Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Falling Skies, Season 3, Episode 10: Brazil

Weaver, Anthony, Lyle and Pope (who isn’t dead) are in a train heading to the target. Also chained up in the train is Lourdes – who is sweating and suffering and almost animalistic. They’re going to use her and her eye worms as bait for Karen.

Tom, Kadar and Cochise try to figure out how to work the Volm weapon. Thankfully the completely alien language developed by a culture unimaginably different from ours is very intuitive to human understanding. Uh-huh. They’re sure the gun will work and take out the tower – and when the tower is down the Volm ship will see it and be able to land.

Hal’s all buzzing because he thinks the war is nearly over and he’s making plans about what to do in the aftermath – though Maggie thinks he’s being a bit hasty by assuming the Volm landing means the war will just end. She’s also a little disturbed by Hal’s white picket fence dreams especially since she knows her strength is as a warrior and if this battle is won, she intends to keep on fighting.

The train is ambushed by mechs and Weaver & co open fire and start fighting. They’re on the way to Chicago

Tom, the Volm weapon et al are on a boat though – and not heading to Chicago. They aren’t ambushed and believe they’ve tricked Karen (and Tom doesn’t have an eye worm) into focusing on Weaver’s diversion with Lourdes. Jeanne is also with them (why? Is she a combatant now? Or just there to angst about Weaver?) They fire the Volm weapon, it sucks in some of the net the towers are producing and fire a projectile at the tower

Which mildly damages one of the legs. It looks pretty weak – then the whole tower collapses, utterly destroyed. Many cheers and celebrations!

That was AWFULLY easy and AWFULLY early. The other shoe is definitely going to drop. The net over the world disappears without the tower. From the skies a massive space ship lands, bigger than the Tower, in the ruins of Boston.

That night there’s lots of partying – drums and music and Tom inside his tent preparing to meet with the Volm commander. Ben joins him and Tom’s excited to introduce the Volm commander to the rebel skitters since they’ve never heard of the like – though the Skitters aren’t really eager to meet the Volm. Tom is just trying to grasp the enormity of what they’ve achieved when the celebration sparks up again – Weaver & co arrive, apparently bailed out by Cochise and his soldiers (Cochise explained the distraction to the Volm commander who dispatched a squad to intervene). Lourdes is still restrained, they meet the Volm commander in the morning – and the Espheni are rapidly retreating to the north.

Lots more celebrations and toasts and triumph.

The next day Weaver and Tom head to see the Volm commander leader by Cochise. The commander greets them with great respect and honour – and it turns our Cochise is his son. After which the commander tries to get rid of tom and weaver so they can deploy their defences – it seems the commander isn’t super-eager to involve Tom and Weaver in the war planning. Cochise tries to be nice about it, but the Volm commander outright says that they’ve been fighting the Espheni for a long time and the humans aren’t really necessary at this point. The Volm can take on the Espheni, the humans will only be in the way. The Volm want to relocate humanity to a place away from the fighting – Brazil – while they get on with the warefare.

Hey, sounds good – aliens show up and decide to fight and die for you. Sign me up!

Of course Tom is not interested in not being able to fight – the Volm don’t present it as a choice. They will be relocated (the commander speaks to Tom like he’s a naughty child). Tom continues to protest, the Commander refuses to listen and starts to leave. Tom grabs his arm and the commander smacks him, knocking him to the floor. DRAMA! (Or, perhaps, proof that grabbing leaders of major forces is a bad idea).

Weaver storms back into camp telling everyone to pack up and be ready to move in an hour and that Tom has been detained by the Volm. He wants them to move before the Volm arrive to relocate them to safety, supported by everyone, of course. Pope declares the Volm are no better than the Espheni – ummm, no?

Weaver goes into his tent – and seems to have a heart attack and Jeanne hurries in to help him with his pills – pills he’s been taking for a couple of months unknown to her. He tells her she can’t tell anyone and she suggests going to Brazil – but the Volm’s offer to take them out of the fighting has now evolved into a “concentration camp”.

