* SPOILERS LIE AHEAD … AND BEAMERS … UNLESS LEXI BLOWS THEM FROM THE SKY *
Like humans through an Espheni Skitterisation factory … these are The Days of Our Masons …
Yes, folks, after dodging the Mason family soap operatic tendencies of Falling Skies for nigh on 10 melodrama-free season 4 episodes, “Drawing Straws” saw us plunged back into the maelstrom of angst, sullen glances and poorly-timed heart to heart discussions that is life with Tom (Noah Wylie) and his erratic brood.
It made sense that the writers had to fill the awkwardly-placed penultimate episode, which occupied an unenviable position between last week’s “We have a Beamer and we’re flying to the moon! Yeah!” decision, and the finale where they are clearly flying to the moon, with nothing of any real import (since how do you top a mission to the moon?), but even so, filling it with Tom being a selfish self-anointed saviour god, Matt (Maxim Knight) being a prat, and Hal (Drew Roy) and Ben (Connor Jessup) fighting over Maggie (Sarah Carter) may not have been the wisest course of action.
The one saving grace of this return to the Masons thinking that the 2nd Mass. is their very North Korean dynastic dynasty – although admittedly Tom has way better hair than Kim Jong-Un so he has that in his favour – was that everyone around them including Tom’s own wife Anne (Moon Bloodgood), Pope (Colin Cunningham) and even Weaver (Will Patton) stood up to them at a crucial point and said enough is enough.
Thank the Volm for that!
The critical point in question was who would fly the Beamer, which Dingaan (Trev Etienne) had partly worked out how to fly by grabbing tendrils together in what frankly looked like a haphazard manner, and naturally Tom, who can do no wrong (at least in his own eyes), decided that only he had the wherewithal and divine anointing to pilot the Beamer to the moon, blow the power station to pieces and gently coast back down to earth on reserve power.
In all honesty “Drawing Straws” did the character of Tom Mason no favours at all.
While Tom has been painted as a reasonably headstrong person in the past, his leadership has always rested on the consensus of his 2nd Mass. peers that he should lead and not on some pigheaded messianic complex writ large.
In this episode, however, he came off as arrogant, disrespectful, rude, selfish and narcissistic, none of which are terribly attractive qualities and all of which detract from the essential decency of the man who leads because he is fighting for his family, biological and otherwise.
What he devolved down too in the space of one episode – although there had been signs in previous episodes such as “Door Number Three” that Tom was losing the plot somewhat – was the sort of person you wouldn’t want anywhere near the leadership of anything in particular.
He was dismissive, convinced he had to go (though he only had a hunch to go on and nothing more) and unwilling to brook any meaningful discourse on the subject, especially that which tended to a position he didn’t hold.
He even rigged the vote that was agreed to after the 2nd Mass., tired of Tom grabbing all the leadership toys for himself, demanded that they have a say in who piloted the Beamer.
It was all very dramatic, and while in some ways Tom stayed true to his convictions, to execute the centrality of his role in such a priggish, unattractive way – hell he even largely treated his wife’s opinion like it didn’t really matter even if he did at least give her the chance to have her say – did his character no favours and diminished the inevitability hero of the earth role he is destined to play.
His kids didn’t fare any better either.
Matt, while admittedly a 13 year old teenage boy with raging hormones, which means he is propelled by a burning need to challenge everyone who lives and breathes around him, nonetheless came across as an idiotic fool.
If he wasn’t standing smack bang in the middle of an alley of rubble pointing his gun at approaching beamers – that was until Weaver told him to “Stand down!” – he was dashing back into the Beamer when Tom had expressly asked him not to, touching buttons here, and pushing panels there till a console magically popped from the floor that, surprise, surprise, surprise, allowed them to steer the ship.
So points to him for that at least but he didn’t come across as rebellious so much as a bona fide moron, who didn’t exercise sound judgement and could have got himself and everyone else killed.
Yes I know teenage boys don’t exercise sound judgement a lot of the time and so in that respect, he was bang on the hormonal target but the way the writers treated a normal rite of male teenagerhood, turned Matt into an annoying character who I was glad to have offscreen as much as possible.
And then there was Hal … and Ben … and Maggie.
Sigh, the love triangle of the Masons, a staple of any decent soap opera, even one taking place at the end of the world, or reasonably near to it anyway.
Hal, at least, exhibited some noble, better angels of our nature characteristics, acknowledging he wasn’t Maggie’s master – a pleasing reversal of last week’s misogynistic comment that Maggie was his – and forgiving and embracing Ben right before Ben and his dad were about to pull a Frank Sinatra and fly right to the moon.
So Hal earns our Most Improved Mason of the week award but given the low baseline he and the rest of his family – Anne aside who came across as sane, balanced and articulately insightful; impressive after her off-the-rockers madness of earlier in the season – are operating from, no one should give him a standing ovation just yet.
Ben at least Ben had the decency to admit he’s in love, twu love with Maggie to Hal, and through clenched teeth, acknowledged that Maggie probably only wanted to kiss him and ahem, other things, because of the influence of the spikes.
So points to him too but again, don’t rush to ply with laurels and garlands without number just yet.
And what of Lexi, the poster child of wayward Masons?
Off learning with her “father”, the Monk, to be a all-powerful, “divine” being, who will only be used to spread peace, love and mung beans to all – the fact that she bought this particular line from the alien race who violently and genocidally invaded the Earth speaks volumes about the fact that for all her rapid physical growth, she is still very much a naive child psychologically and emotionally – she discovered, while listening in on a conversation between her Espheni dad and the burned ghetto Overlord that she was an instrument of war, not peace (wouldn’t Lourdes, had she lived, been a tad disappointed to say the least at that revelation?).
Not only that but she learned that the Espheni realised they may have gone a tad overboard in turbocharging the godlike abilities to deconstruct the atomic structure of trees or subvert gravity, deciding that Lexi would have to be done away with.
Chalk that one up to a bitter life lesson that Lexi will not soon forget, and as we’ve seen before, forgive.
Spitting the damn near omnipotent being dummy, Lexi wasted no time in trooping back to the 2nd Mass., blowing up a gazillion Beamers that were on their way to blow the few-in-numbers survivors off the face of the Earth and cheerily greeted Tom like she’d just come back from popping down to the grocery store for a ice cream with her gal pals.
Cue all manner of mistrust and what-the-hell do we do nows from Tom, her family and the rightly suspicious denizens of what I like to call Rubble Town.
The problem in the end was not so much that time was spent on the Masons.
They are, after all, the heroic core of the 2nd Mass., and thus of Falling Skies and it makes sense that they are given prominence more often than not since that is the right and the way of protagonists.
My issue is that they took up too much time in “Drawing Straws”, drawing oxygen away from other characters, other issues and lessening the heroism of the task at hand, which is deal a crippling worldwide blow to the Espheni through destroying their lunar power base, by reducing Tom particularly and his squabbling or rebellious boys to the sort of people you’d rather hand across to a Skitter hybridisation factory – which a mysterious transmission is Spanish made clear is in full swing with ghettos empty and factories full – than spend any more time with.
And you sure as hell wouldn’t want them to lead you.
It’s not the first time Falling Skies has played the Restless Masons / Bold and the Masons card but for the sake of a heroic end to both season 4 and the series (number five will be its last), showrunner David Eick, who has powerfully transformed the show this season for the better (mostly) into a genuinely gritty apocalyptic drama, needs to make sure that the characters at the centre of it all remain people we actually want to have as our saviours.
And behold the promo trailer for the final double episode finale Space Oddity/Shoot the Moon …