FALLING SKIES: "Badlands" (Season 3, Episode 3)

Flabbergasted

Nice opening sequence this time. Some potentially intriguing developments wrapped in standard “humanity on the edge angst.” All in all, better than the stupid paint-by-the-cliches attack on that nuclear reactor last week, but it’s still not up to what better moments this show has had. They seem to be trying to find their conceptual footing this season.

The opening consists of Matt running supplies to troops manning the outskirts of Charleston. It all looks appropriately rubbleized. They’re awaiting the Espheni attack predicted by both the rebel Skitters and the Volm last week. Pope is reasonably funny as Matt brings him cinnamon buns. We also get to see Pope’s group through the sights of a sniper scope.

They actually pull off a decent piece of misdirection, too. When Crazy Lee heads off by herself, Pope reminds her to wear her damn tires. She slips on a bulletproof vest made of cutup tires. Kinda’ neat in a rubbleized sort of way. So when the sniper shoots her, we’re thinking the vest saved her. And it would have. It stopped the bullet. Only when she got knocked over a piece of rebar penetrated her skull.

That’s nasty. And not clichéd. Feels brutally realistic, some dramatic payoff for all those rubble shots.

A firefight starts between the sniping folk and our heroes. While that goes on, Pope is trying to saw the rebar with a hacksaw so they can get Crazy Lee to a doctor. Now that’s gritty no matter how you slice it. Or hacksaw it.

So far so good. The first discordant note sounds when Tom hears about the firefight at command central. He personally, the President of Charleston, must go out on the front lines to see what’s happening. That’s both an abandonment of his actual responsibilities and the sign of a grotesque micro manager. After all, what if this was the long awaited Espheni attack? Well, too damn bad because the Charleston government has just decapitated itself.

Another interesting twist occurs moments later. When they kill one of their enemy, the corpse isn’t just human. It’s a U.S. Army soldier. That’s two good misdirection ploys in fifteen minutes. They’re at least trying to write a credible show this week.

On the down side? That would be the dumb star baby and Dr. Glass, who has become unforgivably dreary. The week or two old baby not only talks these days. It stands in its crib as well. But it will only do tricks for Mommy, so everyone thinks Mommy is suffering from post-partum depression. It’s all as boring as it sounds. Especially since we know the baby is a freak. They even give that away in the previews for next week: “It’s got alien DNA!”

Surprise, surprise. Although, as the only alien freely roaming Charleston, perhaps our Volm friend Cochise has some explaining to do. An interstellar Jerry Springer show, anyone?

That was a joke. I hope.

They capture the sniper, who turns out to be a First Lieutenant in what remains of the actual army. She even works for the still surviving President of the United States, some guy named Benjamin Hathaway. Another potentially intriguing development, except if that’s so, why exactly was she sniping humans?

I mean, they’d had the outskirts of Charleston under surveillance. Presumably they’d learned whatever they were going to learn at present. Why not just report back? And even if you think the humans are collaborators because you saw Skitters, why would you just randomly shoot a human and get yourself blown to hell? That’s not really good scouting technique.

Hal and Maggie confessed their devotion to each other in a dreary manner. Hal wanted to turn himself in as the mole, presuming the evil Karen is controlling him, but Maggie talked him out of it. She says people will hate him, so he better be sure.

??????

I mean, sure, they may hate him. But they’d hate him a lot less for turning himself in as soon as he suspects the truth than they will if he is the mole and kills some more people after his initial suspicions. Right now it would be a show of good faith. And he is the President’s son, so he’s got more going for him than the average brain-controlled mole.

Anyway, he’s not the mole. It’s too obvious at this point, even for this show.

Crazy Lee dies back in Charleston. Later, they all finish building a big memorial tree made out of rubbles. Then they sing. It’s veering a little too close to self-parody when the Espheni, their aesthetic sensibilities apparently offended by blatant gestures, finally launch their attack. Right in the middle of the tree ceremony.

Everyone’s a critic.

On a totally unrelated plus, however, I saw Man of Steel this week. It was pretty good.

Will conservatives like this?

Maybe. The military stuff is reasonably diverting. The post-partum depression/star baby stuff is embarrassing. Glass half full, or glass half empty?

Just remember, Man of Steel is a glass close to full.

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