Why ‘Falling Skies: The Final Battle’ Fails to Deliver

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As you probably saw from my last post on Falling Skies (and probably assumed from my lack of posts since), I’m more than a little disappointed with the show as of late. I hate to be so negative on it. I used to be such a fan of the show. I was enthralled with its early seasons. I love Hal, Maggie, Anne, Matt — even Pope. And yet, in a season that should be pushing the limits and dramatically leading to the end of the 2nd Mass (in one way or another), it’s just falling flat. We’re getting more of the same, episode after episode, which is quite frankly odd, considering that we’ve added a new race of alien into the mix.

Take, for example, last night’s episode. Here, we have Tom desperately trying to find Hal and Pope, while the rest of the 2nd Mass is in a standoff with a random stranger who, we discover, has lost his family. This is a middle-of-the-road, one-off plotline, which should have appeared somewhere in the third season. A random attack on the side of the road by an individual, discovering the loss he’s experienced? We’re way beyond that. Introducing new characters, like the gal Pope brought on as his “nurse”? What are we? Mad Men?

If that doesn’t convince you, consider Cochise from the previous episode. Suddenly he’s dying and needs a transplant? Even his father’s death didn’t change anything for the 2nd Mass, even though he was head of their ally alien race. Ultimately, all of these B-plots aren’t advancing the story.

The season is advertised as “the final battle,” and I suppose that’s the problem. What battle? We’re still facing the same ol’ war on the same ol’ turf with the same ol’ enemies. Sure, now they can be bugs (which we know nothing about). And there’s also a third alien race in the mix, courtesy of Tom (which we also know nothing about — and don’t seem to care to look into). There’s no indication of where this season is headed, and we’re only five episodes away from a finale. Sure, True Detective might be able to fit the drama, tension, and plot in the last two episodes of their second season, but Falling Skies isn’t quite that contained. We need to know that there’s an end point. And if there isn’t — if we find out in the finale that the humans can’t win and their way of life is to fight on — we still need tension to build until we get there.

What’s worse is that our favorite characters are suffering. Hal has nothing to do except occasionally declare his love for Maggie, but they’ve barely put them in scenes together. Ben and Maggie supposedly have this sexual tension, but beyond a forced declaration of “feelings” as their spikes were glowing in the last episode, we haven’t seen it. Tom is, quite possibly, unbearable. Pope is so one-dimensional it hurts. Heck, Sarah didn’t even get a good death scene because you could see her boots in the mud (seriously, go back and watch; you can see her kneeling where her legs are supposed to be underground). Where did the quality go?

I’m going to try to stick it out to the end. If Falling Skies has done anything well, it’s their finales. But I’m really finding it hard to get excited about the show, especially considering how amped I was about it when it premiered.

I would just hate to see the 2nd Mass drag their feet the end of the series. It’s one thing to win a war for Earth, but I’d hate to see them lose their fans in the process.

*Photo by TNT

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Falling Skies: Find Your Warrior

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FALLING SKIES: 5.01 “Find Your Warrior”

The final season of Falling Skies is upon us, and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s about time. Unfortunately, Falling Skies is long past its expiration date, no matter how many alien species you throw at it. For a show that used to be one of my favorite summer series, the season four finale was lacking — well, to be honest, season four was lacking. I never really got into the Lexi storyline. And while I was pleased to see her sacrificed in the season four finale, I wasn’t so pleased to see Tom’s face-to-face with a new monster.

It’s pretty hard to come back from that. Especially when you think about the fact that they have a mere ten episodes to wrap up not only that story but the entire series (and somehow, I doubt they’ll just let all the humans die). There’s a lot to do.

What’s more, Tom has lately proven to be one of the most boring characters on the show. He’s been someone quite interesting — a history professor turned army leader — to a one-dimensional guy. And the problem with a one-dimensional character is that when you try to change them, they come across too fake and too predictable. As we saw in last night’s episode, something’s different about Tom, and a whole bunch of people are starting to notice. The problem is, all we’re seeing is a few covert, concerned glances…and that’s it.

What’s worse, Tom’s “different” self is basically one that’s just guided by “rage,” an apparently muted, dull rage that doesn’t really come to the surface above a semi-passionate speech. We’re not even quite seeing it yet; we’re just told and guessing that he’s different. (Geez, even with Sam in Supernatural, it took us a while to realize something was amiss when he came back from hell. See, I can make that reference now.) In essence, he’s boring.

And there’s the problem with the episode: I was rather bored. I was bored with the battles. I was born with Tom. And I have no idea where we’re going from here.

