“The Road Not Taken” is a popular theme in film, TV, and literature. Even in real life, we wonder what would have happened if we had turned left instead of right. We look at an accident that just occurred and wonder if that would have been us had we arrived a minute sooner. We allow someone ahead of us in a lottery line and then wonder if that gave away the winning ticket.
Even deeper, we may wonder what our life would be like if we had made a different life choices in love, school, or employment. These “what ifs” of alternate scenarios can never truly be proven but by imagining what could have been, we actually help ourselves recognize who we have actually become and possibly work out that which is troubling us.
Such was the case with last weeks’ FALLING SKIES. For the first time in a while, the Masons were able to be the Masons, not the 2nd Mass version but a family unit. No, they didn’t go back to school or play in the yard or go to the mall, but they did have to act as one unit again. And with this return to a focus on family, you can also see them return to the roles each had earlier in the series: Tom, protecting his brood, Ben feeling a bit like an outcast, nervous with the responsibility his “power” brings him, Hal becoming the older brother again to Matt and Matt seeming to bring revert to little bro status and follow the family.
However, the last three seasons have made that past family relationship go through some changes. Tom is now filled with self-doubt about the path he chose for himself and his family when the aliens attacked. Ben still has the alien traces on his back and is fighting the inner struggle between trading enhanced strength for a normalcy of asthma, weakness, but a life beyond 20. And Matt is growing up and there is no way to reverse that. The same desire to help, to participate exists in Matt, but with the knowledge and determination he has had to develop over the last couple of years.
With Anne and Alexis still missing and held by Skitters, Tom and his family left Charleston to try to rescue them. On the way, Ben and Tom happen upon an injured rebel skitter who warns them about an alien squad that is tracking them. The mission turns into more than a search and rescue when they are ambushed by another family that has been surviving in the woods of Georgia seemingly off the radar of the aliens.
The Picketts set up a central theme for this episode, an alternate universe version of what might have been if the Masons chose to run, not fight. This theme is a staple of film and TV, in films such as IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and SLIDING DOORS. What if you had made one different choice that led to an entirely different life? You tend to think first of how it would affect you, but then you have to look at how it may have exponentially affected everyone you have ever come in contact with. Much of the time, these “what if” thoughts have come from moments of great stress.
In IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, George Bailey starts to crack under the pressure of being essentially a nice guy that is pushed to the limit as responsibilities to family, friends, and the town of Bedford Falls start to squeeze all humanity out of him. He gets the chance to see just what life would have been like had he never been born. How that absence drives everyone’s life going forward is obviously conjecture but it does show that things would change outward, not just for you.
This version, called the Picketts, has a similar family structure to the Masons, and once again, no mother. So many families now are missing their mothers. I’ve always been curious about why fathers were left behind but so many mothers, at least for the major characters, are gone. How this affects the family structure can be fascinating in times of crisis, especially when you see and hear the longing and the sadness in the Mason boys memories of their mother, Rebecca.
The Picketts ambush of the Masons allows Tom to think about how the common goal of both fathers has followed two divergent tracks, each proactive in their own ways. Papa Tom chose to take the family and the fight to the aliens, Papa Pickett chose to simply survive and find ways to thrive without being found by the aliens. This survival takes the form of highway banditry. The Masons journey and the Picketts actions feel very much like a Civil War style tale of a family behind the lines of battle encountering another family that essentially go underground to stay alive.
A couple of questions do nag at me, though. The chief being how the Picketts have remained out of notice by the aliens. While they are not oblivious to the attacks, their hiding deep in the wild takes them out of contact. Is it a case of “out of alien sight, out of alien mind”? And beyond that, is there a possibility that they are acting as agents for the aliens, possibly as a way to guarantee their own survival?
In addition, the fact that they have this ambush trap set up along the road makes me wonder who else may have travelled that road that they lie in wait along. They have obviously robbed other families or groups. Where did these groups come from? Where were they going? Who were they? In order to prey upon people, you have to have a supply of people to prey upon. It may not be a plot point but it does beg these questions.
The scenes with the Picketts also include a few “turning the tables” moments as the Masons go to the Pickett homestead to get their possessions back. As Tom and the family battle the Picketts at the farm, Matt is in danger from hand to hand combat with a Pickett uncle when a shot rings out and the Uncle falls to the ground mortally wounded. The shock in this scene is that it is Matt who pulled that trigger out of both fear for his family and the need to act immediately, without second thoughts. Matt may still be a boy, but he is a boy hardened by reality and determined not to lose his family.
The scenes with the Picketts serve to allow two fathers who love their families to find common threads in their very different approachs. Even the possible firing squad execution of the Masons by the father is driven by love and desire to protect his own brood at all costs. When Tom is finally able to get the upper hand, he seems to start to understand what drives each father and why he chose to take the offensive posture in the battle.
The episode also sees the return of Cochise who has survived the plane crash, and has carried a wounded President Hathaway back to camp. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have many questions of trust about the Volm. In this case, Cochise has made it back to Charleston long after Tom and Pope have, and without being captured. They seem to have survived the plane crash, albeit with Hathaway seriously wounded.
In addition, Cochise starts to explain the Volm weapon and the awesome power it can harness but the awful consequences that it can bring. Essentially, towers like the one we saw in Boston in the first season, are serving as relays for a massive power grid, a grid that is designed to envelope the earth and finally extinguish all organic life on the planet. The question in my mind would then be “why?” What value does a lifeless Planet Earth have for the Espehni? If it extinguishes all organic life, what is left but a ball of dirt? At least, in THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, the aliens had a purpose in destroying earth, essentially and intergalactic eminent domain to clear the way for an intergalactic highway.
