Falling Skies season 4 episode 8 review: A Thing With Feathers

Falling Skies is mutating at the pace of its aliens. Where will it end up, asks Ron?

This review contains spoilers.

4.8 A Thing With Feathers

As usual, Falling Skies takes the easier, happier way out. After the downturn in mood of last week’s episode, in which the Espheni scored a victory over the Second Mass thanks to some poor civic planning and an exposed, exploding gas line, Falling Skies reverts to the mean this week by using the miraculous alien technology at their disposal to correct a pesky, depressing turn away from the happy and soap opera that the show typically trades in. Unsurprisingly, the episode is titled A Thing With Feathers, which is a line cribbed from the Emily Dickinson poem.

On the surface, the surviving major characters emerge from their fallout shelter, having successfully snookered the aliens by hiding from their scanners and explosives after the failure of their last stand versus the Espheni forces. Pope’s there, Anne’s there, Hal’s there (screaming for the missing Maggie), but there are some big characters who aren’t home, namely Tom, Dingaan, and Maggie herself. Cue the searching through the rubble for survivors, and cue a lot of moralizing from the searchers and the searched for about the human condition so long after the initial alien invasion. Meanwhile, under the rubble, Maggie is paralyzed and Tom and Dingaan are trapped in the rubble of a downed Beamer.

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Now, one of the things writer Ryan Mottesheard does this week to throw us off the happiness trail is to leave a lot of bread crumbs that suggest bad things can happen. Tom can’t die, but Dingaan is expendable and he’s freaking out beneath the rubble, discussing his tragic back story in true “this guy’s about to die” fashion. Maggie might not be killed off, but there are lots of Mason boys and wouldn’t it be a big twist for Ben to die trying to safe Maggie? Or, better yet, both of them die, leaving Hal a rudderless mess and reminding Tom that he can’t save everyone’s lives with inexhaustible hope?

That Tom’s hope is artificial most of the time is an interesting character development, even if I could care less about Dingaan’s sad back story and how he lied about the deaths of his family to cover up his involvement in the activity. What I would love to have seen more is Dingaan work out some very clever, techno-centric solution to the problem he and Tom were facing, since Falling Skies badly needs another mad genius-type character (see Uncle Scott from the first season) and Dingaan did make a freaking Faraday suit. To be fair to Treva Etienne, he did a fine job with his emotional moment, but I’m not invested in Dingaan enough to care. Now if Tom had a breakdown, the episode might have worked out better for me, but you’re stuck with the show you get, not the show you want. Hope and guns are fine, but I would like to see a little more ingenuity in equipment, not just battle tactics this season, especially given Dingaan’s apparent engineering background.

What I’m not looking forward to is the inevitable Hal/Maggie/Ben love triangle, especially now that Ben and Maggie are spike sisters (or whatever term you’d like to use for people who are sharing spikes). It was fine when it was Karen/Hal/Maggie, because that felt like there were potential stakes there and a way to either lure Hal to the dark side or win Karen back—who was a very strong character in her time—but this particular pairing just seems like it’s going to lead to a big soapy mess, and I’m not really into it. That’s one reason why I was hoping Maggie might die, or that Ben would hook up with Denny as was teased last season.

Some credit is due to director David Solomon, who does a good job making things look claustrophobic when pinned in the rubble while making the alien spacecraft bits look extra weird and biopunk. However, the blowing beamer pieces didn’t strike home with me. It was weird, but it seems atypical considering we’ve never seen the beamers behave like that before. This is clearly a new wrinkle, but what it means I couldn’t even guess. The aliens have changed techniques and motivations and abilities quite a bit over the seasons—remember when the skitters used to be impossible to kill?—and perhaps now it’s the beamers’ turn to mutate into something else entirely.

Also, it seems, the show is mutating, too. What it will end up being at the end is anybody’s guess. Like Tom Mason, I’m hopeful. However, like Ben saw, sometimes change is good, and sometimes change means weird slime glopola gas monsters and lots of screaming

Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Saturday Night Massacre, here.

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US Correspondent Ron Hogan is not terribly surprised to see that Falling Skies eventually reverts to its positive mean, even if it occasionally shakes off a few cast members now and then. But hey, at least Lexi is evil now? Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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