After last week’s rather lacklustre filler episode, “Search and Recover” aka “Tom and Pope Take a Meaningful Walk in the Woods / The 2nd Mass. Go On a Meaningful Horse Ride” – seriously when you have a finite 10 episode season to play with, who can afford a filler episode? No one, that’s who – you might’ve expected that Falling Skies would be back to great, big battles with the Espheni, intrigue with the Volm, and the looming danger that humanity could slide into oblivion at any moment.
You would have been wrong.
Oh, so very wrong.
True, we did have action, lots and lots of action.
That’s if you count a rather faux-tense hostage drama where EvHal, enroute to taking his dad to local Overlord Karen got waylaid by Maggie with a big ass rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and had to hole up with his dad in a nearby building, whereupon the entire 2nd Mass., turned up to take him on … and talk him down with touching family memories.
Some might call it action; some, perhaps, may not.
(Although Weaver did a lovely dance when EvHal shot all around him as he approached the building, which did involve a lot of action-ish moving around at an amusingly furious pace.)
Alas there was a not a single alien to be seen, unless of course you count the slivery mass of silver goo that oozed out of EvHal’s mouth returning him to just good old Hal (all thanks to a skitter remedy which might have killed him but naturally didn’t; not even remotely with everything pretty much going, unrealistically, swimmingly), and all the action took place within the ship-in-a-bottle surrounds of the ruins of Charleston.
Instead what we got was, what Pope (John Cunningham), correctly termed “another Mason family saga” (uttered by him as he left the front lines with his Beserkers at Weaver’s request, largely I think he was speaking sense and the truth, two qualities not in high demand in the increasingly LaLaLand of the New United Masons … sorry States … of America).
And while yes the Masons – father Tom (Noah Wylie), now ex-President after he resigned his commission to go find Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and Alexis at the end of the episode, and sons Hal (Drew Roy, now de-evilified), Ben (Connor Jessup, still with skitter spikes and loving it) and Matt (Maxim Knight, all the acting ability of a dead skitter) – have always been the heart of the show, this time they managed to take up the entire episode.
Yes, all of it.
What really should have been an engaging, tense B-story, and it had all the right ingredients to be just that with some emotionally-authentic moments between Hal, Maggie and particularly dad Tom, and between Weaver and Pope (who is the only character to emerge from this episode with any dignity intact), instead consumed all the storytelling bandwidth, leaving nothing for the wider struggle between humanity and the increasing number of aliens, both evil, and possibly evil, occupying our real estate.
There is an argument to be made certainly that all the greatest epic stories are best told when broken down to the smaller stories of the participants in them, but Falling Skies took it too far this week, choosing to fill all of one precious episode with the resolution of a storyline that was suspect at best, and sometimes comical at worst.
It was, as I have noted earlier, along with the Satan’s Spawn Alexis narrative thread, one of the missteps the writers have made this season, and didn’t deserve all the episode’s air time to wrap itself up.
That it has wrapped itself up is a relief.
What I have an issue with is the time taken to do it.
While I will acknowledge that Falling Skies has never been The Walking Dead or even Defiance, choosing to only kill off minor characters for the most part, its preoccupation with a Manageable Apocalypse without messy consequences, and the ability of certain characterrs to cheat death at every turn is verging on a Murder She Wrote happy ending obsession.
Thankfully no one employed the full, head tilted back eiposde-ending Jessica Fletcher laugh last night.
It’s not that I want my favourite characters in what is still one of my favourite shows – despite the fact that its seems to be taking narrative inspiration from B-grade horror flicks, and 80s talking baby movies for the most part – to be killed off willy-nilly just for the sake of a body count.
But this is end of civilisation as we know it, alien-style, and even if we manage to see off the Espheni, and figure out what the Volm are really doing, it needs to be messy, brutal, emotionally-destructive stuff.
Not Timmy-fell-down-a-well-where-is-he Lassie stuff which is where Falling Skies seems content to pitch its storytelling tent of late.
And frankly the cheesy The Masons Ride Nobly Out of Town on Their Steeds slo-mo ending to the episode was verging on the satirical, and not worthy of a stellar show that was telling earnest, engaging and downright meaningful stories just one short season ago.
*Here, without further ado, is the promo for next week’s episode, “The Pickett Line”, which promises some action that doesn’t solely involve the Masons …