And what of the Volm? We’ve heard Cochise’s “personal” story before and now he explains the discovery that the gun is using more power than thought needed as necessary to make sure that the Espheni grid is destroyed. At the same time, it could all end all life on earth. Are the Vol, truly helping the Earth or are they simply in a war with the Espehni that humans become collateral damage in?
As a parallel element to the Mason saga, “Falling Skies” also finally revealed the “mole” and it turns out to be Lourdes. While it has been said that she is the last person you might suspect, Lourdes has been mentioned by many people on line. I’ll admit that I dismissed her as “too easy” a target because of her closeness to Anne as the alien baby storyline developed.
I did feel that she might have motivation, since she suffered a great loss last year when Jamil was killed by the alien “spiders” while defending the 2nd Mass. This could have caused her to resent the people in charge but was it enough to push her into the Espheni camp?
Does Lourdes also call into question the true lineage of Alexis, Anne’s baby? She would have access to contaminate any blood samples taken by Anne as well as the ability to cause Anne to believe the baby is alien. Her closeness to Tom and Anne is a perfect cover of perceived trust to disguise her true actions as the mole.
Lourdes’ bedside manner gave way to a well planned execution of President Hathaway from the floor below, shooting him through the ceiling. The murder answered the mole question for viewers but not for the 2nd Massers. If anything, it now accelerates the search for the mole. And it begs a ton of questions. First of all, is the mole acting alone? Are there others inside the camp that are working for the Espheni?
That’s why my distrust of the Volm makes me wonder if she is not actually recruited by them. The assumption so far has been she has been influenced by the Espehni in the fight against the humans. But she could also be working for the Volm in their battle against them Espheni. The gun technology she used comes from the Volm and the fact that she has one leads to the question of why she has it and where she got it from.
The assassination of the leaders (Manchester and Hathaway), two people who have worked with the Volm and could have both provided valuable info to Cochise as well as possibly been able to connect any dots are now gone. Tom is now away from camp and Marisa has a healthy distrust of the Volm. Could she be next? A lot of distrust has been focused on her character and she may turn out to be the person to expose the Volm’s true motives. It is because of her and Dr. Kadar’s discovery of the excess power needs of the Volm gun that Cochise has had to come clean on the true potential for the gun. The fact that the Volm have delivered a weapon that supposedly could decimate the Espheni but also decimate the earth in the process is puzzling.
If you start to place the mole in the context of the Volm, is Lourdes acting as an agent for Cochise, a cleanup agent? When all the info that can be gotten from the people in charge is extracted or discovered, does Lourdes come in and eliminate people who could connect the dot?
Does Lourdes also call into question the true lineage of Alexis, Anne’s baby? She would have access to contaminate any blood samples taken by Anne as well as the ability to cause Anne to believe the baby is alien. While she has murdered two leaders so far, what better way to destroy Tom Mason than by destroying his strong family foundation? Is Alexis truly alien or is Lourdes simply engineering a deception designed to rock the 2nd Masses leader?
Add in the question as to what value the earth would have without the ability to sustain the life it already does, and the Volm’s intentions, and not Lourdes as the mole, is where you might want to focus attention. The scene of Lourdes praying in the chapel after killing Hathaway is one that I am very curious about. While there have been plenty of human moments in Falling Skies, this was one of the most overtly religious of them. Despite the religious connotations of her name (SONG OF BERNADETTE/ Our Lady Of Lourdes), has whoever recruited her been able to present themselves in a religious or false idol manner? Does she see herself as righteous in a type of holy war? (Thanks to Twitter/Falling Skies fan @SarahG610 for reminding me that Lourdes visited churches in Season 1).
I’m still really curious about that scene, especially the calmness. It was obvious she could be easily found at that moment, yet with all hell breaking loose after Hathaway’s murder, she is calmly summoned. She is the chief medical officer for Charleston and yet there is no STAT urgency to the way she is summoned to his room. There is an eerie calmness, the scene with the eyeworms, which makes this all the more disturbing. We know that the Espheni control the humans with harnesses, but now eyeworms control actions as well, but with not outwardly visible clues to anyone around that person. This ability to covertly influence a person essentially allows Lourdes to hide in plain sight.
That’s why I wonder about whether she actually works for the Espheni or the Volm, or something else. If it was that unnoticeable to use the eyeworm to control minds and actions, why bother with the visible and bulky harnesses.
The uneasy relationship between Weaver and Pope also begins to thaw a bit as it becomes obvious to Weaver that he will need to go clandestine with Pope to find out more about the Volm. This “alliance” will flesh itself out more over the next few episodes, but it did lead to my new favorite Weaver “words of wisdom” : TRUTH IS ONE SQUIRRELLY BITCH..
And Tom, poor Tom. As the episode closes, Tom has once again been captured by the aliens. It has almost become “de rigueur” for this to happen. However, unlike the last time he was captured at the end of the first season, this time looks like it has a payoff to major story lines, not the least of which is the location of Anne and Alexis .
So much of this is pure speculation on my part but that speculation is based on a healthy skepticism of Lourdes acting alone, along with this episodes hints at the aliens have cloning ability. So far, the creators of the show have not left me down and have not made it easy to guess the next development. That is what I want from any series: allow me to think but then logically challenge that thinking. I want my theories to be surprised and surpassed, not validated. I’d lose interest really fast if I could figure things out too easily. I have no desire to be right about something in Charleston, I only desire to be engrossed in what may happen next.
I’m so engrossed in FALLING SKIES.