FALLING SKIES Isn’t Perfect, But It Gets an “A” for Effort

Posted on August 22, 2012 by

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Episode 210 “A More Perfect Union”

[photos: Cate Cameron/TNT]

Before we get too far into this recap, I want to say I like the episode. I really did.

Having said that, this really needed to be two hours.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The coup goes about that long before Bressler changes his mind. Well, at least that’s what it seems like. We never really get much development into this aspect of the story, mainly because the whole thing falls apart on Bressler because the 2nd Mass won’t play ball and join him. He locks up Arthur Manchester, but then lets him back out when Tom and the others seem to convince him that a military coup is not the answer.

Bressler is the worst kind of soldier – he’s an opportunist. And I’m not sure how many of those actually get as high up as general in the United States Army. From the context, I’m assuming Bressler held that rank before the invasion, but he goes back and forth so many times and is so inconsistent with his decisions that I wonder if any of the writers know anyone in the military. A lot of Bressler’s decisions serve to move the story forward, but mainly because something has to. And it’s all a lot of convenient coincidental decision-making.

Matt Frewer should have more to do, and it should mean something.

And the disposition of Arthur Manchester clearly shows that no one really knows what to do about anything. Bressler may have realized he acted hastily, but then to let Manchester out of a cell and back in his place under “house arrest” while the civilian government (which we’ve never seen, by the way…) takes a back seat to the military, which doesn’t seem at all like the actual United States military. I know, they’re survivors. Many of them probably never would have worn the uniform to start with… but still.

Even when faced with the chance to take down a major superweapon, Bressler gives it a hand wave and says “Thanks, but no thanks.” to Red Eye’s plea for assistance. They need the humans to go into the catacombs surrounding the weapon to distract the Overlord so the rebel Skitters can then infiltrate during the confusion and they all blow up the Really Big Gun.

The 2nd Mass volunteers for the mission, most likely a suicide run. But Bressler says “no”. Tom and Weaver say, “I am therefore going anyway.” and thumb their noses at the chain of command. And then Bressler says “ok” when faced with what is, essentially, a mutiny.

Bressler’s the worst kind of leader, and he doesn’t resemble any military man that I’ve ever met.

On to the mission, which was brought on when the rebel Skitters got tired of waiting for Tom. So they just invite themselves to the party and come down into the compound en masse. In a sort-of-OK-written but better-executed scene, the 2nd Mass shows solidarity with the rebels by linking arms and circling the aliens as a shield against Bressler’s men.

But wait. The aliens can just walk into the compound? Well, of course they can. Remember, Manchester has everyone hunkered down, which probably means security is not that tight around the perimeter outside above ground. I mean, really, you do not hide a civilization by having armed guards walking around it on a regular patrol.

Red Eye, talking through Ben, says the 2nd Mass didn’t realize what kind of prize they had when they captured the Overlord. Apparently, these beings are so advanced (and so arrogant, it seems) that they can keeps terabytes of data in their heads. Which means no backup copies. And this particular Overlord was in command of military operations for the entire East Coast. Meaning Tom could have put so much chaos into their plan if he’d just followed through a couple of weeks ago and bashed Fish Head’s … head.

And Bressler, after having heard Red Eye’s pitch and pronouncing it “bullcrap” then sets about ambushing the rebels outside the camp because it’s a target of opportunity. And Bressler, after having heard Red Eye’s pitch and pronouncing it “bullcrap” then sets about ambushing the rebels outside the camp because it’s a target of opportunity.

Now, here’s where the episode needs another hour. There’s a whole piece of this episode that’s missing – specifically, how the leadership in Charleston deals with the fallout of a failed (or abandoned) coup, and what it means for the security of the compound. Especially after Bressler has demonstrated such flightiness. He flips over so many times…

Once the 2nd Mass gets into the tunnels (where Hal and Maggie have a pretty decent reconciliation punctuated by the whole “If we don’t get out of here…” schtick), the story accelerates to the point where it’s almost too easy for them to be in there. They use explosives, even, to get into the main control chamber, and no one comes running to investigate? Where is everyone?

There was an opportunity here to build tension in a way reminiscent of Alien, and the show hits that inglorious budget restriction that keeps a good show from splurging.

Once we’re inside the chamber, everything falls apart pretty quickly, and the last casualty of the season is Dai, who’s in the background enough when he buys it that I almost missed it. Until someone yelled, “Dai!” and he got thrown into the wall, never to land on his feet again. It was abrupt, like this show does sometimes, which makes it somewhat effective, but it was almost a (pardon me) throwaway event.

(On the bright side, Anthony is still the token minority who hasn’t bought the farm yet…)

The capture and confrontation scenes with Karen and the Overlord should have taken place in a different chamber. Again, it looks like budget and schedule restraints put the crimp on production value. But when Karen reveals that Anne’s pregnant… it could have been much creepier, even though it was still effective enough. Having just demonstrated what the pain stick can do to Tom, we can only imagine what it could do to an unborn child.

Karen also manages to get Maggie’s goat by kissing Hal, leaving him unconscious. What has she done?

And then the cavalry arrives! Rebel Skitters – who managed to sneak in while no one was looking for extra harnesses on the premises? – burst in and there’s a big firefight. And Tom clubs the Overlord to death with the pain stick. He absolutely goes Neanderthal Man on this alien, beating him over and over in a camera shot reminiscent of A Death in the Family – Joker with the crowbar. And then they blow up the superweapon, which was aimed up, into space.

Casualties: Dai, Red Eye… and Hal. Sort of.

See, Hal finally wakes up in the infirmary after the 2nd Mass makes a triumphant return (and doesn’t get locked up for insubordination). And turns out Karen’s kiss put one of those little mongrel probes into his head. It makes its way to Hal’s ear and goes Ceti ell on him, apparently hitting a pleasure center instead of wrapping itself around the cerebral cortex, making the victim susceptible to… suggestion. (You heard it in his voice, didn’t you?)

But wait! TNT hyped the last five minutes of the show. Hal’s scene was part of that, but then there’s the last bit when the 2nd Mass decides to leave Charleston, only they don’t get a chance to because… another alien race lands?!

This is another “Tom gets on the ship” cliffhangers. I know the producers have a plan this time, but it just feels like they did the same thing they did last year – asked “What could we do that’s so out of left field?” – and even Noah Wyle said in the “2nd Watch” segment, that the writers seem to have painted the show into a corner again.

Again, not a bad season finale, but there was so much left on the cutting room floor. This should have been two hours.

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[Official Show Site at TNT]     [Previous recap: "The Price of Greatness"]   ["Falling Skies" on Twitter]

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