Falling Skies: Claustrophobia, Arachnophobia, and Xenophobia

By Tim Surette

Jul 23, 2012

Falling Skies S02E07: "Molon Labe"

Falling Skies made up for last week's alien count of zero in a big way last night in "Molon Labe," a back-against-the-wall ode to human ingenuity in the face of alien onslaught. But rather than move things forward by huge leaps and bounds and craft tales of war heroics, the episode is best summed up thusly: A bunch of stuff happened.

It was the right moment for an all-or-nothing situation, and this was probably the episode of Falling Skies that gave us the greatest sense of danger, something the show forgets to include from time to time. But the hour lacked the emotional gut punch (though not for a lack of trying) and payoff that would have put the episode over the top, and I found myself just waiting too see how the 2nd Mass would get out of the situation instead of actually being invested in it. But for summer sci-fi to stuff your face to, it wasn't a bad episode.

The key to the episode was the capture of the overlord, Mr. Skinny Jeans Fish Face, by Tom. With Fish Face a trigger-squeeze away from being No Face, the alien forces ceased fire and created a standoff: 2nd Mass in the hospital and Mechs (or at least some mean spotlights) just beyond the fog, or as it's known in the business, the special effects budget-saving cloud.

This created a series of micro-stories that we would rapidly bounce around between, and in one particularly fast set of cuts, we visited all of them in a matter of minutes which was supposed to build tension but ended up just being lots of flashlights, shouting, and arm waving. Was this episode trying to be creepy or was it trying to scare off a bear? I'm not sure. But again, Falling Skies isn't trying to be top-notch television, it's just trying to keep you from changing the channel, and the action was dense enough to do just that.

The episode did do something that Falling Skies has been horrible at so far, and that's get everyone involved. You wouldn't believe this if you hadn't seen it with your own eyes, but even Dr. Anne had something to do! While the aliens had the 2nd Mass pinned down upstairs, Anne, Lourdes, and Matt ventured downstairs to gather some medical supplies and got stuck or knocked out or something when Tom blew up a random Mech that got into the base for some reason. When they woke up, they were alone. Except for a swarm of space spiders that had been conveniently out of the picture until right now.

Season 2 has introduced a pair of new alien species, the eye worm and the space spider, but their introductions were done more for the creep factor than to serve the story. You know how when you play some sort of space marine video game, there's a few kinds of aliens and it's cool and fun? And then the sequel comes out and all of a sudden, hey! The aliens have these new critters that you have you have to deal with even though they didn't appear in the first game of the series and it just feels tacked on because the game developers feel like they have to add more instead of just refocusing on what made the first game good? Yeah, well, Falling Skies is like that with the space spiders.

Not that a few dozen of them crawling out of Jamil's mouth wasn't awesome, but it just felt like something that happened. I'm not even going to ask what took them so long to crawl out or where they came from or why there weren't more down there, because those are reasonable questions that Falling Skies doesn't have reasonable answers for. Falling Skies is all about surface-level titillation. No more, no less.

With Jamil a deflated spider bag, Anne, Matt, and a very negative and newly single Lourdes had to escape their eight-legged foes on their own. If only Jim Shannon from Terra Nova was around to sing "The Spider Song!" But the group had a trick up its collective sleeve in pint-sized Matt, and you know what happens when you have a small kid around? You send him through the vents to get help! (See: every sci-fi everything with a small kid in it.) Meanwhile, Anne fashioned a flamethrower with some Aqua Velva and a match, and whipped up a batch of spider flambé just in time for Tom and Pope to find them and lead them to safety with backwards-walking shooting.

Maggie and Hal were sent downstairs to find some alternate routes out, but it was really just an excuse to pair off the two, alone, for some relationship talk. While people were in serious danger of dying upstairs, Maggie rearranged her priorities and demanded answers from Hal about whether or not he was thinking of "her." Hal said something to the effect of, "Hell nah, she's a two-faced alien-lovin' bitch," and that was good enough for Maggie to stick her tongue down his throat. Meanwhile, people were totally almost dying upstairs. And then, A BUNCH OF SPIDERS!

