This review contains spoilers.
4.5 Mind Wars
In life, there are things you have to do and there are things you must do. The difference between the two can be subtle on the surface, but to the person making the decision, the gulf is incalculably vast and painful to bridge. With things you must do, it’s simply a matter of survival. With things you have to do, it’s a matter of duty, honour, and protecting those you care about. Revenge, as it turns out, is neither of these things, and it’s the duty of all survivors in the Falling Skies universe to learn the difference and act accordingly, because that’s what separates those who survive by any means necessary from those who survive with a little bit of basic human dignity.
As we saw last week, not all strangers are trustworthy, but not all strangers are dangerous, either. Pope’s made a new friend, and this week it’s up to Tom Mason to make a couple of new friends while on the road from the internment camp with Weaver and Matt. Nick (Gil Bellows) and Cooper (Aaron Douglas) are friendly, they have food, and more importantly, they know who Tom is—the legendary Ghost who ran the skitters and mechs ragged in the concentration camp—and they’re more than willing to help out. Perhaps too willing, and they’re also pretty flush with resources while Tom, Weaver, and Hal have to make due with a scrounged-up rifle and the kindness of strangers.
If you get the sense that these two are going to betray Tom and company, you’d be right. The episode takes a pretty quick dark turn for Tom and company, courtesy of writer Bruce Marshall Romans. Nick and Cooper both seem to be fairly layered characters, particularly as single-episode visitors go, and they’re both pretty nasty customers, with Nick being the leader and kingpin of evil (the Merle Dixon if you will) to Cooper’s kinder, more willing to follow figure (the Daryl Dixon, without the vest or crazy hair). These two are set up to be slightly… wrong from the very beginning, and both the actors, Gil Bellows and Aaron Douglas, do fine jobs with their mostly thankless roles. It’s pretty easy to figure out where the story is going, and there’s no real mystery there, but it’s done competently enough and it gives Weaver and Matt a chance to talk about what makes a soldier versus a killer, and it’s always nice to give Will Patton parenting moments with the Mason kids, as he’s a great grandfatherly figure and he has good chemistry with the younger actors on the show.
Meanwhile, Hal and the Volm continue to slowly make their way over to Lexi, Anne, and the sanctuary, which apparently can be seen on the maps within the heads of the mechs after they get destroyed. Of course, Lexi can’t see that the Espheni are evil (even though the rest of her compatriots seems to know it) and Lourdes continues to be used as a cat’s paw for nefarious purposes, which is kind of a bummer considering how fresh the character felt in the first two seasons. Now it seems like she’s the designated dupe, both getting infected by alien bugs last season and now helping Lexi make terrible decisions this season. Of course, this makes sense since Lexi is still mentally a child and Lourdes has seen enough of Lexi’s powers to fall in line behind her loyally, just like Dr Kadar and the rest of the folks who tossed away their weapons in exchange for safety.
Director Nathaniel Goodman does a more-than-capable job with the action scenes, particularly the surprising final moments of the episode in which Tom has his bacon saved by Weaver, as well as in the early moments when Tom and Matt are escaping from the abandoned safe point the Volm used as a home base. He does good work with the actors as well, as judging by my praise for Will Patton and company, but he doesn’t elevate the episode.
It’s good, but not great, which seems to be the niche that Falling Skies is aiming for. There’s something to be said for consistent entertainment, even if it’s not going to be jaw-dropping or revolutionary or brilliant television every week out. But hey, it’s July, it’s hot outside, and you’re watching some good character actors shoot machine guns. I don’t need much more than that.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is nursing a slight sunburn and a critical case of having his face melted off by music for a whole weekend, which means he looks roughly like that Espheni that Tom Mason burned in the camp. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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