Friday, September 11, 2015

TV Review - Falling Skies Series Finale

At it's best, Falling Skies could be more terrifying than The Walking Dead!

  The post-apocalyptic Falling Skies ended its five year series on TNT two weeks ago, ending its five year run detailing the struggles of humanity in general and Tom Mason of the 2nd Mass militia in particular as they fought the alien invasion of the Espheni. This show was one of my favorites when I started watching it in season two but seemed to lose its way in season three as it focused so much on a nation and worldwide fight against the aliens and the political intrigue of starting a new government that the alien fighting action was rushed through with the help of inane plot devices like post-apocalyptic completely functional railroads tracks with locomotives, barges and sailboats traveling undetected through the Atlantic Ocean from South Carolina to Boston, and Mason’s newborn daughter exhibiting strange powers as well as aging at the rate of three years per month.

  Season four was a science fiction version of 'Hogan’s Heroes' as our intrepid heroes found themselves in prison camps and reeducation centers but somehow managed to derail the Espheni plans for world domination by restoring an enemy spaceship and sending it moon-bound on a kamikaze to destroy the Espheni power core with Mason being ‘Lost In Space’ at the end of the season.

  I didn’t have high hopes for season five and I wasn’t disappointed. Tom Mason was rescued from his spaceship and brought back to his family on earth by the last surviving member of the Dornian race who appears to him in the form of his late first wife. Instead of the season being a final battle between the humans and their extra-terrestrial allies against the crippled Espheni forces the season focused on the never ending battle between schoolteacher turned warrior Mason and his biker-felon antitheses John Pope and the love triangle between Mason’s two sons (Ben and Hal) and Maggie the rebel girl. Pope had seemingly become a valued member of the 2nd Mass but became unglued after the death of his girlfriend and decided to take it out on Mason. In one episode Pope shaves his head and kidnaps Mason’s son. In the next episode Pope has a shootout with Mason and is shot and seemingly killed. Two episodes later Pope leads an assault on the 2nd Mass headquarters only to be seemingly blown to bits when Mason explodes a nearby gas truck, etc.., etc… Meanwhile Maggie, Hal, and Ben try to sort out their feelings weekly which is complicated by Maggie being implanted with some of Ben’s extraterrestrial spikes (that give him extra strength and stamina along with the potential of being controlled by the Espheni) to cure her paralysis in season four which gives her a extraterrestrial connection to Ben.

  With all the Pope vs. Mason and love triangle developments there was little time in the ten episode season for very much alien combat and even less when one of the episodes was used to show Mason taken away by an alien hornet and dumped on a nearby farm inhabited by a family that had no knowledge of the alien invasion! Luckily with two episodes left it was the last Dornian to the rescue as she gave Mason a large glow stick containing a biological weapon that would kill the entire Espheni race as long as it was delivered to the Espheni queen who just happened to be heading to Lincoln Memorial. Why would the leader of an alien race head to a war zone planet whose power core had been blown up at the end of the last season? I can only surmise that the Lincoln Memorial is THE place for alien invading queens to be this summer. 20 minutes into the last episode, the 2nd Mass finally makes it to the Lincoln Memorial and search the hidden tunnels under the city for the Espheni queen. With 40 minutes to go in the series we find out that Mason’s current wife Anne is pregnant, and the two season long love triangle is resolved in five seconds when Hal proposes in the tunnels, Maggie accepts, and Hal’s new love interest Isabella (introduced jut 5 episodes prior) is never heard from again.

The long awaited final battle. Good thing Mason took his magic glow stick along.

  After more underground tunnel explorations and some explosions that separate the group, Tom Mason is captured by the Espheni queen who is a giant egg laying spider that looks nothing like any of the other Espheni fish-head creatures that have been shown throughout the five season run. Like all villains who are about to kill the hero of the story seem to do the Espheni Queen gives the inevitable speech to explain her actions. The queen tells Mason through a Vulcan type mind meld how she sent her daughter to capture Earth 1,500 years before but the earthlings beat back the invasion and killed her daughter and she vowed to take revenge with 1,000 times the invasion force.

  So there we have it – the real reason for the alien invasion explained in 40 seconds. This could have been years of stories to uncover how the people of the Dark Ages had beaten back an alien invasion and trying to unearth whatever weapon had been used to score the victory. Since there was only 15 minutes left in the series Mason unleashed his glow stick, the queen exploded, and every Espheni overlord and monster burst into fireworks over Washington.

  With the planet saved, the show then reverted to what it had been for the last season – a showdown between Mason and the often left for dead Pope. Mason gets back to the rest of the 2nd Mass only to discover his current wife Anne has been killed fighting the Espheni. Mason brings his dead wife’s body to the last Dornian in her ship near the ocean. While the Dornian grabs Anne in her tentacles, Pope comes out of nowhere with a gun pointed right at Tom Mason. In a fitting penultimate scene Pope makes a speech about how he doesn’t feel as good as he thought about Tom’s wife dying and offers Mason his gun. Mason declines the offer to shoot his arch enemy and the show closes with a grand party in Washington to celebrate humanity’s new beginning with one lasspeech by Tom Mason and as a bonus his wife is alive and still pregnant. Falling Skies was my favorite TV show after Burn Notice over its first two and a half seasons and much like Burn Notice it staggered to the finish line. I liked the show best when the humans and aliens batted in close quarters for relatively small stakes. My favorite episode was season two’s ‘Molon Labe’ in which the 2nd Mass. captures an Espheni overlord and are confronted by the Espheni from the front and their flesh eating beetles from the rear of the hospital they had been camped out in. Another favorite was season three’s ‘Journey to Xibalba’ where the crew is trapped in an underground mall in Charleston and the season long hunt for the Espheni mole came to a conclusion.

I thought Seasons 1 and 2 of Falling Skies were its best work...

  The humans were never a match for the Espheni invasion and were continuously bailed out by not one but two rival alien races for much of the final three seasons. Having the 2nd Mass as a guerilla force against an overwhelming alien force gave plenty of scope for alien fights, new alien creatures like the mind controlling earworms of season two, the flesh and metal eating bugs of season three, and even the genetically modified human-aliens of subsequent seasons. The larger missions were so out of scope for the group that the writers had to resort to extraterrestrial gimmickry and belief suspending plot devices to make them even barely believable. As the seasons went along the missions got grander and grander which would have been awesome had they been well executed instead of the mish-mash of storylines the series ended up becoming. The series finale was a fitting conclusion indicative of the series – a rushed final battle along with a rush to wrap up as many loose storylines as possible.

  I was happy that humans won the war and the 2nd Mass was relatively unscathed. I won’t miss the show but I can see myself watching some of my favorite episodes on Netflix or Amazon Prime, especially the ones featuring Will Patton as Colonel Dan Weaver. Patton has been one of my favorite actors since his epic performance as Quentin Glass in the 2004 Punisher movie and he played his role as the hard bitten never say die military leader to perfection. I was pleased that one of the many plotlines that was forgotten about was his need for heart medication at the end of season two.

The final speech in a show that had too many of them.