Upstairs, the standoff was still standing off, and I'll admit Karen makes a pretty good mouthpiece for the aliens. Jessy Schram is doing good work with the material that's been given to her, and I have a feeling she'll be up for a lot of psycho ex-girlfriend roles in the near future. To show they weren't playin', the aliens marched out one of the Berserkers and shot him in the back for all to see in what can only be described as a Spielbergian moment. It's just too bad that we didn't care about the guy at all or even really know who he was. Ditto for Jamil. It's good that Falling Skies is killing characters, but, save for my homey Jimmy, they're people who we have little emotional connection to so we have to feel the effect through the characters of the 2nd Mass, and the acting isn't up to par to successfully convey that.

But Tom was pretty emotionally connected to them, and he turned up the dial to extreme badass by walking up to the Overlord and waving a gun in his face while having a debate about their chances and sentiment. And it's what happened next that Falling Skies has to do a lot more of. Fish Face ticked Ben's spikes into seizure mode, and Tom—God bless him—put a bullet right in his neck. YEAH TOM!

With the standoff at full-on Mexican, both sides decided the best option was for the 2nd Mass to move on and let the aliens have their Overlord, allowing both sides go back to the way things were. Tom rigged a bunch of C4 around the Overlord's cell, and he promised not to detonate it as long as the aliens let the 2nd Mass leave. Problem solved, though not really a whole lot was accomplished in the bigger scope of things. Now we can finally get back to road-trippin' to Charleston, where we probably should have already been two episodes ago.

"Molon Labe" was dangerous without being tense, creepy without being scary, and fun without being great. There's a good show in here somewhere, but it's still not doing the little things to bring that out.



Notes

– That whole bit Karen said about being able to see how the universe works down to the sub-atomic level is a ridiculous twist, if it's true. I'm guessing a lot of us had the same reaction as Hal: "Wow that’s the most ridiculous load of crap I've ever heard."

– At the end of the episode, Ben finally left the group. Finally. It will be interesting to see if the show follows his journey, or if he just shows up later riding a Mech when all seems lost for the rest of the 2nd Mass.

– If I ever see my friend barf up a bunch of spiders and die, I'm probably not going to scream, "They used him as a Trojan Horse!" like Anne did. Expect a bunch of garbled profanity instead.

– We all agree that Lourdes is probably better off without Jamil, right? He's way too old for her. Alien apocalypse or not, there are still rules of decency to follow.

– I still do love the long tracking shots this show is so fond of! Those are high-pressure situations for actors. If one person messes up, the whole scene has to be shot again and sometimes they use 10 or more actors in one shot.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

  • Comments (93)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • thorthorsen Jul 26, 2012

    "It's good that Falling Skies is killing characters, but, save for my homey Jimmy, they're people who we have little emotional connection to so we have to feel the effect through the characters of the 2nd Mass, and the acting isn't up to par to successfully convey that. "



    That's just it. There is no character in this series that I really care for. And that's a shame. Like Tim says, this way it's just stuff that happens. But I do like that people get killed off now. I guess the writers have seen what happens to a sci-fi series with a too high Disney value (*ugh Terra Nova *ugh*)



    P.S.

    Dinosaurs > Aliens

  • ConstantineStav Jul 26, 2012

    The title of the episode is greek, it means "Come and take it" it's what Leonidas said to Xerxes

  • mdoz34 Jul 26, 2012

    there is such a thing as overannualizing. all you do is find things to complain about. People enjoy the show and like every show that has ever existed, regardless of your love or hate of it, there is good and bad. People who like the show don't watch to make critical assumptions they watch to enjoy. My problem i have with critics and haters is that if youy don't like it, stop watching it, your obviously wasting your own time and even more so getting on here to complain about it. If i read articles about a show, i read them because i like the show and your obvious hatred is just a show of how much time you should spend doing better things. And i understand how its the job of the person writing the article but a article for a show like this should be about the show but also speculation and thoughts - and your constant negative thoughts and the obviousness of your not paying complete attention to the episode itself shows through. -- And to prove my point, Maggie and Hal kiss, you missed the whole point, cause like most guys, he spent time split between thinking of the girl he lost instead of focusing on what he was doing and maggie ended that with the traditional kiss now focus your brain move. It's not original, but trust me, your not going to do any better. -- As for the commenters who show up to complain when they could just change the channel, you are sad.

