Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: Falling Skies "A More Perfect Union"

Non Spoiler Review:
The military/civilian dispute continues, with the 2nd Mass firmly in the middle of things. But when the scitter rebellion turns up at Charleston to inform everyone of a new overlord threat that must be dealt with, they embark on a dangerous mission. 

A More Perfect Union ends a stronger Falling Skies season on an action-packed and exciting note, promising more development next year. However the events in this episode seemed to stick out oddly given the abrupt nature of many of the plot points that would have been better served had we seen hints of them develop over the last few weeks. 

Once again, coincidence and the quick glazing over of tactical issues proves the weakness of the series. It's nailed the character bits, as well as its darker post-apocalyptic and survival themes, but the writers need to take the summer to brush up on the little details that can run such a show off the rails (and annoy the hell out of its audience).

Spoilers Now!
Bressler realizes the aliens will eventually find them and wants to go on the offensive. But Tom won't follow, and doesn't want the new America to begin with a coup. So Bressler locks up the 2nd Mass, except the alarms go off as many scitters file into the mall to everyone's surprise. Tom explains they're the rebels, and Ben emerges from behind them assuring everyone they're not there to hurt anyone. Tom and Ben have a happy reunion while the 2nd Mass forms a barrier blocking the soldiers from firing. 

Red Eye is escorted into the general's office and speaks through Ben, explaining the captured overlord was a prize, as that particular one looks after all military operations in the east. They possess great intellectual capacity so have no need for storage devices (uh huh). Each one controls huge sections of their interplanetary operations (and appears to keep all that information in their head) while speaking through many harnessed species to keep their plans secret. If he had been killed alien operations in that part of the world would have been thrown into chaos. The rebels have gained access to his movements and when he'll be most vulnerable. A large weapon is under construction 500 miles away and the overlord will be there to inspect in three days. Underground caves lead to the buried section of the facility (conveniently). The scitters cannot enter undetected because of their harnesses, but Tom's people can.

While the general digests the information the scitters move to wait outside the city. Ben leaves with them, much to Tom's disappointment, reminding them time is of the essence. Weaver believes the rebellion is real, but Bressler wants the 2nd Mass returned to their cells. Weaver agrees it's insane to risk the army but suggests the 2nd Mass can do it. They'll just be a thorn in his side if they stay there anyway. Bressler can't argue with that.

After they leave Bressler tells his sergeant to attack their target of opportunity—the scitters outside the complex. Hal goes outside to find Ben with the scitters and some harnessed teens. He apologizes for his part in the way they left things and makes peace. Anne is happy to get back on the front line, but she abruptly throws up when she's talking to Lourdes. Lourdes guesses she's pregnant, but Anne won't tell Tom until they're back from the mission. Tector rejoins the berzerkers again.

With Arthur still under house arrest, Tom tells him he needs to take some responsibility for what's happened and the general is not an evil man. Just like Tom and Weaver learning to work together, the possibility remains for Arthur and Bressler.

Ben comes running in telling them their camp was attacked. The harnessed kids and scitters are dead, but Red Eye escaped. Bressler plays dumb and wants to know if he can give him any idea of who attacked, suggesting some at Charleston took matters into their own hand, but it happened and he's cancelling the mission. Ben informs them this new weapon will wipe out everything. Red Eye wouldn't trust Bressler with the details but Ben has all the intel. Weaver believes him, and advises Bressler the 2nd Mass is going on the mission without his permission if necessary. He agrees.

Jumping 500 miles the weapon site the 2nd Mass makes its way through the caves. The weapon is pointed at the sky. Ben can feel the presence of the overlord. They break through the wall into the installation and begin laying out charges. Scitters attack and Dai is killed. Karen arrives to talk to Tom as they're all imprisoned with tentacle thingies. The overlord appears. It finds Tom a nuisance now but is curious how he found the facility. Karen informs them they're all going to die, but they'll be tortured first. Tom is first up. She also gives Hal a big kiss and then reveals Anne is pregnant. Tom agrees to talk. 

A scitter abruptly attacks Karen and everyone is freed. The rebels appear en masse to attack, including one against the overlord. As the installation breaks into mayhem, the overlord slays his scitter but Tom goes after him and beats him to death. Karen tells him he'll never win and flees up the wall of the installation. Ben goes to Red Eye's side as he lays dying. It tells Tom to keep the fight going. Another scitter advises they have to leave so Weaver gets the charges set and the tower is destroyed.

The 2nd Mass returns to Charleston. Bressler congratulates the 2nd Mass for accomplishing their mission. Hal is still unconscious. Tom seems okay with the pregnancy but Anne wonders about bringing a child into the world. Alone, Hal wakes up and gets out of bed, going to the mirror to find he has something crawling under his skin and eye...a bug like the one that was inside Tom. It crawls out and into his ear. 

Tom returns to visit Arthur who welcomes him back. Bressler has agreed to restore civil rule on condition that Arthur is not majority leader. He's happy to comply, offering the leadership to Tom. But Tom refuses, musing that he'll stay around until Hal recovers, but the 2nd Mass doesn't belong in Charleston. Until the aliens are gone he'll fight. 

Weaver waxes nostalgic about how far he and Tom have come, and doesn't know what waits for them out there. He's glad they're a team. Suddenly the mall begins to shake. They run outside to find some sort of storm in the sky and a deafening sound. Blue lights begin to fall, which turn out to be small craft. One lands in front of them and releases an armored creature. Its mask opens and it's another kind of alien. Enemy or ally?

The Verdict:
I have mixed feelings about the conclusion, given it did present an exciting end to the season. But it was chock full of everything weak about the series. Let's see—a plot device introduced at the last minute rather than building up over a series of episodes. Why couldn't we have heard hints of the overlords' weapon awhile back? I'm even annoyed at how easy Tom's force crossed 500 miles (and back) with little effort given the arduous journey they just made over several weeks to get to Charleston. They appeared to accomplish that in a day (with no retaliation from the aliens after blowing up their prize super-gun). The overlord's unique plot device method of planning hands the resistance a huge boon, even if it doesn't make much sense. We also lose another background character (Dai) for what seems little more reason than to add to a body count.

It's been a stronger second season than the first, and one can hope it will only improve. It is much more watchable than a lot of science fiction on television these days, but the writers need to address big questions that are apparent to the rest of us—Tom never asks Ben to explain everything he knows, but seems satisfied with the tidbits he provides at pertinent moments. The aliens obviously can find Charleston when they need to. Why aren't they destroying it? Or is this the sanctuary Karen mentioned weeks back that will allow them to herd everyone together?

As far as the ending, and the introduction of another alien race—this could be interesting, but only if the writers have a long term arc already spelled out. If it's been thrown in as a twist without much thought, then it's likely going to suck. Unfortunately, I feel the latter might be the case, given the writers have, in interviews, admitted that the resolution of Tom's abduction last season wasn't plotted out at the finale either. So we'll see.

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