*Watch out! There are Mechs, Beamers, Skitters … and spoilers this way!*
Never was an episode more aptly named.
If it wasn’t Tom (Noah Wylie) trying to talk his way out of temporary captivity at the hands of collaborationist brothers Nick (Gil Bellows) and Coop (Aaron Douglas) or Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and Lexi (Scarlett Byrne)/Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) – let’s face it they’re basically one person; The Human Centipede of Falling Skies if you like – squaring off against each other in the most mother/daughter way possible, it was Hal (Drew Roy), interim leader of the rump 2nd Mass., doing his best, along with Tector (Ryan Robbins), Dingaan Botha (Trev Etienne), Pope (Colin Cunningham) and Sarah (Mira Sorvino) and a stray Volm or two, to bring down a Mech.
Everywhere you looked, people and aliens were trying to cajole, manipulate, tease or otherwise hornswoggle their opponents to varying degrees of success.
It was a well-conceived extension of the whole new gritty, dirty, fractured apocalyptic realpolitik in play this season, where Falling Skies has finally acceded to the fact that there is never a simple good vs. evil dynamic at play but rather a multitude of multiple viewpoints, all of which seem valid to the person or being holding them, and all of which seem worth fighting and dying for.
Or if you’re brothers Nick and Coop, the latter who was far more conniving than the latter, not dying for, with the former Wall Street stockbroker (who didn’t do a whole lot for the reps of financial high fliers it has to be said) more concerned with selling out those he loves, his brother excepted of course, to get out of a “Skitter farm” where, in his words, the Espheni are “beat testing” all sorts of painful, invasive ways to turn adult humans into human/skitter hybrids.
He presented his “escape” from the least bucolic rural setting you could imagine in the most heroic way possible of course with daring tales of explosions, resistance and derring-do papering over a narrative that was in reality far more ugly and self-serving than Nick’s party line would have you believe.
Tom, while rightly suspicious, went along with both his full-of-holes heroic tales, and sort of looked the other way at the copious amount of food and supplies they had in a region pretty much bled dry of homes or businesses with anything of sustaining or military value, for the sake of Matt (Maxim Knight) and he and Weaver’s (Will Patton) need to eat after three days of nothing much at all.
(Of course they could have had a rabbit if Matt hadn’t freaked out at the last minute about killing the damn thing, which was quickly followed by his reluctance to kill someone to save his dad’s life; you could see what the writers were trying to do – Matt as a young man hanging onto his humanity just like he had in the re-education camp – but it all came across as a little too forced or contrived, leaving Matt looking less noble than wishy-washy or flim-flamy).
It turned out, naturally, that Tom should not have been so “trusting”.
Taken prisoner by Nick and Coop, who Nick proclaimed had decided to join the “winning side”, as if the Espheni were a cashed up football team and were offering lucrative strings-free contracts to all comers, it took all of Tom’s ability to talk the sort of big game needed to split the two brothers apart in such a way that escape, courtesy of Weaver and Matt, who seemed uncertain if he should be angry, revengeful or just very, very sad, who played the part of the calvary quite well.
There was a homily somewhere in all that about brothers not really being brothers if they didn’t look out for the other more than themselves, delivered by Tom over a campfire to a Matt who seemed willing to listen about summarily rejecting Weaver’s earlier entreaty to fight for love, not hate (otherwise known as “You’re a loose cannon Matt and will get us all killed!”) but in the end it all came down to some parts of humanity being willing to sell out their kin if it meant living another way.
Another sign that humanity is no longer the bold, united force of seasons past but under the seemingly never-ending onslaught from the Espheni, starting to splinter into all sorts of self-interested cabal, an achilles heel of the resistance effort that no one seems to have adequately addressed yet as a concern.
One person who is most certainly not playing nice is Anne who slipped into Abu Ghraib mode this week in search of answers from Lexi’s now-imprisoned Espheni Overlord pal.
Playing good cop/bad cop and pretty much all points inbetween, Anne did her best to cajole useful information out of her captive who said little besides mouthing platitudes about Lexi being special and that he was not like the others (the Sesame Street of the Espheni then yes?), marking clearly as one of Lexi’s peace, love and mung beans acolytes of which Lourdes remained cheerleader in chief and annoying as they come.
Any frustration though that Anne may have felt over the Overlord’s reluctance to play nice at Lexi’s Camp of Joy, Happiness and Unexpected Kinetic Tantrums was more than swept away by her daughter’s consistently wilful and underhanded behaviour.
