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Monday, 14 July 2014

Falling Skies S4E4: Evolve or Die.

I have no idea what's up with me today, I kept finding gigantic errors in this review. I think I put 'time' instead of 'term' at one point. I nearly wrote the title as 'Falling Skies S4E4: Oath of Unification' because that's the name of the music I'm listening to. I probably missed some. If I suddenly refer to Tom as Ryouma Sengoku or something, that'll be why.

If I refer to Pope using any insulting nicknames, though, that's - just standard.

Falling Skies
S4E4: Evolve or Die.

 This episode starts so abruptly that I wasn't entirely clear what was going on. Tom, Hal and Dan are at some kind of industrial building (or abandoned house owned by somebody with an industrial company van?), which is their rendezvous point, apparently. They dodge patrols to get in, and Dan apparently sees something (the skitter-thing following them from last episode, most likely), before Tom has the joy of ending up with glowing sniper dots on his forehead.

To be fair, they did say who they were rendezvousing with, but Tom said it so quickly and so quietly I couldn't catch it.

Oh, it's the - Ah, okay, it's Cochise and his team, and they were the ones aiming sniper weapons at Tom. That's all fine, then. 

Everyone loves Cochise, after all.

At the re-education camp, Matt is in a rather sparsely decorated cell, while the Evil Scout Leader brings him food. They have a rousing discussion of history that really hammers in the Nazi parallels - the version that the Evil Scout Leader is telling is a heavily revised one, and historical revisionism, often on an almost ridiculous scale (like claiming Shakespeare was a German), was a prominent feature of Nazi education and propaganda. Which is nice to see: People often forget that while the Nazis were enormously physically violent and murderous, they were also masters of this kind of pervasive, all-consuming propaganda that people genuinely bought into.

Tom and Cochise, meanwhile, are preparing to go rescue Matt. Cochise explains that his surveillance drones discovered the camp almost by accident, and it's not too far from where they are now. While Tom wants Dan to stay, Dan insists that he has to go with him, to keep Tom from doing anything stupid. Thus, Hal is left in charge of getting the 2nd Mass up to fighting strength, which seems like it might be doomed to failure. The 2nd weren't soldiers, by and large, in the first place – after spending months going hungry in a prison camp, they almost certainly don't feel like being soldiers again.

Out on the road, something very fast moving is watching Tom, Dan and Cochise, and once again Dan detects it while nobody else does. Tom and Cochise are dismissive, because they apparently didn't watch three series of this show.

Wow, it's amazing how just the phrase 'Everything we grow here has a purpose' makes me roll my eyes and the parts of my brain that warn me against cults and scams light up. I'm talking, of course, about Alexis, who is currently trying to impress Anne. They go through the whole 'we're non-violent so the Espheni leave us alone' schtick and Anne seems unenthused, pointing out the Tibetans, for whom non-violence obviously didn't work … Hang on, has Tibet actually ever been a completely non-violent country at any point in its history? One second. 

"But Muuuum, Daquan tells me not to worry about historical

I actually can't find anything about it. I mean, most Tibetans are Buddhists, but Buddhism is not necessarily non-violent, as the Tendai Buddhists show us.

Anyway, Anthony arrives, being outraged about having to put down their guns or leave, and seemingly being as confused as the entirety of fandom is about Lourdes' behaviour. Seriously, that lass better still be brainwashed, because nothing she's doing makes sense if she isn't. Anne orders him to go outside the perimeter and set up camp there.

At the Volm-2nd Mass camp, Hal is figuring out where they can get water, food, and fuel, and asking any locals they have amongst them for help with that. They're helpful, but unfortunately the nearest fuel supply is beyond the perimeter of where they can go just yet. Pope, like all irritating people, is hanging around nearby ready to take umbrage to this, and after taunting Hal for a while eventually wanders off and steals a truck to go and get said fuel.

Why. If they're not moving yet, they don't need fuel yet, this is one thing that could have very easily waited. I swear, Pope is like a twelve year old school bully whose emotional growth ground to a rollicking halt just before the last few lessons of Year 7. All he seems to do is push for a reaction out of people, and when they don't give him the reaction he wants, he pushes harder, and he has no sense of the appropriate time, place, or situation for anything.

Is he meant to be some kind of rebel-without-a-cause figure? He's not, he's just very annoying. 

Ah, well, here's Hal being leader-y.

Tom, Cochise and Dan reach the re-education camp, which seems a lot less lively than usual. Cochise is swiftly and abruptly attacked by – whatever has been pursuing them, which mauls his face and poisons him. He enters his regenerative trance, and Dan admits that he thought he saw that creature several times before, to which Tom angrily asks why he didn't say anything. Well, Tom, as I recall, the last time he saw it you gossiped with Cochise instead of asking, so are you that surprised that he's maybe not in a sharing mood?