Cochise and a squad of Volm approach the humans and are greeted as happily as you’d expect. Weaver asks Cochise why he’s doing it – but Cochise is a soldier, even if he disagrees with what’s happening, it’s not his choice to make and he won’t disobey orders. Weaver asks the humans to disarm and Pope starts whining and complaining about how he knew better than Tom and Weaver (so they should have left the security net up and not used Volm weapons? Good idea Pope!)

On the ship, the commander tells Tom how big a breach of etiquette it was to touch the Volm commander and how Cochise should have told him that (or Tom could have guessed – you grab the arm of any national leader today and see how many times you bounce). The Commander is also confused – every planet they have liberated so far consisted of dull and pliant species who not only were happy to relocate to safety while the Volm fought – but were eager to do so. Tom tells him of humanity’s will to fight. The commander tells Tom how, as a warrior, as a warlord, he has never had need to question his orders or protocol; it’s disorientating that Tom is now doing so. The Commander leaves, troubled, to think.

At the camp, Lourdes is still tied up. Hal goes to see her and she screams, desperate to get the worms out of her. Hal reassures her, tells her they will get the worms out and she trusts him – always have. They have a brief jaunt down memory lane and a brief reminder that once Hal and Lourdes looked like they were going to be love interest (especially when you consider how unhappy Maggie was with Hal’s white picket fence aspirations). When Hal leaves the tent, Maggie talks about putting Lourdes out of her misery – since Karen to track her. That conversation doesn’t have to continue because it’s time for the camp to move out.

They reunite with Tom and are led by Cochise to… their weapons. They’re free to go wherever they wish, but they must leave the Boston area asap (that is the Volm base now). Cochise also gives Tom a big, shiny Volm weapon. He reaffirms their friendship as Tom & co leave. The commander arrives and tells Cochise the humans will probably die – but Cochise thinks they will certainly die in captivity. The commander says they swore an oath to protect them – they’ve never let an indigenous population come to harm’s way before.

He humans leave, Maggie and Pope both pointing out to Hal how unfit he is for white picket fence life and Kadar complains about the perils of nature – but, really, considering the man was an agoraphobic shut in who literally couldn’t come above ground a few episodes ago, he’s made remarkable progress (or, to put it a more cynical way, the writers have completely swept over his agoraphobia)

Their banter is interrupted by Ben who hears something big coming – and Lourdes collapsing, fitting. A ship flies in and Tom assumes it’s Karen, taking the bait (Lourdes).

Karen comes out with 2 skitters and a mech – holding up a white flag. She wants to talk about the Volm. She mocks them for the Volm not being as wonderful as they thought (really? I think they’ve been astonishingly awesome to humanity) and how Tom will find out more bad secrets from the Volm who have fought the Espheni for centuries. She suggests at some point the humans may need Karen and the Espheni and she will be willing to listen. She even has a gift to prove her good fath

Uh-huh, I was all prepared to rage at why they are even listening to the Espheni and observing the rules of war with alien invaders trying to wipe them out when Tom shoots Karen. THANK YOU! Karen’s guards are quickly taken down by the people around Tom. Karen bleeds and cries out and reaches out for Hal, choking and apologising while Hal holds her hand. Until Maggie shoots her. Twice

Go Maggie. I just wish it were more “can we stop listening to Espheni misinformation” and less “excuse you, hands off my boyfriend!” Hal is shocked and stunned by Maggie killing their biggest enemy.

But Tom hears Anne – Surprise! She’s not dead! Just cocooned. Tom runs to her (and her no doubt 10 million eye worms). Lexie’s there too – only she has aged massively and now looks like a little girl not a babe in arms. CREEPY ALIEN CHILD!

Next day everyone’s packing up and Hal is disappointed because he was so sure they were near the end of the war (well you were, the Volm offered to take over – you said no. Remember? Or did Hal really expect the Espheni to say “ah shit, they broke our tower!?” and run away?)  More tension flares between Hal and Maggie

Tom talks to Kadar about Anne (who is fine except the inevitable 8 MILLION EYE WORMS) and Lexie is Lexie – Kadar has no clue what’s going on there. They load up the vehicles and tell the plan – to go to Charleston and tell the people about the Volm relocation (so at least the civilians can go to Brazil? Or to warn them to resist it?), find President Hathaway’s people and tell them and then form a human resistance movement (with Volm weapons *ahem*)

Lexie goes to Lourdes in her cage and strokes her face. She holds her hands under Lourdes chin and all the eye worms swarm out of Lourdes into Lexie’s cupped palms. She presses her hands together and they become dust.

