Entertainment Magazine

Review #3638: Falling Skies 2.9: “The Price of Greatness”

Posted on the 15 August 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Mark Verheiden
Directed by Adam Kane

I was thrown for a loop when the preview for the season finale popped up at the end of this episode. I think it was because I had spent much of the episode thinking that there had to be more to this story than what’s been shown in just one hour. That’s the chief problem of watching a show with such short seasons. Storylines get compressed or plot developments feel rushed.

Review #3638: Falling Skies 2.9: “The Price of Greatness”

This show is struggling with the placement and pacing of its stories. The pieces are there, but the flow is just a bit off. Getting to Charleston should be a monumental task — one that is celebrated and acknowledged at the beginning of the episode — but then no time is wasted in getting to the central conflict. It’s a well that many post-apocalyptic stories go to time and again: Our heroes come face-to-face with other survivors who operate under much different philosophies and codes.

The structure of Charleston has their own turmoil and underlying issues, and the arrival of the 2nd Mass. brings that out. Yet, just as the episode starts to explore those issues, the aliens desperately want to speak to Tom Mason again. Showing tension is one thing. Undercutting it by repeating the same beat makes me wonder if the show is capable of any kind of growth.

The survivors’ arrival to Charleston goes through all the usual motions. They are welcome with open arms, given shelter and food, and actual amenities they haven’t seen in weeks. The military contingent of the 2nd Mass. is grilled on all of the intelligence they’ve gathered since the war with the aliens started. Captain Weaver even gets a surprise in the form of his daughter Jeanne, who ran to Charleston once she got separated from her boyfriend. The fact that the show initially threw away that entire subplot with Jeanne and her difficult decision to leave her father earlier rankled me. It recovered later in the episode as Jeanne uses her missing friends as an argument against the civilian government’s policy of consolidating resources.

As with every episode of this type, the utopia starts to unravel in no time. It starts with something small, such as taking away all of the weapons from the soldiers of the 2nd Mass. Captain Weaver and Tector don the new military uniforms of the 1st Continental Army. But many of the main characters are walking cases of PTSD by virtue of having seen so much war and being under constant attack from the aliens. This clashes with the idealistic civilian government headed by Arthur Manchester (Terry O’Quinn), conveniently Mason’s former mentor.

Even as I’ve seen this kind of thing many times before, it’s still very intriguing to see that the people of the 2nd Mass. have to fight other humans in addition to fighting the aliens. They have never been more safe, yet that doesn’t last long. This is because, for the first time in the series, the 2nd Mass. is not in control of their environment. Whether it be the school last season, or the airport or the hospital this season, they have largely operated independently and without supervision. Now, they have to answer to someone else, and many are chafing at that prospect.

The main conflict seems to be how each group sees the war. Manchester wants to pretend like it isn’t happening, and wants to take every opportunity to avoid any alien contact. The military contingent, led by General Bressler (Matt Frewer), wants to mount an offensive to drive the aliens off the planet permanently. Naturally, the 2nd Mass. is caught in the middle. The characters do a good job with this material, as Dr. Glass and Tom grapple with the crazy notion that they miss being attacked by aliens in lieu of shelter. This is the kind of material that was hinted at in the show’s first season, but never fully explored.

Pope is the wild card in every situation, as his loyalty seems to be fluid rather than with one side. He was the most enjoyable part of the episode, in my opinion, and a testament to what a mistake it was to keep him out of the main action for so long earlier in the season. The pity is that I don’t think the show spent enough time dealing with all of these complications to the fullest. The plot is very segmented, from the warm welcome of the 2nd Mass., then to the airing of grievances against Manchester’s seemingly benevolent dictatorial rule, ending with the declaration of martial law and imprisonment of Manchester. Subplots get pushed to the side, with the clearest example being the continued romance between Hal and Maggie.

The show has to come up with more than what they’re giving to these two actors. The romance is stagnating now, with Maggie continuing to internalize these deep psychological scars while Hal brushes them off because the apocalypse gives everyone another chance to start over with their lives. It is getting old and repetitive. I also had a problem with Tector going over to the 1st Continental Army so suddenly. Given what was revealed in “Death March” about his past, it seems questionable that he would just join up with another military outfit for no reason other than to give this episode some tension. His little plot arc feels unearned. Inconsistencies like this have been piling up this season on “Falling Skies”.

No mention of the message Red Eye sends with a de-harnessed kid to Charleston so far. I don’t like that it was shoe-horned into the end of the episode. It’s come to the point now with this show that I have to question why the aliens are all so interested in Tom Mason. I know he is the central hero of the story, but the show hasn’t given me any indication as to what exactly makes Tom Mason, a lowly college history professor, so special. It’s a way for the episode to act as a teaser for the season finale, yet it feels muddled and incomplete.

Tom and company are in the middle of a government coup, which makes things incredibly complicated if he has to be a central figure in the skitter rebellion as well. How will this end? Is Ben going to return at a crucial time to convince his father that the skitter rebellion is what they need to rid the Earth of the alien overlords? I’m okay with anything as long as the aliens don’t invite Tom back onto another ship again. The writers just can’t seem to find that extra gear to kick the plot to another level, though. That’s what keeps bothering me about this show, and I worry that the season finale won’t lessen that feeling.

Grade: 7/10

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