It’s not that all hope is lost with Falling Skies. They just seem to have put themselves in a tricky spot with so little time to flesh it out. For example, if they had more episodes, perhaps we could have devoted an entire episode to Tom in his alternate dimension, seen the loving, compassionate side of him as he went back and forth with the woman he thought was his wife. Then we could see the rest of the 2nd Mass trying to adapt without Tom as their leader. Then in another episode, Tom suddenly appears, soaking wet. Where did he come from? How did he get here? And why is he suddenly so mad? This isn’t the Tom we knew. Is it really even the same Tom at all?

Now, wouldn’t that be more intriguing? The problem is, Falling Skies doesn’t have the time. And it also doesn’t have the B-stories. It has incredibly complex and compelling characters, but not enough interesting stories to tell about them. Yes, I’d prefer Hal with Maggie (though I don’t think she’ll end up with him), but it’s not sustaining my attention. And I’m sad to see Deni gone. But it’s not keeping my attention. And without an inkling of where we’re going from here, other than just the vague “war” ahead, I just don’t know what’s keeping us going.

All that said, I’ll stick with it (I’ll even try to keep writing about it). I mean, there’s only nine episodes left, right? We have to see what happens to the human race. But to make a real impact, it better step up its game.

*Photo by TNT

Falling Skies: The Development of Matt Mason

Matt Mason

Matt Mason, played by the great Maxim Knight, has always been one of my favorite characters in Falling Skies. He’s always had a unique role to play. Not just a survivor, but the youngest survivor. He wasn’t a warrior. He wasn’t the strongest. He didn’t have the experience to make him a leader. He was just a kid, thrust into an apocalyptic war zone.

And over the last four years, he’s grown from that little kid we saw as a ray of light, scooting along on a skateboard in the series premiere. Matt’s learned the darkness of the world. There have been times that we’ve seen him angry, bitter, and ready to take out vengeance on the world that has only handed him ugliness.

We saw such a side last night, as he tracked the captors of his father. He already lost his mother he said, and maybe his brothers, too. He wasn’t going to let them take his father. They deserved to die. In the end, though, his Mason qualities came out. He couldn’t pull the trigger, and eventually naively asked his father, “Why did that man kill his brother?”

Matt is, at the most, 12 years old. It’s an ugly situation. And watching how the world has transformed this bright-eyed child has just been so enthralling to me. But I must admit: I want them to do more.

I’ve already lamented that this season isn’t really doing it for me. I liked the idea that the group was separated, but I wasn’t completely sold on all the storylines. And now that they’re all converging into Ben and Lexi’s camp, even the different dynamics of putting random people together isn’t going to last much longer. When it was happening, I was most intrigued to see what Matt, cut off from the group by the electric fence, would do on his own. Fast forward a few months, and we find him in a lone rebel in an education camp.

24051_006_0104_R_6178_That could have worked. If we had actually seen Matt embrace the re-education, instead of defy it. When Tom came to rescue him, it would have been entirely enthralled. Would Tom take him? Or would he leave him, whistling that his father was there, like the other children in the camp.

But I would have preferred to see something else. I would have like to have seen a darker, more ominous, more Pope-like side of Matt Mason.

Imagine this: Matt Mason grew up from the age of 8 in a dark, ugly world, where the main thing you paid attention to was how to survive. And Matt has survived. Not only has he survived, but he’s seen his mother die and his brother as an alien-harnessed captive. He’s had families taken hostage. He’s been shot at. He’s seen kids die, let alone adults. Along the way, he’s learned to shoot a gun and become part of a rebellion.

What if after he had been cut off, he learned to truly survive. He lost his Mason self and looked only to what you need to do as a human to live. I would have been so intrigued if we still ran into those brothers that took Tom captive, but without Matt along for the ride. Instead, Matt saved Tom, discovering them on his own. Perhaps Matt has his own group of survivors following him now, and he’s the leader. But a dark leader. And as Tom breathes a sigh of relief to see his young son again, Matt gives the order — or pulls the trigger himself — to kill both brothers, no questions asked. Now, all Tom’s left with is a cold-hearted killer in his young son, not sure what to do to bring the boy he loved so much back.

It’d be a hard pill to swallow. But it’s something that I could see Maxim Knight doing with the character, and I think the writers behind Falling Skies need to stretch the limits here, especially now that they only have a mere ten episodes after this season to create a powerful ending to the series. Changing Matt in such a dramatic way would turn the show in such a different direction. Sure, it’d be up in the air as to whether we’d see that sweet little Matt ever again. But consider the world they’re living in. It’s not that much of a surprise that someone would turn this way.

In fact, it’s almost more surprising that someone wouldn’t.

*images courtesy of TNT

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Falling Skies

ImageWell, one of my favorite summer series came and went while I was offline, but as I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to make sure I hopped back on here and let you know my thoughts. I was watching — usually live — and I had some mixed thoughts on this season.

