Friday, June 8, 2012

Falling Skies, Season 1, Episode 3: Prisoner of War

A group of Harnessed children, including Ben, are stripping the metal from a building while Tom Mason & Co watch on.  Of course, the children are guarded by Mechs and Skitters. Anthony warns Tom that they’re tried and low on ammo and it’s not wise just to rush in (I’m really glad to see this, people are happy and able to challenge and question Tom rather than him being the big hero everyone follows) but a roof tile knocked off the roof attracts Mech attention and firepower.

When they return to the school where the rest of the people are camped, they’re inundated by desperate parents with pictures of their missing children asking if they were there. Mike has to calm the crowd down and Ann suggests they use one of the school announcement boards to post pictures of their missing kids so everyone can see who is missing.

Porter, the big boss man, has arrived with news. Runners he’s sent out have found other resistance fighters across the country. They also carry news that vast alien structures – like the one over Boston – have appeared over all major cities. He has a new mission for them – information gathering and scavenging for as many military supplies as they can. Porter also takes Tom aside and asks about the Harnessed kids. They’ve been trying to take harnesses off children but the child always dies – now the chief surgeon thinks he can fix this, but, of course, he needs a child to test it on. There‘s a debate between Tom who wants to rescue all the kids, Porter who wants to save a kid for testing and Captain Weaver (who hasn’t been eaten yet) who doesn’t give a damn about the kids. Did I mention I’m not a big Weaver fan? In the end, Porter tells Tom to rescue 1 child, Ben.

More touching scenes of daily life, Matt worrying that taking the harness off will kill Ben and more family bonding. And in an ironic twist, feeding the Gang leader from last episode it turns out he’s picky with his food when he spits out the chicken and rice they serve (I admit,  it doesn’t look appetising but his complaints are ridiculous. Military food and you’re complaining about it being over salted? And the chicken bleeding isn’t pickiness – how is ANYONE eating that without risking life and limb?! Finally, there’s nothing wrong with paprika on chicken. How can someone mix such petty faffy complaints with complaints that the food is actually poisonous?) turns out, the imprisoned gang leader was a chef. Ah hell he’s going to become a character, I’m going to have to remember his name rather than call him Racist Gang Leader, aren’t I? Fine, John Pope was a chef.

They quickly consult with Maggie about the food with the Racist Outlaw Gang which was pretty good. There’s an instant push to use Pope to cook the meals since the cooking in the camp is so poor.

Tom meets the doctor (Dr. Harris) who thinks he knows how to take the Harnesses off children – and they know each other from before (something Tom doesn’t seem too happy about). The doctor was there when Tom lost his wife and we have a harrowing description of how she died and how Tom looked for him but couldn’t find him.

Time to return to the captured kids, this time they’re joined by Mike who has also lost a kid to the Harness – and he sees his son, Ricky there as well. Mike completely loses control and runs screaming to his son. Of course the son ignores him being Harnessed and a zombie – and a mech’s attention is attracted – and blown up by the explosives they’ve planted. They grab Ricky and bring him to the truck, but Tom is injured when a mech appears and they have no time to grab Ben, Dai has to drag tom to safety while Hal and Karen distract the mech.

When Tom wakes up, Karen and Hal are missing. Tom tells Dai and Mike to return with Ricky to the camp while he goes, alone, with a shotgun, a rope and a light to rescue Hal, Karen and, presumably, Ben.

Tom travels the tunnels and hears something following him – so decides to call out (not sensible) then dazzle himself turning on his torch (less sensible) and find himself face to face with a Skitter which he tries to run from (also not sensible). A dramatic struggle follows where Tom uses the advice he got from Pope last episode – attack their legs and it makes them slow (in fact, 2 legs removed makes them helpless).

At the camp Dai and Mike return with Ricky. And at the same time (how fast can he move? What’s he got, a pocket teleporter?) so does Tom – dragging the stunned and injured Skitter behind him and radiating badassery all over the place. He hands his prisoner of war over to Captain Weaver (who hasn’t been eaten) who can’t really refuse his request to get a new gun to go out and save Hal, Karen and Ben (would you say no to someone who dragged in the thoroughly beaten body of the scary alien?) Proving that he is a Big Damn Hero with tapioca for brains, Tom refuses backup and wants to go alone. Time for a rousing scene with Matt and more Big Damn Heroness.

Hal and Karen are unconscious in the street – and Karen is collected by Ben and another Harnessed Child. What, how? Last time we saw them they were facing off against a Mech at less than 8 feet distance – what, did it have its weapons set to stun? Hal wakes up and a Mech shines a light on him – causing him to stagger to his feet with all the co-ordination of a drunken duck. A Skitter arrives and points at Hal – then at a line of Harnessed children. The Mech shoots them.

Hal staggers back and runs into Tom and explains what happened. Hal has been left alive to deliver the message of the executed children (something that didn’t really need explaining).

At the Camp, Ricky is up for surgery, complicated by the fact he has cystic fibrosis. Dr. Harris isn’t the nicest person but he’s directing his arrogant unpleasantness at Captain Weaver (who has not been eaten) so I’m ok with that. They cut away the Harness using a blow torch rather than ripping it off and by filling the kid full of morphine so he doesn’t go into shock when the Harness, and its drugs, is removed. The needles are still embedded in the spine and can’t be removed since they’re part of Ricky’s nervous system.

And Porter wants Dr. Harris to hang around with Captain Weaver’s (who has been eaten yet) group to study the captured Skitter. Weaver is less than thrilled about this. This makes me happy. Dr. Harris and Tom argue over Harris calling the aliens “conquerors” since humanity isn’t conquered unless they give up in Tom’s eyes this leads to other arguments – including Tom’s believe that Harris ran and hid and left Tom’s wife to die. When Tom found her she was carrying a bag full of provisions she would not have been able to carry on her own. Tom ends up punching Harris which was probably richly deserved. Now it’s Weaver’s (who has not been eaten) turn. Yes? Yes? No? Awww. More debate on who is responsible, on how, if Harris had died no-one would be able to save Ben and the duty the survivors have to the dead. After the confrontation, Tom puts a picture of Ben on the memory wall.

Ok, John Pope was a racist murdering, conniving git and we’re redeeming him within one episode? And are we really expected to believe that out of 200 civilians – 200 – they don’t have one person who can’t cook chicken so it isn’t bleeding? Not one of those 200 can cook? What did they do back in the real world? It seems like an awfully convoluted reason to redeem a character when, frankly, they could just as easily have put a bullet in his head

And Mike. Really. Running out there in the middle of the aliens screaming? Yes, it must be hard to see his son like that – but Tom holds it together without completely losing his shit. This is the same thing we saw with Jimmy last episode – but Jimmy is 13.

Tom going off alone to rescue Hal, Karen and Ben is supposed to be heroic, I guess, and it is for his family – but it’s also monumentally foolish. In fact, it’s Spunky. And they have no time for reinforcements? Why? As far as we can see with adults, Hal and Karen are either dead or in hiding, we’ve never seen them Harnessed.  Why is there a time limit? I really hate the idea that heroism must be a synonym for “has the sense of a cabbage”.

I am enjoying it though - I do love it when protagonists pull out the badassery and go all Big Damn Hero on the enemy – it’s fun and fires up the cheesey part of my brain that likes action movies. But I wish it wasn’t liked to Cabbage Sense. Similarly I love the plot and the action but the plot is resting on dubious ground in places.