Saturday, June 16, 2012

Falling Skies, Season 1, Episode 10: Eight Hours

Scott and Ben are still working on the jamming device – and Tom worries with Ann that the signal hurts Ben and doesn’t want him to go through anything else. Tom also hurries about Hal and whether Weaver’s plan will work and keep them alive. While Ann, Ben and Tom leave the room, Scott looks up to find Rick crawling up the wall like a Skitter – and leaping on him to protect the aliens.

We see Scott in the clinic being treated by Ann who doesn’t seem to think it’s serious – he was found and brought to her by Ben. Ben guesses it was Rick before being told, though he dodges how he knows – Rick has sabotaged the transmitter by stealing a part of it.

Ben goes looking for Rick and finds him and they have a big confrontation. Ben wants them out of his head, Rick wants the Harness back. Tom yells for help and Rick runs. Ben chases him yelling at people to stop rick – and one of the defenders nearly shoots Ben (though Margaret is there to stop them). Tom ends up going after rick alone (would that be a Big Damn Hero moment? Yes yes it would).

Rick runs into Megan, the Harnessed girl who was with the Sanctuary Collaborators. She’s already starting to change with parts of her skin turning green. She wants Rick to tell them everything about the 2nd Massachusetts. Tom finds Rick alone calling out that he wants to come back – Megan has apparently left him. Rick says he isn’t human or Skitter and doesn’t want to live in between any more. And Rick finally breaks down and cries – and cries for his father. Rick tells Tom he’s told them everything – including Weaver’s attack.

With the Skitters knowing where they are, Tom gathers the civilians and tells them they need to move before the Strike Team returns. He and a small group of volunteers will distract the Skitters while the civilians escape – time for a historic speech. Tom also has a bonding moment with Matt about Matt disobeying and hanging out with Pope and to make him leave with the evacuation. Ann gives Lourdes a pep talk about being a doctor and to go with the evacuation while Ann remains behind.

Tom also tries to get ben to leave but Scott and Ben points out the Skitters keep changing the frequency. They can’t use the jammer without Ben to constantly update it. And Ben wants to prove himself, wants to prove that being Harnessed doesn’t make him evil and means he can help. Jimmy and Margaret get in some bonding and reassurance. – just before the mechs arrive at the barricade.  Time for the fight – and the first mech goes down to the new ammunition.

Then a whole column of mechs arrive. They don’t have enough ammunition to take them all down, while Scott and Ben frenziedly try to find the jamming frequency. They get the frequency but the signal isn’t strong enough – while the Mechs are busy with dramatic posing (really, they spend like 20 seconds staring at the barricade) they attach the transmitter to a metal flag pole and use it as an aerial.

The firing begins. Ben is driven to the foetal position by the signal – and the Mechs retreat. Time for much cheering.

Weaver’s attack column is moving out and Hal and Weaver now have a little affirmation moment. Arriving at the rendez-vous point where they should have met the 4th and 5th Massachusetts, they find they are alone and assume that the other regiments have been taken out. Weaver pulls out the Big Inspiring Speech and splits his group into 4 squads – one for each leg of the structure.

Weaver’s squad faces a large force opposing them and smoke from the other legs suggests the other squads may have been compromised. Weaver orders Hal to return to Tom and tell them to evacuate the civilians that, the other Massachusetts regiments are gone and to tell them that the attack went ahead. He has to carry the word.

Hal arrives back at the school after the attack to tell Tom what’s happening with Weaver’s assault. They conclude that Weaver is going for a suicide attack – but Tom realises that Hal got back through clear roads – so maybe they can take the jamming device to Weaver.

He goes to Ann and asks her to lead the people to safety – and to look out for Matt and Ben. And they kiss! Actually, while, there’s been affection I wouldn’t say there’s been that much sexual tension – I didn’t see this coming, not for a while yet.

Scott rigs a car up to be a giant antenna and, of course, Tom insists Hal and Ben stay behind in a touching goodbye (hope they don’t change the frequency). Because he’s a Big Damn Hero and will go alone!.

He arrives to find Pope (Who isn’t dead! Damn it!) cradling Anthony who is unconscious and badly wounded (is this the “redemption for being a racist” moment?). Tom loads the 2 wounded up in their radio car to get home then proceeds on foot (without the jammer. Yes it’s a Cabbage Brain Moment) with the Mech-Metal-RPG Pope had.

