Friday, July 24, 2015

Mideason TV Reviews - Falling Skies and The Last Ship

The Last Ship's adversary in Season 2 are the 'Immunes' and their nuclear powered submarine!

  TNT’s Sunday Night post-apocalyptic summer seasons of ‘The Last Ship’ and ‘Falling Skies’ are at the halfway point of their seasons and I haven’t missed an episode. Last month I wrote about how much I like ‘The Last Ship’ and the four episodes since haven’t changed my opinion in the slightest. After taking back their ship in the two hour season premiere, the crew of the US Nathan James spent episode three searching for their families and making contact with secret government laboratories set up to produce and the cure to the deadly virus plaguing that the crew created in season one. Episode four saw the crew back at sea and battling a trained military outfit on a hospital ship. In episode five the trained military outfit was revealed to be from a nuclear powered submarine that engaged the Nathan James in a game of cat and mouse that ended with the sub wiping out all the government laboratories with their nuclear missiles. In episode six we find out the submarine commander and crew are part of the 5% of the population that is naturally immune to the virus. The ‘Immunes’ are bent on establishing a new world order run by them. Their plan does not include curing those not immune to the virus which is why they rained nuclear destruction on the government laboratories. Niels (the man who invented the virus and is an immune carrier of the disease) has thrown his lot with the Immunes, helping out by infecting camps of survivors merely by being present and weeding out the true Immunes when they don’t catch the disease and die within days. Captain Chandler has led an away team to the Florida Everglades where they have infiltrated the ‘Immunes’ and discovered one of their number is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and by succession the President of the United States!

The Last Ship sends out an 'away' team very reminiscent of the original Star Trek!

  In my opinion ‘The Last Ship’ is the best show in television. Each episode is tightly focused on a direct mission while each mission is woven together into the upcoming final battle with the ‘Immunes’ and the nuclear powered submarine. The show has enough action and tension to keep me watching and very little of inane ‘character development’ that would drive me away. I am a believer in the saying ‘Adversity doesn’t build character – it reveals it’ and by putting the characters in adverse situations they get to show their character or lack thereof far more than scenes that do nothing but let the characters emote. The ratings for the show have held steady at three million viewers a week in season two which is down 33% from last year but still a considerable number. The special effects and large ensemble cast may make this show too expensive to renew. I’m hoping for at least another season of this engrossing show.

Some of the epic alien battles from the first four seasons of Falling Skies.

  While ‘The Last Ship’ is trying to start a long run, ‘Falling Skies’ is in the planned final season of its five year alien invasion saga. This show was one of my favorites until the third season when it started to become a disjointed mess of plot lines that had to be hurriedly resolved at the end of each season. Last season was more of the same with our heroes, the militia of the 2nd Mass, losing the assistance of their alien Volm allies with a throwaway line of dialogue at the beginning of the season and ending the season with the resistance leader Tom Mason flying a suicide mission to the moon with his alien powered daughter to take out the invading Espheni power generating facility. The season ended with Tom lost in space while season five starts with Mason having a hallucination while his ship crash lands in a body of water close by to the 2nd Mass camp. The explanation for this implausible continuation is being revealed in an excruciatingly slow fashion and like other plot leaps in past episodes will likely be swept under the run and forgotten about.

A terrifying scene with genetically altered bugs!

  Somehow our hardy band of alien fighters has been completely rearmed with more weaponry than they ever had at any point in the series. With Mason’s moon mission successfully knocking out the invading Espheni moon based power supply the 2nd Mass is trying to take the fight to the aliens with the help of 300 militias around the world that are communicating using Volm technology. I was expecting episodes of our heroes slowly taking back their planet but the 2nd Mass is having the same struggles for food, gasoline, and vehicles that they have had throughout the series. Instead of fighting off the Espheni mechanical weaponry (which have no power), the 2nd Mass has been fighting biologically altered creatures that resemble hornets.

  While the 2nd Mass fights off the hornets, Mason is still hallucinating but has discovered his hallucinations are communications from the extra dimensional Dornian race. This has taken up about a minute of each episode. Instead of an alien battle, the focus has turned to a showdown between Mason and his arch rival Pope. Pope is the bad boy rebel of the 2nd Mass with a sketchy past but found his place with the resistance and even a love interest in Sarah, a former pill-popper. Pope and Sarah were on a scouting raid in episode 3 when Sarah got caught in an Espheni trap. Pope headed back to camp to get help but Mason was taking the truck on a raid to kill the hornet creature and refused to delay the mission to help Sarah. When Sarah was gruesomely half eaten by aliens, Pope snapped.

With aliens of all shapes and sizes to choose from the focus of the final season of Falling Skies is a kidnapping better left for a cop show like Blue Bloods!

  So instead of fighting the aliens in the final season of Falling Skies, we are treated to the annual vendetta between Pope and Mason. Pope kidnapped Mason’s wife in episode four but let her go after five minutes of pontificating which included showing him shaving his head (Pope had long hair that would make a biker jealous). As soon as Pope let Mason’s wife go he kidnapped his son Hal and the preview of episode five is yet another confrontation between Pope and Mason. Even if this is the final episode in the five year vendetta I would much prefer seeing humans battle aliens and leave the good guy/bad guy confrontations to police dramas.

  Pope and Mason have been feuding for four seasons and in season five are still at it. This is the problem with the show in a nutshell. There is an alien invasion, genetically altered creatures roaming the land devouring humans, members of the resistance with alien powers, and plenty of unexplored storylines. Yet the show is stuck rehashing the same conflict from four seasons ago. There are six episodes in the series – not the season – the series. After next week’s battle between Mason and Pope there will be five episodes left. I’m sure the final episode or two if the series will be as rushed as the last three season finales as the showrunners finally realize there’s only an episode or two to wrap up all the loose ends.

  Falling Skies started out as a blockbuster with five million viewers a week. The viewership has slowly dwindled to fewer than 2 million viewers per episode this season. The show is ending this year and like my previous favorite show ‘Burn Notice’ has run out of steam. As disappointing as this season has been so far I’m hanging on as one of the two million viewers to see how it ends but if it wasn’t following ‘The Last Ship’ I wouldn’t make it to the end.