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Monday, 25 August 2014

Falling Skies S4E10: Drawing Straws.

Ben/Maggie blogs keep being recommended to me by tumblr.

I feel like there has been an error.

Falling Skies
S4E10: Drawing Straws.

I feel like my enthusiasm for Falling Skies has waned in the past few weeks. I'm enjoying it, but my excitement for it seems to pale in comparison to Teen Wolf, Kamen Rider Gaim or Aldnoah.Zero. That, combined with a certain persistent lack of focus the past week, meant that when this episode started I spent a lot of time blinking and going 'what's going on, who are these people, who am I.'

We open on Alexis having a bad dream, which is probably meant to indicate that she's conflicted over the terrible things that she's doing but probably more likely means that she just ate some cheese before she went to bed (the British Cheese Board insists that cheese doesn't actually cause bad dreams, but I am entirely unconvinced by this. Do you have an agenda, British Cheese Board. Do you).

Back in Chinatown, everyone's trying to figure out how to get the beamer working. They're not having more success, although Cochise theorises that he has a one-in-three chance of being able to direct the beamer to fly to the Espheni homing beacon automatically, allowing the others to hitch a ride. Matt, meanwhile, is going through a teenage rebellious phase that literally seemed to set in this very episode, which prompts him too foolishly clamber up into the currently-hovering alien spacecraft looming over a populated area and fiddle about in its controls.

Good job, Matt.

Disaster is miraculously avoided, and he gets it to move slightly, giving Dingaan and Cochise a chance to start figuring out how it works. While searching for the signal of the Espheni beacon, though, they accidentally come across another transmission in Spanish.

Back with Alexis, she is receiving her training from Espheni Gandalf. It's all to do with gravity, specifically that gravity is the most pervasive force in the universe (true, it is the weakest but most omnipresent of the four fundamental forces), and that Alexis can control it and all the other forces of the universes, which pretty much makes her a god. For her first training session, Alexis has to reverse the pull of gravity on a tree, turning it into a push. This, it seems, makes the tree explode in dramatic fashion, also causing a fair amount of damage to the surrounding area.

Gandalf Espheni is impressed, but Alexis is more interested in knowing whether she'll eventually be able to make a star with her powers. I'd say 'what a specific question', but stars are very pretty, and if you want to demonstrate power, creating a star is a pretty sure-fire way of doing so.

What a trustworthy face.

The Espheni Warden is watching on, though, and he seems less than pleased.

The transmission that the 2nd Mass received is, apparently, somebody from Spain telling people that the Espheni have a new weapon and that they're emptying the ghettos, and that naybody surviving should go to ground. Apparently they know it's legitimate because it was broadcast at 1776 megahurtz, the year of the American independence – because, obviously, that would be a date that Spanish people would know or care about, and the Espheni, masters of strategy that they are, would be unable to figure out that Tom's constant monologues about the American Revolution might mean that he has some kind of attachment to it.

Jesus, this show's love affair with a minor territory dispute between genocidal English people.

A few people say that they should hide, and Maggie and Pope both suggest attacking some ghettos and freeing the people, but Tom insists that they're going to the Moon instead. When asked who will pilot the beamer, Tom, naturally, says himsef. Defending your main character status to the end, I see, Tom. Don't bother letting Cochise, who is experienced in alien technology, or Dingaan, who is a genius engineer, or Hal, who is very competent with vehicles do it. Clearly you, a history professor, are the man for the job. 

Those are the faces of convinced people who are on board
with this plan.

It turns out that actually Cochise is going on the mission as well, as Tom mentions when Anne berates him for constantly making unilateral decisions, which does come off as a bit – ninety-second verse, same as the first, if you catch my meaning. Except Cochise can't go on the mission, we discover a moment later, because the beamer may have a defence system that will reject anything Volm, and this might cause issues.

Tom will have to pilot the beamer all on his own then, because of course he will, and they set themselves to figuring out how to do that.

(Ben, meanwhile, tries to explain to Hal that The Spikes Made Him Do It. Hal is unconvinced.)

The next scene baffles and alarms me. The 2nd Mass, vexed with Tom just deciding that he's doing the mission, want a fairer way of deciding who does it, and for some reason, some bizarre reason, take Matt's suggestion of 'draw straws'. Even Dan, Anne and Anthony – a soldier, a doctor, and a police officer respectively, who should know better, think this is a better idea than, say, drawing up a list of everyone's relevant skills and then voting on it. Can you imagine how that would have worked out in their chosen professions?

'Okay, Doctor Smith, you've been here for literally a week and your expertise is in psychiatric care, but unfortunately, the straws have picked you to do Mister Gregson's open heart surgery. Sorry, I don't make the rules. Hail the bountiful straws.'

You killed Mister Gregson, Matt.

Anne puts her name in the basket – good job, Anne, I'm sure if the beamer requires medical care everyone will be glad you stepped up to the plate – and it's implied that Hal and Ben put theirs in, too. Matt wants to, but Tom tells him no, for the perfectly rational reason that Matt is thirteen. Matt's protest is that Joan of Arc was thirteen when she went into the battle, which seems like a bit of a stretch, as Joan of Arc was never operating complicated machinery.

I mean, except in Nobunaga the Fool.

(Espheni Gandalf and Espheni Warden meet in the communication stone hellscape, meanwhile, and discuss their plans for Alexis. The Espheni Warden wants her dead, and in their discussion of this they reveal that they're not interested in peace and that Espheni Gandalf has a way of controlling Alexis if he has to – of course, Alexis is listening in on this.)

In the run-up to the straw drawing, Maggie and Hal have a scene where Maggie tries to explain that she's not actually interested in Ben, the spikes are, and Hal doesn't believe her either. Wow, kind of acting like a douche there, Hal. Dan and Pope also have a scene, where Pope reveals that he's taken Dan and Tom's names out of the draw, and that he really wants to go on the mission, as it is essentially a suicide mission.

You know, Pope actually can fly a plane. He's not a bad choice for this mission.

Tom draws the names, and the first one is Ben while, it seems, the second one is his own. As Pope and Dan both know, this is impossible: Tom's name was removed from the draw. But, hey, at least it's not Ben and Maggie, I might have just stopped watching.

Pope looks like he doesn't know whether to punch Tom or build
a shrine to him.

Espheni Gandalf, at another training session, moves to strangle Alexis while she's concentrating. He fails, as she turns her powers on him, explaining that she heard his conversation, and that she's the bringer of death, shortly before vapourising him.

After some prompting from Tom, Hal goes to see Ben, only to find Ben and Maggie engaging in spike-influenced making out, because of course they are. I hate this storyline, guys. I hate this storyline so much.

Who thought this was a good idea?

The next day, Ben and Tom prepare to head off to the Moon, and Hal reconciles with Ben – sort of. Before the launch can happen, though, Dingaan arrives, saying that something is coming and they have to delay the launch. Frankly, I'd call that a reason to start the launch as soon as possible just in case it's a beamer coming to blow your beamer up, but never mind.

It turns out, in fact, to be lots of beamers, coming to kill them all, but before they can get close, they all explode. Predictably, this is due to Alexis, who has returned to Chinatown, presumably to be an ally to them now.

Looking like you came from a high fantasy novel there, Alexis.

There was some good plot movement on this episode, which is always nice, but a lot of it grated for me. The entire drawing straws thing. The whole Maggie-Ben storyline. I really hate those parts, I do.

Next week is the finale, an eighty minute long extravaganza. I really don't know how I'm going to review that. It might end up split into two parts: One on Monday and one on Thursday, with the master post then going up on Friday. Or it might just be a very long review.

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