Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Falling Skies "Eight Hours"

Non Spoiler Review:
The freshman season comes to an end with the anticipated attack on the Boston structure. While Weaver's crew enters the city on what could be a suicide mission, Tom is left to deal with Rick and an imminent attack by the Mechs.

Though tense to the end, I was let down given my high expectations for action were not met. While the show did deliver great character bits, some interesting surprises and raised questions, it should have packed a little more punch after ramping up the anticipation for half the season (especially given how light on actual battle it's been).

Despite that, Eight Hours is one of the stronger episodes of the season and ended things on a fitting note. The show has vastly improved since its first episode, so I really can't complain too much about where it's wrapped up. The characters have concluded season one on a solid footing, and the riddles of the alien agenda remain a strong thread to carry forward. I'm looking forward to season two.

Spoilers Now!
Scott attempts to find a way to broadcast the key frequency to disrupt the Scitters' communication, with Ben and Tom's help. Everyone else is called away, which leaves Scott alone with creepy Rick clinging to the ceiling, who's been waiting all this time to stop him. Scott is only injured, but Rick escapes with the piece of equipment.

Ben finds him and tries to convince him to give back the part, but Rick is determined to find the Scitters and encourages him to join him. Ben wants them out of his head. Rick wants the harness back and can tell Ben wants it too. He can feel himself still changing. Ben runs off to call for help and Rick escapes through the window.

Ben goes off to stop him. Rick manages to get through the barricades with some acrobatics while Tom stops one of the civilians from shooting Ben. Maggie gives him the business while Tom takes off in pursuit.

In the woods Rick finds the girl (from several episodes back) who is looking a bit more scaly and green. They'll welcome him back after he tells her everything about the camp. He agrees.

Later, Tom searches the woods and hears Rick shouting in the distance. The Scitters have abandoned him. All they wanted was his information. He feels neither human nor Scitter, and doesn't want to live like this anymore, so asks Tom to shoot him. He misses his father. Tom says he came to take him home, but Rick confesses he told the Scitters everything about their location and the impending attack in Boston.

Meanwhile, Weaver's crew is on the back roads into the city. The scouts seem to confirm the aliens are concentrating their forces on the main highway. Hal consults with him, and tells Weaver he knows he quit taking pills, which is fine enough for him. He came along to have a chance to strike back. 

They reach the first rendezvous point with the other militias, who are a no show, so Weaver lets them know he plans on going, but everyone else can make their own decision. They all opt to follow, and proceed on into the city, splitting up into four squads with their separate charges.

Tom returns to camp with Ricky, announcing he's evacuating the civilians through the tunnel, as an attack is imminent. Tom will stay behind with a small group of volunteers to draw the aliens' fire. When Jimmy raises the point that they have minimal firepower to fend them off, Tom gives them a history lesson about the Revolutionary War and Patrick Henry, with their small militia holding off a superior power. 

Everyone begins their rounds of good-byes. Matt doesn't want to leave with the other civilians. Tom tells him he's growing up and it won't be easy for him. Anne sends Lourdes off with the group in case they need a doctor. Scott gets the missing component and he and Ben try out the frequencies again. Tom wants to send Ben away with the civilians, and refuses to let him stay to help. The Scitters keep changing the frequency, so Ben protests that he's needed there. This is his chance to get back at the Scitters and prove he's not infected.

Hal and his scouts return with news the Mechs are moving in a defensive position around the structure, which means they must know of the plan. Weaver orders him to return to camp and warn Tom that he was right. Weaver still intends to attack, and wants Hal to  tell everyone the 2nd Mass drew blood in Boston to give the people hope. There will be other fights for him. Hal obeys and leaves.

A Mech approaches the barricade. Maggie tells Jimmy to stand with her and they'll watch each others' backs. The initial frequency test doesn't work, but the militia manages to take down the Mech with Pope's new bullets. Unfortunately, the next wave brings six Mechs, and they're almost out of bullets.

