Well, it could have been worse.
That doesn’t say a lot about Falling Skies anymore; it doesn’t matter how bad it gets, it usually turns out that the writers still haven’t reached the very bottom in the next episode. However, the season finale actually had a few entertaining moments. And a whole lot of cringeworthy unneccessities, like the entire episode 11, but it was not 100 % garbage.
Episode 11 makes up 170 % of the garbage though. It can be summarized real quick: After a game of idiot ball, Tom and Lexi go to the moon (instead of Tom and Ben). On the way, they inhale a cocoon and talk about family values and what it means to be human in a dream world. The End.
Episode 12 had the most interesting thing of the entire season: the spiky fog pods Dingaan first encountered on patrol. Despite their ever shrinking numbers, there are still large groups of people going on “patrols”, so Anthony has a reason to be absent from everything remotely interesting. (Yes, he is on patrol with a large group of others during all of the following events.) Anyway, so these pods just drop from the sky, release some sticky tar and crawling spine-leeches and slowly turn the trapped humans into skitters. It’s visually far more impressive than the stupid volcano landscape and it put a slightly new twist on “2 – 3 people trapped somewhere”, retiring “trapped under rubble” in the process.
Cringe is the word that immediately pops up in any and all Weaver and Matt Mason scenes, and this is no different. Trapped in a building, they start chanting a matra about not giving up and continue to do so for the rest of the episode. It’s painful to watch even before it begins.
In a garage or warehouse of some sort, Maggie, Ben and Hal are trapped. Well, Hal is stuck in the tar and Ben and Maggie are on a bus, trying to free him. After spending the last couple of episodes to build up the senseless rivalry between Ben and Hal, there is no trace of that anymore. They just get along fine and Hal gets saved. Umm, okay?
Somewhere outside, Dingaan and Pope are trapped and Dingaan already got attacked by one of the spine creepers. Strangely, Pope is the one screaming all the time (warning Ann specifically to not step in the fog, for some reason), while everyone points out how sound attracts the creepers. It is also unclear how Pope can still move at least one arm to save Dingaan, yet Matt and Ann inside the building are apparently paralyzed and unable to help Weaver when he gets attacked. Pope is on the ground, in the fog and tar, while both Matt and Ann are standing, and Ann is in super soldier mode after finding a functional flamethrower and fighting her way to Matt with it. Anyway, now that I think about it, this becomes more and more stupid, but I still want to say that Dingaan getting attacked was the first and only time there was an actual sense of danger here. With the tendency to introduce characters that aren’t Masons and then kill them, I did think for a moment they would kill Dingaan here.
The rescue in almost all cases was plain awful. The winning team in the category “least stupid rescue” is Maggie/Ben/Hal – Maggie and Ben finally manage to use their powers without making out. Weaver and Matt are saved by their human spirit and Ann with a flamethrower. Not making this up; she accidentally stumbles right into a functional flamethrower and instinctively knows what to do and where to go. This earns the team rank 2, because Ann was at least present and had been more than sufficiently warned about the dangers of the fog by Pope. He and Dingaan get saved by Sarah, who hasn’t been in this or the previous two episodes at all and just showed up with a gun to shoot the creeper on Dingaan’s throat.
I really liked the pods and all. I was even on board with most of the “these characters are forced to interact” pairings – Ben, Maggie and Hal had indeed a lot to work out (which they sadly didn’t), and Pope and Dingaan are two of the less painful to watch people, so that was fine, too. Weaver and Matt… Well. No. I would have liked to involve some of the underused characters, such a forced to stay put and somehow work through the danger together deal would have helped in many ways – to further the sense of actual danger (with non-Masons being far more likely to actually die) and to break with the usual pairings that just hurt to watch. But alas, Deni was nowhere in any episode and Anthony, as mentioned before, was “on patrol”, where nothing relevant happened, and only returned after everything was said and done.
Now, while all of this sort of interesting stuff was going on, Tom and Lexi were still in space and captured by the burned overlord on his ship. Stuff happened, testing the new found family trust of Tom and Lexi, bla bla bla, they are Masons and stick together, Lexi goes for the heroic sacrifice after learning what it means to be human, bla bla bla. As expected. Cochise had tried to contact his father and the Volm fleet to inform them about the power source, and luckily, they arrive in time to fight off Espheni forces. Lexi then crashes the ship into the moon base, and Tom in the damaged beamer comes off course and drifts into space.
