Falling Skies season 5 episode 2 review: Hunger Pains

Despite being in its final run, Falling Skies is still trying on new identities for size, as this week's dark episode shows...

This review contains spoilers.

5.2 Hunger Pains

One of the tropes of every disaster story is that eventually the characters are going to have to go out and find food. Another trope is that eventually the characters are going to get trapped in a place and have to fight their way out, or keep repelling wave after wave of invaders in an attempt to remain alive. Sometimes, if you’re Falling Skies and you need to up the stakes, you have both stock stories happen in the same episode at the same time. In the final season, no less!

The survivors are still holed up in their rubble-strewn camp when a mass of feral skitters comes tearing down Main Street right towards them. Cue the firefight, with every face character on the wall firing a weapon, as well as some vaguely-familiar extras. The first wave is beaten back, but there’s a cost: during the fighting the food stores building got blown up by a stray rocket of some sort. Whoops. Now there are two problems. The biggest problem is the lack of food. The other problem is that wave after wave of skitter keeps attacking so hunting parties and food scouts have no way to get out of town to round up some spare food.

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The A-story about the group trapped behind their own walls, is a really simple tale to tell, and one of my favorite stories. Holed up in a defended position, on high alert, waiting for the next attack, wave after wave of enemy approaching from all directions… the Rio Bravo/Assault On Precinct 13 tale is super simple, and relatively cheap (assuming it doesn’t cost too much to CGI all the attacking skitters) but always exciting. Part of the fun is seeing how people react to the pressure, and it’s pretty clear that the Second Mass is taking to heart Tom’s command to embrace their inner warrior, what with Anthony beating a captured skitter with a piece of rebar in a pretty long torture scene only interrupted by Weaver reminding them all that they’ve only got a few hours at most until the next wave of attacking space monsters.

Meanwhile, while that’s going on, Pope, Sara (Mira Sorvino, still slumming it), Maggie, and Ben go off to find food, chasing a lead to a food distribution center a county away. Mostly, it leads to discussion of the awful Masons/Maggie love triangle. However, one interesting thing was discovered there; a girl named Caitlyn (Julia Sarah Stone) who is taking care of her skitterized human brother Brian. Of course, they get out of that particular situation, but at the same time, they have to do it by underhanded means, which isn’t typical of this show.

To his credit, Marc Dube is keeping with the theme of darkness in his episode this week. Hundreds of skitters die on-screen (or at least dozens), human characters die, and Masons tell lies and allow skitters to be tortured to keep everyone alive and at a feral froth. Everyone’s hungry (hungry enough to try a bite of char-broiled skitter in a really fun special effects scene from director Olatunde Osunsanmi) and some new girl gets in peril, but for whatever reason, none of that really connects on any level, nor does it connect with this newly-promised darkness. Wouldn’t it be darker for, say, Pope and company go out to the food repository and find nothing but emptiness, and everyone in the Second Mass go hungry for a little bit longer?

Still, I shouldn’t define the episode by what I want, but by what was given to me, and this episode was… okay. The most exciting parts of the episode were pretty buried beneath other, less interesting elements. If I never have to hear about the Mason Threesome idea, I’ll be very happy. They do have a little fun with it, but I’m not into it, I’ll never be into it, and when there’s a war for the survival of humanity going on, who cares who does what to who? All that should matter is the gun next to you won’t jam and is being fired by someone who won’t accidentally spray you with bullets.

Strange that five seasons in and with eight episodes remaining, Falling Skies is trying to find a new identity. It’s not entirely successful yet, but going darker as the war gets longer is a great idea that I hope will pay off by the end of this particular season. After all, they don’t have a lot of time remaining, assuming the arc they’re trying to pull off is as long-running as it probably should have been. Can’t fault the audacity, but I hope it lands with a bang rather than a fizzle.

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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.