Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Falling Skies "The Price of Greatness"

Non Spoiler Review:
The 2nd Mass gets introduced to the new Charleston, but finds it difficult adapting to a more civilized life. Leader Arthur Manchester (a former peer of Tom's) is attempting to create a post-invasion society suitable for their devastated world. The scitter rebellion rears its head close to home, forcing some disagreement among the leadership and Tom.

The Price of Greatness was pretty refreshing given two seasons of post-apocalyptic wandering. I'm excited to see where the series goes next. There were some classic cliches, though—all is not what it seems, kind of thing, which doesn't make this week's ending particularly surprising.

Spoilers Now!
Porter is proud of his 2nd Mass as they arrive at the installation below Charleston. The underground mall had been under construction when the city was hit and survived the attack. They all get a rousing reception from the citizens. Weaver gets an extra surprise finding Jeannie there. Unfortunately Diego isn't with her, and got messed up when they left Richmond. Pope and his loyal berserkers have no intention of staying, however. Tom runs into Arthur Manchester, chairman of Boston's history department back in the day. He's majority leader (president is presumptuous apparently). 

Weaver is brought to see General Bressler, commander of the army. They celebrate the 2nd Mass making it through. Weaver provides intel, but Bressler says he won't be needing their scouts, and he dismisses Porter. Bressler goes on to explain the aliens have no reason to attack Charleston again, and given that the civilian authority has decided to regroup and rebuild, they will not be picking fights. Manchester was one of the first settlers, becoming leader by default, but as numbers grew everyone had him to thank. Bressler is less than pleased with the political arrangement.

A commotion erupts when the military attempts to split the 2nd Mass up among several housing areas and disarm them. Porter appeases the situation and says he'll concede to Weaver's decision if he wishes. Weaver may not like it but tells them the colonel is making sense. They're in Charleston now. Tom reluctantly agrees too. They need to begin thinking beyond the 2nd Mass. 

In their new quarters, Tom and Anne wake up to some renewed hints of civilization, including the South Carolina Gazette and an invitation to see Manchester. Anne's assigned to the medical clinic with Lourdes. 

In Manchester's office, Arthur explains the need for a political system for a post-invasion world. A confidence vote on his leadership is scheduled for tomorrow and he needs Tom on his side. Tom would be honored, but has something to tell him, then goes into detail about the alien rebellion. However, Arthur would rather have the aliens fight among themselves than an alliance with the scitters. He orders Tom not to say another word for fear of starting a panic. 

Jeannie explains what happened with Diego—they were spotted by a scitter patrol and they scattered, but Diego and the rest never made the rendezvous, so she eventually came to Charleston. Manchester wouldn't consider sending a patrol to find them.

It's a bad first day for the 2nd Mass...Anne meets the doctor (a heart specialist) who talks down to her as a pediatrician. She doesn't take his guff given she's a field medic. Jeannie reveals not everyone rates private quarters like them and advises them to be careful to not say the wrong thing. Matt gets into a fight at school and is suspended for a few days. The city has a sense of complacency they don't understand.

Pope and his people investigate the extent of the artillery supply, but are drafted into target practice under the command of Tector. Hal doesn't like it. Maggie sneaks a weapon away. She later tracks the berserkers and Pope when they attempt to steal weapons, but Tector arrives and shoots and injures one of his former comrades. They're all taken away, including Maggie. 

Tom debates Arthur about getting back in the fight. Bressler wants to engage the enemy, but Arthur prefers to nurture the city first and can't afford to look weak to the civilians. Come the vote, Jeannie speaks to the crowd talking about her lost friends. Arthur introduces Tom, who proceeds to agree with Jeannie about losing their original mission. He reads an excerpt from Arthur's Revolutionary War book that supports driving the British from their land. They can't hide from the enemy.

Bressler is alerted a deharnessed boy has been found with a message for Tom Mason. Tom thinks it's Ben, but it isn't. The boy doesn't know Ben, but was sent by the leader of the rebellion who wants to talk about a development with the overlords. Arthur says it's too dangerous, and is angry he wasn't informed Ben was part of the rebellion. He orders the boy put into lock up. Arthur didn't expect Tom to challenge him and accuses Bressler of trying to turn him against him.

Pope is brought in to see Arthur and is grilled on what he knows about Tom in exchange for letting him out. He reveals Tom is a pompous history buff, but if anyone knocks him off his pedestal it will be Pope, not a two-bit dictator. Arthur orders him taken out.

Hal goes to see Maggie but he and Dai beat up the guard and get her and the kid out so they can go to the meeting. They rendezvous with Tom and Weaver and Porter, who have helped their escape. But all of them are stopped by Bressler, Tector and their men. Weaver orders them to stand down. Manchester has declared a state of emergency with all dissidents detained. Tom tries to appeal to the general to talk to Manchester. Tector is reluctant, and refuses to obey Bressler to take them into lockup, so is arrested as well.

All the 2nd Mass is ordered to the commissary where Manchester explains he can't trust any of them not to try to get to the rebel scitters. Arthur is aware of Tom's implant and the infection Weaver suffered—learning that tidbit from several in the 2nd Mass once they were detained. He orders them taken away, but Bressler questions what's next. Arthur intends a civilian trial.

Bressler arrives down in lock down, ordering the cells open. He's suspended the civilian government, and throws Manchester in jail. Bressler instructs Tom to make his rendezvous with the scitters, while Pope congratulates Tom for dropping them in the middle of a coup.

The Verdict:
A pretty exciting episode, which really changes the game for the series. Not only did Falling Skies need a bit of hope, but it's good to see our characters being placed in different circumstances than what we're used to seeing.

Arthur and Bressler do fall into their familiar post-apocalyptic cliches, and the series now, more than ever, is dabbling in Battlestar Galactica's military/civilian debate. Despite Arthur oozing a bit of the dictator, I can sympathize with his initial thoughts to strengthen their weak civilization in the short term before engaging the enemy. They're hopelessly outgunned. But it was unclear just how much he played favorites among the population, with just Jeannie's stories to go by. It was a surprise to see the coup happen so quickly, but is Bressler far-sighted enough to make a decent leader?

Maggie and Hal's lover's spat made no sense given she seemed to want him to yell at her. In the context of the alien invasion her child in prison is pretty unspectacular. So that was all rather weak.

Coincidence continues to play a major role in plot. Arthur is an old friend of Tom's from way back. Jeannie just stumbled her way towards Charleston, did she? And how do the scitters find the survivors? Hopefully their location is not so tenuous. But Matt already revealed their destination to a potential enemy last week. If both factions know, then their safe haven might be a very short stay.

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