This creates a void: Who are people supposed to hug now?! The answer is: Weaver and Anthony (of all people) are granted immortality. They are now involved in Mason Family Hugs [tm] and can therefore not die in season 5. Surprising, as I thought the only ticket into Masonhood was marrying Lexi, and with her death (oh God, PLEASE don’t have her magically survive…) that road is closed.
The cliffhanger was actually not that bad either. Yeah, it started out as Tom waking up in yet another dream world, but it ended with him seeing a blurry figure with lots of tentacles/arms and saying he had no idea how beautiful “they” were. “They” probably being the mysterious “greater evil” the Espheni are running from.
Episode 11 was boring and eventless and I wouldn’t have missed a thing had I skipped it. Episode 12 had some promising moments, and ultimately amounts to maybe 75 – 80 % cheesy/stupid, but with entertaining scenes. Not quite sure I’ll stick around for season 5, all things considered.
At this point I’ve erased this festering sore from my DVR and just wait for your review to see what happens. At least your reviews are entertaining whereas the actual show is just painful. Falling Skies used to be appointment TV: phone turned off, friends and family ignored, cat thrown off lap. Now all it’s good for is a parody that I’m too lazy to write.
As unrealistic and lazy as the past couple of seasons have been, especially in regards to the Masons magically surviving every situation, what do you think the chances are of one of them dying in the final season? That would shake up the formula, but I doubt they’ll actually do it. No, I see the rest of the crew dropping like flies while Tom and his spawn waltz through the final battle of the series. I’ll make a prediction now that the final scene will be all the Mason boys standing in front of a nice house, neatly paired up: Tom/Anne, Hal/Maggie (of COURSE they wind up together for no reason), Ben/Deni, and Matt/NaziGirl (or did she die? Well, who cares?). At least one of the women will be pregnant and someone will say, “If it’s a girl we’ll name her Lexi.” Sappy, Hollywood ending, fade to black.
I don’t think a Mason will die. They already “killed” Lexi now, and the new alien Tom sees in the last moment is already suspected to BE Lexi on IMDB boards. Apparently, Noah Wyle said in an interview it’s not a “new alien”, it’s something “familiar we haven’t seen yet”. Plus, the alien was voiced by Lexi’s actress.
While Tom is on an alien ship (yet again), Hal seems to be stepping up as leader. Instead of Weaver – remember when Tom was his “second in command”? Weaver is nothing but a Mason cheerleader and – the most painful to watch “grandfather to Matt”. Ben is back to “doesn’t actually do anything with his powers” after the brief display of saving Hal. I assume the only reason he’s still around is because he had a strong and vocal fanbase in earlier seasons, when a lot people went “I hate all Masons except Ben”. Same reason Anthony is still around – both haven’t done anything relevant in ages, but are spared because they had fan support. Matt is being pushed to appear “useful” in painful ways, and I fear the trend will only continue. His camp girlfriend was last seen on the Espheni ship as mouthpiece of the burned overlord. She “ran away”, but where can you really run on a ship that is about to crash into the moon, so I assume she’s dead.
Ben/Deni is unlikely to still happen. They trashed the idea when Ben started something with Maggie, or even before that. Deni wasn’t seen in most episodes; total screentime this season maybe 20 minutes. Dingaan did call for her when he saw the first spike pod victims, so she was apparently in his “patrol”, but not one of the victims. She hasn’t been seen in either episode. I think this is a dead end, just like Hal and Lourdes was hinted at and never happened.
Deni is a victim of whatever hit Anthony. He was obviously introduced and given a backstory (echem) to contrast Pope’s to become his “frenemy”. That was ditched, Anthony never got his own sub plot, and Pope got Sarah as bickering partner (which is in any possible way much, much worse than any script with him and Anthony could have been – to me, they were Waldorf and Statler material, Pope and Sarah are not even Kermit and Miss Piggy). Deni was shown as having a “special bond” with Ben, and clearly introduced as a friend or even girlfriend for him, then just ditched with nothing to do, and Ben started the romance crap with Maggie, who’d be a really bad fit even if it wasn’t for Hal.
It’s quite frustrating. I think both ideas had a lot potential, and both were dropped for no reason, just to have a less suited partner play the exact same role and the original one was left with no purpose or contribution to the story.
