Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: Falling Skies "Prisoner of War"

Non Spoiler Review:
Prisoner of War moves things along at a brisk pace for another mission-focused episode, this time with the plan to rescue Ben and the other harnessed kids. Things run off the rails pretty quickly. Porter returns to bring some important news, as well as a new character who presents some conflict for Tom. Meanwhile, Pope reveals a hidden talent.

We get some more insights into the days of the attack and what happened to Tom's wife. There are some interesting bits regarding the alien tech and a big development on that front by the end. It all really came together well, and I'm enjoying the serialized format where not all the elements are resolved by the end of the episode.

Though Tom remains the idealist, there was far less of his preaching this week, aside from one particular speech. The only critique is the new character, who is a bit of a cliche and an obvious source of conflict for Tom.

Spoilers Now!
Tom and crew spy on the Mechs from a rooftop, directing harnessed kids (including Ben) to gather scrap metal. As it's just a reconaissance mission, they return to the school to figure out a plan. Tom's besieged by parents who want to know if they saw their kids. 

Anne brings some good news—Porter's returned with new intel. Their runners they sent west ran into resistance fighters in Chicago, who have made contact with groups in other states, so they're not in it alone anymore. The bad news is that alien structures like that over Boston are going up over other major cities. Their push is to gather intel on the enemy and collect war material to be used in a growing insurgency.

Porter has heard Tom's found some harnessed kids. His science team is still unsuccessful in saving the children, though his surgeon has a theory that he needs to test out on a kid. Weaver disagrees, but it's Porter's call. Tom will just get Ben this time so they can attempt to test out the new surgical procedure.

Matt's upset given some kids have been saying taking off the harnesses kills the kids. Tom lets him know a doctor came with Porter who might be able to help Ben. 

Scott brings food to Pope in his makeshift cell. Pope criticizes the food given he's a chef, apparently. Weaver asks Maggie if the food was good at their old hideout and she agrees, so Scott wants to put him to work. Pope explains they hunted for their food which allowed for more variety. Weaver agrees to let him try to see what he comes up with.

Anne's met the doctor who has the harness theory and seems to think he knows what he's doing. His name is Harris, and Tom knows him, as they were initially hiding out together in the early days of the invasion. Apparently Harris is responsible for losing track of Tom's wife during the attack, and was thought dead. When they found his wife, they tried to find him, Tom says, but there were patrols everywhere. Harris feels guilty he couldn't save Rebecca, but maybe he can give him back Ben, he suggests.

Tom and his bunch head back on their rescue mission. Mike finds his own son, though, and runs off after him. He tries to pull him back but the Mech shows up, prompting Tom to have to blow the charges early and take it out. They get Mike's boy, but don't have time to search for Ben, and Tom gets grazed in the attack, while Karen and Hal find their escape blocked.

Tom wakes up in a hiding place where Mike has his zombie-fied son, but Hal and Karen are missing. Tom goes out after them, more than a little peeved at Mike for blowing the whole mission. He runs right into a Scitter and forced into hand-to-hand combat, managing to seriously wound it by shooting off a couple of legs and beating it to unconsciousness. He returns to base dragging the alien behind him, offering his prisoner of war to an impressed Weaver. He lets Tom go back out to find Hal and Karen.  

Mike's returned with his son, too, so Harris and Anne start their operation on the boy (who also has cystic fibrosis—plot point). His theory is that the harness synthesizes a drug. If they leave the needles inside and cut off the harness, while giving the patient morphine, it will get them off the drug without shocking the system and killing the host. The needles behave like living tissue, becoming part of the nervous system. The operation appears to go well and the boy is left to rest.

Hal wakes up on the ground, seeing Ben and another kid dragging Karen away. A Mech directs several children to line up and a Scitter comes over. It points at them, and the Mech shoots the kids in front of a horrified Hal. His father finds him soon after, and he explains what happened. Tom thinks they're trying to send them a message. 

Porter is pleased they have a live Scitter, so orders Dr. Harris to stay for the next few weeks to study it. Pope serves up his first meal, which scores some points, but he still has to be locked up. 

Tom updates Anne on the situation with Karen, then goes to find Harris who's watching the alien. Tom confronts him about running away when he and Rebecca were attacked. When he found her she was holding on to the bag of provisions they'd collected (which was too heavy for her to carry by herself). So he knows he was with her. Harris admits he made a split second decision to flee.

Then Harris counters that Rebecca had told him Tom was too exhausted to go out looking for food with her, so she hadn't woken him that day. So it appears they're both responsible, but Harris points out he now has the opportunity to help Tom's son. Ouch.

Meanwhile, the Scitter opens its eyes in its cell, as does Mike's son.

The Verdict:
Pope's new role was a bit odd given how abrasive his character is. It will be a long road to integrate him into a role of trust, so it's a start. Weaver was behaving in a somewhat amenable manner, too, but he does have a point about military discipline, given this is the second time a mission has been scrapped due to people acting impulsively. Porter's return was welcome and I hope he continues to play a prominent role in the series. He's very much a military leader in the style of Admiral Adama.

Harris' character is much too slimy. It would have been better if he'd actually been likable from the start to make his issues with Tom a bit more grey. He just reeks as a source of conflict right now—his dark outlook for humanity's future is set in stark contrast to Tom's hopeful optimism. They should have played against conventions. Perhaps I'm a little too suspicious, but I'm wondering if there is a possibility he was fooling around with Tom's wife. Likely not, but I just got a sense of some additional implications in what was being suggested.

Why have the harnessed kids walk around like zombies and pick up scrap metal when the aliens can build their massive ships over the cities? Karen is likely too old to harness, so I wonder if she'll show up as a potential hostage to force Hal to make some tough choices in the near future. And note to Tom—Hal just watched a bunch of kids get killed, he probably doesn't need to hear a history lesson about the Nazis doing the same thing to warn the allies.

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