Falling Skies: Worlds Apart

Margaret: "Looks like the bad guys are growing a brain."

This almost seemed like a different show. The tone felt like they turned it down a few shades darker, plus new sets, new make-up, and better monster effects. They even reduced the annoyance of the score, a little. The theme this week was about how things continue even if they are torn apart or changed. We had two stories, Tom's journey and the 2nd Mass. trying to survive without him.

I think I'm gonna start with the 2nd Mass. stuff. First off Anne initially looked really bad; she was sallow, dirty, and clearly overworked. She didn't seem like herself until Tom woke up. I guess that was an obvious correlation, that she was having problems coping without him. Lourdes is still working with her, and it looks like she's picked up more stuff. The Mason family is a little scattered. Matt still wants to be a productive member of this society, and Ben agrees. But Hal is determined to follow Tom's wishes, even if it doesn't really make sense anymore.

The aborted gun training scene with Ben and Matt really did encapsulate the problem. Ben is continuing to change, he's physically powerful and filled with hate for the Skitters. Hal has taken the path of a leader and has been given a role of responsibility. He is also in some kind relationship with Margaret, although they didn't say how deeply they're involved. She's thankfully still going on missions, and she shot a rocket launcher in the first scene. But I hope they don't reduce her to just a dutiful girlfriend. Oh, did I forget to mention it's been three months since Tom's abduction? That means it's been nearly eleven since the invasion.

Weaver seems better, much like he did at the beginning of the first season. But the big change seems to be that he cares about his men. He had a drink with Anne and expressed guilt about what happened to Tom, and even second-guessed his decisions without him there. I really liked that moment, it shows some character growth. Although when Pope brings up the logical point of how Tom got away from the Skitters, it was clear that Weaver wasn't about to automatically trust Tom and bring him back into the fold.

Pope seems to have found a place within the Militia. He's made a good friendship with Anthony, who's still a little conflicted about Pope's motivations. He's actively going out on missions, and even spoke to Weaver in a somewhat casual manner. I doubt he would ever betray the group to the Skitters, but I don't fully trust him still. He did have one of the funnier scenes, when the Skitter Craft (so I've dubbed their fighter ships) blew up his Harley, his reaction was so in character and perfect as he shot at the ship with a handgun.

Finally, we have Tom's adventure. His scenes in the ship with the Master Alien and the Red Eyed skitter were simply awesome. At one point I actually said, "wow". Their offer was insulting and superior, and no matter how intelligent they are, they are not in any way friendly. But they do seem to understand humans to an extent, just not someone like Tom. Their use of Karen as a translator was horrible, creepy, and very effective. They also seem to be focusing on that Red Eyed Skitter (whom I'll refer to as Red Eye) as a central Skitter antagonist.

Once he got off the vessel, we had that harrowing scene in the field. I knew they were all going to die, but it still sucked to see it happen. Why did Red Eye keep Tom alive? Did they do something to Tom? Or is there some form of rebellion sparking within the Skitter ranks? Anyway, Tom was left to fend for himself. He found a bag full of money and used it as tinder for a fire. He walked for weeks alone. Then he encountered a teenage girl being accosted by some no-neck guy.

Her name is Teresa, although we don't learn that in the episode. She joins him on his search for his family, and then leaves right before he finds them. I struggled with the reason for this character until it occurred to me she's the only one that can corroborate his story. If they are worried that Tom's been brainwashed, that trip he made from Michigan could sound awfully fake. They did set up her exit well, since after losing her mother she wanted to follow her mother's final wishes to go to the mountains.

With Weaver's reaction and Pope's paranoia, the next few episodes could be rough for Tom. At least he's seems to be himself. His defiance against the offer, and the awesome way he disarmed the Skitter and attacked the Master Alien were totally in character. The way he saved that girl was also completely in character. I didn't even mind the rising music and sappy reunion this time, because it felt like there was enough buildup to pull that off.

Bits:

Pope finally got his Low Rider, although not for long.

