Falling Skies: Molon Labe

Anne: "I've had enough creepy crawlies to last a lifetime."

"Molon Labe" is an ancient Greek phrase roughly translated to mean "Come and take them". It was supposedly said by King Leonidas I in defiance of the Persian army's demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae (which is the historical event that the graphic novel/movie 300 is loosely based on). Which makes it a very fitting term for the episode that featured a hopeless battle against a far superior force. Except in this case the 2nd Mass won.

But not without casualties. We lost both Boone and Jamil. Although I wasn't that attached to either character, I am attached to characters who were affected by their deaths. Tector and Lourdes have become important in a secondary character way. They provide the much needed background support for the main characters to depend on. So it hurt even more to realize that Jamil's death is destroying Lourdes faith, which has always been one of her defining characteristics.

Tearing down Lourdes's support structure, her lover and her hope for a better world, is a statement about the season as a whole. For the one bright character to be destroyed so randomly and so tragically means that absolutely no one is safe, and maybe there really is no future for these people. Except suddenly they seem to have confirmation that Red Eye is on the level about his rebellion. Well at least he's trying to stage a coup. It's also looking more and more possible that Charleston might be on the level too. Could hope be right around the corner? Something tells me that there might be more to it.

Like everything else about this series, all the truths that are learned have hidden layers. For example, what exactly is Karen? She doesn't seem to be controlled anymore, so is she autonomous? If she is acting with her own mind, that is all the more frightening, because she isn't even remotely human anymore. I think I was right, she's turning into an awesome villain. I liked all of her scenes. But the two that stood out for me were the one where she killed Boone, and the one where she boasted about being able to predict anything, only to find out she was totally wrong.

But it all comes back to Ben. He's been growing, both in importance and maturity. I thought his decision to leave was both brave, and absolutely the right thing to do. He might be the best shot to make sure that this Skitter rebellion works out to the benefit of the human race. And it was clearly obvious that Tom was proud of his choice, even if he was terrified to let him go. That story about Ben screaming at his parents not to leave him behind at kindergarten was a painful reminder that Ben is still just a kid.

Which reminds me of something this show continues to do well. Despite a few notable exceptions, the kids on this show are some of the best written kids on TV. They don't whine, they don't act stupidly for plot purposes. I even count some of them as my favorite characters in the series. They are treated like people, they are given responsibility, and not patronized for the sake of a pointless lecture.

Like Matt. In this episode he was given the task of guarding the medical staff. Sure, Anne is basically his surrogate mother, but he handled himself extremely well, and even saved lives with his brave actions. He could easily be the most annoying character on the show, but I'm consistently surprised how much I like him. Thinking back on the series as a whole, I recall Weaver's wonderful eulogy of Jimmy, and how he always treated him like a soldier. I guess that's the point. These people have no other recourse, they are scrapping along by the skin of their teeth. Having to rely on children to protect them is one of their unfortunate truths.

Bits:

Yet again they added new layers to the aliens and their ever growing arsenal of creepy weapons. This time we got the Skitter Spiders. Nasty little buggers that can burrow into a person and devour them from the inside. Poor Jamil.

I'm disappointed that Ben didn't see through Karen's ruse after all.

The scene with Tom running from the Mech was really fun, especially how he used the oxygen tanks to take it out.

Anne's impromptu flamethrower was also fun and effective. It looks like the Skitter Spiders can take physical punishment but they burn like everything else. Come to think of it, fire seems to be a universal weapon. They could just find a way to create one giant fireball that would wipe out all the aliens in one fell swoop... oh wait, I think I might've detected a problem with that idea.

Hal and Maggie finally really kissed! Plus we got another good scene with Tom and Anne, they are becoming strong couple.

Pope reintegrating with the group feels a little too easy. I hope the aliens didn't do something to him when he got captured and interrogated.

Tector continuing to fire after Boone was executed was a nice character touch. I also liked the imagery of the snow falling during that scene.

Weaver seems to have recovered, but is obviously a little worse for wear. I wonder if there will be further repercussions, or if they're gonna just drop this plot thread. I'm honestly not sure which would be better.

Quotes:

Karen: "How can I make you understand? You see every living thing, every grain of sand on a beach, every star in the sky is linked by an intricate web of causality. If you can comprehend that web in its entirety down to the movements of the smallest sub-atomic particles, then you can predict the course of events, and alter them."
Hal: "Wow, that's the most ridiculous load of crap I've ever heard."
Karen: "I knew precisely where and when to place the de-harnessed bodies of those kids so that you and Maggie would find me. I knew every word and gesture to get the desired response from you and Ben, up until the moment he ran away with me."
Hal: "Yeah, well you must've missed a sub-atomic particle or two because things haven't really gone according to plan ever since, have they?"

Tom: "I'm not offering Ben up as a sacrifice."
Weaver: "And I'm not suggesting that for a moment. But we cannot protect him anymore."

Tector: "Boone, you up for a little sneak and peep?"
Boone: "Creepin and peepin? It's what I live for."

Ben: "Fifteen year olds fought in the American revolution, why can't I?"
Tom: "Because you're my son!"
Ben: "That's exactly why I have to do this!"

Hal: "So what happened to, 'I'm not the right person for you, Hal'?"
Maggie: "Changed my mind."

