Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Falling Skies, Season 3, Episode 5: Search and Recovery

In the wreckage of the plane, Tom wakes up just as the fire begins to flare up. He turns to Bressler – but he hasn’t survived the crash. He hurries to the back and cuts Pope free and drags him clear of the burning plane.

Oh gods Pope is STILL not dead. But I’m pretty sure Bressler is toast, especially since the plane explodes the minute Tom is clear (this is a rule. Anything on fire – absolutely anything – will explode the minute the protagonist staggers to a safe distance, usually just far enough to be knocked down by a shockwave but not to be burned or impaled on flying shrapnel or anything. I don’t care how non-explosive the item is – IT WILL EXPLODE!)

Evil Hal is watching Maggie sleep (at last this is depicted as creepy! No romance writers, lurking over someone and watching them sleep isn’t romantic!) when ben arrives to tell him that Ann and Lexis (evil alien baby) have disappeared. (Which Evil Hal already knows of course).  There’s a meeting with vice-president Marina, Weaver, the Masons, Lourdes, Maggie and Dr. Kadar who explains the DNA tests he did – and that baby Lexis is an Evil Alien Baby. Or Evil Hybrid Baby anyway. Lourdes and Marina are sympathetic – putting it down to the natural defensiveness of motherhood. But when Weaver calls for a 100 men to begin a search party, Marina takes him aside to say they can’t spare 100 men to search for one person; Weaver can look if he wants but she doesn’t authorise deploying the troops. Weaver appeals to the unity of the 2nd Massachusetts, something she doesn’t understand, the family they’ve become. Marina agrees to give him a day to search though she says they have to plan because Ann is right, the populace won’t react well to an Evil Hybrid Baby. And she delivers a brief slap to his saying she wouldn’t understand – because she had a family once as well.

I’m glad she stood up to that – yes she may not share the bond the 2nd Mass developed, but she, and nearly everyone else, formed powerful family bonds and lost people; Weaver’s pain and his people’s pain are not super-special.

The searchers set off – Weaver agreeing to take Matt even though Hal objects. And Marina arrives to make nice to Weaver and hope he comes back safe, because he’s important. Is that a budding romance I see? Jeanne certainly seems to agree.

Searching they find a trail of blood… everyone’s all tense as they follow it to the body of a woman with long black hair – but it’s not Ann. Everyone’s relieved… um… I know they’re all emotionally invested in finding Ann, but there’s a recently dead woman here, among the ruins of Charleston. Is anyone going to follow that up? They agree to bury her, despite Evil Hal’s objections. Rather than actually try to find out who she is, they make up a touching story about what a wonderful good person she was instead. Maggie notices Evil Hal’s silence

In Charleston, Marina takes photographs of the Volm construction to Kadar to see if he can figure out what they’re actually doing. Kadar double checks if Tom agreed to this – but she assures him he did. How anyone’s supposed to tell anything from the photographs without being full on psychic is bemusing.

In the field, finding the body has made Matt and Ben think of their dead mother and relating it to the search for Ann. Weaver and Jeanne talk about the Evil Hybrid Babies and how it may be a new way to take over the humans of Charleston since they can’t beat them – and she asks Weaver to promise her she’ll never let the aliens take her and use her. The strong implication is she’d rather die first.

They find evidence of Ann – but also Skitter tracks. Matt despairs but Weaver reassures him and they plan to go back to Charleston and use the Rebel Skitter spies to see if they know anything. Maggie also notices that Evil Hal has been acting oddly.

Back to Charleston and Kadar and Marina for what might be the stupidest scene ever on Falling Skies. Kadar ominously tells Marina that the Volm weapon has too big a power supply for what it’s built for. And we conclude that Tom didn’t ask Marina to examine this, though she says Tom should have. Kadar also confirms that only Alexis is an Evil Hybrid Baby – which Marina barely acknowledges. Nice priorities

Outside, Matt puts the woman’s bracelet on the tree and Ben puts up a leaf with the word “mom” on it. Matt cries, telling Ben he doesn’t want to die like she did – alone and buried by strangers. Ben holds him while Evil Hal looks on, emotionless.

Back to the wreck and, alas, Pope wakes up and is annoying unpleasant and, even worse, right. He complains that Tom should have expected them being attacked because Charleston has a mole – everyone knows it – but rather than stay and root it out, Tom had to run off to play with the “big boys.” Damn it, don’t make me agree with Pope! Then they have to hide and wait for the Beamers to pass that keep scanning the area with big search lights. Thankfully, an interstellar alien empire of incredible and indecipherable technology has not mastered the art of thermal imaging.

