Falling Skies review: “Search and Recover” (season 3, episode 5)

Tom Mason (Noah Wylie) ends up lost in the woods after last week’s episode-ending plane crash, his only companion a characteristically cantankerous Pope, now extra angry thanks to his lost plane (image via tv.com (c) TNT)

 

“Search and Recover” confirmed everything I have ever thought about camping in the great outdoors.

It’s damp and uncomfortable, you’ll probably have to build a fire, the food will be questionable (frogs anyone?), there’s a high likelihood you’ll injure yourself, and you might get suck with fellow campers that’ll annoy the hell out of you.

And if you’re Tom Mason (Noah Wylie) and John Pope (Colin Cunningham), and you’ve just survived a fiery plane crash that killed good old cranky General Bressler (Matt Frewer), you’ll likely also have skitters chasing after you and beamers trying to locate you with big, hidey-hole piercing spotlights.

All of which makes a room at the Marriott look mighty tempting.

Except for the fact that (a) any five star hotel within the boundaries of the continental United States has likely been bombed to bits long ago and (b) you’re out in the middle of heavily-forested, frog-infested nowhere, miles from accommodation of any kind and facing the mother of all walks just to get home, anyway.

So what to do? WHAT … TO … DO …

 

Tom Mason and John Pope don’t exactly break out the s’mores on their trek through the forest preferring roasted amphibians, aerobic river-plunging … and snarky conversations where anyone could hear you (image via projectfandom.com (c) TNT)

 

Well for a start you can have some heart to heart conversations about life, the universe and everything, punctuated by some fisticuffs – interrupted of course by a skitter-chasing-you-both precipitated leap off a tall cliff into a fast-flowing white water churning river – and a heated confrontation after which one of you can storm off in a huff never to be seen again …

Until you’re needed in just the nick of time in which, if you’re Pope, and Tom just called you a “coward” – thems fighting words I believe! – is with the sort of cavalry-like timing that’s required if you’re going to kill two skitters about five seconds from killing Charleston’s President-in-residence

It all sounds very robust and exciting doesn’t it?

Just the sort of thing to connect you back to life in an alien-invasion triggered apocalypse right?

If only it has been as exciting as that swift recap of sorts makes it sound.

 

This is what Tom should have been doing; what he ended up doing was yelling at Pope causing the now plane-less man to storm off leaving Tom to rest his injured ankle by a fire where he slept … until the skitters found him, and almost killed him (image via tvequals.com (c) TNT)

 

In truth while we got a beautifully-calibrated insights into why Tom is Tom, and Pope is Pope:

* in response to Pope’s jibes that Tom must know everything about lighting fires thanks to his Norman Rockwell-esque childhood  – a big assumption on Pope’s part but hey he’s not exactly a measured philosophical thinker is he?  Nor does he know how to light fires, the source of his snarliness at that point – Tom calmly and evenly but with obvious anger bubbling away furiously just below the surface says: “My father was a drunk, an angry, mean drunk. There was nothing idyllic about my childhood, except maybe I survived it.”

* after Tom shares that he used to make breakfast for the boys on Saturdays, Pope, in more wistful and it must be noted regretful mode than we have him inn up to this point, admitted he found domestic life baffling and preferred life in prison where he at least understood the lay of the land.

While these sorts of on-the-road confessions are bread and butter staples for dramas wanting to either give us a closer look at two key, antagonistic characters, and they work well in terms of slightly fleshing out the characters of Tom and Pope, they were not much of a reward for a rather lopsided, poorly paced run from the Espheni.

As predator and prey hunts go, it was a bit of a damp squib (literally as it turns out).

 

 

The good news is that they didn’t bond like brothers, which is always a Hallmark-esque temptation in these situations, which some gooey warm and fuzzy moments in the short term but leaches your characters of any residual dramatic possibility down the track, although Pope was noticeably more attentive to Tom while he waited for the President to recover once they got back to Charleston.