I think Deni was a huge mistake from the start because with her “powers”, exotic appearance, and way too cool familiarity with boy’s interests, she should have had “MARY SUE” stamped on her forehead. If they had wanted a friend for Ben they should have kept Jimmy alive rather than gratuitously offing him for no reason in S2. Jimmy and Ben had an interesting backstory with Ben having to earn Jimmy’s trust, but they threw all that away for a cheap shock-value death.
Fans were vocal about hating Deni, so I’m not sure why they kept her at all. She should have been an early casualty in S4, but in true Falling Skies writers tradition they kept her but did jack shit with her. Same thing with Dr. Kadar and Marina Peralta. What the hell ever happened to Madame President, anyway? I guess we’re to assume she died, but again, why even introduce her? Like Deni, she contributed nothing.
That’s one of my main problems with Falling Skies. Since S3 they’ve tried to cram so many characters and subplots into a ten-episode season that it’s all an undeveloped jumble. When was the last time you actually cared about a new character? The first season hooked me exactly because the characters were so likeable. Well, Anne was clearly just an appendage of Tom and Lourdes always annoyed me, but I fell in love with the Masons and thought they were all completely realistic. I know Hal took a lot of criticism, but come on, he was a 16-year-old boy who just months before had been King Jock whose only worry was winning the next big game. Mat annoyed a lot of people, but again he was a 7-year-old who had just lost his mother. Tom really grabbed me because there was none of this bleeding heart BS that made me hate Rick Grimes of TWD. Tom adapted to the new world immediately and did whatever was necessary to keep his sons safe. When the guy from Sanctuary put the gun to Hal’s head, Tom blew him away and never looked back. None of this whining about “keeping our humanity” . You effed with my kid, I killed you, end of story.
WTF happened to Pope? He went from “If anyone takes Mason down it’s gonna be me” to wanting to have Tom’s children with no transition. Fans loved the unpredictable bad boy who would screw you over one minute and save your life the next, but he’s gone. RIP, Pope’s balls. We’ll miss ye.
Tector had a great buildup in S3, but then fell into being Hal’s bitch. Because a guy with years of actual combat experience would have nooooo problem following orders given by a kid. Same with Anthony the cop playing second fiddle to a woman who hid in the safety for 3 seasons and had no idea which way to point a gun. Chalk that one up to the Gun Fairy who magically trained her between seasons.
So many things went south since the second season and they never corrected them.
I liked Deni because I thought the friendship with Ben would be different. Not neccessarily a romance, more Ben considering her more family than the Masons, due to the spikes Deni understands, but none of the others can really know about. It would have been a nice scene if Lexi tried to appeal to Ben’s brother status, and he’d turn around and say “no, THAT is my sister, I don’t even know you, wtf?” On IMDB, the only “fan” forum I read, there is no hate for Deni. Just complaints that she’s so underused and disappears randomly.
I was ok with Jimmy’s death. It showed “we really go there, we DO kill the child, on screen”. That’s what many shows shy away from, so I appreciated an early statement like that. Sure, it turned out to be “we only kill non-Masons” in the end, but no-one could know that at the time. Actually, if not Deni, I would have given Jeanne Weaver the “best friend for Ben” arc. They had enough to bond with – both lost their mother, were on their own for quite a while (she with Diego and his gang, Ben with skitters), have fathers with leadership roles/not that much time for their kids… Jeanne was wasted as a character. Her death meant nothing because she wasn’t shown enough for people to like or dislike her, it turned Weaver into Matt’s grandfather… they could have “merged” the Weavers into the Masons via Ben and Jeanne; would have felt much more natural.
I’m not seeing where they actually “introduced” new characters. They just added them. They were there, if they were lucky, they got a name and a line stating what they did before the attack and that’s it. The only one I consider somewhat properly introduced is Dingaan, and there’s still the major questionmark how he got from SOUTH AFRICA to somewhere-in-the-US. He has an accent, clearly to show he is indeed from South Africa, and was not just born there and moved to the US long ago. What else would be the point? It’s not the actor’s natural accent for sure, and it wouldn’t change a thing if he was from Washington or Denver or wherever on the same continent. It’s to demonstrate there are prisons all over the world, and he escaped from one after another until he somehow ended up in the one where Tom was. On a different continent.