The next day they head towards Charleston – walking south despite it being a huge distance (as Pope not-so-helpfully points out) and Tom has a revelation; it can’t have been the spy, they didn’t have the co-ordinates to where they were going until after they were airborn. And he dismisses Pope’s claim that they just had to know they were going – they’d have their own “eyes in the sky” – because it took the Espheni so long to find them.

Why don’t the Espheni have eyes in the sky? Satellites? Even if they had to take over human satellites? Just better way of tracking people than flying machines with spot lights?

Tom continues to show off his woodsman skills by creating a fire for the night (Pope is woefully ignorant) and slaps down Pope’s assumptions of the idyllic childhood Tom had – he had an uneducated father who was drunk and, it’s inferred, less than pleasant.

With Pope cooking the frogs they caught – him being the chef – they discuss Pope’s children, when he last saw them. Which involved him accidentally killing a guy who nearly ran his son over – wich ended up with him in prison. Damn if Pope keeps showing emotion like this I may end up not hating him. He’s still paranoid and reacts when Tom reaches for the gun, but drops it when Tom says he’s taking the first watch.

The next day, Pope wakes up Tom with a dead snake as a joke and Tom gets pretty angry about it – emphatically denying that they’re friends just because they talked. And the two fight. Well, that was a bit of an escalation out of nowhere. They even draw knives until their silliness draws the attention of Skitters and they have a real enemy to fight and run from.  They escape by jumping into a fast flowing river

Of course they both come out alive – and not drowned for sheer, childish foolishness. And Pope hits Tom and Tom pulls a gun. Ye gods, kill the pair of them, our species in Falling Skies would be better off without them.

Now playing nice, Pope helps Mason to shelter and rigs up a splint for Tom’s twisted ankle. Tom’s still wondering about how the aliens found them and all he can think of is a tracking device on the plane – Pope rather thinks the whole thing is irrelevant if they can’t get back to Charleston alive. Tom can’t put any wait on his ankle and tells Pope to leave without him. Of course Pope doesn’t accept that and demands Tom gets up. He claims because he wants a plane that Tom owes him and Tom chews him out for how easy it must be for Pope, just living for himself with no responsibility or duty. Tom calls Pope a coward who’s scared to walk through the woods without him and Pope leaves.

Guess what happens next? Tom is left all alone and Skitters show up – oh whatever shall he do? Fear not, for Pope is there to save him. Sorry, writers, this scene is so clichéd that I’d have to be passed out drunk not to see it coming – and even then I’d probably be able to slur out an approximation. He helps Tom into a trick he’s found in a cabin, with food and ammo.

They hobble back to Charleston and collapse at the perimeter. Tom wakes up in the clinic with Pope by his bedside. Tom’s been out for 2 days, Pope’s been by his bed for 2 days. Weaver joins them and reveals they’ve heard nothing from Cochise or the president; the Volm are out looking for him. The family joins him – and then he learns about Ann and Lexis.

One note on a tiny moment I kind of liked – Weaver tells Matt off for swearing. Of course, Matt is a fighter, he carries a gun, he’s assisted on the front lines; but he can’t swear? It’s an interesting commentary on broken childhood in dystopians, trying to keep children as children but being forced to introduce them to harsh realities like combat. It’s an under-examined issue.

How come the Espheni have the technology to cross star systems, extremely advanced AI but they haven’t apparently matched some technology we’ve had for decades? I know I know, suspension of disbelief, but it comes off as really sloppy writing when a sci-fi show doesn’t at least try to explain these gaps. And it’s not the first time when conflict or story in the Falling Skies relies on either dubious world building or dubious decision making or just plain unbelievable actions

Like Tom Mason and Pope deciding to have a fist fight in the middle of Skitter controlled territory, for example.

Or that scene with Marina and Kadar. Let’s break this down. Kadar can tell what components on an alien machine is based entirely on a grainy photograph that he then enlarges. He is apparently able to identify what they do (all you see on the photo is a grill). And able to identify not only what this component is, but the scale of what it produces.

Then he declares it to be overkill to do the unknown thing. He doesn’t know what it’s for. Marina doesn’t know what it’s for. But they know the power supply is overkill. HOW CAN THEY KNOW?! How can they know it is too much for the unknown task it’s going to perform?! How can they pretend that this is ominous actions on the part of the Volm? Who, as you may remember, are the only reason why Charleston isn’t dust and they aren’t all dead at this point!

But unknown device that does unknown thing in an apparently nefarious fashion because you’ve arbitrarily decided it was built wrong is more important than whether or not the children of Charleston have been infected with alien DNA? THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!

This was a heavy emotion episode trying to build characters and show what each person thinks and the pain they feel over various lost loved ones and family. It wasn’t a bad episode in that, though part of me does think that season 3 seems a little late for such navel gazing. But it works.