This review contains spoilers.
4.7 Saturday Night Massacre
Major character purges aren’t a thing that Falling Skies indulges in. That’s something more for the less positive shows on cable, like your Walking Deads or your Game Of Thrones, which cheerfully—even gleefully—kill off noteworthy characters left and right during the course of a season. Falling Skies isn’t that show. Saturday Night Massacre, however, lives up to the title, despite airing on Sunday evening. Talk about major cast changes.
At its core, Falling Skies is a really positive show where characters who mean well generally come out on top. The strong, kind instincts of a man like Tom Mason, history professor turned unlikely general in a guerrilla war, usually work out for him. Not in this case. The daughter he’s fought so hard to take care of, to protect from the doubting crowds, has turned… well, for lack of a better word, she’s gone evil. Lexi has abandoned her followers (and her family), to go on walkabout after killing her last true follower: Lourdes. With Ben giving chase, Hal, Tom, and the rest of the survivors of the Second Mass are left to face off against an overwhelming alien force, led by the evil burned Overlord that’s such a fan of Tom. It’s Rio Bravo, but with more space monsters and a rain of fire from Chinese lanterns.
When facing insurmountable odds and dangerous opponents, humans have typically come out okay on Falling Skies. Very rarely do the forces of the Second Mass face actual defeat, and yet… that seems to be what happened today. With one hundred people and a town rigged with explosives, you’d think that the humans would be able to draw the alien invaders into the kill zone, but as it turns out, there’s still natural gas service in Lexi’s sanctuary and that goes explosively awry for both the defenders and the offensive forces. It also leads to massive casualties, including some familiar faces like Robert Sean Leonard’s Dr. Kadar, Lourdes (killed by Lexi in a sort-of mercy killing), Tector (killed by the Overlord), and from the looks of things, even Maggie (crushed beneath rubble after the gas explosion).
Really, it’s a good way for the show’s technical crew to get around the promise of a huge battle with a cast in the triple digits while still killing off some fairly popular characters (like Tector) and avoiding some unnecessary soap-opera stuff (by killing Maggie and possibly shipping Ben off to alien land with Lexi). No doubt the move also makes the show cheaper, because those big walk-and-talk trips through the camp will not need lots of extras; the Second Mass is down to thirty people, most of whom are fighters, so no more civilian hang-arounds to feed. It should make for a leaner, perhaps meaner show, and it’s clear that writers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson were looking to focus on killing off/shuffling characters rather than expanding the soap opera.
There’s still plenty of that stuff to go around, but they also blow up what amounts to a small town, albeit not in a particularly graphic way. Director Olatunde Osunsanmi works in the show’s signature moment, that walk-and-talk, but most of his attention is placed to staging the combat. The mech-killing metal rain seemed to be a pretty clever trick, and it looks pretty good on television too, which is kind of surprising given that Osunsanmi directed The Fourth Kind, one of my least favourite movies I’ve ever covered for Den of Geek. It does get a bit muddled, and mechs seem to be getting easier to kill as the show goes on, but that’s the case with every long-running programme of this sort.
The stakes have to constantly go up, particularly in an action environment, and since Falling Skies can’t show too many decapitations or exploding torsos, they have to settle for increasing the combat and continually throwing in new elements—super weapons or impenetrable fences or tethers—to keep things interesting. Lexi seems to be the next agent of chaos in the show’s arsenal, and it’ll hopefully spice things up when she inevitably chooses the side of humanity in the war for freedom. Or, just maybe, the show will surprise me and install Lexi as the next bad guy.
That might make this whole thing worthwhile.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is glad to see that Falling Skies can still occasionally surprise him by killing off guys and having heroic last-ditch stuff fail every now and then. If only they could do something about making Lexi more interesting rather than simply giving her Ben. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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