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Monday, 4 August 2014

Falling Skies S4E7: Saturday Night Massacre.

Does this episode take place on a Saturday night, though.

Does it.

Falling Skies
S4E7: Saturday Night Massacre. 

As the episode starts, Alexis emerges from the cocoon with little delay, with a lot of light and smoke to mark the end of her metamorphosis. Good news: She's not overtly murderous and slaughtering everyone around as her, as Shaq the Volm predicted. Bad news: She's decided, rather out of the blue, that humans are inherently warlike and that there will never be peace, so she should probably just abandon them outright.

On her way out, she's surrounded by Pope and his gang, giving Lourdes enough time to catch up and plead with Alexis to take her along, saying she can't go on without her. Alexis' response is 'Shall I set you free?' which has never heralded anything good ever, but which Lourdes seems to cheerfully agree to.

"I immediately regret this decision."

Naturally, this ends in death, and when Pope tries to stop Alexis, he finds himself promptly controlled to swing around and point his gun at someone else. So, that's Lourdes gone, I suppose. What a criminally misused character, especially this series.

After the title card, Hal and Anne briefly eulogise Lourdes in a scene that would have felt more sincere if the writers hadn't been methodically gutting her character this series. Hal's angry at Tom, pointing out that he warned them all, and bizarrely, Tom's response is 'SHE ARE STILL FAMILIES' , much to Hal's completely justified disgust. This scene carries an undertone – although only really an undertone, as Tom notes a moment later that his desire to always protect his family isn't healthy, albeit in a way that feels more like 'crisis of confidence' than 'genuine realisation' – of 'Hal is wrong, family is more important than anything', which just makes Lourdes' death seems even cheaper, since Anne and Tom are prioritising shared genes (and that's their only real relation to Alexis, remember, since they haven't been there for the majority of her life) over the death of a young woman.

Anne argues that Alexis is under the influence of the Espheni, which she may be, but this is an argument that's been circling the Agents of Shield fandom for a while now: Whether being under the influence of another person or persons absolves you of responsibility for your actions (along with whether joining the Nazis makes you a Nazi – I'm sorry, AoS fandom, but it's true, that is an argument you are having). I don't think it does. The show seems to be taking a different tack. A wrong tack, if you will.

They try to talk to Kadar, Doctor of Zoology, but it's difficult when every time he says something even remotely anti-Alexis, Anne interrupts him. He says that he can't say if she's being controlled, but he can say that the metamorphosis changed her at the cellular level to something more like an Espheni, but that he doesn't see how that would explain the personality changes.

(Doesn't it? Because different species do act differently – humans do not act like bunnies do not act like wasps, and if she's become more Espheni, surely she could be exhibiting Espheni personality traits.)

They're called away by an emergency, that emergency being that Anthony – why is it always Anthony who has to suffer for the plot? - has been found by a returning Cochise. Anthony and another character were attacked and captured, Anthony relates, and brought before the Espheni Warden, who set the other character on fire before letting Anthony go. Tom's quick to figure out the obvious: That this is payback now that Alexis isn't protecting Chinatown, and an invasion is soon to follow.

They formulate a strategy involving having Cochise and his Volm blow up a bridge, and then forcing the Espheni forces into a chokepoint with smoke pots, people shooting, mines and – potentially, suggested by Anne – thermite.

Pope and Sara also have a scene. Good good, that's enough coverage of that, then.

Maggie and Ben also have a Moment, and my skin crawls. In said moment, Ben says that he's going on recon, but after a little prompting from Matt, he admits that he's going after Alexis. Hal and Maggie also have a Moment, but it's a little less sickening to me: Hal says that if a person ever seems to be under the influence of the Espheni, they should be killed, something that Maggie notably did not do when she knew Hal was being Espheni'd. When she says this, he points out that if she had, Alexis would be a normal human. What he oddly doesn't mention is that if she had, Lourdes might have never been eye-wormed, since we know that the eye worms were passed from Hal to her.

Maggie takes a slightly different tack than Hal's 'love is bad' viewpoint: That love is good, and they should kill all the Espheni. Which, you know. Swings and roundabouts.

