Falling Skies: Prisoner of War

Tom: "No matter how each of us survived, maybe we owe it to those that didn't to become the best of mankind."

Now that we've gotten the character introductions done, it's time for some world building.

This episode was about captivity. We had Pope finding a place in the 2nd Mass, lots of kids harnessed by the Skitters, a Skitter captured by Tom, Hal and Karen taken captive, and finally Karen taken away to god knows where. From the first mission on the roof, to the final moment of creepiness with Rick opening his eyes due to Skitter control, we had a lot going on in this episode. Yet the things that stand out for me were Pope's complaints about the food, and that really tense surgery with Dr. Harris literally melting off one of the harnesses.

Our new character in this episode is Dr. Michael Harris (Steven Weber). He has a past with Tom, and was there when Tom's wife Rebecca was killed. At first he lies about what happened, but eventually Tom pulls it out of him that he ran when he should've helped her escape. Harris tried to lay the blame on Tom's shoulders, and even went so far to say that his life was more worthy than hers because he was a doctor. Whether or not that's true, that is that last thing you should say in your defense to the guy whose wife you left behind. I wanted to smack him for being so slimy.

Speaking of wanting to smack someone, I really wanted to slap Mike for blowing the mission by going after his son Rick (Daniyah Ysrayl). Not that I can blame him for his actions, but he was directly responsible for Karen's abduction. It seems like someone on the team always messes up. First it was Jimmy and the dog, then Karen and the roof tile, and then Mike and his desperate grab for his son. I think Tom might want to reevaluate his team, and maybe just stick with Hal, Dai, and Anthony from now on. And maybe add Maggie.

Porter (Dale Dye) who seems to be the general in charge of all the militias, revealed that there are other survivors across the country. These survivors have grouped up to form militias of their own, and have started to fight like the 2nd Mass. wants to, switching from survival to the slow build up for war, from scavenging for supplies to actively looking for weapons and materials. This change in strategy is crucial if they have any hope whatsoever of getting the aliens off their planet. It was also interesting that Porter asked Tom if he was willing to let Dr. Harris treat his son as a guinea pig for an experimental procedure. Although I can understand the motivation, I can't imagine if I could make the same choice.

I am a little put off by the fact that Weaver was against trying to rescue the harnessed kids. Is he that big of a bastard? Or is there something horrible in his past that is making him so reluctant to try and save them? His discomfort with the whole situation was clearly evident during the surgery scene, where he came in and asked if he could help. There is obviously something conflicted in his motivations, which does add to the complexity of his character. The buildup to the operation was also handled well, by repeating several times that harness removal equals death.

I also really liked Pope bitching about the quality of the food and sort of volunteering for cooking duty. I especially liked the reactions Scott, Lourdes, and Anthony had to the food. He seemed genuinely excited to share, but they were all reluctant to sing his praises, and Maggie looked disgusted with the whole situation. Of course you can't blame her, she clearly suffered the entire time she was with Pope's gang.

For me, the scene with the most impact was when the Skitters killed those harnessed kids in front of Hal. It was really hard to watch, because you could so clearly see the horror on his face. Another really good scene was when Tom went off alone the first time, and encountered the Skitter. He tried to do things the way he always had before, but when it started to best him, he switched tactics and began to use the tips that Pope gave him. Which of course let him win the fight. When he dragged the alien into the school, it was a nice homage to Independence Day. I really don't mind references and homages, but I wonder when they'll started forging their own identity.

Bits:

Jimmy was still benched, which makes sense but I wonder if it wasn't a convenient plot excuse so that Mike could be on the team.

The missing kid board reminds me of a similar board they had up on the Galactica.

When Pope was trying to convince Weaver he was a chef, he said he made food for three cell blocks and continued with, "If they didn't like my food, I'd lose body parts." I thought that was fun, albeit a little gross.

I thought the candles in the hallway of the darkened school was a good, subtle way to create atmosphere.

Dr. Harris's idea to use morphine as a bridge drug was really creative. Although the idea that the harnesses are making all those kids drug addicts is just horrible.

Tom putting up Ben's picture at the end of the episode felt like he was letting something go. Maybe he was finally saying goodbye to his dead wife.

Quotes:

Maggie: "They flew here in spaceships, and turned kids in to slaves just to collect old toasters and copper wire?"

Pope: "What is that paprika? Paprika! Nobody puts paprika on chicken. What're you, Hungarian?"
Uncle Scott: "You do realize you're a prisoner, right?"

Pope: "I'll do it, but for the love of god, somebody please find me some olive oil."

I'm not sure if all the parts of this episode worked that well together. But I still thought it had some really good moments. They are definitely not going in the family-friendly direction, and the creep factor is also rising with each episode. Maybe that's what I felt was wrong with the pilot, that they didn't quite commit to being a dark and gritty show. Perhaps they are trying to find what does work, which of course it what first seasons are all about. Whatever direction they do go, this to me felt like a good second step.

3 out of 4 Pieces of chicken with too much paprika.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

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