This review contains spoilers.
Falling Skies apparently saved up a big portion of its special effects budget for the final episode, which features multiple Beamer ships, a mega-mech, an Espheni transport ship, the long-awaited unveiling of the Volm super weapon, multiple members of the Volm race, and the Volm transport ship that has been one of humanity’s last, best hopes for winning the war against the alien invaders with a minimum amount of messy bloodshed. Well, human bloodshed, that is.
For all its failings, Falling Skies has been very optimistic. For every bad moment near the close of an episode, there’s been some sort of redemption by the end of the hour. Each season, we’ve had some sort of big cliffhanger to carry us the months between the finale and the show’s return next summer. However, Brazil seems to be intent on completely changing the game. Not only do we not get a really big final mystery, like Tom disappearing into the alien spacecraft from last season, but we also don’t get the big happy ending, either. It’s kind of a downbeat moment for the show.
All season long, the Volm ship has been the promised tide that turns the war. The Volm themselves were game-changers, but that ship was supposed to be the back-breaking spearhead of the human war against the skitters and fishheads and other evil aliens, but they’re actually not just going to go along and get along with humanity. As it turns out, the Volm have their own goals for the war, and the human urge to fight back not only confuses them – humans are the only species in the Falling Skies world willing to scrap with their superior foes, thanks to the human spirit and blah blah blah – but also changes how they typically do business. The Volm want to send humanity off to a glorified concentration camp in Brazil while they do all the killing. For once, the show turns against Tom’s optimism and makes the more negative sorts, like Pope and Weaver, the correct option.
Normally, I like that idea, but not in this case. For me, it feels like a cop-out, as if the show is admitting that it costs too much to have the Volm and the Volm weapons around, so they have a great way to write them out of the show. I don’t blame Remi Aubuchon, this week’s writer, and they may well reintroduce the Volm at a point next season, but it leaves me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. It’s not what I wanted; what I wanted was a full-fledged alien war. I wanted Tom to be right about the Volm intentions, and I guess that isn’t the case.
For all my complaining, it was a very solid episode of Falling Skies. There was nothing great – the show has had bigger and better moments this season – but pretty solid nonetheless. Greg Beeman knows how to handle the camera, and I liked the ending camp pack-up scene where the camera essentially captured a panorama of characters dealing with the fall-out of their actions. I liked a lot of the special effects sequences, particularly the collapsing Espheni tower and the arriving Volm ship crushing the remains of Boston beneath its massiveness, but it felt like a mid-season episode of Falling Skies, not a season finale. Yes, they snipped off some stray story lines, and they reintroduced some missing elements, but there’s not a sense of a true sea change, just a continuation of the first season’s guerrilla resistance with a few more elements of the third season’s technological arms race. The Volm have kicked the 2nd Mass out of Boston, and they talk about heading to Charleston and seeing what’s left of the United States pre-invasion government, but none of that seems exciting.
I imagine it’s going to be the stuff that’s jumped over in the next seven months or whatever break the show takes this time around. That’s still one of the braver elements, and I imagine that they’ll have a brand new cast member next season as the grown-up (or at least teenage) Lexie Mason. Hopefully they can also find more recurring time for Dale Dye, Robert Sean Leonard, and Brad Kelly’s Lyle, who has become one of the funnier members of Pope’s Berzerkers when given a chance to play off against Colin Cunningham.
The show has a pretty sizeable cast of characters, and plenty of chances to explore with them, I just hope they don’t fumble the opportunity. The third season had a lot of great chances to create interesting television, and it tended to be a little too safe. Here’s hoping the uncharacteristic ending for this season portends a sci-fi version of Band of Brothers for next season.