I was always impressed with Falling Skies, since from its start, I was always surprised that it was successful as a series. Shows with large budgets (which I imagine this show has a decent one, given the CGI) tend to have higher standards to meet, so they can be worth their price tags. Plus, given that it’s a show about aliens, I was always impressed that it focused more on the humans than the people in costumes.

This season gave me pause, though, when at the very start of the season, we see Tom buddy-buddy with the Volm. Suddenly, we have an English-speaking alien as part of the ranks. I, for one, was hesitant. No, I wasn’t like Pope and his anti-alien, we-can’t-trust-any-of-those-guys spirit, but I just worried for the state of the show. Are we really going to go down the traditional alien sci-fi path? Have the humans intermixing with aliens, all speaking the same language (which was a far stretch of the imagination, if you ask me — at least Farscape had a good reason for a common language; we had none here), walking on two legs with two arms, two eyes. I feared we were one step away from Star Trek: everyone on board the same ship wearing uniforms, chatting strategy.

Fortunately, while the Volm was discussed a lot, they weren’t featured as much. The show still revolved around Tom, his boys, their friends, and their enemies. At the heart, it was still the Falling Skies I enjoyed.

But this season was a little slow for me. With the huge cliffhanger of Hal’s evil side, I was expecting more of Hal being devious. We got lots of talking, very little action. In fact, the main evil thing he had going for him was his chin beard. Then we had Anne and the baby. Another great cliffhanger when they were taken by the aliens — but then we never saw them again until the final episode of the season. Falling Skies just wasn’t taking the opportunities they were handed. (To be fair, Moon Bloodgood was pregnant and had a child in real life, so perhaps she wasn’t available this season, but I still think they could have done something with even Alexis if Anne wasn’t there.)

Instead, we spent too much time with Tom, who bugged the crap out of me for most of the season. Tom is growing more and more righteous as we move along, a trait that I really find annoying in any TV show. I felt his scene with Pope after the plane crash — where Pope told the real story of how he ended up in prison — was incredible, only to be ruined by Tom’s rude attitude and declaration that they’re still not friends. You’d think that would have softened Tom a bit. He was also quite adamant about not listening to anyone about the Volm.

That being said, Falling Skies once again hooked me with its ending. Watching Karen be killed — shot by Tom and killed by Mags — was just shocking. Don’t get me wrong. She deserved it. But I didn’t think they’d take her out of the picture yet, and I’m not sure how Hal is going to get over Mags’ actions next season. What else? Well, Boston has been crushed by the Volm’s much larger ship, and it looks like our fearless band of fighters is back where they started, wandering nomads fighting off all they can.

So who knows where this show will be going next season. We have more aliens, but more chances for “alliances” (and more chances for those to go horribly wrong). I’m hoping we get more back to the heart of the matter — the survival of the human race — instead of focusing on the aliens next time around. But with Alexis’ special talent of healing Lourdes, who knows what this could mean. Is she a risk or a reward. I guess we’ll find out.

Until next summer!

*image courtesy of TNT

Falling Skies: A More Perfect Union

FALLING SKIES: 2.10 “A More Perfect Union”

I was so nervous going into this episode of Falling Skies. From the start of the season, we saw that this was not going to be some long survival story, where moving from point A to point B was the goal, and the aliens were the entertaining side plots. No, while the 2nd Mass did find their way to Charleston eventually, this season more than ever was one of battles and war. One where you lived or you died. And it left a lot of bodies in its wake.

We started with Jimmy, a mere kid who was really the heart of the frontlines. We ended with Dai, whose stoic loyalty never wavered. Honestly, I’ve been worried about Dai since the first season, wondering when the writers would take him away, but for some reason, last night’s shocking death surprised even me. In everyone’s lines and last words to their loved ones, I was hearing a good-bye speech, the ones that sci-fi writers reserve for the character that’s not coming back. Little did I know that I should have been noting the silence of the man with few words, since he really was the one that didn’t get a final say.

Overall, the episode was rather intense, yet not what I expected at all. Anne is pregnant, which I can only imagine will cause a lot of high stress situations next season. Ben was back, which gave Hal a chance to make up with his kid bro, but it also meant that there was danger afoot, this time with rebel skitters in tow. Even I was wondering if this was a trap for the 2nd Mass, but when you’re following Tom Mason, you know he can’t be wrong.

The battle was surprisingly short, and while I didn’t feel as much sadness for Red Eye as many of the people whose tweets I was reading did (sorry, Red Eye, but I just didn’t grow all that attached to you, and even if you might have told Ben to return to his family, I still question whether that’s your real plan), I was completely enthralled as Karen moved her away around her prisoners, enjoying the torture she was bringing upon them. The way they’ve developed Karen has been incredibly interesting this season — I almost wish she does get deharnessed at some point so that the 2nd Mass really has to deal with what she’s like when she’s a human again, and see how she’ll respond to the backlash of her alien actions. Somehow I don’t see that happening too soon, though, what with her skittering right up a wall to escape.