It's all good.

After a cute conversation between Dingaan and and Deni (BrOTP) about music, the Espheni Warden's army arrives. Pope delicately plants death flags on Sara's face, while Dingaan tries to convince some of the cultists, who are kneeling in supplication in the belief that the Espheni will spare them, to get behind the barricade. Why is nobody holding Alexis to account for this, actually? She didn't set up this cult, as far as we know, but she did encourage it, frequently and vocally, and surround herself with the iconography of a religious figure to allow said cultish feelings to ferment and grow. Moreover, she did this before her cocoon-wrought personality change. If these people die because they knelt down to the Espheni thinking they would be saved, it'll be Alexis' fault.

Which they do. They do all die.

This is on you, Alexis.

In an impressive scene, Maggie lights the thermite paper lanterns, raining down fiery melty death on the first wave of mechs. More fire follows, as a broken gas pipe explodes, taking out humans and skitters. Mira Sorvino puts in a short but excellent performance, although I wasn't entirely sure if Sara is dying or not, while Hal searches for Maggie, who'd best not be dead, mark my words. Hal keeps searching for her, while Anne comes and tells them that everyone at the barricade is dead.

Bit of a Les Mis moment there.

In an entirely un-Les Mis moment, Ben finds Alexis, and tries to urge her to return with him and stop the fighting, saying that before the war, Tom, Matt, Hal and Anne had been peaceful, snuggly people who were soft like bunnies. Her counter-argument is to take control of him through his spikes and lead him towards a spaceship. I think she won that argument.

Back at Chinatown, it's decided that the only way they're going to survive this battle is by shuffling into the fallout shelter and making the Espheni think they're all dead. Dan finds Kadar, Doctor of Geology, in his clinic, collecting Alexis' blood samples, and realises – before Kadar does, I'll note – that he's been impaled by a shard of glass. Anne comes to help while I scream 'ARE YOU A DOCTOR OF SURVIVNG IMPALEMENT, TOO, ROGER?' at the screen.


Kadar dies, urging Tom and Anne to save Alexis as he goes. He also says that Alexis has the same colour eyes as his daughter, to which my only response can be 'Well, not anymore she doesn't.' It's a shame, really: Kadar was one of my favourite characters on this show, for all that I mocked his omnidisciplinary science powers.

Tom decides that while the others are hiding, he's going to kill the Espheni Warden, rather than letting the trained sniper who volunteered do it. Instead, he commands said sniper to teach him how to do it: Because sniping is a skill you can teach in ten minutes, right? It's not one of the most highly trained jobs in the military that only people of an extraordinarily level-headed disposition – which you, Tom, are not – are allowed to do.

Tector teaches Tom roughly how to use it, but says he'll never be able to make the shot while he's so emotional. Tom pushes on anyway, and Tector sends him to get some oil to clean the rifle.

Pope and Sara arrive at the shelter, as does Hal, although he wants to leave as soon as he sees Maggie isn't down there. I notice Dingaan stays outside the shelter: He better not die.

The Espheni forces arrive, with the Espheni Warden amongst them, and a masked figure takes the shot. It bounces off his neckplate, and in response he summons aircraft to bomb said masked sniper, only to have that aircraft promptly taken out by Cochise and his forces outside the city. It's all for nothing, though, as skitters corner the sniper, who pulls off his mask and reveals himself to have, predictably, been Tector all along. He's also strapped a bomb to his chest, which he promptly detonates. The Espheni Warden finds Tector's burnt-to-unrecognisability body and seems to assume he's Tom.

"I see no reason to confirm this."

As we get a slow panning view of the various dead characters, we see Maggie, buried under rubble but seemingly alive. So that's – good. If it lasts. I don't trust this show.

Oddly, this episode left me – unsatisfied. Had the Espheni Warden died, I might have been happier, but as it is, it just felt like a very lacklustre episode to me. Alexis is evil now, which is a pretty major change, and no less than three characters are dead, one of whom has been a recurring or regular character since the very first episode, so it's not as if there was no movement on the plot. It just didn't feel like a very striking episode to me.

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