*SPOILERS … AND AN ONRUSHING SENSE OF WASTED OPPORTUNITY AND MOUNTING DISAPPOINTMENT AHEAD*
We veteran series fans are highly-demanding creatures.
Having committed countless hours to watching a TV show, and in the process having travelled the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the Popes and the Masons of it all, we expect to be handed on a shiny, bright platter a finale that is both deeply satisfying and true to the storytelling we have invested so much time, effort, and to cope with all the Spielbergian family moments, wine in.
It’s not an unreasonable expectation.
Good endings are what it is all about, especially if the journey has been as much of a cheap rundown hotel in a bad part of town as a spa treatment in a fine hotel at the nice end of town.
We’ve had it all, seen it all, loved the characters, hated the characters, gasped, cried, and winced and now we want our happy ever after, or something equally as decisive dammit!
Again, entirely fair given what we’ve gone through.
And with this holy viewing arrangement no doubt at the forefront of their badly-paced brains, what did Falling Skies give us with the finale of Falling Skies?
Not quite what the Espheni Queen ordered, that’s what.
Appearing in the final episode like a guest to a party who forgot to switch on her GPS – let’s be fair she probably got it from the Volm aka The Most Inept Species in the Galaxy who demonstrated yet again in “Reborn” that they can’t fire their ships’ guns from space, and have memories so terrible they forget to mention that there may be an Espheni Lord hatchery on the way to the Big Battle (such as it was) – and arrived way too late, the Queen strode through the ruins of the Lincoln Monument like an alien Miley Cyrus who’d forgotten to switch off her voice vocoder after a recording session.
She and Rage Tom (Noah Wylie) aka Given of Speeches so Inert They Have the Motivational Power of the Ingredients Panel of a Chip Packet,enjoyed a “Moment” of sorts, with the Queen getting all James Bond villain-ish and telling her human adversary, quite unbidden (clearly she needed to vent a little, poor dear) why the Espheni had expected an insane amount of resources to invade Earth, wreck everything and kill all of humanity.
Or at least attempt to.
It turns out that after five long seasons of promising storylines and rather half-baked execution – save for season 4 which was consistently and wonderfully satisfying and blessedly free of “special moments” (for which wine must be drunk; don’t ask, just do it) – that the Espheni had put Earth through the grinder and back again because we killed and ate her daughter 1500 years ago when she led an exploratory invasion force.
Yup, that’s it.
All that effort, all those battles, all those lives lost and people Skitterised just so Momma could have her vengeance.
No, seriously, THAT … WAS … IT.
To say it was a rather limp explanation for a monumentally large and involved undertaking is an understatement and you got the feeling even Rage Tom, holding the pellet of Espheni-killing goop in his hand, or not as the klutzy case may be, was a little taken aback.
But ever the polite party guest, albeit an unwilling one webbed to a stack of broken down column, Rage Tom pretended to be awed and shocked as the Queen, whose cameo was redolent of faded star desperate for one last look in before her glory finally faded, strode about huffing and puffing, and somehow, given her size, disappearing behind bits of rubble.
It was supposed to be some kind of final epic monumental showdown but instead came across as a rather melodramatic session of Grieving Mother Aliens Anonymous, all irrational blame, and poorly-catered food.
What was so galling about it was that it simply didn’t match up with all the effort that had gone into the epic sweep of Falling Skies.
The Espheni had been set up as the consummate Alien Bad Guys, more than capably taking on Earth and it’s rather annoyingly tenacious people – “They want to live? Such cheek! But hey we should have known after we asked the Volm what they were like and … oh, OUR BAD” – and it turned out all they were was really, REALLY angry?
That’s it. Yes, the Queen mumbled something about strategic value, only habitable planet in the galaxy blah blah blah but frankly none of us were listening at that point, just wanting it all to end.
Please dear gods of the Espheni let it end.
Yes there were some touching moments – a pregnant Anne (Moon Bloodgood) dying, and then not thanks to the Dornia – naturally she chose the heat of battle knee-deep in an Espheni lord hatchery to tell Rage Tom – Hal (Drew Roy) and Maggie (Sarah Carter) reaffirming they were indeed in Love True Love – yup again in the heat of battle – and Weaver (Will Patton) farewelling a dying Marty (Todd Weeks) after he fatally met an Espheni hornet he didn’t like but they felt oddly shoehorned in, like the writers felt a need to wrap things up neatly with a pretty Skitter bow.
Even Pope made one last appearance, near death and magically able to find Tom in the midst of hundreds of kilometres of east coast real estate, and had what was designed to be I’m sure, a final touching resolution of enmity with Rage Tom.
But it all felt a bit flat, a little tacked on and hurriedly executed for this dedicated, loyal Falling Skies fan; even the Queen’s death, which set off a chain reaction of death, dying and vanishing from existence of all the Espheni – but sadly not the Volm who can’t even self-genocide properly – that rather tweely manifested as exploding cheese puff-like fireworks all across the planet, was over so quickly you had to rewind to make sure it had actually happened.
It was like all those Star Trek: Next Generation eps where the writers suddenly wrapped things up in 2.3 seconds just in time to beam everyone back up to the Enterprise; completist in a sense that there was an ending, the hoped-for victory that everyone wants (though frankly I was hoping at the end the Espheni would actually win so fed up with season 5 had I become) but so rushed, so half-done with no sense of build-up or momentum that its arrival and then speedy passing felt decidedly anti-climactic.
Which is, when you think about it, rather a problem, when you’re handing a season finale over to long term, dedicated fans who have faithfully sat through some narrative highs and quite a few “What were they thinking?!” lows.
Not even the Star Wars: A New Hope meets Independence Day feel of the ending, where everyone gathered in rather lovely suits and drinking champagne – let’s ignore where it all came from; perhaps the Volm have a distillery and Espheni sweatshop on their ship? – and Rage Tom gave a SPEECH and we all rejoiced hurrah! made much of an impact.
So yes the Espheni were gone, and with them Falling Skies, but did it matter? Did we really mourn? Rejoice? Drink way to much wine?
Alas, not really, meaning that the finale will go down as one of those great wasted TV storytelling opportunities, all the more disappointing since the show’s writers and producers KNEW well ahead of time this would be their final season of Espheni shenanigans, Rage Tom blustering and Special Meaningful Moments Where Everyone Learns a Lesson.
At least we gained something from Falling Skies – a sage lesson that if you’re fighting to regain control of Earth from alien invaders, or hell just going on a road trip somewhere, you don’t ask the Volm to come along.
As sure as the Espheni will chuck a revenge tantrum, and Rage Tom will bluster and scream, the Volm will get you lost and you’ll wonder why you set out with them in the first place …
Much like watching Falling Skies, sad though it is to say, at the end.