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Monday, 7 July 2014

Falling Skies S4E3: Exodus.


How biblical.

Falling Skies
S4E3: Exodus.


[Spoilers for Falling Skies.]

If Maggie and Ben don't swear to never look at each other again in this episode, I will be – well, not very surprised, but still moderately vexed.

We open on Tom leading skitters on a wild goose chase through the city. After abandoning his bike and turning it into a makeshift bomb, he realises that the wall isn't down on schedule, and the skitters are closing in. The titlte screen rolls, and we get time skipping backwards to sixty hours earlier.

I never like it when things do this. I recognise precisely why it happens, and its worth as a storytelling tool, but I personally hate it, because it feels like a very lazy way of trying to build tension, and because the 'how they got there' is almost always less interesting. Hustle did it well, I recall. They may be the only ones who did.

We cut to Hal and Tom talking about Led Zeppelin, which swiftly leads to Tom recapping some of the developments from last episode. Tom then visits Charming Science Escapist, who explains how the suit works and how they'll need to use it. He's displeased when Tom tells him that they'll be using ammonium nitrate as explosives for the tether, since it's so unstable. 

Spaceship.

In Chinatown, Maggie is – also recapping the last episode's events. Did the last episode have very low ratings or something, and the showrunners have quickly added in people recapping it so that viewers who skipped it won't be confused, or is this just clumsy dialogue writing? Either way, it turns out Maggie kept some of her guns, and she arms herself to confront Alexis. It's more like the Maggie we know, but that just makes her earlier behaviour even more odd: If she's not brainwashed, why has she apparently completely forgotten about Hal? Last series they were practically married, but she hasn't gone off to rescue him, or even mentioned him? Mrlgh.

Ben urges a measured response, although it seems unlikely that he'll get his wish in that regard. Maggie's voice says 'okay', but her caveat about bringing guns says 'I am planning murder.'

(In the re-education camp while this is going on, that girl who said she was going to betray her family has betrayed her family. Her father is pleased! Her mother less so. Either way, they're both going to be tortured and brainwashed, most likely. The girl seems ambivalent about this result.) 

They look so proud.

Maggie and Ben interrupt Alexis at a lesson with some of her disciples, including Lourdes, and Maggie seems understandably vexed by the whole situation. She pulls out a gun, but Alexis breaks her wrist with ease. Alexis claims that she hasn't lied to Maggie at all, and that they genuinely are safe, but that the Espheni she met is 'a part of her.' Maggie has two guns and two hands, and pulls the other one on Alexis, and is warned that if she doesn't give up her weapons, the whole of Chinatown will be in danger. 

"Oh my god, Maggie, you can't just ask people why they're Espheni."

Back at the prison camp, Tom and Charming Science Escapist are discussing their plan. Tom segues into a story about Geronimo, an Apache warrior who fought in the Apache Wars – essentially a last ditch attempt by the US government to commit even more genocide – and a confrontation he had with the Mexican army on the feast day of St. Jerome. Honestly, Tom was speaking so quietly here that I couldn't pick up half of what he was saying.

We finally get a glance in at Anne. She's not doing great, and her soldiers are spouting cliches. Deliberately. She collapses, because apparently she hasn't been eating. That is why a healthy intake of food that contains all the nutrients your body needs is important.

In the re-education camp, Matt has an argument with his new mate, who is understandably shaken after the whole parent-betrayal fiasco. She knows where some wire cutters are and wants to get them, and he urges her not to, saying they have to play the long game and convince the camp's leaders that they've been successfully re-educated. She steals them anyway, and next morning they're found beneath an unused bed. The Creepy Scout Leader nearly gets Matt's friend to confess, before Matt jumps in and says that he took them. He is promptly dragged away, with the warning that his training is going to be a lot less pleasant. 

I foresee knives.

The plan is finally taking place. After a strategy meeting in which Pope grouses and everybody hates him and wants him to go away, the real work begins, with Tector making bombs, Dan doing DIY, Hal people-managing and CSE working on his Kamen Rider suit. With all that done, Dan and Tom reminisce about the families they have who aren't there with them. It's a quiet moment, and actually this episode seems to be quiet moment city.

(While they talk about Anne, we cut to her briefly – if you're wondering why I'm putting all her scenes in as parenthetical statements, that's why, they're so brief. Still unconscious, she's dreaming about being on the Espheni ship, with a rather beady-eyed Espheni connected to her womb by a biological cord.) 

Terrifying.

The next morning, Tom has his meeting with the Espheni Warden. There's a bit of back and forth, and then Tom sets him on fire, which is rude. Still, we're finally at the point we were at at the beginning of the episode, and I feel like most of the scenes it took to get here could have been cut. They could have easily started off with the strategy meeting, had a short version of the Tom-CSE Geronimo scene afterwards, showed the guys doing their work, and then gone straight to this part, and nothing would have really been lost.

The plan starts going wrong fast. CSE gets injured, Pope wears the suit (Tector's apparently there, I don't know why he doesn't wear it), and then drops the bomb while climbing the fence. Pope picks it up and manages, just barely, to climb over, but ends up unconscious, because he is an incompetent fool. Meanwhile, a group of slower moving old people accidentally draw the skitters to the sewers where the people are gathering to escape. If there's one lesson we can take from this, it's 'don't be old'. 

Just stop being old, inconvenient crone.

Even when Pope eventually does set the bomb on the power cord, it doesn't manage to sever it completely. This really isn't any of these guys' days. With the help of whacking it with a rebar (why he didn't just do that immediately instead of screaming 'no', I have no idea), Pope severs the fence, allowing the people in the sewers to escape, and for Tom to blow up the solitary confinement building and fling himself dramatically into the water. 

Kamen ridaaa, kamen ridaaaa, ridaaaa, ridaaaaaa~

Plot developments abound in the last few minutes. Anne wakes up, and is apparently close to Alexis, and Cochise views Matt from afar, hinting at a rescue mission coming up very soon.

Anne and company arrive at Chinatown, and tearfully reunite with Lourdes (- hang on, is Lourdes not brainwashed either? Because if she and Maggie both aren't brainwashed, then they're both very out of character), Ben, and Alexis, who seems to be not entirely pleased with the situation.

Meanwhile, the escapees are celebrating. Cultural references are exchanged, as is the fashion among Falling Skies characters, everyone is cheerful and happy. Dan moves to the edge of the celebrations, seeing a skitter. It hurries away, and although he clearly saw it, he doesn't tell Tom.

We might be looking at a case of Evil Dan here.

We're a quarter of the way through this series now, which seems almost impossible to believe. I'm not sure why: The plot's moving quite fast, there aren't really any pacing issues at all, I guess it just feels like it's been airing for less time than it has. The show's definitely taken a new direction this series – many multiple viewpoints never seemed to be its thing before, and I kind of hope the characters will start converging on each other a little bit more – but it's a direction that's working.

My one big bugbear at this point is Lourdes and Maggie. Are they brainwashed? Are they just fine? Neither of them have been acting like themselves, and it's only really in this episode that Maggie has started acting a bit more normally. Their actions don't really make sense for their characters, and that concerns me more than a little. I really do hope they're brainwashed or otherwise influenced.

Ah, well, bring on the next episode. After which we'll be a third of the way through the series. Eek.

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