Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Falling Skies Final Exam - Burn Notice Midterm

  It was only two months ago that I wrote about the season premieres of ‘Falling Skies’ and ‘Burn Notice’ and during that span Falling Skies finished its season last week while Burn Notice has just 4 episodes left in its seven year run.

  Falling Skies had slightly lower ratings this year but was the top show on cable among the coveted 18-49 and 25-54 year old crowd and was renewed in July for a fourth season which will be 12 episodes instead of the ten episode runs of the first three seasons.

  Season 3 of Falling Skies saw the beleaguered band of survivors of the alien invasion set up camp in Charleston, South Carolina and in what I can only think of as a cost saving move had most of the episodes set in the confines of the city as the capital of the new United States of America. This season had a lot of drama and great subplots. Main character (freedom fighter and president) Tom Mason’s wife Anne gave birth to a baby that was part human and part alien while his oldest son Hal was taken over by an alien earworm and delivered his wife and child to the alien leadership. One of the cast regulars was also taken over by a colony of alien earworms and managed to convey enemy information, bomb the Charleston headquarters, and assassinate the real President of the United States.

  While the soap opera elements of the show were engrossing, there was very little actual alien combat in the season. The first five minutes of the season had a battle against the invading alien’s ‘Mega-Mech’, one episode showed Tom Mason and the renegade Pope battling some ‘skitters’ but except for those few scenes the crux of the alien-human conflict was reduced to alien espionage and the construction of the mega weapon by the human’s alien allies, the ‘Volm’. The eighth episode of the season, entitled ‘Strange Brew’ was an attempt by Karen (human turned alien leader) to get information from the captured Tom Mason by creating a reality in his mind where the alien attack had never happened. While this was the most interesting episode of the season, it also underscored the lack of action throughout this year’s edition.

  To go along with the non-action was a stunning glossing over of detail. The ‘Strange Brew’ episode takes place in the Boston headquarters of the alien encampment. After escaping from Karen and leaving Boston on foot at the end of the episode, the next episode begins with Tom sailing into Charleston on a small boat! Where did he get this boat and how did he make it down the Atlantic Ocean to Charleston undetected by the alien hordes? Amazing, but this was nothing compared to the next episodes season finale. We went from having the Volm weapon buried by the mole’s explosion at the end of the previous episode to seeing the weapon set on top of a giant frigate sailing into Boston Harbor while Captain Weaver leads a diversionary force hurtling to Chicago on a speeding locomotive! After spending two seasons scrambling for enough gas to fuel whatever vehicles the survivors could manage to salvage and taking to horseback for the third season, not only was a working locomotive and frigate found with enough fuel to make it to Chicago and Boston, but a train route from Charleston to Chicago was somehow left untouched by the invaders and the larger than a house Volm weapon was unearthed, brought to the Charleston seaport, and mounted to a frigate!

  The end of the third season didn’t have a cliffhanger – Karen the evil alien was executed, Anne and baby Alexis (who was born in the season premiere and is now six years old with alien powers) are recovered, and the 2nd Mass is back on the move after refusing the Volm’s offer to be relocated to Brazil to wait out the end of the war. A new producer will be taking over next year and with 12 episodes to work with instead of 10, hopefully next season won’t contain as many gaps in logic. The show still remains one of my favorites with excellent acting and a fun premise, but the storytelling was well below par this season.

  Two months ago I complained about how Burn Notice had lost its sense of humor somewhere around the time main character (ex-CIA spy) Michael Westen, returned to the CIA and the seasons long quest to find his brother’s killer left no time for the ‘con-man’ side jobs I enjoyed so much. This current season has Michael working for the CIA in return for his freedom and that of his friends and family in deep cover infiltrating the terrorist network of a rougue Black Ops soldier named James. The mission has led Michael from the Dominican Republic to Cuba, where he freed a Russian terrorist, and back to Miami where his friends have been recruited into the terrorist network.

  Even though this final season is darker than any of the past ones, I am enjoying the show more than I have in quite some time. The side jobs have been removed from the show which was a good move since there wasn’t enough time to devote to them since the main plot lines shifted to CIA work. Except for a few annoyingly obligatory minutes spent each week with Westen’s mother and nephew, his CIA undercover operation has taken center stage and this season’s episodes have become much more focused on the current mission.

  It’s a shame that Burn Notice has successfully reinvented itself only in time for its last season. The series will end on September 12th and there hasn’t been any clue as to how the characters will end up. Terrorist James appeared to be a likeable character who had been displaying himself as a Robin Hood sort of figure by going after the sort of evil characters that the CIA in the show habitually finds itself allied with as the ‘lesser of two evils’. I thought Westen was going to split from the CIA and join James at seasons end until James killed one of his operatives in cold blood in front of the team for a disappointing performance on a mission. Now I’m thinking that Westen will find a way to have his team, family, the terrorists, and the CIA convinced he is dead and make a new life with the Russian operative he rescued at the beginning of the series. There is no way to know how the series will end but having recaptured my interest, I’ll be glued to my TV for the last 4 episodes.

No comments: