Tonight’s two part season finale, well it’s really just two back to back episodes rather than a cohesive two part installment, is a fitting end to this first season of Falling Skies. Not because the episodes finally break through the problems that the show has been having in this first stretch of episodes, but because they point exactly to the problems the show will need to address in its time off and also showcase some of the elements that Falling Skies can excel at.
Lets start with the bad, and, conveniently enough, that’s pretty much the entirety of the first hour, titled “Mutiny.” This episode is as bad as Falling Skies ever was in its first season. It’s an hour of television that immediately undercuts the character development and relationships that had been building all season, introduces a new character for no purpose other than him being necessary to move the plot forward, and generally falls flat in everything it attempts. The true tragedy of this hour is the way it handles Weaver’s character, after last week’s episode where Weaver was shown coming out of the other end of his depression he heads right back to crazy town just about instantly tonight.
“What Hides Beneath” is an episode that seems, to me at least, to suffer from existing in the age of the internet. See, the problem comes from the fact that most of the revelations of this episode are essentially expected because the internet hive mind has already deduced the most likely scenario for the alien invasion, and they ended up being right. Seeing the true overlords of the skitters and finding out that the skitters were once harnessed themselves are strong revelations, but they can’t help but feel less than monumental when people had already figured that out after the two part premiere.
I’m not quite sure how much I should hold that against this episode though, because I do genuinely like this story direction and I doubt I would have figured it out on my own, or at least not as quickly, were it not for reading the prevalent theories online. Had I gone in clean I’m sure I would have found this episode a lot more exciting, but I don’t think that absolves it of the problems that ultimately drag it down.
I liked “Sanctuary, Part 2” so much I’m just about ready to believe that I was in an awful mood and terribly underrated the first half of this two-parter last week. Everything clicks here, the emotional component that I felt was underserved in Part 1 delivers, the situation is effective and chilling, there’s some strong world building, a fun action sequence or two, and plenty of awesomeness from Pope. There’s a down spot or two but all in all this episode is the high point of the series so far and hopefully a model for just how good this show can and should be.
The first part of a two part episode, “Sanctuary, Part 1” isn’t particularly electrifying. It tries to wrap itself around a dilemma that should play to the emotional attachment we have to Tom and his fatherly relationship with his children, but it ultimately fails to invoke much pathos or sympathy for the situation presented. Part of the reason why is that it’s pretty obvious that Clayton’s plan to move the children ahead isn’t quite on the level, but I think it comes down to the fact that I just wasn’t emotionally involved with the decision being made.
“Silent Kill” marks the halfway point of Falling Skies’ first season, and the problems that have begun to crop up and mar my enjoyment of the show haven’t shown signs of abating. There are fewer logical issues here than there were last week, but they’re almost more frustrating because they’re not being used to set up plot situations but instead to set up character development. When you twist and turn characters to suit the forward momentum of the plot and then try and pass that off as involving character drama as well it just doesn’t work, and Anne’s plotline is a textbook example of this.
“Grace” is an episode of Falling Skies that manages to highlight most of the pleasures and problems that seem to go hand and hand with this show. There are exciting action sequences, genuinely chilling developments, and plot holes in abundance. Falling Skies is a very enjoyable show from moment to moment, but most everything that’s enjoyable in this episode is predicated on actions that aren’t particularly logical.
To start with, what kind of military force leaves a high value asset like the first captured skitter completely unguarded once, let alone throughout just about the entire episode? The writer of the episode, Melinda Hsu Taylor, uses this as an opportunity to let Annie try to interact with the skitter more calmly and to allow Ricky the lack of supervision necessary to reattach the harness, and while both of those developments work, they’re somewhat hamstrung by the fact that any reasonable fighting force would spare at least one soldier to watch over this situation just in case, oh, I don’t know, the skitter proved to be strong enough to get out of its cage. The aliens are an unknown force so it just seems patently unbelievable that a by the book commander like Captain Weaver would completely entrust the alien to a pair of doctors.
I was able to get my computer up and running again faster than anticipated, so while I won’t have a full week of coverage I’ll be able to get some in. I’m going to do two episodes of The Shield this week, one for Thursday at noon PST and one for Friday at noon PST.
Then next week I’ll be back with a review of True Blood Sunday Evening, Falling Skies on Monday afternoon, Wonderfalls on Tuesday and Thursday at noon PST, and The Shield on Wednesday and Friday at noon PST. I’m looking forward to getting back into things and am sorry for the interruption.
I do want to give some brief thoughts on the currently airing shows though since I won’t be getting around to full episode reviews for them.
I felt the True Blood premiere was a bit of a mess and pretty easily the weakest premiere the series has had. It squandered the potential of its leap forward in time just as often as it took advantage of it, not to mention the fact that Gary Cole was pretty much wasted if this is to be his only appearance this season, something that I’m not willing to bet on since he’s such a strong actor and it seems ridiculous to bring him onboard for what amounts to an extended cameo. As per usual on True Blood the quality was all over the place but there just wasn’t a hook to draw me in for the long haul.
Falling Skies continues to plug along and it looks like it’s going to keep on being a solidly entertaining show even if it might not be a great one anytime soon. The third episode chugged along, threw out a few interesting bits of character development and world building and also indulged in some of the overly schmaltzy scenes that the show can’t quite seem to rein in. All in all, another good episode, but not quite as good as either hour of the premiere.
Time constraints and other commitments kept me from watching Falling Skies until just now, and at this point I don’t really have time to squeeze in a review either. Suffice to say I thought it was a strong start and if you’re looking for a bigger review I’d recommend either Todd VanDerWerff’s at the AV Club or Alan Sepinwall’s at Hitfix. You can find Todd VanDerWerff’s at this link: http://www.avclub.com/articles/live-and-learnthe-armory,57747/ and Alan Sepinwall’s at this one: http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/review-tnts-falling-skies-a-solid-alien-invasion-thriller You can also now see just how much better they are at this than myself. I’ll be looking into the series for the coming episodes if all goes to plan.