This review contains spoilers.
There are only four episodes left in Falling Skies after this one. Only four episodes left, and the straining, struggling Revolutionary War parable will limp to an end in its fifth season, no doubt in a blaze of Mason-based glory and a pile of dead aliens torn to shreds by automatic weapons or some sort of improvised explosive yielded by great sacrifice to the cause. However, for a show in its final season, building up to some sort of big event, Falling Skies is in no hurry to get anywhere and in the process, it’s trying my patience.
Tuning into Falling Skies is getting to be a tedious affair. I don’t enjoy the show as I once did, and sitting down to write about it is getting to be tiresome, as the show has decided to spend its last season wandering around and visiting places untouched by war, slogging out love triangles, and generally behaving like a show in its second or third season, not one planning on wrapping up a full-scale invasion of Earth in under four hours of screen time. It’s going to be a struggle to make it happen without rushing the pace.
This week, Tom is missing from the Second Mass. Rather than fighting with his comrades, he’s recuperating on a farm somewhere in South Carolina. A friendly farmer shot down the bug that was carrying him away to parts unknown, and now Tom is waking up in a lovely farm house with lovely kids, a lovely young widow, and a kindly old-timer. Think The Walking Dead season 2 right down to the idyllic nature, but without the body count and medical training.
I hate these sort of false conflicts, as we know how it’s going to play out before the eldest son even shows up on the scene to try and join the resistance movement. Tom’s going to go away, and he’s going to have some heart-to-hearts in the process. After all, he can’t help but leave a place better than he found it, even when it’s a perfect little camp that features happy kids completely untouched by war, plenty to eat, and the quiet of the old world. Meanwhile, back in Second Mass’s half of the plot, Maggie is going to rip out her super-soldier spikes because otherwise she can’t control herself around Ben, which I guess is a reasonable excuse when you’re in your 30s and he’s not even 18 (I don’t think, the time line is fuzzy for the kids at this point).
My irritation with the episode doesn’t fall on director Jonathan Frakes, who has become a very solid television director and one of the guys to go to to shoot your science-fiction show. He uses the camera well, tapping into the aw-shucks aspect of the storyline without overwhelming it. He manages to turn a farm in the Carolinas into a paradise, using lots of golden light and carefully arranged shots of the surrounding hill country to show how the place could be so isolated and untouched by the war raging around them. The other moments are suitably bleak and drab, with the old distillery serving as a perfect home for the Second Mass because, like them, it’s a shattered hulk of its former self.
Unfortunately, while Frakes does some good stuff on the visual front with the contrast, writer Ayanna Floyd can’t spice up her material. Tom letting Kyle (the oldest son) choose his own fate is nice, as is Tom’s characteristic speech to convince the boy to stay behind and take care of his family, but it’s pretty much just what you’d expect Tom to do, and it plays out exactly how you’d expect it to play out where Tom’s involved. Tom and Hal limp off back to war, Maggie rids herself of her spike-based attraction to Ben, and Cochise remains the funniest character on the show thanks to his interactions with Anne and the others.
The emergence of Cochise as something other than a plot device feels like it’s too little, too late for the show, though I really like that Doug Jones has something to do behind the makeup and some fun lines to delivery. I’m sure it takes time for aliens to lighten up around humans, or to adapt to human ways of speaking and thinking, but Cochise ought to be an old hand at this point, given all the time he and Shaq have spent hanging out with Tom and Weaver.
Maggie losing her spikes, Cochise and Shaq showing a sense of humour, Tom teasing a dark side, Pope shaving his head and going full villain… Falling Skies is clearly tinkering with the formula, but to do it when the show is coming to an end just seems like poor timing. This is the time to crescendo, not toot aimlessly on a recorder.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is cruel enough to want Tom and the Second Mass to revisit the farmers in the last episode, only to find all the farmers dead at the hands of an enemy they never bothered to learn how to fight. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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