Falling Skies: “Pope Breaks Bad” (S5, E4 review)

Pope regrets ever asking Rage Tom to be his therapist and ponders if an Espheni Overlord may be a more empathetic listener (image via threeifbyspace (c) TNT)
Pope regrets ever asking Rage Tom to be his therapist and ponders if an Espheni Overlord may be a more empathetic listener (image via threeifbyspace (c) TNT)

 

*THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD … SPOILERS I TELL YOU! AND A BALD POPE (NO, NOT THAT ONE)*

Let’s us all agree here and now shall we that Rage Tom (Noah Wylie) would make a lousy therapist?

Possessed of the emotional tact of a phalanx of tanks rolling across a series of small defenceless villages, and the kind of empathy best exemplified by a sociopathic serial killer toying with his doomed victims, a session with Rage Tom would likely go something like this:

Rage Tom: “Yeah, like Pope (Colin Cunningham) get over it, man. Aliens invaded. Not even my aliens (who keep saying weird, mysterious sh*t and won’t show their faces). People died. People keep dying and … and  … I lost Lexi. I mean that was sad, real sad …”
Pope: “Yeah Mason, real sad. My heart bleeds. But um, you still have your shiny new wife and three sons who have somehow survived intact while lots of other people like Tector have died – very Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds, Mason.”
Rage Tom: “It’s Rage Tom Mason, Pope.”
Pope: “Whatever.”
Rage Tom: “You hate everything and everyone, Pope but mostly me, and that’s not fair Pope, it’s not fair at all.”
Pope: Godammit Mason, I lost Sara! The woman I loved! That I was going to make fine looking babies with! Don’t you even care?”
Rage Tom: “It’s for the Greater Good, Pope … THE. GREATER. GOOD. … and … and … I lost Lexi. It’s sad, real …”
Pope: “Oh shut the hell up Mason! Now I have to shave my head, threaten to kill Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and kidnap Hal (Drew Roy) then kill you … Ah, that’ll all be for the Greater Good right Mason?”
Rage Tom: “Um … I lost Lexi and …”

See wouldn’t Rage Tom make a marvellous therapist?

No, no he would not.

I think we can all safely say he shouldn’t be allowed within a Mech battalion of a couch and notepad after his attempts to half-apologise to Pope for leaving Sara to be stripped of her flesh by alien bug fog – in that useless, non-sorry way that politicians are so enamoured of – simply made the situation much, much worse.

 

Everyone in the 2nd Mass., had cause to question whether Rage Tom's unorthodox therapy techniques would actually help Pope get over Sara's death ... or simply blow a hole in the sh**tiest therapist ever's head (image via Self Rescuing Princesses (c) TNT)
Everyone in the 2nd Mass., had cause to question whether Rage Tom’s unorthodox therapy techniques would actually help Pope get over Sara’s death … or simply blow a hole in the sh**tiest therapist ever’s head (image via Self Rescuing Princesses (c) TNT)

 

He had his reasons of course – a mission to complete what ho! Skitters and hornets to blow up, other people than Sara to save! – but the result was the same – Sara died and Pope, never the most emotionally stable of people to begin with, pretty much lost it.

And in response, Rage Tom was a total and complete insensitive jerk.

Frathouse-level, kick kittens jerk.

The worst part of it all was that it continued the trend by the show’s writers to complete strip away any of Tom’s nobler qualities.

Yes we get it – he has lots to be angry and sad about – “They killed Lexi! It was sad, real sad …” – but then so has everyone else.

And they’ve all fought back as hard as they could.

So why are the show’s creative powers that be now writing Rage Tom as an almost cruelly dismissive a**hole who cares only about getting rid of the Espheni and damn the consequences to the emotionally-rich fabric of the entire human psyche?

Espheni-free Earth ends justify the loss of people we love and the tossing aside of all that makes us wonderfully human means and all that.

It may sound all very macho and militaristic but all it’s doing is reducing the size and stature of Tom’s once-towering noble character and making us care less and less about what happens to humanity.

We should care – these people have been to alien hell and back and deserve a break – but the way they’re being written now, as insensitive, one-eyed attention-grabbing jerks, isn’t helping the care factor at all.

 

"So yes Tom Mason I am dying. Goodbye." Cochise  illustrated in the most vivid terms with his abrupt farewell speech that the Volm has no concept of "warm and fuzzy" goodbyes (image via Recap Guide (c) TNT)
“So yes Tom Mason I am dying. Goodbye.” Cochise illustrated in the most vivid terms with his abrupt farewell speech that the Volm has no concept of “warm and fuzzy” goodbyes (image via Recap Guide (c) TNT)

 

“Pope Breaks Bad” did have some genuinely touching or emotionally-fraught scenes – Anne taking on Pope, Rage Tom and Pope finally having it almost out in the most public of ways – one or two great action scenes (more bugs! And an Ensign Fodder!), and some more tantalising Fayetteville and Washington DC “What ifs”, but it lost the battle for our hearts and minds, a problem for a show that asks and expects us to care a lot.

It also didn’t help its cause by once again rendering the Volm as the most incompetent aliens in the galaxy.

The more we see of them and their excuses, the more obvious it becomes why they’re NOT the invaders but rather the ones running after the invaders.

Granted, Cochise (Doug Jones) almost dying did tug at the heartstrings and his shared grieving with Anne – she mourning Lexi and he his father who died giving him the organ transplant he needed to survive – was quite touching but the main thing that sprang to mind was how the Volm couldn’t seem to fight their way out of a wet envelope.

“So Cochise can you help us bomb the hell out of the Espheni?”
“Ah no, Tom Mason for my father Waschak-cha’ab has taken our spaceships away to fight battles elsewhere.”
“Oh I see then how about helping us talk to other human militias around the planet?”
“Ah again Tom Mason we cannot. Well, not straight away, and then only with a clarity that makes shortwave radio look advanced.”
“Oh well, that’s OK then how about you show off your advanced medicine and save your life?”
“Yeah no, can’t do that either. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. Am I right?”
*Cochise laughs; it sounds like he’s passing a kidney stone*
“We can offer you great interior decorating tips. No, wait, we don’t have those either … gum?”

As narrative devices go, the Volm really are surplus to requirements as are Rage Tom’s new alien friends who are even managing to annoy him now with their obtuse comments and unwillingness to show their true form.

Quite whether they, and the show they are now a part of, will amount to anything with just six episodes to go, is increasingly a concern, with Falling Skies in very real danger of blowing it’s hoped-for action-packed to the dramatic finish line.

* Will things improve in next week’s “Non-Essential Personnel”? We can but hope – just pray the Volm aren’t running the TV transmission facilities or we may miss out altogether …

 

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