Everyone looks pretty much the same except for Ben, who's lost the little boy hair cut and looks notably older.

Ben was the one, in his over-zealous shoot out with the Skitters, that shot Tom.

They had Tom in some nasty spiky prison at first, apparently for days. Did they do something to him then?

The Master Alien was sitting on a throne. How appropriate. It was the perfect illustration of how similar they are to us.

The way Karen said that she's still Karen, and the hug she gave Tom, was sooo creepy.

The 2nd. Mass has finally learned some simple tactics. They have lookouts, sentries, and used an overpass as protection from the elements and from Skitter Craft sweeps. It might not have done much to protect from a bomb, but it could've allowed some of them to escape. They also kept mobile, changing positions during the night.

Leaving the high school behind felt like a graduation. I guess the show is ready to grow up.

What happened to Scott? They have a new character named Jamil Dexter (Brandon Jay McLaren) who's taken over his duties. I thought I recognized the actor and it bugged me until I remembered where. Now this is something I'm not sure I want to admit, but he played the Red Ranger on Power Rangers S.P.D. And then I looked online and found out that he also played the teacher on The Killing.

There was a brief scene with Ryan Robbins, who played Henry on the show Sanctuary.

I liked the way Lourdes was praying for Tom. It was a subtle reminder of her faith without beating us over the head with it. She also kicked out Tom's kids from the med-bus so that Anne could perform the surgery.

The destination banner on the front of the Med-bus had the word, "Liberty". That was a nice touch, like it was saying they are on a path towards freedom. Also during the fire-fight at the beginning, "Lincoln" could be seen above Weaver's head. Was this intentional foreshadowing?

I'm not sure if the insulation would work, but it was an interesting solution to the heat problem.

Dai recovered from his injuries and seems to be part of the command structure now, along with Hal.

The second surgery scene had just the right amount of tension, and when they got away, I did feel like there was another shoe about to drop.

They didn't completely change the music, which is a shame. The melody playing as
Tom was reunited with Anne and the boys was a little intrusive again.

Quotes:

Ben: "Only way we win this war is by killing every Skitter we see. If Matt's old enough to load a gun, he's old enough to shoot it."

Pope: "Remember the drill, Five-O, arms, legs, then the cabeza."
Anthony: "You ever think you enjoy these turkey shoots a bit too much, convict?"
Pope: "Life hands you lemons, you blow its freaking head off."

Tom: "I'd be careful drawing too many lessons from the past."
Master Alien: "Why?"
Tom: "Because our future has yet to be written."

Ben: "I just don't want them to take him away, the way they took me."

This was the best episode of the series so far. I truly hope they can not only continue at this level, but improve. The sappy factor is still there, but muted somewhat. The overall tone and pace fit much better with the survival/war scenario. It was as though the producers paid attention to audience's gripes and actually changed the worst of it.

4 out of 4 pokey sticks of electric death.

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

2 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

Agreed. I liked that they darkened the tone and showed how this war has been taking a terrible toll on everyone physically and mentally. Anne definitely looked a lot harder and wearier, which is a good change.

Did you mean to say that Matt looked notably older? Because I thought Matt and Jimmy looked different, but Ben only looked slightly more grown up to me.

Loved your comments about the music! I, too, felt like they toned it down, but it was still a bit overdone at times. I thought maybe I was just being overly sensitive, since it is one of the elements that really bugs me.

I vote for Red Eye and the Mech killing everyone except Tom as the most unsettling scene of the whole episode. If I were Tom, I would definitely be questioning why they had let me go and what they had done to me. Although, I like your idea that maybe Red Eye did it as a act of rebellion. I'm not sure I buy it, but it would certainly be an interesting twist.

Anonymous said...

I loved that the cheese factor was much lower, and reserved for a deserving moment (Tom's recovery).

Ben has definitely changed in the three months since we last saw him. I think that his new-found skitter-ish strength and intuition could make him a valuable weapon. Intriguing twist!