Contributor: Henry T.
Written by David Schulner and Lisa Zwerling
Directed by Janusz Kaminski
I think if everyone involved behind the scenes with this show had concentrated on the titular faceoff between the President and the aliens, it would have been a much better episode. Everything else around that main plot was forgettable. Sean and Vicky go to France, meet up with someone from Vicky’s past, and Dempsey comes to some odd cave. The escalating battle had actual stakes and suspense, more so than much of the series presented earlier. A lot happened during that faceoff, from the loss of an American landmark, the death of a major character, and a smart move to expose one of the sleeper aliens within the government and using the information to stay ahead of the larger alien plans. It left me wondering what could have been if this kind of thing had been done when they could actually save the series.
The fallout for the President’s move to try and take out the aliens in the church unfolds here. I have to admire the fact that President Martinez is acting out emotionally in this whole crisis. Sophia and the aliens have played him for the fool and now, he wants to exact revenge in spite of what his advisors tell him otherwise. It doesn’t work and gets a bunch of people killed when Sophia orders the use of the alien technology on the Washington Monument, but he had to do something. Now, there’s a new crisis that he has to deal with, in addition to a sleeper in the midst. Sterling finally gets around to noticing that Simon has been working with Sophia the entire time so the government uses his calls to get information on the aliens. One expects for Sterling and Martinez to keep exploiting this connection to find out where the aliens have transported themselves at the end of the episode.
The crisis in the church also illuminates a fundamental problem of leadership within the aliens. Sophia and Thomas continue their struggle over control of the aliens and it once again changes hands here. The problem is that there is no real control of the group when it keeps going back and forth like this. I personally liked Laura Innes’ performance here, as she shows Sophia’s power through the calculated threat to destroy Washington. Even if it’s a bluff, it revealed how easily she is able to manipulate President Martinez and her own people.
This power move by Sophia does marginalize Thomas once again, so much so that the writers felt they had to kill him for the character’s actions to have any sort of lasting impact. It is played as a sacrifice to keep Sophia as leader, but to me, it demonstrated how the writers had no real idea of where to take Thomas as a character. He remained a petulant child compared to his mother right up until his death.
The exciting storytelling there does not extend to the other storylines, unfortunately. Sean and Vicky are in France chasing Dempsey. I don’t know why the writers keep saddling Sean with yet another attractive female, on the road, chasing a person he has never met before. It didn’t work for 13 episodes before, and doesn’t seem to be working now. They go to a safe house occupied by one of Vicky’s allies and the story just stops, presumably for a respite. I cannot see the point of delving into Vicky’s past, only that it’s different now because the show is having someone else tell the story instead of showing it in the flashback format that the show so loved in the fall. We don’t care about Vicky, yet the series somehow feels different about that.
Dempsey, meanwhile, does head into the Jura mountains to examine some relics and artifacts on a cave wall. He spouts something about guardian angels and the power of myth that I didn’t entirely understand because there’s little context as to what he was talking about. Was he referring to himself as a guardian angel? The aliens? Could he still be trying to achieve some form of immortality, but through some alternate means? That was something that seemed to have stalled with the kidnapping and transformation of young girls earlier.
He and Sean are destined to meet at some point in the future and I have to wonder if the writers will pull some rabbit out of their hats to up the stakes somehow on that showdown. Right now, it looks like a mess. The series is running out of time to make corrections on the things that have gone wrong so it would help to see how they’ve straightened out one plot thread and apply it to the other ones.