This review contains spoilers.
It’s very rare that an episode of Falling Skies shows a lot of focus towards one pivotal event. This is a show that goes well out of its way to make sure that every possible plot thread gets noted every week, and Exodus is no exception. However, it’s also a much more focused episode of television than was broadcast last week. We had check-ins with Matt and Anne and Lexi’s cult, but most of the attention was put onto the most important piece of action, the escape from the Espheni ghetto.
Given the build-up to Tom’s big escape plan, it’s fitting that it actually comes off in the least Falling Skies way possible. Traditionally, this is a show where everything seems to go right for our heroes, their plans are executed flawlessly, and there’s a minimum of casualties, primarily among redshirts and CGI aliens. However, this may be the first big plan in Falling Skies history where everything goes completely wrong at every possible step. From something as simple as Tom missing a turn and throwing his escape route into slight chaos to a freak acciedent breaking Dingaan’s hand badly enough to force a change of plans on who dons the Faraday suit, everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and yet somehow, since this is Falling Skies, it all works out okay in the end, it just takes a bit longer and creates some fun dramatic tension in the process.
Exodus turns out to be a very action-oriented episode of Falling Skies, to the show’s benefit. You’ve got Tom leading a merry chase on one side of the compound, while Pope does battle against both time and common sense to try and climb over an organ-frying electrical fence in a crazy contraption suit on the other side of the camp while Hal is in the sewers stabbing skitters with a sharpened pole. Director Mikael Salomon does a good job of emphasizing the action, without overwhelming too much with camera trickery. You don’t need a lot of additions to make a motorcycle chase exciting; it’s a pretty exciting conceit on its own. Things move confidently, and there’s a pretty good walk-and-talk as they get everyone prepared for just what they’re supposed to be doing the next day that involves most of the show’s prominent ghetto cast members in the same room that works really well.
It’s worth noting just how good the CGI can be on Falling Skies. Sure, the skitters can move a bit sketchily as they’re skittering around, but the close-ups are pretty spot on, and the show’s other aliens, particularly the gigantic fish heads, are surprisingly solid looking. There are some dodgy elements in the form of CGI fire, but a CGI flame thrower burning giant CGI aliens ends up looking pretty solid in spite of everything. Some of the moments, like Tom’s swan dive from the top of an exploding building, are pretty clearly fake, but in that charming way that you used to get with practical effects.
Perhaps I’m sucked in by the CGI because I actually bought into the show’s continued hints that the plot actually wouldn’t happen. Writer Josh Pate makes sure to set up several potential spots for the plan’s downfall, from the cliched elderly couple staggering out last to join the escaping group to uncharacteristic screw-ups by Tom Mason and the never-trustworthy Pope, and then pretty much allows all of them to happen at the same time without that actually disrupting the escape… at least, for now. It’s a pretty brave decision, all things considered, to have the plan actually have some doubt in it, but since it is Falling Skies, there wasn’t much chance of it not being successful no matter how many things went wrong.
Doubt and failure can be a good thing for a television show’s characters to go through. After all, Ben and Maggie’s doubt in Lexi is the only thing making that storyline interesting, not counting Anne’s sudden return to the scene after a prophetic vision in this week’s little check-in with those two groups. Lexi’s commune is too good to be true, and it’s no wonder why Maggie is a doubter, and why Ben might be a doubter, too. Of course, given Lexi’s disarming of Maggie, and her insistence that her meeting with fish heads in secret is part of her plan to bring their worlds together, those doubts are either reinforced or buried, depending on your response to those situations. I still have my doubts, if only because Falling Skies can’t be all good all the time. Still, for the moment, doubt is all we need to keep things interesting, even if Tom’s not the kind of guy we have any reason to doubt.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, The Eye, here.
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