* SPOILERS AND REDNECKS IN UNIFORM AHEAD *
Deep within the red light-washed Shadow Plain known as “Tom Mason Memorial Place o’ Death and Wanton Destruction” (they were a tad premature with the naming rights), a most unusual group of Espheni is meeting. Each of the Overlords, grimly clutching a glowing ball of vulcanised dirt, are seated in a circle, uncomfortably facing each other and trying not to look like this is the last place on Earth, literally, they want to be. Not that you would know anything is awry – Espheni faces aren’t exactly a riotous canvas of runaway emotions at the best of times, and these rest assured, are not the best of times.
Or are they?
“Thank you everyone for turning up. My name is Commander Sardinii of the Fourth Battalion of Anchovii the Conqueror and …”
“Seriously? You named yourself after the fish from this planet?”
“What? Um, well, we don’t exactly have names normally, and I was tiring of ‘Hey you!’ and …”
“Of course we have names. You just choose not to use them.”
“You mean Overlord? That hardly differentiates us now does it? Listen, we’re not here to discuss anyone’s names, or lack of them” – his eyes narrow to small accusatory slits and it becomes obvious that the discussion about names is well and truly over – “but rather the parlous state we find ourselves in at this point in our once-glorious invasion of this accursed planet.”
Everyone stares down at their feet. Or rather tries to. Espheni anatomy is not exactly given to such movement, their bodies a physiotherapists’ nightmare of immovable, inflexible gangly limbs and long necks which disappear into narrow blocky heads.
“Following the unexpected blowing up of our moon power station by Frank’s pet human project, Lexi” – the normally genial convenor fairly spat the words out in disgust, emotion breaking through his hitherto unflappable countenance – ” we haven’t exactly been on a winning streak, and for the first time since we invaded the Dornia all those many years ago and turning them into Skitters, we’re not winning.”
There is an audible gasp from the Overlords Self Help Group as Sardinii commits the near unpardonable sin of admitting near-defeat, all but comparing them to the Volm, a race who despite chasing the Espheni across the galaxy for eons, are no closer to knowing a thing about their hated enemy, or how to stop them, than they were at the time their planet was invaded. The Volm are a point of ridicule among the Espheni largely thanks to their inability to even work out how the Shadow Plain hubs work – “Read the manual boys!” guffaws one Overlord and the others join in heartily – and it amuses the Overlords that humanity actually think the Volm are of any assistance in their annoyingly successful-ish resistance effort.
(As Dingaan (Treva Etienne) discovers to his headache-causing cost, the Volm i.e. Cochise (Doug Jones) have no idea how to move, touch or otherwise handle the Shadow Plain hubs; maybe if it came with a manual and an Allen Key? Haha. No, not even then, it’s safe to say).
“Now that’s enough. As we meet, we are finding humans the world over are rising up against us in large numbers” – this elicits some laughs as everyone’s aware how few of this oddly-defiant bipedal species remain alive and kicking – “with only a few of us actually achieving worthwhile, like Overlord Octopii who has somehow managed to insert a Control Chip of Near Total Obedience into one Captain Katie Marshall (Melora Hardin), leader of a group of human soldiers who have inexplicably been allowed to keep an entire military base at their disposal.”
“Hey Sardinii, we agreed they could. You know kill the human “collaborators” and all that.” *wink wink, nudge nudge*
The Overlord next to Octopii rolled his eyes at his fellow invader’s attempt at humour.
“We should never have let you keep that boxset of British comedy shows. You’ve been insufferable ever since you binge-watched them a while back.”
“Know thy enemy, Calamarii, know thy enemy.”
“Overlords please, we have business to conduct. Now it appears that Captain Marshall has been rather successful in waylaying Rage Tom (Noah Wylie) and the entire 2nd Mass., on charges of collaborating with us and …”
At this news, the whole room erupted in riotous laughter (well as riotous as alien beings with no apparent mouths or facial expressions can manage). The idea of the great, yet to be late, Tom Mason being bested by anyone amuses the Overlords who have found this upstart college history professor and his franchised militias – “Would you like a concerted resistance with that?” – more than a little annoying. Even funnier is the idea that with the Overlords largely on their knees, hence the need for this humiliating meeting, and ripe for a final decisive blow, all Rage Tom is doing is pfaffing around the northeastern US, talking about doing the Espheni in once and for all but, um, not actually doing it. At all. Ever.
But dammit if it isn’t on his To Do list for you know, sometime soon-ish.
If the militias knew how lackadaisical and lacking in planning Tom was – to be fair he did fire up the Volm Hologram of Intelligence in front of Captain Marshall and her men but beyond a few “Oooh aahs” and “witchcraft” from the paranoid, medievally-minded corps, nothing much resulted as per usual – and how little momentum there was for a final push to get rid of the Espheni once and for all, then the Overlords might not be so worried.
“So you’re telling me that in all the time since the power station went kaput, Rage Tom and the 2nd Mass. haven’t managed to do anything even remotely invasion-ending? Not a thing?” queries a relatively-diminutive Overlord called Goldfishii.
“Um, no,” admits the convening Overlord with some surprise. “No, they have taken a Skitter factory here and a host of hornets there but largely, ah, no.”
Everyone starts laughing again in that unnervingly truncated way of the Espheni.
“But we have no power or means to fight back right now!” says Calamarii, slapping this thighs, of whatever it is the Espheni have down their legs.
“I know, that’s why it’s so odd,” observed the convenor. “You’d think they’d have done something by now.”
“Oh they’ve had all kinds of touching “family moments”, said Goldfishii, a little too approvingly for his neighbour, Salmonii who whacked his hand atop the youngster’s head.
“Yes well, a human weakness, and might I add a narrative blocker if ever I saw one, but be that as it may, we must prepare ourselves for a final assault and …”
The Espheni don’t laugh this time convinced the convenor is about to deliver the mother of all punchlines. After all, what evidence is there so far of any build-up, any momentum to a final decisive battle? Why, for all they know, it won’t be long and they’ll ripping the guts out of Earth and on their way to their planet of conquest. There’s no sense of any kind of Big Invasion-Ending Battle in the offing; just a whole lot of small, dead end narrative devices going nowhere. Is there anything really to fear from the 2nd Mass. and their chilled use of the time remaining them?
With this in mind, as if some magical unspoken consensus has emerged between them, the Espheni Overlords Self Help group begins winking out of sight till only the convenor is left standing alone.
“But they could still do something Big and Important.”
He winces and almost stumbles back as the other unseen Overlords, glowing rocks still in hand, bombard him with cacophonous ridiculing laughter, convinced Rage Tom and the 2nd Mass, and the mysterious unseen “Writers” who control their every move, aren’t close to anything much at all.
It’s the most anti-climactic climax in the history of invasions and everyone knows it. Back to binge-watching British sitcoms it seems …
Can the mysterious “Writers” rescue the final season with the three last episodes? Will “Stalag 14th Virginia” be the answer to our alien drama dreams? Or another narrative nightmare? Watch the trailer and see what you think …