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]