting to see how the Dornia, who set him on his more violent path, will react. I’m predicting fireworks.

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But it was all so contrived! The hornet carried him off last week to our great shock and dismay, and now we find a local family living in a pastoral paradise has rescued him so that he could learn the lesson he needed to move forward? It’s too pat. It cheapened his reunion with Hal and the rest of the 2nd Mass and ignored his encounter with Pope; no real price was exacted. Well… except for Tom’s sideburns, may they rest in peace.

And now the group has two new characters to take care of: the hero-worshipping Marty and the diplomat’s daughter, Isabella. The first provided the miraculous discovery of a hidden Espheni communication hub – by far the most interesting element of the episode. Sure, let’s give that to the new guy. The second sets up a new love triangle around Hal just as the one surrounding Maggie, which everyone was praying would end, finally got resolved. Tell me, how am I supposed to care about this with only four episodes left?

I’d rather hear about the discovery under the distillery floor, the relay that carries the discussions of the Overlords as they squeeze their lumps of coal to speak with each other in the shadow plane. That’s got some real sci-fi bite to it! Weaver put his hand on it, and his vision delivered the most exciting moment of the episode: a huge gathering of fish-heads! Tell me more about that!

At least the group made it to Fayateville; that’s at least some forward progress towards whatever’s going on in D.C. I could almost forgive Maggie for slowing things down with her request to have her spikes removed. Anne had a point about needing all of her soldiers, but let’s be honest: there never would have been a convenient time to do the surgery.

What bothered me wasn’t Maggie’s motivation; I totally get that. It was way in which Anne was called in to assist with the stubborn third spike. Anne’s solution to Cochise’s inability to extract the final squealer? Throw a blanket on her and pull harder! This astonishingly mundane maneuver allows Anne to find out about Maggie going behind her back more quickly, but it’s just overly simplistic writing, akin to the ridiculously straightforward transplant surgery last week.

The characters are still the 2nd Mass members viewers have known and loved for years, but more and more it seems they perform stilted actions and accommodate new characters in a very forced manner. They deserve better, and so does the Falling Skies audience. Call me thick-headed, but I’m done with the “who” and “why.” Let’s get on with the “how” and “when.”

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2 out of 5