Falling Skies: A More Perfect Union

Red Eye: "Keep the fight going."

I guess the theme for this final episode was trust. Can the 2nd Mass trust Bresler? Can Bresler trust the 2nd Mass and their alliance with Red Eye and his rebel Skitters? The answers to those questions turned out to be surprising. Bresler was just as bad as Manchester said he would be. He betrayed the rebel Skitters without even blinking, and treated the 2nd Mass with as much skepticism and dismissal as Manchester did. But what was truly surprising was that Red Eye was not only trustworthy, but somewhat noble.

When I hypothesized that Red Eye might be a rebel in my first review of the season, I did so without any spoilers or forewarning. I thought his actions might be a ploy, or possibly a set up for a double cross. Never once did I think that he was completely on the level. I thought it was really excellent storytelling to have such an ambiguous presence turn out to be something good for a change. It was in stark contrast to Charleston, which turned out to be far darker than even I thought it could be. The point was really driven home when Red Eye came to the rescue. Sure, Red Eye had his reasons for taking down the Fish-head, but it was clear that he came to the 2nd Mass's aid because they were allies. For me it was the second best moment in the episode. In fact, I got a little misty when Red Eye died.

Of course, the best moment was the scene straight out of Spartacus: Tom and the 2nd Mass protecting the Skitter rebels from Bresler's soldiers with their own lives. It was touching, and brought together a season's worth of plot in a moment that simply couldn't have happened at the beginning of the series. Bravo. Sure, it was a little sappy, but it was the right kind of sappy. This change in storytelling style was obvious from the first episode of the season. Using the proper placement of quiet moments, instead of the misplaced and often cloyingly happy joy-joy moments from first season, created a much starker and more desperate feel to the world the characters inhabit. That small change has made all the difference in the overall tone and believability of the series.

So I guess I should talk about the elephant in the room, which of course is the introduction of a new alien from completely out of the blue. He looked kind of cool, but very CGI. I guess leaving us with the question of who, and what, this new creature is was interesting. But I'm not sure if it was the right note to end the season on. It wasn't quite personal enough. Tom getting in the ship with the Fish-head in the final moments of last season's cliffy was really exceptional. Now don't get me wrong, this was just as big. It just wasn't as intimate. Which is surprising for a show that spends a majority of its time on character. Maybe it's a message from the writers that the character building is over, and the action of war will be the focus going forward.

Bits:

Anne is pregnant, so I guess that will be a major part of next season. Karen threatening her had me on edge, because I really didn't know if the writers would go there.

I loved the scenes in the cave tunnels, especially Hal's reaction when Maggie mentioned that that passage was a perfect place for the creepy crawly spider aliens to attack.

What did Karen do to Hal? Is he going to be a new big bad? We got the return of the eye bug, so that can't be good. Why did it go into his ear, though? Is it controlling him now?

What did Red Eye say to Ben? Is Ben the new leader of the resistance, or did he tell him to go home to the 2nd Mass?

Okay, I really didn't expect them to transition the mantle of villain to Karen entirely, but it looks like that's what they've done. I hope Jessy Schram has time in her schedule to come back next season (she's going to be in the new series Last Resort, although I don't know if she's going to be a series regular).

Dai got killed. He was a good secondary character. I'll miss him, but I'm glad we didn't lose any of our mains.

I loved Tom bashing in the leader Fish-head's... head. It was a nice coda to the premiere where he used the same weapon to bring the high and mighty overlord down to his level.

Quotes:

Manchester: "The general is not an evil man, Tom. The only problem is that he thinks with his... rifle."
Tom: "Arthur, I've never known you to be one for metaphors."
Manchester: "In this case apt, though?"

Tom: "When Colonel Porter teamed Dan Weaver and I up together, I thought he was insane. I half expected him to kill me in my sleep. But somehow, someway, we found a middle ground."
Manchester: "But we both know the dangers of military rule."
Tom: "Perhaps, but as I've said, we can't just tuck our heads in the sand and pretend the aliens aren't out there."

Weaver: "Stow it, or this stylin', rugged, size 11 boot will commence to kicking some ass."

