Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Falling Skies, Season 2, Episode 10: A More Perfect Union

 Last week, Tom managed to effectively end the democracy of the remaining US government in, what, 3 days? I am impressed. Though, I suppose, to be fair we have to admit that the forces of democracy were doing a very good job of screwing themselves.

So we open with the coup. And General Bressler is making it clear that he’s doing this because he thinks the whole tactic of “let’s hide and pretend the aliens aren’t there” is not the wisest of military strategies. Tom, however, has principles (apparently. Last week I seem to recall him ignoring the civilian authorities and urging Bressler to do the same. That was different. Somehow) and doesn’t want a new US built on a military coup (hey, just a reminder guys, ALIENS. Nation building is a pipe dream when your species is near extinction). Tom, Weaver, Hal et al get themselves locked up again, this time by the military. Honestly, in the middle of a military coup and you piss of the civilian government and the military. Impressive.

But there’s another proximity alarm before people can be locked up. There’s chaos and screaming because the lunch hall is full of Skitters (and no-one is firing?)! Of course, it’s the rebels – including Ben and Red Eye. Tom tells Bressler to order his men to lower their weapons – which he doesn’t do. So Tom stands between the Skitters and Bressler – as does Ann and Lourdes. Followed by Weaver and the entire 2nd Massachusetts.

Time for some diplomacy in a side office with Bressler, Tom, Weaver, Prestly, some extras and, of course, Red Eye and his little glow-in-the-dark translator, Ben. Time for an info-dump. The Ustheni (Overlords) are incredibly intelligent creatures that don’t need computers or the like – and one of them can have vast influence and control because of it. The Ovelord the 2nd Massachusetts captured was in charge of all military operations in the Eastern US and probably should have been killed. They also don’t share information with anyone but other Overlords because they work through Harnessed species which can’t, entirely, be trusted – which means if you kill this Overlord, all military operations in the area falls apart since they don’t keep back ups.

This isn’t just a great big “damn guys, you screwed up,” because they have a second crack at the Overlord. He’s going to inspect the creation of a big big big weapon at a place that, coincidentally, has nice, sneaky caves under it, ideal for an assassination. Except the Harnessed Skitters don’t have the weapons (they had Mechs before…) and their harnesses will be detected anyway… the humans, however.

Bressler doesn’t believe it and refuses to send any troops – and wants everyone back in their cages. But Weaver points out the 2nd Massachusetts can do it – and it’s not like Bressler wants them around being a nuisance anyway. So Bressler agrees – and when they’re gone he talks to his sergeant about hitting the Rebel Skitters.

Hal sneaks out to go and meet with Ben – to make up and make nice. They rebuild their bridges but Ben also confirms that his place is with the Skitters, that’s where he belongs.

And Ann confides in Lourdes that she’s happy to be getting back into the fight – they’ve been part of the fight for so long it’s what she’s used to. Oh, and she’s pregnant.

Tom talks to Manchester about how he screwed up and how Tom and Weaver found a middle ground – when Ben bursts in to tell them they were attacked. At the camp Bressler passes it off as someone getting carried away and attacking. So many had lost loved ones to the Skitters, he considers it natural that some went out of control – he doesn’t admit to ordering the attack. And he calls off the mission to kill the Overlord because… I have absolutely no idea, because they were drawing lost when the title of “general” came up, because I can’t think how else Bressler got the job.

Captain Weaver informs Bressler that, actually, the 2nd Massachusetts is doing the mission whether he agrees or not

We have lots of 2nd Massachusetts moments – Weaver convincing his daughter not to come because he can’t stand to lose her (which, I accept, but as she pointed out, why should she risk losing him? I would have much preferred her talking him round, especially since Tom also convinces Matt to stay by saying he has to keep Lourdes safe. There’s far too few female fighters on this show). In a moment of semi-hemi-demi redemption Ann comes along as medic and pokes at his “little woman stay at home” idea. Tector and Weaver changing into their old clothes and out of uniform, Tector meeting back up with the Berserkers and Dai and Anthony getting their first speaking lines in, what, 4 episodes?

They creep through the close tunnels, Tom reassuring Ann and her fear of close spaces and Hal reassuring Maggie (Crazy Lee has been left to guard the cars with Lyle, but I’m sure he’ll be reassuring her as well). They blow into a main chamber and split up, lacing the whole place with explosives – around the great big weapon pointed at the sky. Ben tells them it’s aimed at the sky because it’s not meant for humans. Oooh, ominous foreshadowing.

It’s at this point the aliens attack – Skitters, and not friendly rebel Skitters. In the fighting, Dai dies and they’re quickly overwhelmed and evil-Skitter translator Karen steps into the room. Followed by the Overlord and lots of questioning with the shiny torture stick. As Karen is wandering around torturing Weaver and Tom and kissing Hal, she discovers Ann is pregnant and announces it. To spare Ann, Tom agrees to tell them everything.