The bad news is that Tom and Pope in the Forest as I like to call the episode, was a whole lot of energetic sniping and snarling, a breadcrumb of an action scene reminiscent, very reminiscent of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and not much else of any real consequence.

Hurrah that we got to see a little peek into the ragged psyches of both men but give us action while it’s happening will you, and not a few half-hearted skitter attacks which were easily seen off and provided little to no tension.

 

Off on a day in the countryside we go … actually no, it’s a serious search party for Anne and Alexis not that you would know it from the constant stops for snacks and the musing about the frailty of life (image via fanpop.com (c) TNT)

 

Things weren’t much better back in the delightful surrounds of bombed-out Charleston.

With Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) and the Devil’s Alien Spawn Alexis presumably taken into the oh-so-tender care of the Espheni if the end of last week’s episode was any guide, it was left to the 2nd Mass. to go and off and find her.

Which they duly did, after some opposition from Top Candidate To Be the Spy, Vice President Marina Peralta (Gloria Reuben) who admitted after her we can’t send a search party, we must think of ALL of Charleston speech, that she (a) had a family and knew what it was like to fight in their memory, and (b) that she LIKED Colonel Weaver (Will Patton), something she indicated by taking the time to personally apologise to Weaver himself.

Do I hear wedding bells? Not if she’s the spy you won’t!

But I digress.

So looking for all the world like they were heading off for a jolly lovely ride in the countryside on horseback, with all the urgency of people going out to visit relatives who feed them stale cake and cold coffee each time they visit, Colonel Weaver took all the Mason boys (including EvHal, played with a mischievously devilish glint by Drew Roy), his daughter Jeanne (Laci J Mailey) and occasionally insightful, other times clueless (if it serves the greater good of narrative necessity) Maggie (Sarah Carter) off to fight Anne and her human/alien hybrid.

Only they kind of forgot to really look for Anne and the baby.

Well that’s the impression you got as they stopped off to eat ration packs, have some heartfelt, admittedly touching conversations about their dead mother (the two younger Mason boys at least; EvHal simply glowered menacingly in a Vaudeville kind of way, prompting to yell “Behind you!” more than once) and bury a newly-deceased woman lying atop the steps of a bombed out building.

 

“We’re all going on a summer holiday!” Wait no, we’re not. We’re actually looking for um, you know, what’s-her-name, you know, our new mom, um … oh dang it let’s just have a picnic shall we? (image via tv.com (c) TNT)

 

Now don’t get me wrong.

They were genuinely sweet moments but they went on for far too long, took all the tension and urgency out what should be a Anne is mortal peril life-and-death search for her, and gave you the impression that they were on an R&R trip out into the fields to pick mushrooms and quaff lemonade.

Really, by the end of it – at which point my housemate and I, who drink some red wine each time a touching “family moment” occurs, were on the verge off into paralytic drunkness – you had to wonder if they even remembered they had a new mother.

Weaver’s impassioned pleas to Peralta to let him go find Anne, and the child Kadar confirmed to anyone who would listen was a human/Espheni hybrid (so much for doctor-client privilege), ripe with dramatic possibility, fizzled out to a few heart to heart chats, a touching burial of the dead Jane Doe, and a hanging off a leaf on the remembrance tree in honour of their pink sneaker-wearing mom.

No one seemed unduly troubled at the end that they hadn’t found Anne.

Save of course for Tom who understandably got more than a little upset that she was missing.

Perhaps he should have been on the trip?

Oh wait no … he was bonding elsewhere.

I can honestly see what the show’s writers were trying to achieve with this episode – getting insights into why characters do what they do is invaluable when you see them in the heat of battle – but they largely failed to do that, crafting an episode with a few touching moments, and slight character development but with not really enough reason for being, almost a crime when you have only ten episodes in a season to play with.

Here’s the trailer for next week’s episode, “Be Silent and Come Out”

 

 

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