Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Falling Skies Season 3, Episode 7: The Pickett Line

The Masons have ridden out and Ben asks Tom if they find Anne and Lexi if they’re going back to Charleston. To which Tom says he doesn’t know because he doesn’t think there’s a future there for them.

…seriously? Compared to WHERE? Charleston is, as far as Tom knows, the only human settlement that is managing to hold its own against the aliens. It’s also a place where he is not only known and has friends but has enough respect to be elected president. Everywhere else? Aliens. Murderous aliens. Lots and lots of aliens. Future with aliens. Future without aliens. Shall we choose? How is there a future anywhere else for them – or is running and hiding through the wilderness with a newborn baby better? And didn’t Matt and Hal both leave women they cared about behind?

They’re, obviously, worried about Lexie being treated badly because she’s half-alien. A concern, yes – but compare that to MURDEROUS ALIENS WHILE CAMPING IN THE WILDERNESS and it seems a relatively minor one.

Also, ben is a little nervous channelling the new leader of the skitter rebellion – he’s more aggressive, more impatient… At which point that leader falls from a ridge, clearly injured, and warns them of an Espheni patrol.

In daylight it seems Hal and Matt have a separate camp and are doing all the touching reminiscing thing. And like Tom and Ben, they consider living in the soaking wet wilderness with a newborn baby rather than the closest approximation to civilisation; before Tom and Ben return telling them to strike camp.

Another fun event when away from Charleston – they’re ambushed by a group of masked humans (why masks? Who are they trying to hide their identity from? The FBI?) who steal their horses and supplies. Tom tells them about Charleston but their leader doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of joining an army to fight the Espheni.

With no supplies the Masons have one plan – to follow the raiders and get their stuff back. They follow them (having a few rehashing of various issues along the way) and stalk into the camp – raiding it and taking down nearly all of their targets easily. One man with a knife gives Hal trouble – and Matt shoots him. Hey they tried to leave you unarmed and with no supplies in the middle of nowhere – that’s pretty tantamount to murder, I shed no tears. The man actually has the gall to ask what Matt shot him for “errr, you stole our shit, tried to leave us to our deaths and were trying to stab my brother”. Seriously, there’s no shortage of reasons.

They decide to provide medical attention to the man rather than taking their stuff and going back to looking for Anne and spending the time while doing that talking to the raiders. The family of raiders have avoided the aliens and only seen them from a distance, but other raiders killed their mother while stealing. Lots more talk of everyone having to stand together against the aliens and that they can’t just hide and hope. Unfortunately, their playing with the family and not properly searching for weapons, or holding them at gun point or restrained lets the raiders get the upper hand again.

The raider lines them up against the wall ready to shoot them and Tom makers another dramatic appeal to humanity. It’s the raider’s daughter who breaks, unable to stand them being shot and while she distracts him, the Masons make their move, disarm him and have another tense showdown of everyone pointing guns at each other. Tom prevails and the raider family is cowering and the Masons are armed.

Now please collect your shit and get out of this place. This season is too damn short for you to be playing silly beggars with some bandits for some awkward attempt at showing that people steal when they need to to survive.

They leave the place and set off – but run into a patrol of Espheni. And they’re heading right to the raider family (the Picketts, hence the name of the episode I guess). How sad, what a shame – moving on. Hal seems to agree with me; they’re looking for Anne and Lexie and the Picketts had them facing a wall ready to be shot. Alas, tom is not so sensible and he sends his 3 sons off to scout where Anne is while he goes back to play Big Damn Hero. Where he ends up with Skitters on one side and a megamech on the other.

In Charleston I still have to deal with Pope, who isn’t dead. Whyyyy?! Anyway Pope is making loads of money but lamenting that he doesn’t actually have anything to spend it on. I question again why such a small, insular community with so little in the way of industry even needs a capitalist system. And his bar is being towed to make way for more housing – courtesy of president Marina. Yes Pope actually wishes Tom Mason was back, since he was less inclined to rather draconian decisions at gun point. An alert interrupts any further argument – as Cochise staggers into town carrying the President (the real one or the old one. There’s a lot of presidents running round), he’s injured and unconscious.

In hospital, the recovering President tells Weaver to keep trying to contact his men and Marina seems pretty deferential to the man; he recognises her from before the war. It seems Cochise saved the presidents life by shielding him in the impact – Volm being genetically engineered for combat are much harder to hurt. But the Volm weapon will be ready in 2 weeks – which, of course, marina is not a fan of this idea. Cochise is unwilling to fill her in on more info since there has been so much info-leak to the Espheni from Charleston command and, further, doesn’t accept the simple claim that “Hal did it” means they’re not leak free.