While Anne, for reasons known only to her, persisted in the whole “I am your mother and will do anything for you baby girl routine”, which frankly sounds nice but is coming across as a wacked-out delusion on steroids – something even she had to acknowledge when after nursing Lexi through a nasty bout of fever (the coming transformation referred to last episode perhaps?), her daughter released the Overlord proclaiming him to be, in some sort of weird reverse Darth Vader admission her father.
While the scenes between Anne, who was also treated to a terrifying bout of Sith Lord-ian choking, keeping the spirit of Star Wars alive in the episode, courtesy of her temper! temper! baby girl, who is more Rosemary’s Baby than Anne of Green Gables, and Lexi added little of anything new to the equation, it underlined again that things have become far more complicated both for the Mason-Glass family personally, and humanity in general.
Lexi is a thousand different kinds of unpredictably creepy and Anne, Ben (Connor Jessup) and Maggie (Sarah Carter) and pretty everyone within earshot, which will soon be everyone with Tom, Matt and Dan, and Hal and the 2nd Mass., closing in fast on the Abode of Everlasting Happiness, Kumbayah-ness and Tofu, need to start taking that seriously or find themselves seriously flat-footed come the transformation.
Speaking of Hal and the gang, whose main aim this time seemed to be to play “Bring Down the Mech”, everyone’s favourite alien apocalypse game, their contribution to living out the title of the episode largely consisted of playing a pretty vicious game of skip rope, or is that “trip rope” with a mech.
It was all in pursuit of intel on the best way to reach Lexi’s Sanctuary of Medication and Mech-less-ness, which it turned out, thanks to the Mech’s “transmitter array” which lit up like a 3D video game, was a suspiciously clear corridor of land free of Beamers, Mechs and Skitters, a too good to be true occurrence that Hal rightly dubbed “unbelievable”.
While gathering all this data was quite a serious, bang-’em-up, shoot-’em-up business, there was quite of bit of humour at foot with the standout being this exchange between Cochise’s 2nd in command Shaq (John De Santis) after the Volm had said they couldn’t any of their drones, not one, to go scouting for enemy combatants because they were all out looking for the Espheni’s mysterious power source:
SHAQ: “There is one course of action that could provide the intel we need.”
[LONG PA– USE WHICH PROVES TOO MUCH FOR HAL WAITING FOR THE NEXT SENTENCE]
HAL: “Sooo … You going to tell me what you have in mind or are we going to stare at each other till the sun comes up?”
SHAQ (perplexed): “That would be a terribly inefficient use of our time. We’d further exhaust ourselves by morning.”
HAL: “I was being sarcastic.”
SHAQ: “What I have to suggest is highly irregular.”
Leaving aside the fact that just about every friendly alien race humanity in any TV show/movie/book comes across as possessing the sparkly personality of paint drying on a hot summer’s day, the Volm included, the exchange was a welcome humourous interlude, with more than a few shades of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, in what are, quite pleasingly, far more grubby, real world episodes than Falling Skies used to deliver.
It was nicely handled by Drew Roy who seems to be stepping out nicely, not simply in the shoes of his character Hal as a leader who’s ever more confident as the mantle of Tom-ness of his shoulders, but as a comic actor with a deft gift for delivering a line, and the ever-attendant smile, just so.
“Mind Wars” was another walk into the dark side for Falling Skies which is suddenly and quite willingly, happy to try on new ragged, gritty narrative clothes for size.
I have remarked on this before but it increasingly feels like we’re in a real battle for humanity’s soul, with realpolitik the size of Everest being employed to colour the storytelling in a way it perhaps should have been from the beginning.
Falling Skies is finally making the case, and admirably too, that not every human is noble and of good character, nor is every alien despicably evil with all the shading of a cheesy Bond villain – while the Volm and some past human characters made that point in a limited fashion in seasons gone by, they were not of the calibre of scale of season 4’s efforts – in the process turning the series on its head in the best possible, engrossingly dark way.
Lead on Tom and Dan and Anne and the gang … onward to the sort of apocalypse we may not want in real life but which we most definitely need in our TV shows that aspire to tell their stories with authenticity, grit and good engaging doses of hard-nosed reality.
To whet your appetites still further, here’s the promo for next week’s episode, “Door Number Three” …