Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Falling Skies "Mutiny"

Non Spoiler Review:
As preparations continue for the assault against the structure in Boston, Tom is faced with a difficult choice after Weaver begins to make rash military decisions. Scott and Ben research the alien frequencies while Pope builds his bombs. But revelations come to light that threaten the command structure, as well as the future of Tom's family.

Mutiny set up a lot of planning for the final episode, and was necessary to resolve lingering issues between Weaver and Tom, and it certainly all comes to a head after a season of build up. It does appear a bit jarring coming so soon after Tom and Weaver seemed to be buddy-buddy in Boston, that their trust level suddenly plunges. But with two episodes left, there's little choice, I guess.

Otherwise, everyone fits nicely into their roles now, so a lot of the behaviour flows naturally to the story. Mutiny does slip into a few overused tropes—the soldier who always follows orders, for example—but it's a fitting character piece leading into the finale, assuming the conclusion has enough action and lives up to the build up of expectations this week.

Spoilers Now!
As the civilians enjoy a movie in the gymnasium, Anne breaks the news to Tom about the harnessed Scitters. He's then summoned by Weaver to be briefed on the upcoming plan. There's also a Lt. Danner present, who is career military, follows orders and doesn't like having to explain anything.

Tom's concerned that Weaver might not be up to the task given his near suicide in Boston, but that only creates more tension between them. Anne wants to know what's up and Tom explains what happened. Lourdes overhears.

Dai returns to base wounded, bringing a message he relays to Weaver. Porter's plan has four militias targeting each of the structure's legs. But given they've now lost contact with Porter and the other groups, Tom asks if the mission is still a go. He gets a curt response from Danner.

Weaver consults with him privately and advises him not to second guess his decisions. Though they've lost contact with Porter, he's satisfied the mission is a go. Tom expects to be kept in the loop, but Weaver gets defensive and doesn't trust he has his back. Tom assures him he does. Weaver assigns Tom to sentry duty rather than the Boston mission, which aggravates him further.

Lourdes then reveals that Weaver was coming to her asking for sleeping pills and amphetamines, which could lead to paranoia and mood swings. Tom fills in Hal, and sends him and Maggie on the sentry mission instead so he can deal with Weaver.

Tom goes to see Weaver again, who is angry he didn't go on the sentry mission. Tom confronts him about the meds, so Weaver accuses him of insubordination and gets Danner and Jimmy to lock him up in the boiler room. Jimmy isn't sure what's going on and has obvious doubts. Danner isn't a fan of Tom's book learnin', so has no problem keeping him prisoner. Weaver remains close to Jimmy and asks if he can count on him.

Ben goes to see Scott and ends up helping out with the radio frequency tests. By accident he stumbles on a frequency that causes him pain, a fact he keeps to himself. He waits until Scott leaves before playing with the radio to see if he can find the frequency. Creepy Ricky comes in and finds out they're going to try to jam the Scitters' method of communication, which means they won't be able to find them. Ben doesn't want him talking like that, but Ricky doesn't want to be human. He tells Ben he's just scared because he can feel the change coming. 

Meanwhile, Pope is making lots of bullets and explosives. He shares some witty banter with Matt. Weaver drops by to say there's been a change in plan, and rather than one big bomb, he'll need four. Pope can handle that, though that means a very short fuse for each.

Hal and Maggie return to base after running into a lot of Scitter and Mech activity. Finding out his father is prisoner, Hal consults with Anne, and with Jimmy's help, manage a prison break, tying up Danner. They head down to see Dai in the clinic to find out what Porter's orders really were. Still weak, Dai relays that Porter might be dead and the other militias were under fire. The mission should be aborted, which is what he told Weaver. Weaver is going ahead with it regardless. Tom then goes to Pope and wants him to take the bombs apart. Pope's up for anything that will kill Scitters and isn't agreeable. That is until Tom pulls a gun on him. He plans on convincing Weaver to abort the mission.

Weaver finds Danner tied up and heads to the clinic to confront Anne about Tom's whereabouts. Tom, Hal and Maggie are already there, disarm him and ask him to listen to reason. They demand to know the real operational plan. Weaver disagrees that the mission should stand down, as they won't have another chance to strike at them hard. Tom isn't against fighting, but wants it done the right way. That's when Pope shows up and pulls a gun on all of them, ready to free Weaver and kill some Scitters. Tom trumps him and says he already took the fuses for the explosives, so the bombs are out of commission.

Tom tells Weaver the civilians need to know the truth and that the attack needs to be more than a command decision that will end in suicide. There are too few of them left. Jimmy and Anne urge Weaver to do the right thing, as they want to follow him if he'll let them. Weaver at last reconsiders and says he'll do it Tom's way.

In the gym, Weaver and Tom address the assembly, calling for volunteers and laying out the truth of the situation. The Boston assault was to be a first strike, but Porter lost contact with the other regiments and Porter himself might be lost. Porter's last order was to abort unless they could confirm the existence of the other units. They don't know. But he asks for 50 volunteers for the mission. He gets them easily.

Tom is left in charge of evacuating the civilians. Weaver lets him know he quit taking the pills since he got back from Boston. Tom wishes he was going along, especially since Hal has also volunteered, but he has his father's blessing.

Scott finds a pensive Ben, who finally comes clean about what's going on with the frequencies, and together they try out his theory. But Tom has to conceal his unease when he finds out that his son is able to access the alien communications.

Matt gives Pope the business for breaking his father's trust and pulling a gun on them. Maggie then takes a moment to confront him and asks him what his plan is. He reminds her if it wasn't for him she'd just be another Mech victim. And he has no dreams that they're ever going to win this war. She warns him about double-crossing them again.

Weaver and his men hit the road, while Tom and Anne make preparations to move the camp.

The Verdict:
This episode did feel a bit slow, mostly due to the anticipation of the attack. But it serviced a lot of necessary character threads before the finale. The level of running back and forth through the school and everyone pulling guns on everyone else was starting to get a bit much.

As mentioned, Weaver's behaviour appeared to turn on a dime since last week. And while the main characters behaved according to form—Anne, Lourdes, Hal—someone like Danner was just thrown in out of nowhere as a cliche. Was there any doubt that Tom would end up thrown into the brig by the end of the season? It sort of worked.

Pope continues to be a wild card, which I'm content with. It wouldn't make sense for him to suddenly come around and make nice with everyone, though it's going to be tough giving him any kind of responsibility again. I was happy to see Maggie get a scene with him again, considering the history between them.

Ben's growing on me now that he seems genuinely not a traitor. His tactical value comes at the expense of his humanity, and Tom must watch, and exploit that, when necessary. Ricky remains creepy and we're patiently waiting for him to make his move. Will he survive? I'm not invested enough in his character to watch him try to be rehabilitated, so killing him off is no great loss.

Is Porter really dead? If so, it's unfortunate that he died off screen given he was a good character. Even if Weaver's got a volunteer force, the attack seems like a fool's errand given the complete lack of tactical information on the alien situation, as well as the other militias. Humanity does need a victory, but I'm not that confident they'll bring down the structure. Here's hoping the battle lives up to the level of expectation. 

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