This review contains spoilers.
5.1 Find Your Warrior
In season four of Falling Skies, Battlestar Galactica veteran David Eick took over as showrunner and producer, and the show shifted subtly from a Revolutionary War parallel to a more traditional war story. Now, with the final season locked in for ten episodes, Eick is promsing even more chaos and carnage, transitioning from the Revolution to Vietnam. He’s even gone as far as to call the last season of Falling Skies ‘Apocalypse Now on crystal meth’. The family drama is getting put by the wayside for some good, old-fashioned alien murder, or so we’re promised.
That remains to be seen, but after watching the first episode of the season, I can say that there is a very high body count and for once, Falling Skies doesn’t trade bloodshed for speeches—you get both, typically one after the other! Perhaps this biggest change thus far is that rather than flashing ahead three months or so, we pick up the action immediately where we left off at the end of season four. Lexi has made a sacrifice, Tom has been somehow rescued from the out-of-control ship, and the Espheni war machine is shattered and in disarray. Now it’s time for the humans to strike back, under familiar leadership with a new outlook on war.
Tom has never met a chance to speak to the group that he hasn’t taken, and after waking up from some sort of fever dream and swimming to shore, he’s rejoining the Second Mass with a new outlook. No more Mr. Nice Professor; Tom Mason is ready and looking forward to driving the aliens into the sea. In the first episode alone, there are two rousing speeches (one from Anne, one from Tom in which he punctuates his point about tapping into rage by brandishing a severed alien head) and multiple scenes of human versus alien combat. Unlike some other episodes, this combat is bloody and merciless—a gymnasium full of skitters gets slaughtered with salvaged mech machine guns, Tom takes his youngest son into battle with him, Anne stabs a skitter in the throat with a knife and watches its life bleed out, and a couple of human members of the resistance get torn to shreds by starving feral skitters, including one person being apparently ripped in half.
The uptick in violence is pretty exciting, to be honest. Given that this is the final season, it’s not surprising that the group of survivors—already looking pretty meager in the walk-and-talk through the damaged camp and around the campfire—is going to be narrowed down, and it’s not surprising that Denny (Megan Danso) ends up getting the axe, if only because she’s no longer needed now that Ben and Maggie share the bond of the spikes. However, the death is perfunctory, buried beneath another Ben/Maggie/Hal love triangle moment. That said, it is well-placed, coming after a very well-shot creep through an abandoned high school from director Olatunde Osunsanmi. Osunsanmi creates some very interesting violence; while a bit simple, it’s effective. Blowing up alien ships is satisfying, and there’s something to be said for the way Noah Wylie blows away an Overlord in mid-gloat in the school’s basement.
You can say this for Eick as a writer: he’s not afraid to shake up the status quo of the show, and he’s not afraid to make Tom look a little crazy in the process. There was a fun bit when Tom walks off to talk with Anne about his experiences. Knowing he sounds crazy, and knowing that nobody in the Second Mass has a reason to trust him given his many abduction experiences and eyeworms, Tom goes quiet when a couple of the Second’s fighters walk past him. That’s a great touch, and whoever came up with that idea deserves kudos, be it Eick or Noah Wyle himself.
That’s something the show should explore more. This isn’t the Tom we’re all familiar with, this is a guy who shoots Overlords in the middle of their soliloquies, even though it’s going to give his spike-possessed son Ben a monster headache. This is a Tom who wants to take the fight to the aliens, not a Tom that wants to rebuild the walls and make sure people are safe. Of course, he’s still rebuilding walls, but he’s also strapping bombs onto his dead friends and using them as skitter bait, which is really radical by Mason family standards.
All in all, it’s definitely a more entertaining step for the show, even if it seems like it’s kind of coming after nowhere. However, I guess Tom is one of those guys who can only be pushed so far before he lapses into a post-alien-apocalypse Falling Down situation, and Tom’s just been pushed a little bit too far by yet another unplanned trip into space and another pile of dead friends.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is interested to see where this show ends up for its last season. Lots of changes are promised, and Tom becoming a sociopath is the first of many. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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