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Monday, 23 June 2014

Falling Skies S4E1: Ghost in the Machine.


So! New ongoing. Falling Skies, for people who don't know, is a story about a post-apocalyptic world that was ruined by alien invaders, and a dude, his family, and his ragtag band of survivors attempting to survive the ongoing attempts to wipe them out. It's airing on TNT in the US, and for people like me not in the US, can also be found on Amazon, with episodes going up a few hours after they air.


Falling Skies
S4E1: Ghost in the Machine.



 When we left the Falling Skies crew last year, they had destroyed an Espheni weapon, split with the Volm, who wanted them all to go to Brazil (that's not a World Cup joke, they actually did want them all to go to Brazil), and discovered that the newest Mason kid, Alexis, was actually a rapidly ageing demon from hell.

As we return:

Fields.

Everything is sunny, and idyllic, and the characters are wandering through fields laughing and playing with the hubris of having forgotten what show they're in. Are they headed back to Charleston? I wasn't sure at this point, because it was never made clear last series whether they were going back home or whether the entire military force of Charleston had just decided to find somewhere new to live, but I assumed they were, just because it'd be rather odd for them not to. 

"Where are we going?" "I HAVE NO IDEA."

Everyone seems to have gotten over the fact that Alexis is a rapidly ageing abomination against nature now, as she's joining in with the playing.

They arrive at Charleston, and are happy, until Alexis unpleasantly reminds them that she might be Satan by remarking “We don't all have to die here.” Immediately, the Espheni start attacking with new, high-tech war machines and some of those pillars from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, as if to say 'Look at us. Look at the CGI budget we have acquired.'

A battle ensues, with several characters being separated from others, and then we have a timeskip to four months later.

We see Tom scratching the lines of the US Constitution on the walls, which runs back to one of the things that has really annoyed me about this show: The repeated – not constant, by any means, but notably recurring – comparisons of the war against the Espheni to the American Civil War.

It's a comparison which doesn't make any sense. One is a group of mysterious and genocidal aliens descending from above to wipe out a planet's population, and the other is just two identical groups of British people flailing and whining at each other while the actual native peoples of the place they're fighting over continue to get screwed over.

Anyway, Charleston, it turns out, has been walled in with energy walls and turned into a ruinous prison camp presided over by skitters, with a massive spaceship looming above.

Anne, meanwhile, has become leader of a ragtag guerilla military group, and has taken on much harsher and harder persona than we're used to seeing from her. 

Anne! What happened to you! Apart from losing your entire
family to aliens! Multiple times!

We don't spend a lot of time with her, as we cut to Ben, waking up in a warm bed. Apparently, he is on sale for the summe – oh, I see, he's in a furniture store. Maggie meets him, babbling about a frontal lobe thingymawhatsit, and leads him outside to an idyllic, flower-covered place of joy and wonder, called Chinatown. Chinatown hasn't been touched by the war, she says.

Obviously, it is evil. Nowhere in Falling Skies is beautiful and idyllic without also being pure evil, and I'm inclined to point out that we've heard the Espheni remark upon making a sanctuary for humans.

It really only gets more creepy when, as ruined buildings loom in the background, Lourdes – who, recall, when we last saw, was sickly, screaming, and had only just been freed from the influence of dozens of mind-controlling insects – says that Chinatown is a place of peace and pacifism that the Espheni haven't gone near.

He meets Alexis, now a young woman with blond hair, who seems to be the leader of Chinatown – Lourdes seems actively afraid of her, at least. She's – creepy, and when Ben asks about her necklace, she just says it represents 'unity – for all three of us.' Ben starts to have some kind of episode, and insists on being on his own. 

This was the least creepy facial expression I could find
and it looks like she wants to eat me.

Shenanigans continue afoot in Charleston, with a food drop causing chaos, led by chief chaosier Pope. They're interrupted by Batman, who's actually just Tom in a very bad disguise, who threatens them into order with a flamethrower. This draws out the skitters, who chase him about on a motorbike.

Back at his room, Tom reveals a map hidden with behind a mirror near his Constitution, where he's been plotting where the skitters appear from.

