Falling Skies: "Death March" (Season 2, Episode 8) through "A More Perfect Union" (Season 2, Episode 10)

Flabbergasted

The 2nd Season has been better than the first, but I won’t lie. These last three episodes, taken together, are a bit of a disappointment. It feels lazy and tired, like they ran out of gas. The first episode is simply bad, the second one okay, and the last one more dumb than not. At times the writing this season the writing really pepped up, but the home stretch ain’t one of them.

“Death March”

Overview: And boy is it a long march, one clunky, talky attempt at a character study that goes boringly awry. Oh, and Charleston sucks until it doesn’t. This episode is a serious let down after some of the recent momentum.

Let’s see. Tom remembers one of the show’s high points to date, his emotional farewell with Ben. And then Matt comes to talk.

Maggie and Hal and Pope are scouting up ahead. And they talk.

Captain Weaver and Tector are driving in another truck. They talk.

We run across another harnessed kid, this time a girl turning slightly reptilian in the face via scattered, scaly blemishes. You might think that’s a plot, but you’re wrong. She and Matt talk.

Dr. Glass and Lourdes talk to. Everybody talks without actually having much to say. Character development is good, but this episode is a stone, low budget drag.

Oh, the girl leaves with her Skitterish brother at some point. And the 2nd Mass finds Charleston. It’s in ruins. Weaver gives a stirring speech, after which they find the supposedly dead Colonel Porter who tells him that Charleston isn’t all in ruins. The new American government is living in some kind of underground mall/parking garage.

I can’t top a line that like, so let’s move on.

“The Price of Greatness”

Overview: Something happens. That alone is an improvement over last week. A bit sketchy overall, but when’s the last time you saw an American History professor drunk with power?

So the 2nd Mass has linked up with the new Continental Army. And they have a cafeteria in their underground mall/parking garage hideout. Weaver’s daughter is there. Just like we thought, her boyfriend was a loser who couldn’t protect himself in a paper bag. She’s the only survivor of that nicely snipped plot thread.

Meet our new would be George Washington. He’s played by the bald guy from Lost and Hawaii Five O, Terry O’Quinn. Of course he’s Tom Mason’s former history professor at Boston College, Arthur Manchester. He’s also creepily enthusiastic about his chance to design a new Constitution, all courtesy of global genocide. I guess when life hands you some blood-soaked lemons you might as well make pink lemonade.

Manchester’s lethargic, seemingly sedated nemesis is General Bressler, played by the inimitable Max headroom himself (date yourself if you know that reference). Basically, Manchester wants everyone to hunker down as his grad school government project. So no fighting the aliens. Bressler wants to fight the aliens, but he’s intimidated by the grad school project. Manchester oozes paranoia, Bressler boredom. It’s sort of like a sci-fi version of that old show “The Odd Couple.”

After everyone gets assigned quarters, we see Tom and Dr. Glass sharing a room. So I guess that’s official.

The 2nd Mass has a variety of less than pleasant encounters with their hosts while Manchester tries to wean Tom over to become his Teaching Assistant. But Tom wants to fight aliens. Meanwhile, Pope plans to rob the armory and head out to live the Mad Max lifestyle. Maggie, Hal’s girlfriend overhears him and, instead of telling someone, steals a gun herself to draw down on him in the armory after he’s broken in. That works so well both she and Pope get arrested.

A harnessed boy shows up and tells Tom the Skitter Red Eye wants to talk to him. Manchester freaks out: “But today we’re playing Department of Commerce! And I’ve got a whole raft of Urban Renewal projects to vet!” Bressler appears to be in a walking coma. Tom is disappointing his ole perfessor, so Manchester brings up Pope to get dirt on his beloved former student. Pope makes sure to eat his steak before giving Manchester the finger.

Hal breaks Maggie and the harnessed kid out to go meet Skitter Red Eye about his Skitter rebellion. Bressler arrests them as the 2nd Mass is taken into custody by Manchester. He knew they didn’t read Chapter 11 last night! But before any real drama can break out, Bressler comes out of his coma long enough to arrest Manchester and free the 2nd Mass. As Pope says, we’ve been dropped into the middle of a good old-fashioned coup. It’s just an oddly truncated, lethargic one.

But stuff did happen. And the Yankee Doodle Robespierre history professor was entertaining. I kind of felt sorry for him that he missed out on establishing a new U.S. Navy. I’m sure he had a spiffy uniform in mind. With tassels.

