* Spoilers ahead … and a few antsy Volm no doubt ready to shoot you down *
It was a case of up, up and away if you were human or Volm in the blistering return-to-form fourth episode of the third season of TNT’s Falling Skies …
Or if you were one of the alien invaders, the Espheni, down, down, DOWN at the hands of superior Volm weaponry.
Or alas also down if you were Tom Mason (Noah Wylie), John Pope (Colin Cunningham) and General Bressler (Matt Frewer) as they, rather unsuccessfully, tried to evade pursuing Espheni ships, after a likely tip off from the mole pursuing them on a mad dash chase away from the newly discovered President Hathaway’s camp.
In a dramatic episode that propelled action forward on just about every front, including the less than satisfactory Look Who’s Talking: Satan baby Alexis thread, and the GoodHal/EvHal and Maggie saga, it was a case of a few spectacular steps forward, and a gigantic one downwards.
On balance though, if you put aside crashing in the middle of nowhere as Mason and Pope did – no sign of Bressler in the trailer for episode 5 “Search and Recovery” so sadly fate unknown – humanity did rather well in this episode starting with a rousing Volm-assisted defeat of the intense battle that started “At All Costs” off with a literal bang.
Several in fact, until Volm snipers took down the incoming Espheni “beamers” that were threatening to wipe Charleston off the map.
(Quite why they weren’t in place BEFORE the attack which they could have easily prevented is another question entirely and one best answered I supposed by narrative necessity.)
This impressive display by humanity’s new allies, who may or may not be the anti-Espheni freedom fighters they claim to be, was enough to convince a hitherto hostile Lt. Catherine Fisher that it was worth contacting “Big Dog”, not as you might think a rather animated if mute character in a children’s TV show but rather President Benjamin Hathaway who, if Fisher is to be believed, lives.
Alas not next door but a plane ride away in an old military airfield that one might assume would be heavily monitored by the Espheni for any activity whatsoever.
Not so it seems.
Maybe it was the Skitters’ day off – surely they have them; looking after all those damn harnessed kids must take its toll – but the 1935 Lockheed Electra, which Pope owns, and had somehow kept hidden in the rubble of Charleston, landed without incident, carrying Mason, Fisher, Pope, Bressler and Cochise (Doug Jones), leader of the Volm, to a meeting with US President Hathaway (Monsters vs Aliens anyone?), played with all the gravitas you would expect by the always excellent Stephen Collins.
It was not the warmest of welcomes, especially since their arrival was expected, and grew frostier still when Cochise stepped out of the plane sending the assembled, guns-raised military escort around the President into a frenzy.
But once Cochise, with his assent but with blatant disregard by Hathaway’s forces for Tom’s strident objections, was taken away under guard, Hathaway and Mason sat down to a semi-friendly chit chat which ran something along the lines of “We’re all this great stuff” (Tom) vs. “Don’t believe you, don’t believe you … wait maybe I do … a little bit” (Hathaway), with a highly suspicious General Donovan (Michael Hogan, channeling Col. Saul Tigh the character he played in Battlestar Galactica), Hathaway’s chief aide, glowering close by.
Tom was convincing enough to persuade a clearly, and understandably sceptical, President Hathaway – who it turns out had cobbled together a connected alliance of resistance groups who communicated via a system that was more “Pony Express than … Federal Express” – to meet with Cochise who won the US President over with a heartwarming tale of the Katerus, a flower that grows on the home world he has never seen which was lost long ago to the Espheni, and his long dead brother who never got to see the “green, green (or possibly red or purple) grass of home”.
It was all very Hallmark and touching, and sounded like a genuine tale of a man fighting to reclaim much of which has been taken from him and his people, with Cochise adding that at least humanity was able to fight for their continued existence on their planet.
Quite where this convincing PR presentation by Cochise would have led wasn’t certain since they had barely exited the building holding the Volm leader when the Espheni, no doubt tipped off by the mole – given that everyone including Anna Glass (Moon Bloodgood) knew Tom etc were on a secret mission, the mole would only have had to go to the post-apocalyptic equivalent of Twitter to see what was going on – swept in sending everyone off in their planes …
… and Tom, Pope and Bressler to their aforementioned, unexpected meeting with the hard forested earth they were flying over when the “beamers” hit their mark.
While not terribly conclusive, it did successfully widen the scope of humanity’s resistance to their planet’s usurpers and opened another dramatic front that I hope will get explored further as season three progresses.
Mean while back at Charleston, Anne Glass, still freaked out that her daughter Alexis might some bizarre human/alien hybrid convinced a perpetually rattled Dr Kadar (Sean Leonard), down in his rat-infested, bubbling-tube filled basement to run some DNA tests on 12 kids who had been de-harnessed.
One of them of course was Alexis, who it turns out has enough alien DNA in her to qualify as the human/alien hybrid Glass feared she might be (but she loves her mummy; she told her so in a comically creepy way).
Kadar rather indelicately said the alien DNA was like a vine strangling her human DNA which frankly was a pretty poor example of doctorly bedside manner and did nothing to settle the increasingly frayed nerves of Glass, earning Kadar an unconscious-inducing spanner to the head and triggering a rather hurried mother/daughter flight from Charleston, but only after drugging Lourdes with some supposedly celebratory wine (Seychelle Gabriel).
But our rather frayed at the edges doctor doesn’t get far before she is confronted by a harnessed child and a Skitter, who unnervingly greet Alexis with some familiarity, and EvHal, who has displaced GoodHal for much of the episode, and is intent on having some fun with the man he is controlling.
Frankly it was an even toss up for silliest sub-plot this week.
While the Demon Alien Spawn Alexis storyline, and GoodHal/EvHal fight to the death saga both had their silly moments this week – an emotionally exhausted GoodHal’s angry yelling match with EvHal via a mirror was clearly intended as a Great Dramatic Moment but instead descended into almost comic farce; even so you can tell Drew Roy is having a ball playing a villain, however crudely drawn – the award for most pointless subplot this week would have to go talking Alexis and her rattled mother.
The only good thing that could be said for either subplot as it played out in rather “Behind you!” Vaudevillian style was that at least both storylines seemed to get somewhere.
Not somewhere great but at least somewhere.
Which is enough for now since at least there is a modicum of dramatic possibilities now which is far more than could be said previously.
Oh and Ben Mason (Connor Jessup) and his fighting buddy/nascent love interest Deni (Megan Danso) were given a rather cursory throwaway subplot that could have been so much more if it had been given room to breath.
Given the chance to remove their spikes safely, they chose to keep them in, reasoning what they had gained in strength, agility, insight and usefulness (Ben particularly felt he had grown too much to let it all go and return to his ineffectual pre-invasion self) more than outweighed what they had lost (long life span for one).
The conversations between the two close friends was as touching and heartfelt as the brief narrative flash-in-the-pan allowed them to be and I can only hope they get a little bit more of a look in successive episodes, with or without their spikes.
WRAP-UP: A vast improvement on the becalmed at sea debacle of last week’s episode but still hamstrung two sub plot lines that need to start delivering soon, and very soon lest they start to detract from the good meaty stories like this week’s meeting between Tom Mason and President Hathaway.