We cut back to a school in Chinatown, who are watching a propaganda video about how peace only comes from unity with the Espheni, and how dissidents should be stomped out. It's all very – Nazi. The fact that the video is presided over by a burly blond young man wearing a uniform not that dissimilar to a Hitler Youth leader doesn't help.

On another note, though, these kids' chorusing is appalling. The team leader asks if they're hungry, and they each start their choral responses about five seconds after each other. When I was a kid, we mastered the strange, sing-song ways of chorusing at our teachers in primary school, and could seamlessly say 'Good morning, Mister Yandigg' in eerie, alarming unison. 

I am disappointed in you, Creepy Hitler Youth Kids.

It turns out you only get food if you can answer questions about Chinatown's political ideals correctly. One girl snaps, yelling that they're all lies, and a circle of other children traps her, blowing their whistles. She's allowed to eat, though, because she's new, and Matt – who I hadn't recognised before – is berated for not educating her better.

In Charleston, Hal and – we will call him Angry Beardman – appeal to Pope for help. He refuses, and they steal his generator, causing a kerfuffle. Pope beats Hal up until Hal eventually leaves, much to the intrigue of a random watching fellow. 

Sad Hal is sad.

Anne's fighters launch an attack on a transport truck coming over a bridge. The bombs they placed don't go off, so Anne using the shirt of a very good looking lad to make a makeshift petrol bomb, killing the driver, who appears to be from Chinatown. They open the truck doors and see within many, many children.

In the re-education camp, Matt takes aside the screaming girl from before, reminding her that this is a re-education camp not at all unlike those the Nazis had, and telling her to meet him and a few others in his dorm later. It turns out that in his dorm, he's basically fermenting a very small rebellion, who will bide their time until they can do something useful.

Tom meets with Cochise, who explains that the Volm left Earth to defend their breeding grounds, which the Espheni had attacked. There aren't many Volm left on Earth, and they have orders not to engage the enemy. Cochise does promise that he will look for Ben, Matt, Alexis and Anne, though, and tells Tom that the ghetto camps are worldwide and that the Espheni are building some manner of new power source.

It's nice seeing Cochise again. He's a great character, in all his dorky stiff alien-ness. He's essentially to Falling Skies what Castiel is to Supernatural. 

If Castiel was played by Harry Styles.

Mysterious Staring Fellow finds Hal and Angry Beardman, and forms an alliance with them: He has escaped from several of the camps before, and wants to escape from this one.

Ben meets Maggie in the showers and expresses his confusion and distaste for the whole situation. Maggie insists that she's not changed, it's just that Chinatown really is peaceful. She takes him outside, explaining to him that a mech came into the town not long ago, alluding to it being 'just after [Ben] got injured protecting Lexie' and that Alexis told them not to run or fight. The mech was apparently struck down by a lightning bolt, a miracle which Maggie seems to be attributing her belief to.

Absolutely none of this sounds like the Maggie we knew from the last three series, or the beginning of this episode, so clearly something's wrong here.

In the final moments of the episode, we see Alexis in her chambers place her hand into a moonbeam, and see her skin begin to glow; Anne wakes up from a nightmare about something on the Espheni ship meddling with her body while she was pregnant; and Tom tell Dan that they'll soon be making their escape attempt.

A man spraypaints a picture of Tom's Batman identity onto the wall, and the camera pans out from a screen, which two long-fingered hands are manipulating. Text appears on the screen, saying that the vigilante must be captured or 'they' will all be wiped out. Next to the mysterious figure, an Espheni nods.

Hands!

So, it looks like we're finally meeting the Thing above the Espheni in the alien organisation, who has in some way done awful things to Anne and Alexis. My initial thought regarding the 'they' he types of was that he meant the humans, but I don't see why the Espheni would care about that when only last series they were trying to wipe out all human life. But this episode has also had many, many allusions to children: The re-education of children, Alexis, children being found in transport vans, the attacks on the Volm breeding grounds. The fact that children, birth and young were the overriding themes of this episode makes me wonder if the 'they' in question are actually the Espheni's young, held hostage by whatever species is controlling them.


It'll be interesting to find out, and just going off the first episode this is shaping up to be a good series.  

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