The 2nd Mass join forces with the Skitter rebels to bring the fight to the Overlords in the Falling Skies Season 2 finale. But was it really “A More Perfect Union”, or did it leave us worlds apart? We get to the heart of the matter with our look at what worked and what didn’t from the climactic ender.
- The episode picked right up from the previous installment giving us direct continuation, which helped ground me back into proceedings.
- The special and visual effects were much improved, particularly the Skitters — their movements and interactions with human characters. Now we know where the budget went for the past few episodes!
- Traces of humor helped lighten an understandably serious installment.
- The Karen-led torture scenes were a particular highlight. Things often kick up a gear when Crazy Kaz enters the scene and she certainly didn’t disappoint here with an effective and quite humorous display. She gets bonus points for zapping Tom with the Big Bad Overlord Stick (BBOS).
- Convenient timing aside, the Skitter attack was a nice change of pace and followed through on this season’s most engaging storyline. It not only looked good but it was the first time that I really believed the humans and Skitters can (visually) work together in overthrowing the Overlords.
- The ‘Evil Hal’ reveal, in itself, was presented well. It doesn’t reach the Twin Peaks vibe it was seemingly influenced by, but I like the idea that Karen’s still got her claws into her ex-Man — plus it gives us a somewhat intriguing mystery to run over into Season 3.
- It’s difficult to say at this stage whether the introduction of the new alien species is ‘good’, ‘bad’ or somewhere in between. Let’s just say that it should add another intriguing layer of mythology, while opening the story up for the third season to mine the hell out of. I’d also say that it feels more thought-out than last season’s cliffhanger, which will hopefully give the writers more room to manoeuvre when it comes to plotting a coherent arc.
- The character logic in this episode, as usual, left much to be desired. I also felt Tom and Arthur Manchester’s allegorical discussion failed to match the supposed seriousness of the situation. Too cute and not enough substance — and way to underuse Terry O’ Quinn.
- The episode — and by extension, the show — failed to successfully convey the notion that toppling one solitary Overlord represents a major breakthrough in disrupting alien operations. I’m fine with the idea, but it came across as a contrivance more than a intriguing gap in the enemy’s armor.
- Anne’s pregnancy ‘shocker’. We know why long-running dramas are obsessed with baby storylines — melodramatic as they are, they represent an easy way to induce drama and get audiences riled up. This doesn’t make Anne’s pregnancy any less predictable or contrived. Sure, it provides more of an ‘explanation’ for my suspicions earlier in the season that Tom and Anne’s relationship was developing rather forcibly, but again, that doesn’t make it any less contrived.
- To make matters worse, the writers decided that Anne should join the dangerous ‘Tick-Tick-Boom’ mission knowing that she was pregnant. My problem isn’t that she’s pregnant (I’m not invested enough in the character to really care, sorry), but Anne NEVER goes on these kinds of missions and only went on this particular escapade so that the baby beans could be spilled during the interrogation scene. Now, Karen almost saved the day with her reaction to discovering the second heartbeat, but not even she could rescue this inexplicable contrivance. I’m all for characters breaking the mould, indeed, I think Moon Bloodgood portrays the character more convincingly when she has action sequences to tackle, but this character change was entirely predicated on a plot device.
- I had issues with the episode’s plotting. I should be used to Falling Skies cutting certain corners (some of it perhaps necessary due to budget and the heightened world the show plays in), but I struggled with the convenient timing of events in this installment (take the Skitter attack just as Tom was about to spill the beans, as one example).
- The death of Dai. Wow. In a small way it’s a good thing because they sure weren’t doing ANYTHING with this character (like so many other characters). But that itself is a sad indictment on the show’s use of its characters. I’m beginning to think characters serve two functions on this show — they either worship at the alter of Tom Mason and force his legend — or, they die without stakes (there’s also a third group that manically clap on cue whenever required). When Red Eye’s death elicits more red eyes than Dai you know something is wrong. And not because he’s alien, but because Dai has been around for longer and was supposedly a key member of the 2nd Mass. “Tick Tick Boom”. And RIP.
- So, Arthur Manchester is, effectively, back in charge — just like that. Making much of what took place in the previous episode just a means of instigating drama without the actual expression of said drama. I feared as much, but I would have liked to have been proven wrong.
NOTES OF RESISTANCE
- Jeanne and Weaver are still not working for me. At least an effort is being made, but even removing the “Young Bloods” contrivance I’m not seeing the father/daughter chemistry. Still, “Baby Bear” (cringe) is essentially still in-play for Season 3, so we’ll see if and when anything improves.
