This review contains spoilers.
4.11 Space Oddity & 4.12 Shoot The Moon
Increasingly, there’s been a trend among television shows to turn season finales from a single episode into a big event. In some cases, they actually film a two-hour episode and make it a legitimate special event. More commonly, the big finale event is just two episodes shown back to back, perhaps with a little editing to make them flow together a bit better (or to cut out the recap). In the case of Falling Skies, you get two back-to-back episodes to finish off the fourth season and pave the way for the show’s final season next summer. The episodes covered a lot of ground, and I debated with myself for entirely too long how to best handle the review. In the end, I decided to treat them like the two-hour season finale event that they were sold as, even though the two episodes, Space Oddity and Shoot The Moon ended up being very different affairs.
If you like drama concerning the Mason family, then Space Oddity is right up your alley. After all, Lexi returned at the end of last week’s episode, and while she might have disturbed the launch attempt by foiling the beamer attack, she also created a lot of chaos for the Second Mass. Tom and Anne have some family trouble, taking turns yelling at Lexi, and then the rest of the group joins in to get on her case, from Maggie sarcastically thanking her to her brothers picking at her for her failings.
At times, it gets a little overbearing. It seems out of character for Tom to forgive everyone multiple times—all his kids have been compromised by the Espheni at one point or another—for the sorts of things that Lexie did, but apparently since she did it herself and wasn’t really drugged by any evil aliens, she bears the full brunt of a lot of frustration over various leadership failings. She might have caused a lot of deaths, but she’s also A) Tom and Anne’s daughter and B) the best weapon humanity has against the Espheni, if only she can be trusted.
There’s a lot of talking in this episode courtesy of M. Raven Metzger’s script, but it’s not all bad stuff. The set-up for the Tom dream situation is pretty fun, and it works really well to establish that things are going a little too well and people are acting a little too strangely for everything to be normal (kudos to the actors for playing weird so well). It’s nice that Tom and Lexi got to bond a little, even if she had to use everyone in Tom’s life as a surrogate and lock herself in a pod of her own (gross) Spider-Man-style webbing to keep them both alive.
It ends up being a nice little episode directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, albeit a quiet one when followed up by the season finale, which offered some really tense moments. Falling Skies very rarely digs into its 1950s B movie bag of tricks to get sci-fi horror on the audience, but when it does it ends up being an effective trick, and Shoot The Moon does that in surprisingly grand style from director Greg Beeman and writer David Eick. While Tom and Lexi try to figure out a way to save their mission from failure and Cochise frantically tries to call in reinforcements, the remaining fighters of the Second Mass are pinned down, quite literally, and facing a new and horrifying alien threat revealed in the cold opening. Remember those mystery pods from the factory and all the screaming people?
Well, they’re back and we get to see them in action. It’s really one of the more interesting effects, because it looks as though they’ve cribbed from every classic sci-fi monster movie. There’s a weird delivery system (the pod), lots of creeping dry ice fog (used basically like The Fog in the 80s movie), and scuttling in the mists are a bunch of little alien parasite things dragging Cronenbergian umbilical cords behind them. It’s like if you combined the Tingler from William Castle’s The Tingler, a Facehugger from Aliens, and a foetus. They’re not much of an offensive threat, until you get hot glued to the ground by the fog, that is, and they’re a fun new edition to the Falling Skies rogues gallery, though we may only see them once like we only saw the spiders feature prominently one time (remember them?).
Given that it’s the season finale, and the show has already killed off Tector and Lourdes, it makes for a tense episode because several characters are put into peril and could easily be killed off at any point, particularly Dingaan (we all know Pope won’t die despite his peril), Hal, and Weaver. Also some random background extras die, too, further reducing the Second Mass from 20 troops to… probably about 15 or so. It doesn’t seem like that many people actually died from the creatures, but they were creepy and looked appropriately slimy, so that works for TV purposes, and the misty scuttling makes them easy to animate.
It’s a nice counterpoint to the A-plot, which is Lexi’s redemption arc. That’s right, the alien girl from last episode who just wanted her father’s love is going to earn back everyone’s love the most Randy Quaid way possible, by crashing a space ship into the alien power core and blowing a huge hole into the moon. But of course there’s no way she can get away safely, and no way for Falling Skies to continue without a cliffhanger going into the fifth season, so Tom’s ship gets blown off course after the power core goes all Death Star (actually, Independence Day since she blows the bad guys up by crashing into them) and Lexi gets to die a hero. For now, at least. It was fun to watch Hal and Maggie take over the Tom role and make the dramatic speeches, though.
It cribs a lot from various sci-fi properties, but as finales go, it’s satisfying. Earth is saved, the balance of the war appears to be shifted, and Tom Mason is drifting helplessly in space in a damaged alien spaceship, with the Volm being his only hope of rescue. At least until he figures out a way to save himself from his damaged craft. I’m sure he’ll make it back in time for season five, but it’ll provide the standard “Mason in trouble” bridge to cover for the passage of time and it should provide for a fun set-up for next season.
All in all, it was an acceptable season, but Falling Skies is showing its age and is starting to get a little creaky and predictable. Next season being the final season (more time for Noah Wyle to film that Librarian TV series I suppose), it should improve things, since there won’t be any reason to keep people around any longer than necessary. Not that I’m expecting a blood bath, but it wouldn’t be a final season without a lot of tied-off plot threads, and that typically means death.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is glad he got some fun science fictiony stuff to close out the fourth season of a science fiction show. Less Mason threesome drama, more weird creepy-crawlies. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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