Ben finds the new frequency, but they need something to broadcast on a large scale. Scott thinks the flagpole will work, so Ben leaps out the window with the cable to attach it as the gunfight ensues. When it looks like the Mechs will overrun them, the frequency works in the nick of time, and the Mechs are confounded and stumble off. 

As night falls the group is elated at their minor victory. Everyone else has just about finished evacuating as Hal arrives to let Tom know the situation. Weaver and Pope are at the west leg, attempting to complete the mission. Hal rode the whole way with no interference from the aliens, so Tom thinks the frequency attack may have given them an opportunity.

Anne is packing up the last of the supplies as Tom comes to let her know he's going into Boston, so the civilians will have enough time to get to safety and to find his men. He asks her to look after the boys if something should happen, and lays a kiss on her and leaves.

Scott outfits the car with a broadcaster that can transmit the frequency. Tom sends Ben off with the others so he knows he's safe, and drives out. He enters Boston and notices the alien air forces seem to be returning to the structure, as if being withdrawn. He (conveniently) finds a wounded Pope who explains Weaver's forces were defeated but the aliens didn't finish them off. Tom sends him back home, and Pope gives him the rocket launcher (outfitted with the new metal shell) and wishes him luck.

Tom continues onward and (conveniently) finds Weaver, who has just regained consciousness. Tom explains the Scitters might be confused and maybe a little afraid after the frequency attack, and maybe called their forces home to figure it out. The city is mostly deserted.

As they ponder the activity around the structure, Tom considers taking a shot with the rocket launcher considering they're right there. Weaver says it's foolish given all their men didn't make any hits during the battle. Tom wants to let them know they were here, so takes aim and shoots one off at a ship. It clips the ship and it crashes onto the flight deck of the structure, creating a big explosion.

"Good shot," Weaver says. They manage to get a truck going and head back out of the city. But they meet someone on the road—Karen! She's harnessed, and explains they brought her there because they don't understand.

A ship lands in front of them, and one of the tall bipedal aliens emerges. They didn't expect resistance on this level and find it interesting, Karen explains. They want to talk with Tom. Not that he has much choice. If he doesn't, they will call Ben back. Against Weaver's protests, Tom agrees, as he can't let them have Ben again. He takes Karen's hand and walks with her and the alien into the ship.

The Verdict:
The tension worked well for the finale, but the focus remained on the civilian camp and their travails with the Mechs rather than Weaver's militia in Boston (which I think would be a disappointment to most viewers). There was a lot of build up to this attack, so to not show some kind of battle (and I'm aware of budget) is a let down.

Instead, we get Tom's last hurrah with the rocket launcher, which was satisfying to a degree, if not extremely unlikely. While we are still guessing at the motivations of the aliens, that they would withdraw their forces and leave Boston virtually emptied for the resistance to travel (as well as abandon an attack on the school) is equally implausible. Especially for a force that has apparently been ready to use nukes as a matter of course. And there's the fact of Tom managing to find both Pope and Weaver in the ruins of Boston (at night). A string of convenient plot developments.

The character stuff all reached a good conclusion, though... Weaver and Tom at last coming to terms, only to have Tom walk off into the light, Tom and Anne's growing romance, and Ben's struggle to be accepted as human. A part of me wishes Rick had been sacrificed, that he would actually not want to live as a human at all. That would have added some darkness to the finale. There were many good emotional moments, whether between Weaver and Hal, Anne and Tom, or Jimmy and Maggie. And we couldn't end the season without a couple of Tom's history lessons.

We get further confirmation that the harness will turn the humans into something resembling the Scitters. Still, one presumes the Scitters can't be converted humans, given they've been around so long. So what is the purpose of the green skin?

Karen's return was welcome, and Tom's walk into the light has left things on a confusing note. The worst thing that could happen is to find out the aliens are really just misunderstood, or begin to get humanized. I'm hoping that's not the case and the writers keep on track. How Tom can return is a good question. Will they just let him leave with a message? Or will he bore them with his military history stories until they just kick him out?

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