Love And Other Acts of Courage

Posted on July 09, 2012

Previously, on Falling Skies (which we watched last week but when faced with a 5-hour commute to Fire Island the next morning, opted not to recap): Everyone believes that children are our future; teach them well and let them lead the way. Or hook them up to giant metal slugs. Or send them on their merry way to lead an underground day care center. The point is: children. What can you do with them, amirite?

This week on Falling Skies: Well, you know things have gone a little south in the writing when a kid gets shot in the chest and we wind up cheering on our couch.

Last week’s episode was one of the best of the series so far; full of tension and horror and indulging in its own tropes and motifs in order to produce a highly entertaining hour. In the sub-genre of sci-fi TV, the angsty male teenager is akin to the horny babysitter in a horror film: someone you can’t wait to see killed. But somehow Ben has become the most interesting character on the show, due quite a bit to Connor Jessup’s performance. His Ben is overcome with problems that precisely no one in the real world can ever truly relate to, and yet he delivers his lines like every petulant, cocky teenage boy who ever lived. In other words, he brings a naturalness to his performance, rather than infusing it with a lot of actor-ly nonsense and posing. He could be any teenage boy you know – and that’s what makes the character engrossing, because he quite clearly is nothing like any teenage boy you know.

Now compare Ben to Rick, the irritating kid with the irritating hair who vacillates between acting like a zombified enemy to humanity to acting like its rather naive savior. It’s not that we want to see kids get shot in the chest, but if you absolutely must shoot children in the chest, then by all means, shoot the annoying ones who add nothing to the story.

And let’s take a moment (before we get to the real complaining) to salute the show for wantonly killing children left and right. It’s refreshing, right? Not that we love seeing children get killed, but our most persistent complaint about series like Falling Skies (from V to The Walking Dead) is the squeamishness on the part of the shows’ creators; the reluctance to take the story’s core concept – the end of everything we know – to its natural conclusion. If you’re doing a show about humanity making a final stand against alien invaders, then you damn well better show the audience how bad things are. Maybe the various kid deaths this season are a bit manipulative on the writers’ parts, but then again, we never quite understood that criticism. ALL writing is manipulative. It only becomes a problem when you can see the strings too easily. In the case of FS, the child deaths this season were just enough. Any more and it’s going to start looking like a cheap fallback to provide tears on camera. What the show really needs to do now is kill a main adult character next.

But enough of our bloodthirsty requests, let’s get down to some bitching. Just as we can applaud the show’s choice not to depict children in cliched manners, we can deride and make wanking gestures with our hands every time they try and do romance. Sorry, but when characters start having looooooong conversations about ex-girlfriends and current brain tumors, we start nodding off. The cheesy-ass flirting between Son Number One and What’s Her Face has been utterly painful to sit through this season. It’s probably our only real complaint about how S2 is shaping up. It’s not that we don’t like Hal or What’s Her Face; they’re perfectly fine characters and the actors are doing great work (especially Hal, with his somewhat eerie Noah Wyle impersonation), but all of the double entendres and sheepish grinning is about as lame as lame gets. Everyone’s dirty and gross and stressed out. You wanna fuck? Go find an empty room, Tom Mason-style, but for god’s sake, stop talking about it like you’re buying each other  drinks in a bar.

Incidentally, can we just say something about sex here? Are we the only ones who are a little grossed out whenever characters have sex in a post-apoc-style setting? All we can ever think – whether it’s Sawyer and Kate in a couple of cages or Lori and Shane out in the woods – is that these two people haven’t had benefit of soap, clean water, or even toilet paper for quite some time and now they’re going off to stick things in each other. In a word: ew. Girl, there ain’t no Monistat on that island.

In other news, Red Eye is trying to get everyone to believe that the skitters are their friends. We admit, this is a slightly intriguing development, but it will remain so only if the writers can maintain a certain level of ambiguity. If we know either way whether Red Eye is telling the truth about the skitters being humanity’s allies then the conceit will fall apart. Personally, we don’t believe it, just like we don’t believe there’s a magic colony of free humans in North Carolina. These two developments would seem to be related, although there’s no reason to think so yet. It’s just that the Second Mass has been given two massively important pieces of information in the past couple of weeks; information that seems designed to get them all to act a certain way and (literally) head in a certain direction. Granted, we’re just happy to see them head in a direction at all (something else a lot of post-apoc shows never manage well). We just hope they don’t stay put for too long, even if they do have good reason to. How they managed to find a fully stocked and sparkling clean hospital amidst all the wreckage seems more than a little dubious to us, so the longer they stay there, the more we’re going to want to see them load up and move out. Between Charleston, the Skitter alliance, and this oddly staged-looking hospital, we can’t shake the feeling that the aliens are a lot more devious than anyone realized and we’re entering a period of the war where nothing should be accepted at face value.

