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FALLING SKIES: Out with a Bang

banner_recapFALLING SKIES
Season 1, episode 9 and 10: “Mutiny/Eight Hours”

[photos: TNT]

OK, I got clarification on how TNT is counting episodes, for those who’ve asked. Episodes 1 & 2 count as 1, so officially the finale is a combination of episodes 8 & 9. But to stay consistent with my other recaps, I’m sticking with my original numbering. Just because that’s how I roll.

Now, onward!

To quote George Takei (but not with the same inflection…) “Oh, My!” And yes, there are a few minor spoilers ahead.

These last two episodes are packed with a lot of twists, and it’s a slow build to the final few minutes that make you vent in frustration because new episodes don’t start until next summer.

However, the finale has a rocky start, mainly because there’s a conflict that seems manufactured by the writers.

Tom still has concerns over Weaver’s drug habit, reinforced by Lourdes and Anne. Tom confronts Weaver about it, and all the captain has to do is tell Tom he stopped taking the pills. Instead, we get paranoid Weaver locking Tom in the cellar while his new shiny Lieutenant Red Shirt Danner gets more face time on the show – a career soldier that we haven’t seen before, whose sole purpose only seems to be to take up space and look threatening. Really, I don’t see the need to introduce Danner at this point in the story. The “conflict” between Tom and Weaver is drawn out when it doesn’t need to be.

And I think the setup with Tom’s confinement is mainly to give Jimmy something to do. It’s almost as if the writers want to give every character something because it’s the last episode. Anthony even makes a return after several episodes missing. Little Matt even gets his moment to shine in his scene with Pope, where he asks “Is it tough having hair like a girl?” Priceless. And it shows that Pope actually has a soft spot. He respects Tom, and that shows in this episode, even though it’s played close to the vest.

But it’s necessary to have the rest of the A-story play out, so you have to roll with it a bit. Weaver decides that in spite of not getting confirmation from Porter, he’s going ahead with the attack. He tells Pope to make four bombs instead of just one, and Pope’s just fine with that. Of course, that means the fuses are shorter, giving the assault team less time to get away from the Skitter base downtown.

The B-story is the growing tension between Rick and Ben, which comes to a head when Rick attacks Uncle Scott and takes the vacuum tube that powers the radio. Scott and Ben have found a way to jam the Skitter communication, and Rick demonstrates some non-human abilities that surprises no one, but leaves me wondering why Ben hasn’t done the same. Even if his attitude is different, he should be Spidey-climbing, too. Unless these are skills sent over to Rick by the Skitter FM.

In any case, Rick’s escape means everything’s compromised – the 2nd Mass location, the assault mission… and after they get the intel from Rick, they leave him hanging. That’ll learn ya, Ricky. The interesting thing is that this leaves Rick with his first real human emotion after being abandoned by the Skitters. “I miss my dad,” he says, and it’s true emotion.

And the C-story is the looming threat posed by the harness. What residual effects will it have on Ben? This is one of the nagging questions left at the end of the finale.

The attack on the school reminded me of any given Cybermen episode from the current “Doctor Who”, even down to the robots marching in lockstep. It looks like the Last Stand, but Ben and Uncle Scott come through with the jamming. The mechs retreat in disarray, and Tom figures to use the jammer to help Weaver in his attack.

Maggie gets some good moments, both with Pope and with Jimmy. And she gets to show off her tattoos, so we know just how rough-and-tough she is. Personally, I thought it was a little over the top. But that’s because I’m a little past the “tattoos mean I’m tough” trope that’s so common in film and TV. It’s a phase, and I’m sure Hollywood will grow out of it at some point and tattoos will mean something else in about five years.

The final moments of the show are worth it. I’m not going to spoil that part, but it’s definitely a good last five minutes.

I’ve said from the beginning, that these characters get better over time. The layers are getting added instead of peeled away. Most of them started out one-dimensional types, and as the story has progressed, they’ve gotten more complicated. The writers were smart in gradually adding depth and complication to both the characters and the story simultaneously. This, to me, has the effect of delivering even more of a build-up to the last episodes, because as we get to know these characters, we care about them more.

Think about when you meet someone for the first time. You get an immediate first impression based on your experiences with other people. You get a gut-level indication about what kind of person you’ve just met. Same thing here. As you get to know a person, you learn about the different layers of complexity that make up who he is. Most shows try to deliver fully-formed characters from the first episode. This sometimes has the effect of dragging down the main story in favor of exposition on each character’s back-story.

“Falling Skies” didn’t go that route, and I think it works to the benefit of the show. Now that a season is done, they can do more with each character based on what we know so far, and go in new directions. Of course, the ending complicates some of that, but season finale cliffhangers do that.

Now that the last episode has aired, we have almost a full year to speculate what’s going to happen next. Should be a lively conversation.

[Official Show Site at TNT]   [“Falling Skies” on Twitter]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

One thought on “FALLING SKIES: Out with a Bang

  • Oh no—no new episodes until next summer? I got addicted to this show, never knew an hour of TV could fly by so fast!!


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