Tom finds Captain Weaver and they bring each other up to date. The ships all seem to be called back to the structure and the streets are deserted – the disrupted communications seem to have hit them hard. They discuss the RPG, even if it has little chance, it’s worth it just to hurt the aliens – and for fun (yes, it’s another good bonding moment). He shoots and hits (amazingly) one of the returning ships that crashes inside the structure’s landing bay which starts a series of shiny chain explosions but doesn’t bring it down.

Driving home they run into Karen – Harnessed Karen and a ship that appears out of nowhere to land – out of which steps one of the tall humanoid aliens that uses Karen to speak for them. The aliens are surprised at the level of the resistance, it intrigues them. They also say that the Harness is a process and Ben isn’t free – and they’ll call him back if Tom doesn’t go with them. For the sake of Ben, Tom loses his ever loving mind and goes with the aliens.

Ok, the ending? No, not impressed. Tom has zero reason to trust them or to trust they won’t take Ben anyway (even if they can – they rejected Rick after all) the idea that this was even remotely a good idea bemuses me

Some series notes:

 I’m impressed. It isn’t linked entirely to action, considering it’s dystopian, there’s a lot about bonding and emotion and impact. We see a lot of trauma, of community growing and people dealing with the stress and horror of what they’re facing. It’s a lot deeper than just surviving the aliens and a lot more human.

I do have some issues with the series. I like the character of Tom, he has a great balance of humanity and pragmatism, military and civilian and I generally like him. And yes, his Big Damn Hero moments can be really epic, and I do like epic. But his hero moments generally coincide with Cabbage Brain moments and, frankly, outright Spunkiness. The number of times he wanders off alone or refuses backup for his heroism really detracts from the epic.

And the inclusion in this series is fraught. We started out with a fair number of POC in the scenes – albeit not nearly on par with Boston’s actual demographics. But the portrayal went down fast. The characters who looking like they were going to be decent participants were shelved as background characters who spend most of their time in the plot box (Arthur, Dai, Lourdes – also of note, none of these characters got last names).

The casualty rate is also massively skewed. Through series 1, before the last battle when it was impossible to see who died, the 2nd Massachusetts has taken, by my count, 5 casualties. Now that’s pretty low for a Dystopian – but 4 of those deaths have been black men (Click, episode 1. Parker, a black man, episode 6. 2 unnamed escorts, 1 black and 1 white, episode 7 and Mike, a black man, also episode 7). And both Anthony and Dai have been severely injured (Dai twice). 

Portrayals were fraught especially in contrast. Arthur and Dai suffered racial abused – but Pope, the racist, got more screen time (and redemption attempts) than them and ended up being the one who saved Arthur’s life (which we know is going to turn into a redemption). And the contrast between Mike and Rick to Tom and Ben is glaring – especially since this is the only separate and personal storyline a POC has had. Ben resists the aliens, recognises his dad and, ultimately, becomes a great asset in the battle against the Skitters. Rick doesn’t recognise his father, is tellingly more alien than human (less than real human? Oh that’s not coded!) and actively tries to sabotage the group (until Tom rescues him).

The only POC character who wasn’t fraught was Ann – but she spent most of the time supporting and helping others more than having any time to herself or her issues.

Throughout the whole series there were no GBLT people. Yet again, it seems GBLT people are just so damn tasty that the aliens/zombies/whatever always clear them out first, because GBLT people are hardly ever around in Dystopian worlds. Finger lickin’ good, monsters? Or do all threats to the end of the world pursue targeted genocide?

Gender isn’t without problem either – the lack of female fighters are glaring, The 2nd Massachusetts is willing to recruit a 13 year old boy but has this few women? With the professional military largely gone and the fighters drawn from the civilians, why are there so few women? They have no combat experience? Well nor does Jimmy or Tom or Hal! The only consistent female fighter we see is Margaret who steps in after Karen is lost (which makes them feel awfully interchangeable). I think it’s also glaring that I don’t think, other than the elderly Scott, we saw any male civilians either.alHal

All in all I enjoyed the series a lot but it has its issues. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them are addressed in the 2nd season.