Falling Skies season 3 episode 3 review: Badlands

Falling Skies delivers a slower episode than last week's action-heavy two-parter. Here's Ron's review of Badlands...

This review contains spoilers.

3.3 Badlands

When you look at the television landscape, you see period dramas (Mad Men), expensive costume dramas (Game of Thrones), police procedurals, teen supernatural romances, and every other basic genre of film covered. In Falling Skies, you get a nice weekly dose of PG-13 sci-fi action with a positive, humanity-can-rise-above-our-differences message. It’s a fun bit of television, but you can’t rise above your differences if you don’t have differences. 

Thus far, the show has done a good job of keeping the antagonists somehow different from our heroes. Between harnessed kids, Pope back when he was a bad guy, and various potential collaborators (Karen in particular), there has always been a strong potential for human antagonists, but until this season, it has rarely been blatant. Pope and his people turned out to be helpful fighters against the Skitter threat, the harnessed kids can now be rescued, and people generally come around to Tom’s way of thinking, more or less. However, the universe affords other threats to Tom and Charleston. 

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It’s pretty clear that this week’s episode of Falling Skies was a slow down from the premiere week’s episodes, both of which featured CGI-heavy action sequences involving hordes of aliens, Doug Jones, and explosions a-plenty. This week still managed to sneak in an action sequence, but rather than spending the money on more aliens, the threat this week was human. Specifically, as we find out after a deadly sniper attack leads to a full-fledged battle between the defending Charlestonites and assaulting forces, the US military under the command of the supposed US president. 

Impressive opening aside, this was a pretty sedate episode as far as Falling Skies is concerned. No aliens, but plenty of Anne and Lourdes discussing creepy baby Alexis, as well as the show’s other subplots carried out around a central event, specifically the death of one of the show’s more prominent secondary characters. John Wirth, the writer of this specific episode, actually does a good job with the character’s slow, drawn-out death of Crazy Lee (Luciana Carro). It provides the character a lot more speaking time and screen time than we’re used to, but it also gives us a chance to see a different side of Pope. Carro, Maxim Knight, and Colin Cunningham put in good work here, and it’s nice to get some Pope screen time since he’s been a lighter element so far in the third season. 

However, there are some plot lines I’m not terribly sold on. The idea of the mole in Charleston is a good one, but I’m afraid it’s going to be the person who I think it is, and not the person who it probably should be. I’m not at all invested in Hal and Maggie’s couple storyline this season, though I like the attempts to keep things spiced up even if it’s not delivering. 

As for Anne, Lourdes, and baby Alexis, AKA Michigan J. Frog, that remains one of the creepier elements of the show’s third season. I mean, it’s nice that Tom and Anne have a baby, but wow, the execution of that baby and her peculiar abilities is just one of the most disturbing moments in the show. I like that they continue to keep Alexis’s strangeness limited to mommy only, to drag out the reveal of why Anne keeps hearing and seeing things a baby that young can’t do. 

However, TNT ruined the mystery at the end of this week’s episode with the trailer for next week’s, which I hate because why even bother stringing us along if you’re just going to explain everything in thirty seconds? I get that this isn’t that sort of show where a sustained mystery is not necessary, but it’s okay to have a little bit of suspense from week to week, rather than solving the mystery in the preview section. Falling Skies, at its core, is the kind of cheesy summer sci-fi action like we occasionally get from Spielberg, not a David Fincher flick, but I think a little mystery outside of the season finale wouldn’t kill too many of the audience members. 

A slower episode isn’t necessarily a bad episode, and enough interesting things were slipped into the episode for the weeks ahead that it didn’t feel like too much of a stall in the action. Falling Skies was reloading for the fireworks ahead. Here’s hoping the network won’t spoil those reveals, too.

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Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Collateral Damage, here

US Correspondent Ron Hogan would not want to be a janitor in the Falling Skies universe. It’s not just the rubble, it’s mostly the slime and glop from the alien bugs. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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