What I adored about the episode, though, was Hal. Right now, we don’t know much about what happened to Hal, other than the fact that he got some sort of bug in him. The scene with the mirror was wonderfully shot, distorting his face and features, so you didn’t know if he was monster or man. In the end, a bug came out of his eye and crawled into his ear, and the maniacal smile that landed on his face truly made you wonder if the Hal we’ll see next season will be close to the one that many fans have fallen in love with in recent weeks (not to mention Maggie).

But all that is side plot to discovering that the aliens we thought we were fighting might not be the real bad guys. A new alien face was left staring at the 2nd Mass, and by the quaking ground, it’s certainly not friendly.

It looks like everything’s changing next season. And I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

Falling Skies: Welcome to Charleston

FALLING SKIES: 2.09 “The Price of Greatness”

Back to civilization? Could it be true?

Well, knowing the 2nd Mass, you knew it would be an adjustment. Sure, the food’s great and they’ve even got beds, but almost instantly, the group was separated into different units and their weapons were taken away. After months and months of constant stress and battles, taking away the only thing that makes you feel safe against the enemy is a big task. It’s no wonder that Weaver had to talk the soldiers down.

But what was most interesting about this episode is when the good guys went bad. No, I’m not talking about Pope’s gang (there were no surprises there), but Tom and his crew. We take for granted that we’ve seen all that the 2nd Mass has seen. We’ve gotten to know Ben as someone who no longer has a harness. And we’ve grown to trust Tom’s judgment.

But Manchester doesn’t know any of that. All he knows is how he and his survivors have made it so far. And he doesn’t want that to change.

So what do you do when the new group — the one whose reputation proceeds itself — wants to go fight a war instead of hunkering down in the shadows? Well, we’re about to find out. And in the meantime, it turns out that they start a coup. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to end that episode to show the gravity of the situation than Pope’s line. Suddenly, you realize what they’ve done.

So what does marshall law look like in the new regime? I guess we’ll find out soon. I can’t believe the season finale is upon us, and I’m afraid to see what’s next.

Ok, so I have much more to add about this episode, but I don’t want to spoil any of you who might not be readers. So if you haven’t read the Hunger Games trilogy, don’t keep reading. If you have, feel free to read on.

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Falling Skies: Death March

FALLING SKIES: 2.08 “Death March”

With a name like “Death March,” I certainly didn’t think we’d be seeing good things in this episode. I thought there’d be more horrific deaths, more heartbreak. But I didn’t expect this.

It was actually a slow episode. A slow, powerful episode. The group was making their way to Charleston and telling very intriguing stories along the way. Weaver had his former military guy, who was still suffering the loss of his friend killed dead in the street in the last episode. Tom had Anne, Lourdes, and Matt in a truck, which was probably the saddest transport there. And then there was Hal, Maggie, and Pope, all in another (and on another route).

Weaver’s conversation was interesting, but having spent little time with his driver (whose name I’ve forgotten), it was strange. But then again, it was a nice change. We’ve seen all the usual mashups of characters, so why not shine a light on someone else? Someone who really was a soldier? And someone who was feeling guilty over watching his own friend die in the street.

While it was a little predictable, I did like to see how Weaver broke him down, to realize that he didn’t really kill anyone with his decisions. This is a war show, and that has to be reminded. After all the mindless deaths, we need to remember that the aliens are the enemy.

Which I suppose is something that the rest of the group needs to be reminded. It’s not that I’m heartless, but let’s think of the larger picture. They hit a harnessed girl. And then? They actually bring her with them? Didn’t they fall for this trap with Karen?

I did feel bad for Matt, though. He seemed to have found himself a friend. He’s having a rough time of it, writing up his will. Really, I love Matt, and I just want to see that cute kid who rode on the skateboard in the first episode again. I guess that’s part of the issue, though: This world is just making him grow up too fast.

Meanwhile, there were all kinds of discoveries in the truck with Hal, Maggie, and Pope. I was most invested in this, I must say, as these three are probably my favorite characters. (In fact, a spinoff with these three would be quite entertaining.) Maggie and Pope are two characters that we know the least about, but they seem to have so much complexity in their lives. The confession that Maggie used to get high, ended up in a women’s facility, and then had a child was rather huge. How Hal will deal with it is still up in the air, but based on the glances at the end of the episode, it looks like they’ll pull through. But I do wonder whether we’ll be seeing that boy with the beautiful eyes later in the series.

In the end, the group finally made it to Charleston. I honestly thought that we were really going to discover Charleston was no longer, much like the 2nd Mass thought at first sight, but I’m glad to see that we’re wrong. That there is a Charleston somewhere hidden.

I can’t wait to see where this goes. And I can’t tell you how happy I am that everyone made it through another death march.