Falling Skies: “Stalag 14th Virginia” (S5, E8 review)

Hal and Anne begin to suspect that this isn't the coffee queue after all ... (image via Self Rescuing Princesses (c) AMC)
Hal and Anne begin to suspect that this isn’t the coffee queue after all … (image via Self Rescuing Princesses (c) AMC)

 

*SPOILERS AHEAD! AND LOTS OF ALIEN-CHASING CARDIO*

 

Well, catch me a giant cod, slap its head on Rage Tom (Noah Wylie) and call him an Espheni Overlord, Falling Skies finally found its gung-ho storytelling mojo in “Stalag 14th Virginia”!

Granted it was in the third last episode ever when everything is over bar the Espheni shouting, and the Volm being unable to explain why (as always), but at least Something Happened.

And behold everyone rejoiced!

Of course all this highly belated action didn’t come without some ominous signs such as Pope (Colin Cunningham), propped up on a bedraggled couch with beer in hand – where are all these apocalyptic breweries? Clearly the Espheni love a cold one after a long day of exterminating the human race and have left them well alone – watching over his sociopathic brood fighting to the death like unwashed redneck gladiators.

All of which probably means that Pope and Rage Tom will be engaging in one last big last fight to the death instead of taking on, you know, our alien enslavers, or perhaps, rather distractingly, during what you can only hope will be a big enormously huge battle in Washington D.C.

And Hal (Drew Roy), when he wasn’t about to be shot to pieces at dawn – guessing if you’re facing a firing squad the whole “darkest before the dawn” thing is kinda meaningless – was having a heart to heart with Maggie (Sarah Carter) who apparently removed her spikes because of Love True Love and all that.

I know Steven Spielberg loves his heartfelt “family” moments, and yes he’s very good at them but when you don’t have much time left to finish up a storyline, and the clock is very much ticking, then those lovely precious Hallmark moments gobble up a lot of narrative real estate that should be devoted to victory, glorious victory over the aliens.

Assuming, of course, that even happens, and frankly at this point, I am beginning to have my doubts anything dramatic is going to happen; in fact, the odds are pretty good the finale could be a down-and-dirty boxing match between Rage Tom and Pope with the 2nd Mass, the Espheni, the Volm, the Dornia, and hell even the partridge in a pear tree, laying bets on who will win.

 

Rage Tom sits in his call thinking About Things; at this stage in the game when not much is happening of any real import, who knows what really (image via TV.com (c) AMC)
Rage Tom sits in his cell thinking About Things; at this stage in the game when not much is happening of any real import, who knows about what really (image via TV.com (c) AMC)

 

But back to the action at hand, and yes, there was indeed action!

There was mutiny – against Captain Marshall (Melora Hardin) by Lt. Shleton (Bob  Frazer), who got shot and killed for his troubles, and Second Lt. Demarcus Wolf (Daren A. Herbert), who got shot in the arm and then almost shot by the firing squad – betrayal – Anne (Moon Bloodgood) was given up by her supposedly sympathetic patient Sgt. Huston (Lane Edwards) who ended up in the Pope Arena with the Redneck Lord of the Flies for company – and a last minute reprieve as Dingaan (Treva Etienne), Matt and the left behind 2nd Massers arrived just in time to stop the firing squad shooting Hal, Ben (Connor Jessup), Second Lt. Wolf and Anne.

And in the middle of all this intrigue, plotting and counter-plotting – Mike over at MikesFilmTalk alluded to the fact that the episode bore many similarities to the Caine Mutiny – Weaver (Will Patton), finally convinced his old pal Captain Marshall wasn’t quite herself – turns out she was and she wasn’t; the real Katie had died 6 weeks previously, replaced by a bio replica with all her memories – followed her out in the woods at night and found she was keeping company with an Espheni Overlord.

Letting her go back to camp unawares, Weaver killed the Overlord with some rather inventive use of his belt, took the body back to camp and did quite the memorable Show-and-Tell presentation with it, shocking everyone but Katie, and the insanely loyal – literally as it turns out – Private Grey (Harrison MacDonald) who decided to step in and do the firing squad’s dirty work when they hesitated in the most just-in-time Spielbergian of ways.

So yes, much adrenaline-pounding action … at last!

Trouble was you have to wonder what the writers of Falling Skies thought they were accomplishing.

It was a tight episode yes, and gave Rage Tom a chance to deliver a couple of inspirational speeches – apparently that’s how the Espheni will be defeated; by boredom after hearing endless sermonising, and frankly after sitting through it, I think it’s a reasonably sound strategy and might just work – but all a bit too late in the grand scheme of things, with the only two big reveals being that Ben can see into the Shadow Realm in a way no one else can, and that there’s actually a Big Bad Espheni that, once again, Cochise and the Volm, the galaxy’s Most Inept Aliens Ever, forgot to tell anyone on earth about – whoopsies!

We are still left talking about Washington D.C. and what might be there, still no closer to any kind of momentum that might lead to waging a Big Final Battle – although with Marshall and Grey gone, the 14th Virginia are at Rage Tom’s disposal if it happens and surely it will, and still with no real sense that this final season, this critically-important final season is heading anywhere.

Unless the writers pull something out of their giant big fishhead hats fairly quickly, and give us two astoundingly good last episodes in “Reunion” and “Reborn”, Falling Skies, a show I have devotedly watched for 5 seasons through thick and thin because I believed in its oft-squandered potential, could face the ignominy of a non-event finale, consigned to the graveyard of Shows That Could’ve Been Something But Weren’t.

I am praying showrunner David Eick gets his act together and Falling Skies can avoid that fate.

  • Behold the promo for next week’s episode “Reunion” where Things May Happen (don’t hold your breath though; blue doesn’t suit you) and a sneak peek …

 

 

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