Anne: "I wonder how fair it is to bring a child into this kind of world."
Tom: "If there's any future for us, for any of us, how can we not?"

Tom: "When those bastards are gone, Arthur, I promise I will be the first to get out my old hammer and start beating my sword into the best damn plowshare you ever saw. But until that day, I'll fight. Not because I want to, because I have to."

Tom (referring to the Fish-head): "Is he enjoying watching you torture us?"
Karen: "He doesn't care anymore about you than you would care about a mosquito buzzing around your face, Tom. You're just an irritant to him."

Lyle (to Tector): "Bro, you've got some steel plated cojones showin' up here after puttin' a hole in my arm."

Crazy Lee: "Where's your uniform, soldier boy?"
Tector: "Threw it in the incinerator. Should've know better than to put it on in the first place. Didn't like what it did to my head."

Hal (motioning towards the sleeping Skitters): "You're not sleeping like that, are ya?"
Ben: "Tried it, blood rushed to my head and I passed out. Guess I'm human after all."

This was a strong finale, but it wasn't quite as good as last season's finale. That being said, I thought there were some great moments throughout, and I'm looking forward to next season.

3 out of 4 Mosquitoes bashing in a Fish-head's face with a shock stick (for the episode).

Season Summary

Darker, dirtier, more intense, and ultimately better. Season Two of Falling Skies was a step up from the previous season in almost every respect. They fell out of the habit of focusing on maudlin displays of inappropriate family unity, but picked up the habit of killing characters and hurting children. That might not seem like a good thing, but increasing the threat to the next generation of survivors has really ramped up the stakes, and illustrated how vitally important those children are to the war.

They paid off on the information we got about the Skitters being harnessed with an extremely well executed resistance plot. Another plot that was almost as satisfying was the journey to Charleston, a city which turned out to be exactly what I hoped it wouldn't be, a very flawed and very human community built on the fear of annihilation.

Ben stepped up to be a pivotal and impressive character throughout this second season. The Tom and Anne romance was handled deftly with subtlety and grace. I just wish the writer's had handled the Hal and Maggie romance as well. Matt didn't quite come into his own this season, but he was a good presence instead of an annoying one. I also liked how they brought Anne into the Mason family unit in a way that wasn't awkward or forced

Weaver was given just the right amount of humanity and the right level of leadership to make him not only likeable, but believable as a commander. His relationship with his lost daughter was also really nice, and I hope we get more of that next season. Pope was entirely underutilized, which might be because the writers don't know how to use him. He isn't exactly a good guy, but his loyalties are very clear. Maybe they can find the right niche for him next season.

Overall, I really enjoyed this sophomore season, and I hope they spend as much time and care in crafting season three. I just have one request. Give us more Maggie and Pope.

3 out of 4 Rebellions lead by noble one-eyed Skitters (for the season).

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I agree with everything you said. My favorite moment was the Spartacus moment in the beginning; it actually brought me to tears. The end was strong, but the new alien kind of threw me. But season two was still much better than season one so here's hoping the trend continues into season three.

Terrific review, J.D.

Jess Lynde said...

I agree that Season 2 as a whole was better than Season 1, but I lost a lot of my enthusiasm for the show after 'Molon Labe.' It just felt like it started sliding back into a lot of its "plot before character" habits from S1, and the character work they did attempt was either too schmaltzy, out of left field, or overly melodramatic. Nothing really resonated for me after the departure of Ben. (Not to imply that lack of Ben meant I didn't care, I just didn't feel the same emotional connection to the show that I did in that moment when Tom had to say goodbye to his son.) 'Death March' was a particularly weak episode for me, and a real letdown after 'Molon Labe.'

I was hoping the finale would be a return to early S2 fighting form, but it just didn't resonate with me. Other than Tom beating the Overlord to death, the developments felt like they had little to do with character and everything to do with an attempt to deliver an "action-packed" finale. Add in the pregnancy twist (ack!), a potential evil takeover for Hal (seriously?), and the arrival of a new alien (okay, then), and I'm back to feeling a bit ambivalent about this show.

zob said...
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