Falling Skies: The Skies are Falling

Posted on August 20, 2012

If we didn’t know better, we’d swear the title to this episode was deliberate; a “serious cat is serious,” “redundancy is redundant” take on the show, which is how we felt about a lot of this episode after it was over.

We liked the episode as it was unfolding, certainly. It felt like a gripping finale for the season, with some seriously high stakes and risk-taking, culminating in a moment when we really did fear that most of the cast wasn’t going to survive. Unfortunately, that feeling only lasted a moment.

Worse was the way the story seemed to whiplash back and forth. Martial Law! Arrest the President! Put the Second Mass in confinement. Okay, maybe not! Berserker guy reveals himself to be a hardcore Marine! Okay, maybe not!

Our complaint comes down to this: we have another showdown with the penis-head alien and Hal’s former girlfriend (whose name we can NEVER remember), another member of the Mason family appears to be under the control of the aliens, the Second Mass is going back out on the road, and at the end, a THIRD alien species lands on earth. Isn’t this all only slight variations on stuff we’ve already seen? Shouldn’t a season finale NOT give the impression that the show is spinning its wheels? And can we put the kibosh on any more reunion scenes between characters? How many times have Weaver and his daughter had hug-filled goodbyes and hug-filled reunions this season? They’ve lost their emotional potency; just like seeing a mind-controlled Hal doesn’t really push any buttons that weren’t already pushed with Ben and Tom.

Also: We have absolutely no idea what that thing was they destroyed. Maybe it was important. Maybe they even told us at some point. But it all got muddled and confusing between the hugging and bug-crawling-out-of-an-eye retreads. Maybe it was the thing preventing that third alien race from descending. We don’t expect a finale to answer a lot of questions, but we’re not even sure what questions we’re supposed to ask, outside of what we said in the final 5 seconds of the show: “Who the hell is THAT?”

But what really got us groaning was the “You’re throwing up? How long have you been pregnant?” scene. Oh, please. How disappointing that the writers are taking the most interesting female character and turning her into a vessel for the main hero’s hopes and dreams. Everyone else faced their alien torture with bravery, but Anne suddenly turned into a whimpery girl because in sci-fi (and a whole hell of a lot of other kinds of stories) once a character becomes pregnant, that’s all she is to the story: The Pregnant One. A damn shame, because Moon Bloodgood is doing wonderfully subtle work with the character. She faced down ALIEN SPIDERS WITH FACES AND TEETH without breaking a sweat, but once she pees on a stick, all her previous character traits get forgotten. Never mind how silly it is for a pediatrician, of all people, to be somewhat irresponsible with her reproductive health in a post-apoc setting. She should’ve been the one handing out condoms to the whole Second Mass and informing them of the dangers of getting pregnant in a war zone instead of the one getting accidentally pregnant. It’s like having Tom forget what happened at Lexington & Concord.

Granted, we got some deaths. Red-eye, Penis-head, and … Token Asian. Not exactly shocking or heart-wrenching stuff, although we did cheer when Red-Eye beat the piss out Penis-Head and roared with approval when Tom finished the job for him. If we had more of that kind of thrilling violence and catharsis instead of  SO. DAMN. MANY. socio-political-historical conversations, this show could be a huge hit.

Unlike Walking Dead (Or V, or any of a number of attempts to do this kind of story), there’s a real intelligence behind it; an attempt to draw parallels between the current conflict and the American Revolution (much in the same way the original V series drew strong parallels between the alien invasion and the Nazi Holocaust), with a protagonist who isn’t a Sheriff or FBI agent, but a teacher. That’s awesome, but we shouldn’t have to sit through lectures.

We enjoyed this season a lot and consider it a huge improvement over the first season, but it’s long past time for the show to demonstrate that they know what they’re going instead of throwing yet another alien at us in the hopes of keeping it interesting. We don’t normally give grades to TV shows, but while we’d give Season 2 a solid B+, this episode barely gets a C.

Final Memo to the writers: If you need a character death, stop turning to all the non-white ones to make your pick. It’s the absolute worst cliche in science fiction.

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  • Jangle57

    I about threw up when they had Anne throw up. Really? She’s pregnant?  You had to go there?  I also thought it odd the way Charleston command just about threw them out to go on the mission: good riddance to bad rubbish, but when the 2nd Mass comes back announcing success, they about fell over themselves trying to show their gratitude?  The cynic in me wondered if Charleston was so skeptical about this mission in the first place why were they willing to take the 2nd Mass’  word for it that they had succeeded?  And don’t even get me started about Hal; that’s a story line that’s growing old very quickly.  I’ll still watch next season but I hope they come up with less cliched storylines.  Oh and btw, the annoying girl/alien is Karen.

