Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: Falling Skies "Worlds Apart"

Non Spoiler Review:
Three months after leaving with Karen and the aliens, Tom turns up during a firefight, prompting questions as to his whereabouts and what he did to escape. Hal, Ben and Matt have continued the fight in his absence, and the 2nd Mass has suffered significant losses as the aliens stepped up their attack after Boston.

Worlds Apart was a compelling return for Falling Skies, especially the great flashback scenes of Tom with the aliens. It was quite well done. The look of the show really seems a lot more gritty and dirty, and the 2nd Mass feels like it's been put through the wringer. 

The first episode back was a strong one, and it didn't suffer any of the weaknesses from last season—overly heavy messages or mushy scenes. Tom's return and his time with the aliens was not diminished at all with any quick explanations or fixes. I'm excited for the season.

Spoilers Now!
Three months after Tom's abduction, Pope leads a couple of mechs into an ambush by Weaver, taking them and a bunch of skitters out. Ben is a little too zealous in killing them, jumping out to stab a wounded alien. He spies another skitter, shoots it, and sees Tom behind it. His father collapses, shot. The aliens begin bombing the site as Ben and Maggie rendezvous with the rest, bringing Tom with them.

Returning to the civilian camp, Anne meets the party and gets to work on the wounded Tom. Ben is distraught at shooting him.

As Anne operates, Tom flashes back to his time with the aliens, waking up in a prison and tortured by skitters before Karen arrives to apologize for his treatment. She explains they've won and are allowing the resistance an opportunity to surrender. They've become an inconvenience, and they're offering him a chance to have a real life. 

She leads him into a command room where one of the tall aliens awaits. It speaks through Karen, explaining they've studied him in detail to make an appropriate proposal—a sanctuary to relocate the human survivors to live out their lives. Tom declares they'll never stop fighting. The alien counters they shouldn't expect any better treatment from them than they do from their fellow humans. He's told he will lead his people to the neutral zone. Tom says no, and warns him about drawing too many lessons from the past. He grabs a weapon from a nearby skitter and fires it at the tall alien before being knocked out.

Next he finds himself in daylight as the ship opens up to release him and a bunch of other prisoners, including some from other militias who were also instructed to lead their people to the sanctuaries. The ship closes and takes off with just a skitter and mech behind. The humans run off as they're fired upon, and everyone is killed except for Tom, and it's obvious they let him live. They leave him alone on the meadow.

Tom begins to make his way back to the 2nd Mass in Boston. After weeks on foot, he comes across a man about to shoot a girl, so gets his gun and chases him away. The girl is distraught and wants to be left alone with her dead mother, but he convinces her to let him take her bike and come with him.  

They reach Boston but he figures the 2nd Mass is long gone. The girl explains she and her mother were going into the mountains to hide. They get into the city at night, hearing the gunfire from the 2nd Mass. The girl wants to leave for the mountains so takes off on the bike. Tom hears Weaver's voice and runs over, seeing Ben shoot the skitter. He attacks another alien but catches the bullet from Ben in the process.

Anne gets the bullet out. Weaver wants Hal to keep an eye on his brother given his reckless behaviour. Their ambush was a holding action until they receive new orders, but the've not heard anything from the outside since the attack on Boston.

Hal reminds Ben of the chain of command as the resistance goes out on another ambush. They barely manage to take cover as a ship flies over and blows up their vehicle. They walk back to camp, wondering why they've suddenly begun to target their transportation. Weaver thinks the aliens have recalibrated their sensors to pick up heat from the vehicles. They need to find a way to mask the heat long enough to put some distance between them and the patrols. 

Ben teaches Matt how to shoot, which raises Hal's ire. He suggests they let their father make that decision. Ben counters that he doesn't want Ben taken away like they took him—or Karen. Hal lunges at him but Ben easily holds him off and walks away.

Anne reports Tom is weak but can be moved. Weaver offers her some scotch he found and suggests they not waste it. He wonders if it's a sign of hope with Tom coming back. He would have warned them they were pushing their luck in their attacks. Anne disagrees. Their strategy is worth it and Tom would be proud. Jamil show up with a solution to the heat problem—fibre glass to wrap the engines and temporarily conceal them from the alien sensors.

Tom starts bleeding again. Hal reports a mech convoy is on its way. Weaver realizes they can't move the med bus, so sends the rest ahead 20 miles out. Anne and Lourdes continue to operate while Hal, Ben, Maggie and Dai keep watch. Anne gets out the fragment and the convoy seems to pass them by. The bus meets up with Weaver.

Tom wakes up to Anne. He's relieved to hear the boys are fine, but tells her she's another reason he came back. Ben offers his apology for shooting him. Tom walks out to a warm welcome from Weaver and the 2nd Mass, but Pope suggests Weaver might want to consider how he got away from the aliens.

The Verdict:
As I said, the look of Falling Skies feels just a wee bit different—everything's dirtier and messier and worn down a little more since last we left the 2nd Mass. The main plot of dealing with Tom's mysterious return was handled well, especially addressing the main question—is Tom a sleeper agent of some kind.

The scenes on the alien ship were especially well done, and having the alien speak through Karen was a great way to keep things believable and mysterious. I also enjoyed how the invaders threw some of Tom's historical anecdotes back at him by citing concentration camps from Earth's own history.

Hal, Ben and Matt continue to be developed well, which is an achievement handling so many young people in a science fiction series. So often they could descend into annoying characters but they've all managed to avoid those cliches. Weaver and Anne's scene together was a pleasant surprise, too. Who would have thought Weaver would grow into such an endearing character?

So a solid start for Falling Skies. I'm looking forward to see how dark things will get this season.

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