 

[Photo Credit: James Dittiger/TNT]

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  • http://twitter.com/Goldielox73 Goldie

    I don’t watch this but I DVR it for my hubby and he loves it so I keep up through your recaps.  The thing that always strikes me about sex in these types of situations is the lack of birth control.  Who wants to get knocked up when you’re running for your life?  *cough*Laurie-TWD*cough*

    • Cydney Williams

       Word. In these apoc. shows, I always want it made obvious that no vaginal intercourse is going on.  I think there should be a scene where the Doctor has separate talks with the men and women about NOT getting pregnant, but still having fun.  Unfortunately, I think most writers are straight and are unwilling to go  against the notion that heterosexual sex is Just One Act. 

  • http://twitter.com/MandySCG MandyJane

    Well crap, I was just about to click the post button when the power went out! Hopefully I can remember what I was going to post. grrr!

    I had the opposite reaction to last week’s episode. I was afraid you guys would decide not to blog the show anymore after how terrible it was. The beatboxing beserkers, the terrible SFX, the silly harnessing center, all so cheesy! I’d much rather know why the kids are harnessed than how. Wish they’d left that to our imaginations, especially after seeing it done in that silly assembly line.

    I was glad they killed off the other annoying, poorly written and acted kid too. Now if they’d just have Pope die when he returns! Or at least write the character more believably. I’d be happy if they pretend they didn’t give all the survival skills to one character in the first season, and allow Pope to return as a more believable bad guy. I think they were trying to convince us that there were good reasons to keep Pope around, and it just didn’t work.

    I actually think the flirtations between Hal and Maggie have been some of their best scenes. Their budding romance seems like a perfectly normal reaction to the terrible situation they’re in. I think it’s human nature to want to hook up with someone in the face of tragedy. Plus it gave them the opportunity to let the audience get to know the characters better.

    Last season in some online discussions of the show, it was speculated that the skitters might not be as evil as they seemed. I think having some of them on the humans side should make for some interesting story lines.

     

  • Pennymac

    “Ain’t no Monistat on that island” OMG, I die…….

  • Jennifer Coleman

    Aww TLo, what’s with the Rick-hate? I liked that creepy kid. And his curly hair. I bought his acting because he seemed to be more affected by the aliens than Ben and therefore a little more robotic and sensitive to their wishes. Apparently, the harness control, even when removed, varies from person to person (or alien to alien, if Red-eye is to be believed). But alas, he was a minor red-shirt character like his dad, so it’s a moot point now.
    What impacted me in the scene where Son#1 & Blondgirl were holed up in the car was how grungy they appeared, but how friggin’ white their teeth were! I suppose they found a huge stash of Crest Whitestrips……

  • donnaINseattle

    I want apocalypse hair. All of the women have glorious locks, which is amazing since they can’t shower. It must be some great hair product that they value more than Monistat.

    • JanieS

      YES GODDAMN IT.

      This drives me NUTS. Long hair is a giant pain and LOOKS LIKE ASS without a lot of maintenance. Can’t they at least wear ponytails?

    • http://bootlovers.typepad.com/Booted_Up Teri Horne

      Let’s not forget Lady Doc who performs surgery without TYING HER HAIR BACK. I can’t even do the dishes without a pony tail.

      Also, running around with long hair is like having a handle on the back of your head, waiting to get yanked. Either put that shit in a bun or prepare to be skitter bait.

    • donnaINseattle

       My favourite female charactor in an action movie (other than the fabulous, never to be questioned Ms Sigourney) was in “The Running Man” — Maria Conchita Alonso, when she was hurled into the race-for-your-life gameshow, the first thing she did was pull her hair back out of the way into a bun (or maybe it was a ponytail — it was like 20 years ago, so I don’t remember perfectly). I do remember perfectly that I cheered out loud in the movie theater and she became my standard for practical hair styles in death situations. I’ve always wanted to meet her and ask her if that was her input or was it written in. In whichever case, I was pleased to see such practicality in a character.

      And that doctor would TOTALLY be pulling back her hair, unless she is plucking strands to sew up wounds since they are so low on supplies.

      So very irritating.

  • Cydney Williams

     THIS. I remember on Lost, I was amazed that the castaways will had access to hair bleach, highlighting strips, and hot wax.  Not a mustache, armpit hair, or dark root can be seen.  I would love to see Andra from Walking Dead’s natural color, and perhaps some goddamn gray.  She like a 40 yo lady. 40 year olds often have gray hair.  I’d like to see a little armpit hair and some lank, greasy hair.  When you can see perfectly, if simply manicured nails, and visible eyeliner, it takes away from the illusion of the apocalypse.

    • http://twitter.com/Goldielox73 Goldie

       Quite possibly she does have gray hair but it might not be noticeable.  I don’t recall whether Andrea is natural or not but I am and my gray hardly shows.