  • http://twitter.com/MandySCG MandyJane

    I agree that this season was lots better than the 1st season, but that isn’t saying a whole lot. Post apocalyptic sci fi is probably my favorite genre, because it usually sets off my own imagination. Falling Skies has so much potential to be great, which is why nearly every episode is such a big disappointment for me. I’m not picky about special effects, I just want the writing and acting to be good… especially the writing. This season would have been so much better if they’d saved the Charleston scenario for a later time, much later. As it was the whole thing seemed so forced.  Having Max Headroom come out as a huge douchebag was so frustrating.

  • Regina Harrison

    I don’t believe that was a third alien species–I do believe that was a grown-up, unharnessed skitter (the facial features were too similar to be an accidental resemblance), and I do believe that the weapon was pointed at the skitter home world, aimed at ending the skitter rebellion for good.  If I were to speculate further, I’d say that the skitters as we know them are the young of that race, harnessed just like the human children are harnessed.

    • http://twitter.com/MandySCG MandyJane

       Ooh, I like that.

  • Regina Harrison

    Oh, and ITA about killing off the non-white extras.  That was a “seriously?  again?” moment.

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

    Wasn’t fond of last night’s episode.  The scenes with the general and the skitters was the worst writing of the entire series.  Explain to me how a group of skitters walks into Charleston without a single shot being fired.  Then explain to me how AFTER everything that went down in that scene, the general says, “Go shoot those skitters.”  Made 0 sense, even after they “skitters killed my son” line that came later.  Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
    As soon as the gang split into two parties, and one of those parties was “5 main characters + Asian guy,” I said to my wife, “Hey look baby, I found a redshirt!The sad part is, there was a brilliant setup to the new alien race, but it got buried.  The question of, “What is this thing aimed at?  They already took out our air force” was one that deserved to be focused on; it was far more ominous and interesting than most of the events in the episode.  The show seems to value the entertainment value of the mysterious and unknown, but only long enough to say, “Hey, look at this!  You don’t know what this is!”  Then it’s as if a different writer takes over and says, “People don’t know that this is.  Let’s either explain what it is, or move on, before they get confused.”

  • annieanne

    Do you guys watch the 2nd Watch webisodes? You get some interesting takes on the plotting and characterization, especially when the showrunner/writers are on.
    I personally thought the whole setup with the Charleston story arc was science fiction cliche from start to finish. It would have been much more interesting to have the Charlestonians be a southern 2nd Mass, raring to fight, and then have to figure out how to react to good guy skitters — rather than the cliched authoritarians, perfectly willing to kill harnessed kids,  they’ve written them into.
    If they really wanted to get away from science fiction cliches, they’d kill off a female character. But, since it’s science fiction, there aren’t enough female characters for any of them to be disposable.
    As for the pregnancy, I suspect those scenes got added later. Moon Bloodgood found out she was pregnant two weeks after the show wrapped.

    • MilaXX

       I always miss them unless I remember to double back later in the week. Breaking Bad comes on at 10. I watch that immediately after Falling Skies and Im typically too wound up after BB to think about Falling Skies until the episode post comes up.

    • Jennifer Coleman

      I thought the Charleston story arc was a total missed opportunity. The main character arcs were okay, if standard, but the whole dysfunction of the community was spotty and non-intuitive. Just think how it would have been handled in Battlestar Galactica – you would even feel the tentativeness and stress of the population in even a 5 second scene of a child in a hallway. BSG got how to portray a civilization in flux and war.

  • MilaXX

    I nearly threw a shoe at the tv when they revealed she was pregnant.  Also when the big bad new alien came down at the end I had an Invader Zim moment and called them Almighty Tallest.  I don’t mind them going back on the road but I do wish they’d find/make their own settlement.  Still the show has greatly improved from the first season.

  • Wakey1

    I liked it fine. I’ve decided I’m just going to have to put up with certain characteristic annoyances, like Anne turning from “I’m a combat medic, goddamit!” into “eek please don’t touch me with your electric stick thingy.” What I thought was going to happen was that Karen would shock her and kill the baby, but I guess that was too much for them. And yes, the general’s rapid changes of mind about the mission were implausible. But the arrival of the skitter cavalry was thrilling, and the direct, hand-to-hand violence of Tom killing the fishhead was appropriately strong. I thought it was Maggie that might get killed on the mission, though. (Obviously someone was going to be.)

    I like Regina’s idea about who the new arrivals are. The weapon was probably anti-whatever kind of ship those seed pods dropped from, though, not something that could reach the skitter home world.