  • deviroz Jul 26, 2012

    We are all doom! The red ranger is dead :(

  • bendylegsnick Jul 26, 2012

    Did anyone else notice Lourdes smacking her head on a bunk, towards the end of the episode?

  • tv_gonzo Jul 25, 2012

    I totally agree with you about Jessy Scham. I really start to hate her, and the mere fact that i have any emotion at all toward her is a testament to her acting.

    This show could so easily raise the stakes by killing characters off. They could constantly pick up new people along the road and then kill off some old ones. But, i guess, the writers ran out of cliches for new characters so they stick with the old ones. I mean, what else is there left really? You got army guy, you got Bad guy, you got good guy, you got handsome guy. There isn't a clishe left. Or maybe the writers feel we are so connected to the characters we couldn't cope if they kill off whathisface.

    I am guessing that spacefaring, planet invading, generally advanced looking aliens never heard of Quantum physics. Until Heisenberg and his fellas figured this one out, the oppinion was that, theoretical, if you new every parameter of every particle in the universe, you could predict the future. Unfortunately our universe is inherently random and unpredictable. Thats, kind of, the whole point of quantum physics, wich we've got for about 60 years.

  • ToddMurray Jul 25, 2012

    A few thoughts:



    Anne only said that about Jamil because Tom had just whispered some historical sweet nothings about slipping her his "Trojan horse" the night before. :)



    I guess the writers have finally caught on to how bad their writing is, so they've saved us the agony of saying it every week by having the characters say it for us.



    It felt like there were several scenes missing from the show. Has the editing gone the way of the writing now?



    I'm pretty sure there's almost no one I'm emotionally invested in, so I wouldn't feel the death of any character on the show. Except Maggie. She's dreamy.



    It feels like this is becoming a sci-fi version of My Three Sons, with Noah Wylie / Tom Mason in the titular patriarch role. Every Mason gets their day in a different episode. I guess it's time for the oldest son to do something important or save someone's life again?



    It drove me nuts that they didn't just tell the Overlord to pull back his attack or die. And if he's the actual head honcho supreme Overlord? Kill him! Kill him now! Everyone knows you cut off the head of the snake to watch the body wither and die.



    "...or if (Ben) just shows up later riding a Mech when all seems lost..." Ha! That would crazy! Yeehaw!



    Tim's just glad that Jamil's out of the way so that he can finally have a shot with Lourdes. Jamil shamil....

  • Nikell Jul 25, 2012

    This show need to be cancelled.. no.. diserve to be cancelled!.. mg.. what a waste of money!... it's just senseless... dunno why i still watch it.. it's like smoking... stupid ci-fi adiction.. xD..

  • edge1710 Jul 25, 2012

    Had to think of the "lonely man" when i saw the ending of this episode

    http://youtu.be/rccD1EWenio

    probably no one old enough to remember though ;-)

  • DavidJackson8 Jul 25, 2012

    I like the fact that there was more action; I still hate most of the writing. More specifically, I hate the writing that the writers write when not writing about the overall plot. The plot developments are pretty fun and entertaining to watch... everything in between makes me feel stupid for watching. I guess some of the acting doesn't help, either.



    I laughed pretty hard when Anne made the Trojan Horse comment. I don't know if the way she said it made it worse than it was written, but man, that stunk. Way to stuff it in my face, writers. The same applies for the little shout-off between Tom and Ben... the writing seems okay, albeit predictable, but I think it was the acting that made me groan.

  • See More Comments (25)