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


“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.

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


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.


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.


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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