Falling Skies s3e6: Be Silent And Come Out

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Some weeks, I struggle to find a clever way to open these blog posts. Much like a “lede” in reporting, getting this off to a proper start is what sometimes torments me. I don’t like to do pure recaps since there are other sites like THREE IF BY SPACE who do that so well already So, this week, let me “lede” with the link to TIBS’s recap from this episode and you can refer to it now, or preferably, check it out after reading mine.

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The past weeks episode Of FALLING SKIES may have been one of the more heart wrenching yet. There have been plenty of emotional moments, horrible scenes of damage and destruction, and periods of hopelessness to overcome. But set against both the spectre of the mole hunt and the fear of what has become of Anne and Alexis, FALLING SKIES seized on one of the toughest psychological concepts to pull off, when son turns against father.

The main thrust of this week was that Hal, or Evil Hal, finally had to show himself in order to stop Tom from heading off to find Anne. His violent actions and subsequent taking of Tom as a hostage did not pull punches. Evil Hal was cold and vicious, in both his actions and his words. Referring to Tom as “Professor” instead of Dad, he spared no punches in his desire to get information out of his hostage.

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Drew Roy, who plays Hal, is an excellent actor, but as the eldest Mason brother, Hal was probably the least interesting of the three up until this season. However, the earworm story line changed that and this episode allowed Drew/Hal to own the screen. It is a great conflicted performance, one that required intensity and menace, but had to avoid slipping into the standard clichés for a possessed character. Drew Roy captured the dispassionate coldness needed for Evil Hal and did it so well.


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Falling Skies (s3e5): SEARCH AND RECOVER (The 2ndMass Odd Couple)

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One of the challenges facing FALLING SKIES is how to not become locked into a locale or a storyline area, but also to make the movement feel like a natural progression, an organic story change, and not just same story, different background. In the first season, the 2nd Mass spent most of their time in a defensive position, trapped like a wagon train against Indian onslaught in a Boston high school.

For the second season, they became nomadic, searching for an almost biblical promised land, the city of Charleston and what they would find there. Once they did get to Charleston, they found that it really only existed in a subterranean world now, one of artificial lights, industrial corridors, and subdued spirits. Like in season one, the underground mall and corridors trapped them in a defense system, but this time, it also allowed routes and ways for them to expand their battle in Season Three, allowing for a fairly secure home base while being able to protect and defend from the perimeters above.

Even that becomes confining, so the discovery that there were others out there, involving President Hathaway in another secret area, allowed the story to spread out again, this time keeping the home base but expanding the locales. This allows for freshness of story and also for a change in tone for the show. The show has moved from a defensive posture to one of taking the battle to the enemy when needed.

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But as last weeks episode, SEARCH AND RECOVER, showed, you can’t always be on the offensive. You have to know how to defend, how to discover, how to survive. The episode centers on the survival story of Tom and Pope, who have to depend on each other to find their way back after their plane is shot down by the aliens. This survival story, inspired by the 1958 Tony Curtis/Sidney Poitier film THE DEFIANT ONES is a classic case of bonds being formed on two people, some forced, some natural, some out of a need to survive.

These scenes of Tom and Pope needing each other to stay safe have multiple shadings. Yes, on the top, it is about the realization that two have a better chance depending on each other, but the underlying distrust and previous feelings about their relationship make for a difficult journey.


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FALLING SKIES: (s3e4): At All Costs (Hail To The Chiefs)

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Quick note: the subtitle of this blog post actually refers to three “chiefs”. First two are the two Presidents of whatever iteration of the United States still exists and the third is Cochise, who is named after a famous Indian leader. All three could be called “chiefs” at some point in time.

As Falling Skies approaches the middle of its 3rd Season, the story makes a move to reach out beyond Charleston, to flesh out the story and expand the insular community built around the 2nd Mass. It has always been my curiosity about what else is left of the original United States, how many areas survived, and who runs those areas. In addition, are their goals shared by other groups? While a major axiom of war is to “divide and conquer” , the country is already divided. Can the humans defeat the Espheni without a coordinated plan of attack? And a question which extends even further and may never be answered: what of the rest of the world? Is the Espheni simply concentrating on the United States? What remains of the rest of the world?