Then the rebels attack – their bonds drop them and we get some nifty Skitter on Skitter fight scenes, including Red Eye going for the Overlord. The Overlord throws Red-Eye off and slashes him with a retractable blade – but Tom grabs the torture stick, knocks him over and beats him repeatedly into mush – Karen runs off using Harnessed leap-y powers and spouting clichés. Before everyone gathers round for a sad goodbye to the dying Red Eye (hey, Dai’s dead – anyone remember this?)

They leave, taking their dead and wounded, and blow up the massive weapon and return to Charleston. Bressler gives them a heroes welcome because… I dunno, maybe he’s been drinking, mood swing, drugs, who knows with this guy?! Cheering and rejoicing time!

Hal is unconscious in the hospital after Karen kissed him (damn, that’s some SEVERELY bad breath their Karen, you might want to talk to the Overlords about oral hygiene). He’s unconscious and Ann doesn’t really know why.

Hal does wake up and check himself in the mirror – there’s something moving under his skin. It’s another little spy creature that was used on Tom and it emerges from his eye (uckies) before entering his ear. Hal then practices his evil smiles and sinister looks in the mirror (evil’s a good look on him).

Ann and Tom have the “how can we bring a child into this world” discussion, but it’s just a prelude to Tom being all reassuring and hopeful. Tom goes to speak to Manchester who has made a deal with Bressler – civilian rule will be restored so long as the civilian ruler isn’t Manchester. Manchester hopes Tom will take up the reins but he declines. He and Weaver have decided that they need to be out there, fighting the aliens and he will build governments when they’ve won the war.

It’s at this point that there seems to be an earthquake and a storm – everyone rushes to the exist to look up at giant pods falling from the sky. Out of which steps something completely new – a new alien with monumentally cool armour…

Ok, this episode. The conflict of Charleston is entirely build around people having the common sense of concussed lemmings. Bressler’s actions throughout this episode have just defied description – maybe for an emotional, angry man acting out. But a general who presumes to lead all of the US’s remaining military? Some tactical expertise or clue would be ideal. It frustrates me because it feels like the conflict of the episode was manufactured, not entirely realistic. I actually think Bressler may be Jekyl and Hyde or have an evil twin the number of times he changes his mind.

So this was the season 2 finale – time for a resume

They went to Charleston
Hmmm… yes, that’s about it. I don’t think there was even a central theme of survival against the aliens in this season because they didn’t seem to be all that common or overwhelming. The Overlords seem more interested than the rebels than humanity. We see a lot of running from the aliens now and then, but actually fighting them is fairly rare. I don’t know, there seemed to be less of a survival horror feel to the series and more a generic “let’s get by”.

I think there were some great storylines that would be fascinating to follow up – freeing Harnessed kids and their conflict. Red Eye and the rebels. Even Charleston and the nature of rebuilding society – whether it’s even appropriate to do so while still at war. These all could have become fascinating storylines and maybe one of them needed to step in and be centre stage – rather than they be side events on the journey to Charleston. Or make the journey more epic – a desperate trek across occupied territory, maybe picking up pockets of survivors as they went.

As it was we seemed disjointed without a unifying storyline – and I almost don’t want these new aliens because it means the scrappy coverage of those issues is going to be it. I did like these stories – but it’s because I like them that I wanted them developed.

Now let’s get some of the elephants in the room. Firstly – 2 series, no GBLT people. The Skitters killed GBLT folk first, it seems. I think straight, cis people need to keep their eyes on GBLT folk - the minute the GBLTs start dying in droves, you know a dystopian is on the way - GBLT people are dystopian canaries.

Secondly, race. The treatment of POC on this show has been poor – they started unrepresented (except for crowd scenes) and Charleston is even worse since even the crowd scenes aren’t that mixed. But the casualty rate among the POC has been much higher than the white characters – which follows a trend from season 1. We’ve taken that – introduced Jamil and killed him, brought up Anthony then have him disappear after Pope for half the season. Dai had maybe 6 lines the entire season – this is a character who has been on the show since episode 1 season 1 and he barely got a part. And now he is dead – not only dead, but dead in a foot note and less mourned than a damn Skitter. And this is before we consider Ben the Harnessed representative of the Skitter rebels vs Rick the dangerous spy (remember Rick?)

The only POC on this show who can be remotely considered a major character is Ann – and Ann is at least 70% love interest. Speaking of – women are also still largely underrepresented in the army. We have 4 female characters: Ann (caregiver), Lourdes (caregiver), Maggie (fighter, major love interest of Hal) and Crazy Lee (bit part, we don’t even see her in the fight scenes). And yes you can have a big strong character who isn’t a fighter – fine, let’s have Tom as the heroic bandage roller and Ann out there shooting if they’re both regarded as equally strong. It’s not that caregiver roles aren’t important, it’s that we have a stereotype being followed here with women repeatedly kept out of the fight even when children have been armed.

I like the show, it’s still exciting and interesting. But I think it needs to develop its plots a little more and it has a serious problem with its depiction of marginalised people.