The president is insistent that the mission go ahead, despite Marina’s protests and Weaver’s reservations.

And in other issues, Pope has managed to convince all the mechanics to go on work slow down – in the armoury and with the vehicles. Seriously? Yes Marina is draconian as hell, but Pope has enough pull to convince people to actively sabotage their army over his bar being moved? Weaver confronts Pope and Pope talks about his rights (hah the first time he gives a damn about “rights” is his property.) And Pope is still all furious about the Volm who “turned them into their monkey boys” since when? Oh that was by saving humanity from utter destruction! Ah yes. I hate Pope.  He wants a change if vision for… reasons and to… I have no idea.

Pope runs a whole rally calling for a strike to protest the Volm commands (that whole saving them) and them moving his bar – which is apparently enough to rally a huge number of people. Weaver moves in and manages to win support of a lot of the crowd until he arrests Pope for “Civil Disobedience” (oh dear gods, really? Are you kidding me?) giving Pope chance to spout of a martyr line.

Marina, Cochise, the President and Weaver examine the Volm weapon and Cochise lets them in on the big secret; the Esphenis defence grid will stop any ships landing (so the Volm need to destroy a tower to disrupt it to allow their ship to land) but it will also irradiate the planet, killing anything that isn’t Espheni or harnessed. They need to destroy the whole grid. They kept it secret to avoid causing panic – so instead it was better to make the Volm look sinister? Surely presenting the Volm as their only hope against destruction – as they have already proved to be – would be far better at energising and uniting the populace? This seems to make little sense. Unfortunately destroying the whole grid is also risky and could cause a similar destruction.

For some reason these revelations means that Weaver now agrees with Pope and goes to see him in prison and release him. He decides to see Maggie and give her vague warnings – which she has no time for since her history with Pope is hardly good. He claims they’re the same – she protected Hal and he kidnapped her and fed her to his brutal gang… yeah that sounds equivalent. Right.
We have a schmaltzy moment between Lourdes and the President as he praises her skills and role as the generation that will rebuild Earth. She leaves his room, sneaks into the basement under it, carefully measures out the floor underneath him – then points and alien gun upwards and shoots him through the ceiling. Crafty.

She goes from there to the chapel to pray – and her face is covered in little bugs; which is where she is when she gets the news. Anthony reports how the president was killed and Marina realises they still have a mole. Sharp, isn’t she? Marina tells Anthony to pull out all the stops to find the mole and tells Weaver not to tell the President’s people – or they’ll just get a wave of outsiders coming in subjecting them to a witch hunt. At last, she makes a lot of sense. Pope catches up with Weaver and points out that the president died just s he was snatching power from Marina, all but accusing her of assassination.

Looks like we found our mole – I have to admit I was sure it was Marina – I’m still not sure that Lourdes makes sense (with the way Manchester greeted the mole after all) but I suppose if we’re going to take “regular” cast who didn’t just appear this season, she is one of the least integral.

I hate Pope, I hate that even a vague attempt to address draconian measures justified by “security” comes down to Pope throwing a temper tantrum about his bar being moved, which is pathetic. This is supposed to be the rights battle worth drawing a line in the sand over? We’re really going to have a stand down over “rights” in the face of a draconian government based on a guy who is selfishly grasping for everything he can, screw everyone else?

If I were the Volm I’d probably leave Earth and let the humans get on with it, seriously.

And why are the Masons abandoning Charleston? Don’t tell me because of Lexie the alien baby – even if she’s reviled in Charleston, Tom has the respect and regard of the military and government, he was perfectly capable of protecting her – certainly a good deal more than roughing it in the middle of the wilderness and hoping the Espheni don’t find them.

This whole narrative got derailed. The writers seem to want to write a story about Charleston society falling apart, about the government being draconian and dictatorial, about the Masons being disgusted, afraid or otherwise disappointed so they just abandon the city (and Maggie and Dani) and Pope’s rebellion should look vaguely plausible – but they have done NOTHING to set it up. They haven’t done nearly enough to present Marina’s regime as draconian or inept. Not nearly enough to justify Tom’s willingness to leave. Not nearly enough to establish the Volm as some kind of sinister force – but these are all givens we’re expected to swallow. It isn’t working for me. I feel almost like I’ve missed 4 or 5 episodes where sufficient background to justify their actions would have been.

This lack of development is more frustrating when you consider that so much of this episode was spent with the Masons playing around with a  random raider family – especially after last week and my whole doubt about the Hal red herring to begin with.