- Nice callback to the Skitters sleeping upside down, leading into a quite heartfelt moment between Mason Boys Hal and Ben. I guess it was good to see them reconciling while Ben’s “I think I found a place that I belong” was one of his more profound and touching moments to date. What a shame he had to undo it all by changing his mind a few hours later.
- The episode doesn’t exactly follow up on it, but obviously Bressler was behind the attack on the Skitters, whose identity Ben and the surviving Skitters contrived not to see. This seemed like a pretty big moment considering that deharnessed kids were among the slain, and yet the show skirts right on over it.
- Red Eye, bless him, tells Tom the Overlord Slayer to “keep the fight going.” He’s silent moment with Ben was more impactful as they were actually allies in the rebellion.
- Tector asking to be allowed back into the Berserkers didn’t do enough to paper over his earlier turncoat activities but it did bring Pope his best moment of the season. It probably says more about the season he’s had, but it was good to see him both emotionally impacted and forgiving — making him more dimensional in one heartbeat than he has been for the most of the previous 19 episodes. I don’t understand his apparent popularity in the fandom, though again, that might say more about the show itself.
- The characters reactions to a clearly stricken Hal landed really awkwardly. They treated it as though he had bumped his head and needed to sleep it off — NO Karen kissed him and he fell into a coma! That’s not normal, guys! To make matters worse, they apparently didn’t bother ask the Skitters (via Ben) what might be wrong with him.
- I disliked the decision to ‘throw a baby into the mix!’, but I’m pleased that Anne at least questioned “how fair it is to bring a child into this kind of world.” I’ll choose to believe that the character is deeply conflicted about this, because it was glossed over as quickly as it was spurted.
- I also think Anne would have some reflection for her son who was supposedly killed during the invasion. Perhaps there wasn’t enough room in this episode and we’ll get more introspection in Season 3? One can but hope.
- Without wanting to rag on this too much, I must say, the thought of another Mason child makes me tired, and I’m not the one who has to give birth to the blighter!
- I might have had more problems with Tom’s decision that “Charleston isn’t for the 2nd Mass”, but I liked his core reasoning, “I’ll fight, not because I want to, but because I have to”.
- You gotta love Lourdes these days: “Well, this was a short-lived paradise”. Heh! She hasn’t had much to do this season, but something about the character is beginning to work.
- Anne’s comment about enjoying the “rush” of fighting also worked for me (though it didn’t wipe away her earlier contrivance). It makes sense that the 2nd Mass have become so used to fighting that’s it’s in their bones now. In the previous episode she mentioned always being a “heartbeat” away from death, which plugs into the notion that living on the edge can become something that feels natural, which in turn taps into one of the show’s core (if rarely highlighted) concepts about human change. Whether they know it or not, the writers at least have a semi decent reason for having the 2nd Mass up sticks to shake more dust on the road. I’d like to explore more of that 2nd Mass mentality next season, as the show could use a few more psychological insights.
- When the skit starts hitting the fan at the Charleston base, Weaver’s first thought is that it’s “an earthquake”. Really Weaver? Surely a lower reach would be that it’s the Overlords unleashing 2nd hell on your ass for killing their all-important comrade. Obviously, it was neither, but that’s besides the point.
- I find it strange that everyone rushed outside to see what was happening — especially Anne, what with being pregnant and all — but of course we needed the dramatic cliffhanger shot of their reactions to their new ally..or enemy.
Weaver telling Tom that they’ve “come a long way” is basically the show trying to convince the audience that this has been a journey rather than a collection of pieces glued together — and this partly reflects my feelings on Falling Skies thus far. I want to feel Weaver’s sentiment but I simply can’t feel what’s not there.
I really hope Falling Skies can address its inherent flaws because it has many ingredients that I otherwise enjoy — heavy serialization, intriguing mythology, cool sci-fi elements, large ensemble, potentially complex issues. No-one will be more pleased than me if the storytelling comes alive in Season 3. As we always say, there’s always redemption in serial.
And that’s not to say this season has been a complete bust, I certainly think the Red Eye/Skitter rebellion offered an intriguing parallel to the ‘human resistance’ theme, while the show is somehow never too much of a chore to watch. But on the whole, Falling Skies Season 2 didn’t reach the heights I hoped it would. Still, they’ve introduced another ‘god from the sky’ that might (or might not) bring better prospects in 2013. Time will tell. “Tick Tick Boom”.
8/10 Seriable Stars