Hal meets up with – okay, what is this dude's name … Dingaan, okay. Hal meets with Dingaan, who has found the radio broadcast from Alexis' cult commune. It's Lourdes' voice, and even Hal seems a bit offput by Lourdes at the moment, which gives me hope that maybe she actually is brainwashed and everything will be fine. Things take another sour turn when the Volm start leaving, saying the Espheni have doubled down their search and will find and attack in twenty-four hours or less, meaning that the 2nd Mass can't stay and wait for Tom. Elsewhere, Pope has a scene with a charming woman, which I don't want to talk about, because I hate Pope and I find him unspeakably dull.

(As this is going on, Anne finds out the truth from Ben and Maggie, about Alexis meeting with an Espheni. Maggie wants to take a violent route, Ben wants to take a peaceful one, which I guess makes Anne the RPG protagonist choosing between two different moral choices here. She might get a different ending cutscene.)

Tom and Dan's infiltration of the re-education camp, meanwhile, goes horribly wrong when Tom, who let us not forget is a professor of history, apparently forgets what re-education camps are like and what they are for, and so foolishly tells a kid that he'll help them get out of there and then acts surprised when the kid calls the alarm. Okay, you and Dan openly compared this to the Hitler Youth earlier, and one of the big things the Hitler Youth did was convince children to sell out anybody they thought might even be slightly disloyal to the nation and regime, even when doing so would negatively affect said childrens' lives. Why are you surprised, this is your field of expertise, Tom.

Cool Rebellious Girl finds them and leads them to Matt, with Dan staying behind because he senses the black-blood poison skittercreature nearby. He gets to look suspicious for all of about six seconds before he gets grabbed and dragged into another room. Creepy Scout Leader finds Matt, and after some slightly suspect screaming about how he just wants to make Matt a man, tries to choke the poor lad. He gets cut off when Tom arrives and beats him up. 

There's something creepy about his facial expression.

Dingaan and Hal discuss family, inspirational sayings, and sports, and one line stood out to me 'That's violent by American standards,' from Hal, about Lacrosse, which really just drives in how much lower American standards of sporting violence are compared to the rest of the world ('American Football' is about as violent as Rugby, but with padding and armour, and Lacrosse is similar to hurling but about twenty times less violent), even though I think the line was meant to suggest the exact opposite. Anyway, the scene is supposed to be inspirational, and probably not make me slightly ship Dingaan and Hal. This is inevitably going to prompt Hal to go to Alexis' commune, too, which works for me. More people all back together in one place. 

Dingaan clearly just thinking 'Dude, American sports are not
violent at all.'

(Tom and Matt, meanwhile, escape with CRG's help – I suspect we will never see her again – while Dan realises that the poisonous human skitter is actually his daughter. She dies. It's tragic.)

Hal and the others are preparing to set off when Pope and Sara arrives and, to be honest, I'm liking Sara less and less. Maybe it's just because Hal is My Precious Babyfacekins, but her rant about how the job of – well, she says 'mayor' and 'sheriff', but she means 'leader' – doesn't exist any more rings entirely false. These roles – leader, fighter, gatherer, healer, etc - don't exist because of a coherent society – although the 2nd Mass is a coherent society in its own right – society forms naturally around those roles because humans are social animals who naturally clump together into groups, and who form de facto hierarchies even when they don't form de jure hierarchies.


Anne, Ben and Maggie find Lourdes outside Chinatown, and Anne explains that she's worried and doesn't trust the Espheni, which is reasonable enough. Anne's actually being very reasonable throughout this scene. The cloaked Espheni takes over Ben, using him to talk, and seems to suggest he's part of a separate faction of Espheni. The discussion sours rapidly when Anne realises that he's the Espheni who was hooked up to her when she was pregnant, and she orders Anthony to restrain him and take him prisoner. Alexis gets angry and starts unleashing her telekinesis and weather manipulation powers, and only stops when the Espheni uses Ben to tell her to stop. Ben, however, insists that he felt that the Espheni was lying throughout his entire speech so … so …

I do not even know what's going on any more.

Hal and the others set off, with Hal leaving a message for Tom in the form of historical reference – seems a bit of a risky move, we've established that Tom's grasp of history is shaky at best – while Dan finds Tom and a revived Cochise, telling them about Jeannie.

As the episode closes, the Espheni Warden reaches the farmhouse, and turns a handful of soil into a communication device that allows him to talk with Espheni Gandalf, apparently called Geminus, although that – doesn't actually seem to be a name, as the Espheni Warden refers to Gandalf by that term, and Gandalf refers to the Warden by it. These two are apparently in cahoots, if just barely, as they seem unable to stand each other on a personal level. 

Why are they having their conversation in hell?

So, with that, we are now one third of the way through the series, and much closer to getting all the characters in one place. So that's – that's good. I feel like this is possibly the most underwhelming episode so far, and it's the one that took the most struggle to get through for me.  

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