FALLING SKIES: All Roads Lead West

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Episode 405: “Mind War”

[photos by Bettina Strauss/TNT]

Tom, Matt, Dan Weaver, and Cochise return to their previous holdout to find the remaining Volm and humans have abandoned the site. However, skitters also find the site, under the direction of Scorch, the burned Espheni, which is in and of itself a rare occurrence – an overlord leading troops in the field. Our intrepid band flees the site before they come to harm. Once in the clear, Cochise leaves the group to find the new Espheni offensive power source. Who knew that “Cochise” is Apache for “recurring plot device”? (/end sarcasm)

Tom, Matt, and Dan, while trailing Hal and the other survivors,  meet two brothers, Nick (played by Ally McBeal’s Gil Bellows) and Cooper Phillips (played by Aaron Douglas, better known as Battlestar Galactica’s Chief Tyrol). The two brothers are incredibly well-stocked compared to other survivors Tom has met, immediately rousing his and Dan’s suspicions. Nick tells our heroes that he escaped from a “skitter farm”, where the Espheni torture, experiment on, and kill humans in the “skitterization” process.

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Later that evening, as the brothers know who Tom is, they attempt to waylay the Masons and Dan. Nick knocks Tom out, while Cooper is tasked with killing Matt and Dan in their sleeping bag (Matt and Dan weren’t in their sleeping bags, luckily). Nick and Cooper force-march Tom towards the Espheni, with Nick hoping to collect the bounty on Tom’s head. Dan and Matt follow in pursuit, with Matt admitting he wants to avenge himself against the two brothers. This is a leaner, meaner Matt than we’ve seen before. Dan tries to reason with him, having been that revenge-obsessed guy before. While they make up ground, Tom plays mind games to set the brothers against one another.

While Matt and Dan position themselves to rescue him, Tom starts to poke holes in Nick’s tale of escape from the skitter farm, asking if Nick, being the “dealmaker”, bargained away the lives of others at the skitter farm to save himself. Cooper realizes that Tom is inferring that Nick gave up Cooper’s two children at the skitter farm to save himself and Cooper.  Nick confirms it and Cooper shoots Nick dead.  Cooper then moves to execute Tom, but Dan puts him down before he can follow through.

Hal, the human escapees, and the remaining Volm continue to head towards the coordinates they heard in Lourdes’ message on the radio. However, there are Espheni mechs deployed between them and the enclave and they lack any heavy weapons to disable them. With Volm guidance, they get creative in their methods of disabling one of them, so that the Volm “Shaq” can jury-rig a scanner that will detail Espheni troop locations and movements in real time. This would enable them to evade the enemy units for the conclusion of their journey. In addition, Sara and Pope get a little more time together, as she wants to be more active in their exploits. Except their version of a meet-cute is both of them ramming an Espheni mech with a pick-up truck. Has Pope finally found love? We’ll have to wait and see.

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In the enclave, Anne begins to interrogate the hooded Monk Espheni she captured last episode. She wants to know why the Monk is interested in Lexi. He reiterates that he wants to go with her on the “path of peace”. The Monk controls Ben again through his spikes, causing Ben no small amount of pain.

Lexi is angered that Anne is hurting the Monk and attacks her with her powers, choking Anne.  Lexi passes out from the exertion before she kills her mother.  Lexi becomes feverish, running a temperature of 125 degrees.

Anne appeals to the Monk to help Lexi’s condition. Frustrated by his lack of response (though knowing he would need to communicate through a third party and none being present, how could she expect any response?), Anne begins to beat the Monk with a metal bar, while identical wounds appear on Ben. Ben screams out the word ‘flower’, referencing a flower that Lexi showed Anne previously. A tea is made with it and given to Lexi. As Lexi starts to recover, she sends Lourdes to free the Monk, telling her mother that she “never wanted to choose” between Anne and the Monk (and we know who Lexi chose).  And, she reveals, the Monk is her father.

We are now 5 episodes in to the 12 episode season and it’s still too hard to tell where this is all going, though it most certainly will involve Lexi and the two main Espheni.  But so far, the build is a touch on the ho-hum side because the plot every week spends the bulk of its time on Tom’s storyline, with everyone else relegated to the second stage, so to speak.  The point of Lexi is still fairly amorphous and it’s hard to get a read on whether or not we’re supposed to like or care about her.  Right now, she acts the petulant child a good 50% of time. We’re still not to must-see TV yet.

I’m trying hard to like this season (and when they stick to action sequences, it’s great, well-paced, and entertaining), it’s the character moments where things are falling apart.  It’s the small character bits that are distracting.  For example, Anne, this season, makes critical, poorly thought-out decisions – killing the skitter who gives her information, beating the Espheni that can’t talk without benefit a harnessed human.  These are things she should know by now, but still does anyway.  Then they under-utilize other characters like Maggie and Ben, giving them almost nothing to do.

Another general observation: the men in the show, some of them look like they literally roll in soot and dirt daily.  The women, they’re fresh scrubbed, washed hair, with at least mild make-up.  i understand prettying people up for TV, but I don’t think Dan Weaver has had a clean face in four seasons. What, is the water off in every men’s washroom they encounter?  Or they’re saving it for the women and children?    Just because Will Patton is playing old and crusty doesn’t mean he has to be physically crusty.

Glad to see solid character actors like Bellows and Douglas guest-starring (the first of note for this season) and wish they could have been kept around longer.  And while I know the series has probably finished filming for the season, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I want more Sara and Pope.  They have good chemistry on screen and I look forward to their scenes together..

In good news for series fans, it was announced July 18th that TNT has renewed “Falling Skies” and it will return for a fifth and final season of 10 episodes to air Summer 2015.

Woodchuck sez, “Check it out.”

[Official Show Site at TNT]  [“Falling Skies” on Twitter]  [Previous Recap – “Evolve or Die”]

 

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