This review contains spoilers.
Falling Skies has always had a wide streak of earnest, emotional, wide-eyed melodrama to it. Particularly in the beginning, it seemed that there was no problem the surving humans couldn’t overcome without any major loss of life. Sure, some extras might get fried, but the Mason family and all their close friends would slide through without any real damage. When it was time for the Masons or some associate to suffer a loss, it would always come in the biggest, most dramatic way possible. Someone dies to save the group, being a hero, knowing full well they’re going to sacrifice themselves to save everyone else. Or, alternately, someone dies because they turn into a bad guy, and all bad guys and Benedicts Arnold must be punished.
It’s very rare that Falling Skies explores a darker side of war best described with the famous Spock quote about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. Tom Mason and the gang make hard calls, but it’s not often that they do something that costs the individual for the good of humanity. Sometimes, though, the massive number of aliens streaming into the valley near Alexandria requires tough choices. That’s where Tom, Weaver, and the gang are. They’re still behind their walls, and still avoiding skitter attacks, but there’s a problem. That massive group of skitters from last week is only growing, and all the white phosphorous war crimes against the alien horde aren’t slowing down the insects. Indeed, they’re reproducing faster than the Second Mass can kill them, so that means desperate measures time.
Like last week’s episode, this week’s feels familiar. You have a skitterized human and his captive sister, you have a scene in the forest when our heroes confront an Overlord, and we have another scene in which an Overlord is captured by the Second Mass, though this one doesn’t live as long as the last one. Anthony makes sure to take care of that after a brief detour into PTSD land—that’s presumably another Vietnam reference for the season. Of course, while Anthony is struggling to get over the death of Denny and his general failure as a protector, there’s another member of the Second Mass who is going to turn his failure into revenge, though perhaps not at the right target.
It will be interesting to see Pope as a bad guy again, since that’s clearly the direction they’re going to go. After all, his lady love died, and the last time that happened, Pope was in charge of a gang of bikers and may or may not have been keeping Maggie as a sex slave. I doubt that’ll happen again, but at the same time, Pope’s got heel tendencies in his blood, and a grudge against Tom that’s never gotten better despite their time together fighting aliens. It’s just a shame it has to come in the most cliched way possible, via the death of Pope’s beloved girlfriend and Tom’s relative indifference to one life to save the many. It’s just hard not to like/side with Colin Cunningham, since Pope is one of the few characters on the show with charisma and a sense of humor, even if he does have bad stuff in his background. Mira Sorvino has been great, too, albeit in a limited role. There’s a reason Pope became the show’s breakout character, and this might be a case in which the audience turns against Mason for finally making the smart decision at the cost of feelings and friends. Funny how it comes when it’s someone Pope cares about than a member of the Mason family.
It’s an interesting direction, and Jonathan Glassner’s script does make it pretty blatant that Tom could have gone in either direction, but not both as he normally would have. Weaver supports Tom’s choice, but that’s going to be galling for someone like Pope, who already feels left out of the group’s decisions to the point of leading his own group of soldiers and setting up Popetown back in Alexandria. Still, it’s probably the most clichéd thing the show has done in its five seasons, right down to the confession of love right before death, the last conversation, Pope’s failed heroism, and so on (Plus, he sprays a flamethrower right at Sara, which can’t be good for her eaten legs.) The scene doesn’t have the impact it should, perhaps because it’s pretty obvious that Pope won’t have the kind of luck that the Masons have had throughout the series.
Falling Skies appears to be making good on the promise to go darker; frying aliens with white phosphorous and killing off a noteworthy character is a good start, but again, it feels like the Masons are untouchable. Even when Tom makes a comparatively heartless decision, it’s defended by Weaver. There’s a lot of mention about how people are wary of Tom, but not a lot of that in practice. I’d like to see Tom’s mean streak get him into a little trouble with the rest of the group, rather than just enrage Pope.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here