I always found Hal quite unnatural for being 16. Like I pointed out long ago, if I was writing a scene where a 16 years old boy from the US in our time talks about his first celeb crush, I’d have him drool over Jessica Alba or someone, not the soothing voice of a jazz lounge singer. It just feels forced to show “OMG HE’S SO MATURE”. Which he simply wasn’t. I do agree with the rest though. And frankly, except for the awful Maggie-Ben-Hal stuff, Hal is the least annoying Mason now, and acts the most believable, considering his background. He scored a damn lot points for (at least for a moment) refusing to consider Lexi a Mason. And was consequent with that – he never trusted her like Ben, Ann and Weaver suddenly did. Hal was the one who secretly gave Tom a syringe with Volm poison to take with him “to the moon”, in case Lexi would betray him.
Pope… is really the saddest case of them all. He was the darkhorse, and contributed a lot to the show because he was unpredictable. I now tend to believe that was an accident, and the writers simply didn’t know what to do with him back then either. Then they just sadly found out how popular he was, and decided to make him even more popular by making him a hero. People liked that he wasn’t a hero, not even really an anti-hero. So that went bad fast.
Tector, I guess they knew he’d leave the show and therefore “second fiddle” was the only option. With the reluctance to kill main characters, he would just have gone on a veeeery long patrol otherwise, and it would be another loose end. Anthony remains the biggest mystery to me – they have a decent starting point with his cop backstory, they have a good start with him and Pope becoming hot-and-cold battle buddies… and then just drop it and give him nothing to do at all. No real interaction with others, no mission, no motivation, no nothing. They must have had SOME reason to add the character. It can’t be they just waved actors through until they reached a certain number when filling the cast. Or… can it be…?
I’m still shaking my head over the assassination of Pope’s character. He worked so well simply because he was the one person who never fell in line behind Tom. We knew that Tom and Weaver were bound to become buddies, but Pope was the perpetual anti-Tom, always looking out for himself, always the wild card who might save your life one minute (because it benefitted him) and stick a knife in your back the next (because it benefitted him). Not to mention, he was part of a gang who held Maggie as a sex slave. If he didn’t participate, at least he knew about it and let it happen. They kinda glossed right over that part, though.
I can understand his early hatred of Tom, who he thought had been a golden boy and sailed his way through a perfect life. I can also understand him thawing a bit after they spent that time in the woods together in S3 and he found out that Tom had overcome a shitty, abusive childhood to succeed. What I can’t understand is the total reversal from question mark to whiny, lovesick hero falling in line behind the Masons. I wonder if they took a page from The Walking Dead where Daryl Dixon went from being a sullen anti-hero to being Rick’s little lapdog in literally one episode. Also bad writing, but the fanfiction writers loved it and he became even more popular.
I was sure early on that they would pair Ben with Jeannie Weaver. I couldn’t see any other reason to introduce her because she served no purpose. “Hi, Dad, I found you. Now I’m leaving you for my fuckboy. Oops, I’m inexplicably and completely coincidentally in Charleston against all odds. Now I’m an alien. Now I’m dead.” Again, she was one more character who should never have been introduced, so might as well kill her.
When I look back over the four seasons, only the first one was really good. All of the others had
good episodes vs. terrible episodes. The first half of S2 where Tom returns and Ben has clearly been struggling with his identity was gold. The last half was a jumble with Tom abandoning his sons for Anne, Ben leaving to join a Skitter rebellion which lasted all of 2 hours and was never mentioned again, Jimmy dying at the hands of Red Eye, who turned out not to be evil so why kill JImmy, and the pregnancy cliché that any sci fi fan called after the first episode. Same goes with S3 except in reverse: the first half was unwatchable while the second half had some brilliant episodes. Then switch up and the first half of S4 was great while the second half was unwatchable. It’s like half of the episodes were written by professionals and the other half by a special ed class.
As for the final season, well, they didn’t seem to give a damn about quality for the last two seasons. I can only imagine them phoning it in for the final season. “Yeah, what if we find out that Lexi’s farts have time travelling powers, so Tom and Ben mix up a big ol’ bowl of beans and travel back to before the invasion and kill the Espheni as they land? Bingo, go with that because no one’s watching anymore, anyway.”
