Falling Skies had a couple of truly great moments last night — both of them involving first class knuckle-head Matt Mason. Of all Tom Mason's rowdy sons, Matt is becoming the most stubborn, and the one whose survival we're going to have the hardest time believing in. Sadly, the rest of the episode was, well, hit and miss — there were some intriguing developments, but also a lot of not very convincing family drama.
So first, let's run through the two lovely moments. Above, there's a snippet from the opening sequence, which is just amazing. Two former members of Pope's Berserkers are going Skitter-hunting, and they're using Matt "Mad Dog" Mason as bait. Apparently, during some of the time that Tom was away on the alien ship, the Second Mass. ran out of provisions and Matt started eating paste. But in any case, it's a lovely sequence, even if it does lead to some annoying stuff later on where Matt is being rebellious and meanwhile Tom is making those soldiers do his laundry because washing his dirty underwear is a fitting payment for almost killing his boy. Wait, what?
The other great moment is here — it's after "Mad Dog" Mason has run straight into a Skitter trap with this episode's group of guest stars, a teenage gang who call all the grown-ups "grups" and won't listen to authority figures. The kids wind up being prisoners in the harnessing facility, where we finally get to see what the process of putting those metal slugs onto the spines of children looks like. And just as you might have suspected, it's creepy as all get-out. In fact, the slugs seem to start out organic, then quickly turn into something metal and technological when they graft onto your spine.
There were a few other great moments in this episode, and some forward motion on the plot — especially Hal finding out that Ben's spine has been lighting up and he's been turning into a Skitter puppet again. Plus some nifty character bits here and there.
Sadly, the main "A" story, about Weaver getting his long lost daughter back, just doesn't quite work. I think it's partly because Will Patton, who plays Weaver, doesn't quite sell the remorse and anguish he feels for having been such a lousy father. And the actress who plays Jeanne isn't helping much — she seems pretty blank, even when she's torn between her rebellious teen rebel boyfriend and her penitent father.
But also, Jeanne and her teenage friends are clearly idiots — as evidenced by the fact that they get captured by the Skitters, like, twice in the course of a single episode. They have a chance to join up with a well-armed, organized fighting force that's been holding its own against the aliens for a while, but they spout ideas like "grups will always let you down, man." It would be fair enough if they had some notion that they could hide from the aliens more easily on their own, but they don't seem to be doing that great a job of hiding, given that they're sitting ducks in that warehouse, plus they're barely feeding themselves.
So the central conflict of the episode is Jeanne choosing between living with Weaver and the Second Mass., or dying with her friends. Also, Weaver isn't being a mean control freak when he tells those kids that they shouldn't charge into a heavily guarded facility without making a plan first — he's being sensible, and acting like a military commander who has to think of the safety of all his people. There really aren't two sides to this particular issue.
But mostly, the main problem with the episode is that it tries too hard to manufacture emotion between characters who just aren't that relatable, and winds up feeling like a throwback to the worst bits of season one. It doesn't help that we also see more of Lourdes, the most annoying character from the first season, who randomly asks the rebellious boyfriend about her relatives in Mexico — because even though there's no telephones and no radio and stuff, everybody from Mexico has to know what's going on there. And he says some vague stuff about Mexico being in bad shape, and she freaks out a lot. Actually, I like Jamil, Lourdes' boyfriend, a lot, and I'm hoping some of Jamil's likability will rub off on Lourdes. At some point.
All in all, this was a slight dip in the road, after three mostly solid episodes. Maybe it's the lack of Pope, or maybe just the excessive focus on non-Masonic characters. But in any case, let's hope the show rebounds next week, when the fallout from Ben's Christmas spine starts to get more serious.