Is the Volm “relocation” demand outrageous and patronising? Well yes. But before Cochise arrived with his technology humans had no easy, reliable way to remove harnesses, the only way they could kill mechs was with heavy weapons (since the mech-metal bullets seem to have been completely erased from history) and had no way at all of stopping the beamers bombing them to mush. To the Volm, having humanity decide it wants to fight alongside them must be akin to our modern military facing a demand of participation from Neanderthals wielding sticks. Neandethal’s wielding sticks who have a regular depressing habit of getting eye worms stuck in their skulls and then doing Unhelpful Things.

In fact, the whole way Volm and humans have interacted this season has annoyed and bemused me. They had a lot of prejudice against the Volm, a lot of demands and a lot of suspicion since episode 1 – all completely ignoring how epicly screwed humanity is without the Volm. And what do the Volm get out of this? A chance to fight the Espheni? What does humanity bring to the table the Volm need that these human commanders feel they can regard the Volm with such distrust or suspicion – or demand that they get to be treated like equal participants in the battle?

And, frankly, while the Volm behaviour was less than great, the fact it stems from the fact they swore an oath to defend indigenous populations and fight the war for them makes all that suspicion and grief they’ve got all season look really awful.

I would like them to extrapolate on “Brazil”. Is there a reason why the Espheni are not there in force? Are all Brazillians dead? Is this war confined to North America? Since the Volm are confident Brazil is safe, that presumes they know where the war is taking place – can someone ask them about the state of the rest of the world and why the war seems to be only happening in the US?

Why can they remove Hal’s eye worm but not Lourdes?

So that was the season finale of Falling Skies. I’m kind of glad where it ended, and the return of Anne as well as them going back to Falling Skies roots – not a city to defend, impregnable with alien help, but a disparate band of roaming human fighters trying to drive out the Espheni. It’ll be a nice return to what they were.

But overall this season hasn’t been great, I think. There were so many storylines – the mole, Hal’s eyeworm, the presidency, the Volm, Pope’s rebellion, the creepy alien baby, president Hathaway – so much going on and only 10 episodes to do it in. Throw in we then had pointless episodes like the Picketts and Tom’s being questioned down memory lane and nothing was properly developed – nothing could be developed – in the limited time they had to do it all in. It needed shaving down. Frankly, some episodes I think they kind of avoided dealing with the Espheni all together. There was the first episode and the last, those were the only times they actually attacked the Espheni

Also, I know suspension of disbelief is a must in sci-fi, but there are limits. From Kadar finding the Volm language “intuitive” and being able to tell what Volm technology does from pictures, to Generals not understanding the concept of guerrilla warfare there were just too many moments when the actions of the characters, the world and just about everything didn’t make sense. This is something that annoys me in sci-fi, it feels disrespectful – because they have an audience willing to go along with aliens, it doesn’t matter if their plot lines make sense or not.

We’ve already spoken about the very dubious treatment of women in Falling Skies in general and definitely this season. The treatment of POC is no better – Marina, Anne and Lourdes are covered in the post about women, but both were ineffective where they didn’t outright sabotage their side. Deni was a very briefly appearing character that they seemed to forget about half way through the season. Anthony was thoroughly T-Dogged, doing very little in any scene except hang around and being Black. He’s been reduced to roughly the same role as Tector or Lyle, in fact, Lyle may have overtaken him.

And we’re three seasons and innumerable characters in and we still have no GBLT people. Guess the Espheni were invading homophobia aliens.

I’m curious about the next season and how its going to return, perhaps with a tighter cast and less Charleston issues (it would also give them chance to develop some of the minority characters but I doubt it) it could pick up a bit and not be as sprawled overly full as this season has been. I can hope.