Lourdes: "Talking won't change a damn thing. It doesn't matter if you have a good attitude or a bad one. Or if you're an honest person or amoral. No matter what you do or who you are, sooner or later something terrible will happen to you. Like it happened to Jamil. To Uncle Scott, to your husband and son, and to my family. And it'll happen to you and me. All we have to do is wait."

This episode almost felt like the second part of a two-parter. It was an awesome follow up to "Homecoming", and yet another solid entry in an already excellent season.

3 1/2 out of 4 Oxygen tanks used to kill Skitters good.

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

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I stuck with this show because it just gets better every week. Last season it was maudlin and cheesy, but this year it has risen to BSG levels of darkness and dystopia and that's awesome in my book. Connor Jessup has gone from an awkward actor with the thickest Canadian accent I've ever heard to someone who is delivering one of the best performances on this show. I also love Colin Cunningham.

Billie Doux said...

I agree, Anon. I actually started tearing up at one point. They still seem to slip a little over into maudlin at times, but this episode was so freaking dark. And I'm now really, really curious about what the fish heads want.

I'm also liking Ben a whole lot, which I didn't expect. I agree with you, J.D., that they're doing an excellent job with the child actors.

Terrific review, J.D.

Anonymous said...

Ben has become one of my favorite characters on the show. I hope his leaving the 2nd mass doesn't mean that his storyline will get smaller and we will see less of him. I also have thought that the writers were giving the younger actors excellent scripts. I find their acting as believable as some of the adults. This season is extremely good and I was happy to see they were renewed for a 3rd season.

Billie Doux said...

Yeah, me too. And I wasn't sure I was even going to keep watching at the beginning of the season. Always a nice surprise when something turns out to be better than you expected.

Jess Lynde said...

I, too, am glad I stuck with this series. It's really become one I look forward to each week, despite some continued weaknesses in the plotting. (Maggie just changed her mind, huh? Just like that? And Pope is back in the fold? Definitely seems a bit too easy.)

Such an intense episode! Those new Skitter Spiders were horrific, and I hated to lose Jamil that way. I didn't care about him overmuch as a character, but he served a really important function, and the 2nd Mass is a bit screwed now.

The actress that plays Lourdes wasn't quite up to the task of conveying Lourdes's grief in the immediate aftermath of Jamil's death, but I thought she did well with the subsequent bitterness and nihilism.

I totally teared up when Tom was saying goodbye to Ben. Anyone who's ever had to leave a screaming child at daycare understands that particular pain, and Noah Wylie was really outstanding in that scene.

My favorite beat of the episode may have been the very quiet and gentle way Weaver told Tector to save his ammo. Practical, yet very empathetic. Good stuff.

J.D. Balthazar said...

I have a bit of a confession, I actually did give up on the show last season for a few episodes. I was so turned off by the maudlin, sappy, and cheesy moments that I just didn't care. I think the thanksgiving scene was what did it. But I was told to give it another shot so I watched the finale and got drawn back in.

This season on the other hand has been beyond my expectations. Everything has been improved, and I'm truly glad I gave this show another shot.

Jess, totally agree with those moments you picked out. Although I think the actress who plays Lourdes didn't do that bad a job. I really liked the face she made when the Spider popped out of Jamil.

I hadn't even thought how screwed they are without a mechanic, maybe they'll pick one up in Charleston.

Anon 1, that's some pretty nice praise. But I totally agree Connor Jessup has delivered a really excellent performance this season.

Anon 2, Ben has become on of my favorites as well. I think the focus has been on him quite a bit, so I don't think he'll be gone for long.

Thank you all for your comments!

Anonymous said...

I am not happy about those Skitter spiders! Where the heck did those things come from, all of a sudden? Ick. Are they baby Skitters or what? If that is part of their natural reproductive process, I really don't see much of a chance for a peaceful coexistence in the future!

I was surprised about Jamil, but honestly, I wasn't too attached. Poor Lourdes, though. She was (kind of annoyingly) able to hold on to her faith through an alien invasion and the death of most of humanity, including her entire family, but Skitter babies eating her boyfriend was the last straw. I don't blame her.

The scene when Tom and Ben said goodbye was definitely a tearjerker! I understand why he felt the need to leave, but I was kind of bugged by the timing. Wouldn't it have been smart for him to hang around until they reach Charleston? Just to check out the situation, maybe act as Skitter interpreter/lie detector, make sure that is where the 2nd Mass will be for a while so they can meet up again, and...you know...be sure things are on the up and up before sending other pockets of survivors that way? Anyway, he is now my favorite, so I hope he returns soon.

I have always liked this show, but I agree with all of you that it has improved dramatically this season!

-M

zob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Makes sense, zob. I just thought maybe we hadn't seen them because it hadn't been breeding season yet! I think it would be less confusing if they hadn't looked like miniature Skitters.

-M

CrazyCris said...

Another great review of an amazing episode!

This series just keeps getting better! Am sooo glad it got renewed! :o)

Ben has become my favourite character, and I'm worried that his heading out on his own might mean we'll get significantly less of him. :s

I definitely had some tears in that goodbye scene. And almost screeched when those critters came out of Jamil! But also had a big smile on my face when I saw Mason looking at those O2 tanks... I thought "JAWS!" lol! :o)

I still have misgivings about Charleston though... *gulp*