Charly_1968I’m not sure if much of the FALLING SKIES audience remembers a great film starring Cliff Robertson, called CHARLY. It is based on the book “Flowers For Algernon” and is the story of a mentally handicapped man who undergoes experimental surgery that increases his intelligence. With this increase comes jealously and resentment from others as well as personality changes that stem from the fear and eventual realization that his normal intelligence level will return. Despite working feverously with scientists to try to make it permanent, Charly eventually goes back to his original state.

While he was just Charly, he faced pressure, insults and teasing, but as super intelligent Charly, he faces a different kind of derision and ostracism. His decline is feared but it is inevitable. The question is whether his improved state was truly better or if reverting back to who Charly once was is unavoidable. While not an exact parallel to Ben and Denny’s FALLING SKIES storyline, there are plenty of similarities in the choices they face.


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A lot of heavy questions, but the dilemma faced by Ben and Denny is what remains the heart of FALLING SKIES: what happens if and when something returns to normal. Ben and Denny have been deharnessed, but as Lourdes points out, the root system of those harnesses still live inside of them and like a cancer, will eventually consume them and cause them to die in just a few years.

The harnesses have given them amazing strength and powers and a major psychological problem. Once you’ve tasted this power, do you want to go back to normalcy? While there is suspicion of them and their connection to the aliens and some mistrust them, they now can be more than what they perceive as their old meek selves. Ben no longer feels dismissed by Hal, no longer the asthmatic weakling. Denny has strength and ability and no long needs what she sees as nerdy glasses. In the end of the episode, they decide that they will keep the harness remains despite the uncertainty and possibility of a short lifetime. They are seen talking about how it used to be, trying to reassure each other that it is the right choice, even though each is not really convinced. It is a quiet scene, but it is in keeping with the personal human element and confusion that makes FALLING SKIES stand out.

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This episode bookends the drama with two big action pieces. The first is an attack by the Espehni and Mechs that is eventually quelled because of the Volms defenses. Even Lt. Fisher, who has tried to escape under cover of the attack, is impressed by how the Volms have defeated such a large force. The second is the air attack launched at the “keystone” airbase that caused both President Hathaway and Tom Mason (along with Pope) to scramble to safety and to set up the next episode. Yes, a mid-season cliffhanger.


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FALLING SKIES (s3e3): EVERY ONE OF US MATTERS

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The screen grab above captures a quote from Abraham Lincoln on a marker in Charleston. The quote does a really nice job of describing what Falling Skies is truly all about, standing steadfast and true to those around you despite the dangers from Heaven (death, aliens) and from battle (both from outside forces and inside dangers). That battle forms the human dramatic element of the show, battling what might possibly tear a family, an army, a community, the idea of our democracy apart.

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After the two hour opening for Season 3, FALLING SKIES once again showed that, unlike some past alien sci-fi shows, this is no one trick pony. In a show about an alien invasion, it is brave to almost totally remove those aliens from an episode, except for referencing them in dialogue. In a theme that anticipates action, it is brave to write small personal scenes that eclipse any action that takes place in the show. The smallest interaction speaks loudest in this episode.

The mysteries still remain: Who is the mole? What is Karen doing with Hal? What is happening with Anne and Alexis? Is Lourdes involved? How many “United States” are out there?

But this episode shows them trying to set up as normal a life as possible in Charleston in the face of alien attacks. Pope is leading the defense against a possible attack from the Aliens, one that involves patience and attention, not knowing when the quiet will be shattered by an assault. Pope, Tector, and Crazy Lee are the advance guard dealing with the tension of waiting out the enemy by eating baked goods and supplies obtained by Matt Mason.

This group includes three (Pope, Crazy Lee, and Matt) who build on the “family” concept of the show by essentially becoming another family. As we’ve seen in previous episodes, Matt wants to contribute, to be part of the action. That desire, almost a rebellious spirit, shows him eager to please, fearless to try, and eventually deeply affected by the consequences.

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In the last episode, Matt mentioned the Mason family tradition of playing MONOPOLY. Within his family, he is loved but he is still the little brother. Within his “new” family, he is fast rising to what he may see as essential status. And the feeling of inclusion is returned. Matt is essential to calming Crazy Lee as Pope tries to deal with the rebar that has penetrated Lee’s head. They talk to Matt with blunt honesty, not just with cute kid talk.


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