I didn’t see it as an absolute given that Tom and Weaver would become *friends*. That they’d end up as equals and lead together, yes. But friends, not neccessarily. Many shows live from the chemistry of a bickering lead duo that respects each other, but still has a lot to argue about. TWD went to the extreme with Rick and Shane; both were psychopaths pretending to be friends, but this still created the conflict neccessary to keep the group interesting. As soon as Shane was gone, and no-one stepped up to challenge Rick, it became a borefest – Rick gives a ridicolous order, everyone falls in line.
Pope was toned down enough in his psycho tendencies (though they were obviously there; being in a gang that takes hostages to obtain weapons or just blindly charging at a bunch of aliens qualifies) to be this adversary to both Tom and Weaver. He was the factor neither could ignore, leading to “oh damn, Pope did X, we have no time to argue, we need to stop X NOW” situations. Tom and Weaver wouldn’t need to be friends for that. Just recognize the other was at least saner than Pope, and therefore “my enemy’s enemy” in that moment.
It definitely has shades of Daryl Dixon insofar that Pope was clearly turned around because of his popularity with fans. Daryl had that going for him, too, except he hardly ever did… anything. I have no idea what people were seeing, but I saw Daryl doing background stuff and not getting involved, and then “search Sophia” for no apparent reason (which also mostly involved him strolling through the woods and well, searching). Pope did things. Pope didn’t always do terribly relevant things, but the small stuff (i.e. baking bread before taking off in the night) still helped build the character. A big difference to me: Daryl stood out as “seems ok” in a group of psychopaths and assholes. Pope stood out as “not Mr. Nice Guy” in an otherwise mostly likable group. It was his own actions making him interesting, not the benefit of the doubt to at least not be as bad as the others.
Either way, both characters were utterly ruined in the end. Daryl becoming Rick’s yesman, Pope becoming a mess of forgetting his backstory, trying to downplay it, being whiny and against-Tom-for-the-sake-of-being-against-Tom. That’s why I hate “fandom”. It does ruin things that could have been good. The “vocal minority” gets heard by writers and taken as “the fans” as a whole. Just because people work in the entertainment industry doesn’t automatically mean they know the internet – where they often get most of the feedback from. With luck, it’s a big movie/TV page and the feedback does come from a diverse group. Without luck, it’s the TV Tropes forum, Tumblr or whatever and things go downhill.
My money was on Ben and Deni, though I didn’t quite understand why they didn’t go for Jeanne. She had little else to do, except give Weaver some backstory about his family. I didn’t think it was a bad thing to have him have regrets, thinking he was a bad father and let his family down and all. Actually, with the Masons jumping around happily together all the time, I’d expect a lot more people to start doubting themselves. The usual problem just set in when Weaver had worked through all that: Jeanne became yet another named character the writers didn’t know what to do with. If nothing else, why not write a friendship with Deni Whoalsohasnothingtodo? Friendship gets the short end of the stick all the time – it either gets abandoned (Pope/Anthony, Ben/Deni) or has to turn into a romance (Maggie/Hal, Matt/Mira). It would have been… authentic to add a friendship, and who’d be better for that than two teenage girls with nothing else on their plates? It’s always claimed that the romances are added to appeal to female viewers… I somehow think most would appreciate a simple friendship between characters they can relate to just as much, if not more.
I actually wrote about why the first two seasons didn’t suck so much on IMDB a day or two ago. I found season 2 alright. I also found some of the issues were always present. But the show was young, and it’s not uncommon that shows take more than a season to find the tone, establish characters and all that. I usually give a show the “DS9 Benefit of the Doubt”. DS9 took almost 3 seasons to get going, but it was absolutely worth the wait. Therefore, I treat the first two seasons with much mercy. If things go downhill, I jump ship the moment my last big hope is abandoned. In TWD, my big hope was Merle Dixon permanently joining the group and becoming a “new Shane” – an outspoken adversary to Rick. For that, I suffered through the boredom of “Farm Life” and later “Prison Life”. When Merle died, I was gone. Falling Skies managed to string me along with never killing that hope, and sometimes even teasing with change for the better (namely giving Anthony a bigger role in the mole arc, right around the time I’d usually jump ship). It is an abusive relationship at this point.
For the last season, I expect either the “Mason Family Hug [tm]” under the sky where Espheni ships leave, with a speech about the human spirit… or something non-sensical involving Lexi (back as the “new alien”) becoming the mother of mankind and using her gravity powers to terraform the moon to have a new start. With Tom becoming president of the moon.