  • MilaXX

    I have to admit, I gave up on thie show labout midway last season. When i tuned back in this season Rick was gone & I assumed had either gone back to the slitters or was killed. Either way was okay by me. It made the point of bad things happen to kids on this show. Anyway surprisingly I didn’t mind him so much last night. I made a contrast between those who get unhooked sucessfully and those who don’t.
    On the other hand the romance between Son number one is barfy. Make it go away.

  • jennygirl73

    After this episode I am done with this show.  All of these conversations have been happening for a Season and half.  What do I do about my son…I think I like you, even though we are both gross and dirty…lets not discuss important things.  Tired of rehashing all this emotional luggage because when you don’t have much food to eat, which apparently leads to super white teeth, we talk about our feelings.  Not how we are going to move to the next place, and oh maybe all the Skitters are really not that bad.  Oh putting all of the lights on in the hospital was a smart move in the middle of the night?  

    The elements for a great show are there, but the plot, writing, and execution are lacking.  I feel like I already know how this season will end or where it’s trying to go.  I feel like good Science Fiction shows are dead, so it’s back to re-runs of BSG or Stargate.  At least with those you know what you are getting.  

    Edit to Add: Rude of me not to say thanks for the phenom recap as always, and I also cheered when the boy was shot, even though I liked him.

  • TropiCarla

    Thank you so much for the recap, gentlemen. Sundays are set aside for crazy family time so I watch FS on demand and rush to read your recaps afterwards. I was devastated to not find one after last week’s episode – BUT I’m sure your vacation was well-deserved and enjoyed. :-)  
    I’m totally with you about the post-apoc sex. EW. I can barely stand to smell myself after more than 26 hrs without a shower, far more for a wannabe partner. I guess I’ll be just saying no after the apocalypse.

  • Jenny Martin

    I really like this show a lot, and I think it’s been such an improvement over season 1. I just want them to hurry up so we can find out if Charleston is a lie or not. I’m really hoping it is so we can get a great dramatic twist, blow up the status quo and throw our characters into a new situation other than drive, stop and kill aliens, drive some more, gather supplies, drive, etc etc etc.

  • SVLynn

    Yay, you’re back, I thought you ditched the show after last week also. Those harnesses were disgusting!! Bleck. I agree, the kid playing Ben is doing an amazing job, can you imagine if the kid from V or Smash were cast in this role how godawful it would be? You’ve got to be a pretty decent actor to make an audience feel for you because you have a glowing spinal spike issue. I’m still watching, it’s fun summer TV, but the writing’s cheeze factor is starting to slide back in again. Hope you had a nice vaca.

  • http://www.pinkraygun.com/ Lisa

    I haven’t had a huge number of problems with Falling Skies this season – except for the episode where Jimmy died, just because the entire hour felt like set up. And not particularly well-done set up. I do acknowledge that killing Jimmy off is an efficient way to deal with what I call the “Awkward Tween Island” problem: when your child actors get into that spurt and there needs to be a narrative explanation. If Jimmy were a girl, I’d say she’d been shoved into a refrigerator. I’m not sure if there’s a similar trope for boys. 

    It really has been a much better show since it came back. Personally, I enjoy Falling Skies because it is hopeful. It’s trite and heavy handed sometimes, but overall, it’s hopeful that humanity can prevail. And after being beaten down by so much grittiness in my sci-fi for the past several years, I really like that juvenile hopefulness. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/grubhooligan J. Owen Dickson

    When Son Number One and What’s Her Face were in the car, I said to my wife, “If we were in a car hiding from murderous robots, I would not consider that the time for a humorous conversation, and risk making you laugh.”

    Later, when What’s Her Face said, “Why did you come back for me?” I screamed at the TV, “Bitch, you JUST SAID ‘I know you’ve got my back, and I’ve got yours!’  WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT MEANS?!?”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XCDKFPHZQHUK4LW4FWF2GEVXPQ Fogharty

    “Oh putting all of the lights on in the hospital was a smart move in the middle of the night?  ”

    Exactly! I like how they are on the run, hiding from mechs and non-resistence skitters, and yet hey, let’s light up a big building like a hospital where it will be seen for miles!They are making the same stupid choices that were bitched about in the previous season. Tom comes back from spending time on the alien ship… oh, let’s give him a chance to fully recover before questioning him. ”Now if they’d just have Pope die when he returns!”Right, giving Pope any kind of authority at all, let alone his own cabal, and “beserker” is not really a comforting name to give to a rebel sub-group, BTW… you’d think a history professor would know that. Plus, wasn’t his first group a bunch of happy-go-lucky rapists? 

    Everyone already said it… they are on the run, yet have a huge supply of hair product and white strips. Nice of the hospital staff to leave everything so neat and clean, what with war raging right outside their doors… hey, they even made the beds with clean sheets!

    I’ll probably keep watching, but compared to, say, Breaking Bad that’s on at about the same time, it’s not even a choice between the two. Watch one and forget it. DVR the other and savor. 

    I wish you guys would recap Breaking Bad. Really. Please.