*SPOILERS AND OLD MACDONALD’S ESPHENI-FREE FARM AHEAD*
There was an air of the Britney Spears about Falling Skies this week.
And no, I don’t mean the entire 2nd Mass. dressed up in schoolgirl outfits and sashayed with pouts big enough to swallow an entire football team past rows of lockers and happily-leering teenage boys (though we all know that would have been ridiculously entertaining on a scale of 1 being bombed to bits by the Espheni and then having to spend Christmas with the Dornia to 10 being the Volm working out how everything they own actually works and you know, doing actual war-winning stuff).
No, I mean the show, which is somehow of the opinion it’s got all the episodes in the world to burn – “Let us have a bonfire of narratives, some cider and chillax, what ho!” – got a severe case of “Oops I did it again!”, the “it” in question being the sense that it’s season 3 and it can still take its time telling heartfelt, small “d” drama stories.
So once again, instead of building up to something big – it could learn more than a few lessons from Defiance, now finishing off its third season which knows a thing or 300 about upping the narrative ante in deliciously-intriguing increments – it meandered happily along, stopping to smell the Espheni flowers and indulging in the sort of hopelessly inconsequential plots that have no place in a show down to its final five episodes (unless you can’t read a calendar and think it really is 2013 and season 3 is kicking along semi-nicely; or not).
Let’s start this sorry recounting of Falling Skies like storytelling sins – if there was a priest to whom you confessed your plotting sins, this show would be head of the line – with Rage Tom (Noah Wylie), who after flying off into the sunset beneath an Espheni hornet last week, woke up to find himself chained to a bed, his wounds healed and a kindly woman, who you know will fall for him in time (start the cliche clock now and … we’re off!), tending to him.
First thought – Rage Tom, the Most Kidnapped Man of the Alien Apocalypse (surely this comes with a nice Skitter-shaped trophy and a blue ribbon right?), is being mind f**ked again, his body actually splayed out on some Overlord’s guest torture chamber somewhere.
But no, not at all, not at all my sceptical friends.
It turned out it was all quite real – the woman, her dad the bushy-bearded elderly farmer, her three kids and a farm that looked so wholesome you expected Lassie, Black Beauty and yes even Flipper (yes, yes, such is Falling Skies power he can now move on land; moving on, moving on) to come bounding over the hills at any minute.
And all of it, all of it, untouched by alien hands, by some miracle of pretty implausible writing, and a good deal of heads-in-the-sand ostrich impressions.
Not only was the farm untouched by the ravages of the invasion but the kids didn’t even know there’d been an invasion; yep grandpa and mum had somehow kept that pesky little detail from the kids who seemed happily oblivious to the fact they had no friends, no school, no trips to anywhere but the farm (you could allege they weren’t the brightest of Earth’s remaining progeny but that would be cruel; so we won’t, you know, say that … oops).
It was intended as a reminder of everything lost, and possibly to be regained, and in and of itself was quite a delightful Hallmark mini-movie – it must be said that Rage Tom, sans scruffy beard and grime is quite hot; hell we’d cliche fall for him too – but the idea that one farm would survive unsullied by the apocalypse when everything around them is toast beggared the imagination and seemed all too narratively convenient.
Throw in a speech at the end by Rage Tom, who cried and look happily introspective rather than rage-y – you’re slipping Rage Tom, SLIPPING! – that would not have been out of place at the end of Independence Day (jingoism at 10 paces thank you), a rebellious eldest child who meekly gave up his beer and cigarettes to stand by his family in an inspirational Hallmark-kind of way, and a kind of happily ever after moment that suggests the war is fun rather than merely on a time-out, and you had a large part of the episode given over to a daydream that contributed little but warm and fuzzy sentiment.
Lovely in and of itself as I said, and yay the future (!), but hardly worth spending an entire episode on when so much else should be happening … and is not.
Yes, Soon To Be Spikes Free Maggie (Sarah Carter), Acting out of What Little Character You’ve Been Given Cochise (Doug Jones), Pouting Ben (Connor Jessup) and Just Happened to Bivouac at a Whiskey Distillery Weaver (Will Patton), I’m looking rather scornfully, to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail, on your general direction.
Why Maggie would suddenly decide mere episodes out from storming Washington D.C. that I yam what I yam and must be me and remove her spikes – OUCH! Creepy crawly OUCH! – when her spikes, and those of Pouting Ben are key to winning the war, is beyond me.
Why Cochise would act so underhandedly to help her was extraordinary too, especially when he has that Communicating with all the Other Militias manual to read (it ain’t gonna read itself Volm boy!).
And why this would take centre stage essentially, and not the finding of the Espheni communications hub which, rather helpfully, glowed bright orange making it obvious to anyone, say Eager as a Puppy Marty (Todd Weeks), to see – poor planning Espheni R & D department, pretty poor planning, was kinda odd.
Oh and let’s not forget Hal (Drew Roy), out searching for his dad with possible new love, wait no she’s not … or is she, Isabella (Catalina Sandino Moreno) in that slow-moving, take time to talk about life and stuff way of the Masons – frankly it’s a miracle they ever get anything done – and it was a small “d” drama fiesta of not saving the Earth, or building towards a finale, or let’s be honest, doing much at all.
Frankly you almost wish the Espheni would win if this is how humanity plans to handle things going on.
*But ‘lo might things pick up and pick up demonstrably in next ep “Everybody Has Their Reasons”? Why not, I am at heart a Falling Skies fan so hope springs eternal (it pretty much has to) …