Falling Skies s3e8: STRANGE BREW (Please Come To Boston)

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If you watch a show from week to week, you will find yourself repeat viewing individual favorite scenes or characters, but many times, you will watch and then move to the next episode. You may talk about the show around the real life or virtual water coolers that are available to all of us through social media.

Sometimes, though, you have to really watch something twice to get what is subtly in the story and on the screen. There may be clues missed or just subtle shadings and line readings that can change your initial opinions of that episode. I’m working on a blog post called SECOND LOOKS about the ability to revisit and re-evalute films, TV, books, and music that you’ve either experienced previously or, for some reason, you’ve dismissed as not in your entertainment wheelhouse.

Some episodes of FALLING SKIES deserve a similar “second look” because your first look may be a bit deceiving. Never has there been an FS episode more deserving of that revisit than STRANGE BREW. In structure, it basically plays with a main act with two other story arcs following along. These arcs intersect but each are set up in starkly different styles.

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The STRANGE BREW episode of FALLING SKIES starts off in an unusual way and proves to be the most different in style and story of the series. And yet, it is in perfect keeping for what I and so many others see in a show that is far beyond aliens vs. spunky humans. The show opens with what is essentially a “theater of the mind”, a blank screen with only sounds from previous 2nd Mass battles coming in surround sound to your speakers.

The black screen forces you to pay attention to both what you are hearing as well as what you are not seeing. As the blackness slowly fades up to a close-up shot of Tom Mason, the sounds you just heard help to emphasize the next scenes even more. As the fade up begins and the battle sounds depart, we are not left with a shot of Tom in Epsheni captivity or of 2nd Mass action, but instead, it is a domestic husbad Tom, waking up next to his wife, in his nice home, with his loving family. It is both a reset of what we’ve seen from the Masons since episode one as well as a contrast to the tone of the whole series.


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FALLING SKIES (s3e7): The Pickett Line (On The Road Again)

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“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.

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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.

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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.

wonderful297228-1020-a 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.


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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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