“A More Perfect Union”

Overview: Uh, no. It’s not even close to perfect. The momentum from last week’s finale fades in a blizzard of contradictory or nonsensical actions culminating in a tired action sequence. This one felt like Season One all over again. Nice visuals on the ending, but a subpar finale overall.

The opening is stupid. Remember how Bressler did a split-second about face at the end of last episode, arresting Manchester and releasing Tom. Well now Tom does a split-second about face, disagreeing with Bressler’s coup even though Manchester was going to try him for treason (Benedict Mason?). Bressler is so exasperated he actually shows recognizable human emotion and starts to arrest Tom all over again.

That comes to a halt when Skitters show up. Ben is with them. They really, really want to talk to Tom Mason. So everyone has one of those gruff military meetings where they speak in tough clichés. Red Eye speaks through Ben, explaining that the Overlords (i.e., the Fish Heads, now called the Asheti?) are building a super weapon that needs to be destroyed. And then...

Ugh.

Red Eye explains that they shouldn’t have released the Overlord they shot a couple of weeks ago. Because Overlords have big brains. That means the space faring civilization that’s conquering everyone doesn’t use computers, or back-ups, or even informed second-in-command Overlords. Nope, the entire logistics and strategy of the invasion for vast areas reside in the brain of one, and only one, Overlord. The one they let go does the Eastern Seaboard. If they’d killed him, everything from the Florid Keys to Hudson Bay would have been thrown into chaos, easy pickings for their technological inferiors.

That’s just dumb. It’s even more dumb that this indispensible Overlord was wandering around the woods with a few Skitters to guard him. But don’t worry, it’ll get dumber yet.

Bressler doesn’t believe the Skitter rebellion story. He’s disinclined to throw in with them to attack the big super weapon. He orders the 2nd Mass to stand down, but they threaten to be real annoying. Bressler says fine then, you can go play with your Skitters. After Tom and Weaver leave, though, he tells one of his thuggish assistants to go kill the Skitters waiting to rendezvous.

It’s confused and dumb, but it beats reading Chapter 12 for the imprisoned Manchester’s pending civics test. Dr, Glass is pregnant (Tom works fast). The Skitters get killed but Red Eye isn’t with them, and Ben knows the attack plan anyway. Bressler orders the 2nd Mass to stand down, but they threaten to go anyway. So Bressler says “Fine, go.” Quite the commanding figure, is he not?

The attack is on. The weapon is a big glowing thing pointed up that looks kind of like a cannon your kid would build out of LEGO. Inside, it appears that the special effects budget has already been spent. The weapon looks like a crappy warp core with dim orange lighting to enhance the feel of rust. It’s covered with vines, too, for some reason.

Someone asks the ominous question: “Why are they aiming at the sky?” Then Skitters attack. These are the evil, non-rebellious ones. They capture our 2nd Massacusettsians, after which the evil Karen and her Overlord saunter out. He still only has a couple of guards for such an indispensible guy. Our heroes are trussed up in vines around the crappy warp core. Karen kisses Hal and puts him to sleep for some reason. Anyone who speaks out of turn gets a vine wrapped around their mouth. Then Karen touches Dr. Glass and reveals she’s pregnant. She’s about to zap the good doctor with an alien cattle prod, so Tom breaks down and agrees to talk. Conveniently, the rebel Skitters pick that time to attack.

Red Eye fights the evil Overlord. He gets killed for his efforts. Tom then beats the Overlord to death with the cattle prod. That’s pretty much it—just knocks him over with a stick and then whacks him on the head two or three times. That’s as low budget as it gets. No one on the other side seems particularly upset about losing the totally indispensible guy, either. And we get proof that the special effects budget was blown on tonight’s last scene when Karen escapes by skittering up a wall. It’s an embarrassingly bad effect.

2nd Mass blows up the weapon and returns to the underground mall/parking garage. Bressler is so impressed he frees Manchester, just as long as he promises to step down as leader of the government. So that’s still kind of a coup, isn’t it? The 2nd Mass can’t stay—they have other battles to fight. Hal wakes up from the coma Karen put him in. A bug crawls out of his eye and into his ear; he smiles evilly at a poorly lit mirror.

A lightning storm starts outside. Lots of little bitty spaceships descend. Out of one steps an armored guy with a face like a bat. Yet another type of alien: are they friend or foe? You’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

One the one hand, we have apparently found a way to drown government in the bath tub. But it took aliens killing most of us to get there. And I’m sure Manchester wants to increase taxes. So I’m guessing not.

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