    (One detail I’ve liked about this show: the way different communities of humans developed their own nicknames for the skitters. Seemed like a subtle realistic touch.)

  • mjude

    the show has much improved.  i of course felt bad when the red-eye skitter died.  not happy that Anne is pregnant, wtf would they do that for even if she is in real life they can hide that for tv.  i did feel like there were lots of little stories going on that were not necessary.  i will be around for season 3 & hope for much stronger stories.

  • http://twitter.com/mgarbowski Mark Garbowski

    Well I agree with almost every criticism offered in the main article and comments, and this episode was a disappointing end to a mostly strong season.
    The idea that the mystery alien is some good-guy skitter-race super hero has appeal, but they’ve already established that harnessed humans start taking on skitter appearance so the similar look shouldn’t be determinative.Finally, building on our hosts musings about birth control, if a post-apocalyptic sci-fi show really wanted to take on something edgy and sure to provoke discussion and reaction, it should address the effect such devastation would have on our current ideas about contraception, procreation, sex and gender roles, etc. A lot of where we are today on those issues is a product of many factors –technology (improved contraception but also household appliances etc), the switch from children being an economic asset to economic liabilities for parents, improved childhood and infant mortality, economic growth and wealth in general, and views about population growth. In almost every sci-fi dystopian world, all of those factors have changed, largely to where they were before the 20th century or even earlier.  Addressing this issue would create tension and conflict among both characters and the audience, yet I’ve never seen one story, movie or TV show that had the sense or courage to do so.

    • http://twitter.com/obscureobjects David Calder

      Did you watch the new Battlestar series? There was an episode where they debated banning abortion to improve the human race’s chances of survival. Though I can’t remember if that thread lasted more than one episode…

      • http://twitter.com/mgarbowski Mark Garbowski

        Good memory. That was basically a subplot in one episode, and there was another moment in another episode where Starbuck was in a Cylon hospital and she and the Cylon doctor (posing as human) had a brief discussion of whether she was more valuable as a potential mother or Viper pilot. It was that discussion and the fact that they rarely followed up on it that made me consider this issue. It just adds another layer of social upheaval and tension.

  • http://twitter.com/Kikishua CMS

    My first thought about The Weapon was that it was some sort of terraforming doohickey that would alter the weather/atmosphere and make it more alien-friendly.

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

    FYI – Moon Bloodgood is currently 6 months pregnant, and Season Three starts filming this week. While the show handled her pregnancy intro abysmally, this was not a planned story line until the real life pregnancy forced it to be.

    But yeah, the majority of pregnant characters in SciFi are written off as damsels in distress. I’m expecting several “Save the baby!” episodes next season (ugh!). If the writers are smart, they’ll watch Farscape and see how it can be done properly!

  • Trisha26

    I’ve always thought that whatever beings (like the human children) the aliens (penis heads/fish heads) harness become Skitters as they grow up. Remember that girl who talked to Ben – the one with all the growths on her skin? And her brother whom we saw in silhouette outside the bus? And Karen as she skittered up the wall?! The aliens & their Skitter minions remind me of the Borg – collective minds working together. And my interpretation of the thing they blew up was that it was a weapon meant to end the Skitter rebellion by killing all humans – like a bio-weapon that would release something into Earth’s atmosphere. I also find it strange that humans are allowed to roam all over and are only attacked “sometimes” – certainly the aliens know where they are (like Charleston) and just aren’t concerned. Do we even know why the aliens came to Earth yet? Hopefully Season 3 will answer these questions – and I hope they have an end in sight – unlike V (US Version), The Event, Flash Forward, The 4400, Terra Nova, etc. 

  • Alyson Epstein

    The absolute worst episode that follows the best episode.  Horrific writing and acting.  Cliche after cliche.  It will take a lot to get me to watch this show again.  Even Terry O’Quinn couldn’t save this show.

  • Jackie Katz

    They probably destroyed an anti-aircraft gun/weapon so the rest of the skitters who probably  had been trying to land now can.  I think it builds on the story of the skitter rebellion.

  • Scott Hester-Johnson

    What really bugged me was Anne pukes in a sink and then just walks away. How about at least running the water?

    Actually, that wasn’t the thing that bugged me the most. That would be the entire show, really. As a die-hard SciFi and TLo fan, I was determined to stick it out long after I wanted to bail last season. Surely TLo knew something I didn’t. If I just hang on a little longer, I’d finally get it.

    But alas, that moment never came and all I felt was relief that this weekly torment was over.

    This show is a mangled wreck of cliches, bad writing, horrible dialog, the ever-annoying Spielberg mop-top brat hugging everyone, etc etc.

    Sorry, guys, but I can’t follow you anymore on this one.