Falling Skies Season 4 Premiere Review: Ghetto Supastar

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Jun 23, 2014

Falling Skies S04E01: "Ghost in the Machine" 


I'll admit that I didn't have very high hopes for Falling Skies' Season 4 premiere. Season 3 was plagued with uneven pacing and random WTF-ery, plus there was Tom and Annie's magical alien baby—and mysterious, "special" weirdo children just aren't my thing. 

And then Lexie grew up. 

And Lexie the reluctant (maybe) cult leader is kind of awesome. 

After three seasons of wandering around a post-apocalyptic USA and finally settling (but not really) in a shopping mall beneath Charleston, Falling Skies kicked off Season 4 with a premiere that managed to find a sweet spot between returning to its roots and blowing everything up. At the end of Season 3, the deus ex aliens—Cochise and the 2nd Mass's other Volm allies—ditched Earth to go save their incubator ships in another system (or something), leaving the humans wide open for some Espheni hurtin'. 

And now, four months later, Tom's in solitary with Weaver (sloppy, Espheni, sloppy), Annie is a BAMF in search of her lost alien baby, Matt is the cool subversive kid at Espheni Hitler Youth Camp, and Lexie has herself a fanatical following of bizarro hippie-types with creepy and probably evil Lourdes acting as some sort of ringleader for the whole thing. Hal and Ben are around. It's okay, they've gotten cool stories of their own before. It's time to give someone else a turn. 


Some of this is very "been there, done that." After giving the dwindling human population hope with the Volm, their groovy alien weapons, and a permanent home of sorts, Falling Skies' move to decimate all that progress and once again leave the humans on the edge of defeat—scurrying around in the shadows and barely getting by—feels like a throwback to the series' first couple seasons. At the same time, though, it feels good and natural. 

I would never accuse Falling Skies of being sleek or shiny, but the relative comforts of Charleston certainly detracted from the grittiness of the show's early episodes, and it was that grittiness—the fact that the 2nd Mass's survivors were dirty, unshaven, and clearly desperate—that made this particular version of the end of the world appealing. It also helped that for a basic cable genre show, Falling Skies' special effects had generally been rather good up until they were simply overdone. A mech here, a skitter there: great. Once we started boarding Espheni ships and hanging out in Evil Karen's squishy orange lair, the stark reality of an Earth that'd been ruined by an alien invasion gave way to typical CGI blandness. Returning to the gray, dreary sets is a welcome shift in tone right now. 

The reduced interference of the technologically superior Volm also signals a return to Falling Skies' original set-up, as it began as a story about underdogs and resistance in the face of certain defeat. Victories earned by humans alone always tasted sweeter than those with a heavy Volm assist. 


"Ghost in the Machine" also saw the return of the Espheni fascination with brainwashing children and using them to take over the world. With the harness system backfiring, the Espheni have opted for a different approach: good old fashioned re-education camps. Someone's been watching the History Channel! The lone Mason child to remain mostly untouched by the Espheni's influence, Matt, has so far remained impervious to the brainwashing and spearheaded a resistance effort. Papa would be so proud. I'm a little surprised the Espheni have given him so much freedom, though. I mean, they have to know whose kid they have and that their Mason-brainwashing track record is pretty crummy. 

So we have gritty ghettos and baby-crazy Espheni—which is all rather old hat (VINTAGE. LET'S GO WITH "VINTAGE"), Falling Skies—but then there's Lexie's Chinatown commune with its startling color and unsettling peacefulness. I couldn't stand the Lexie story when she was an infant, but now we're dealing grown-up Lexie, who nonetheless remains childlike despite her appearance, yet has evolved into a real character instead of remaining a flesh-and-bone plot point.


Yes, there is still some element of people acting for Lexie and because of Lexie, but she's no longer restrained to simply being a thing people revolve around, and I don't think the series has made it clear whose side she's on just yet... or if she's even aware that there's a conflict. Despite her questionable origins and spotty history, Lexie still manages to come off as sincerely well-intentioned, particularly when contrasted with Obviously Evil Lourdes. LOL Lourdes. I also can't believe Dr. Kadar has lived this long. Anyone else with me? 

For a series that left me with some awkward feelings at the end of last season, Falling Skies retuned with a solid premiere that offered some old-school comforts and some brave new craziness. I haven't been genuinely excited about Falling Skies in about two seasons, but "Ghost in the Machine" roped me back in... and I'm so delighted to be back in.


NOTES

– How does Tom manage to stay so relatively groomed in prison?

– Hal to Maggie: "You've been weird with me since Karen." Um, you think?

– I kind of miss Matt's ridiculous Mad Max faux-hawk, but only kind of.

– Is Lexie evil?

– Speaking of Lexie, she's blonde now. Okay.


What did you think of the premiere? Where do you think Falling Skies is headed in Season 4?


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  • curry20060 Jun 28, 2014

    Same as with Defiance: deception is the word. This thing with Tom on the moto was completly ridiculous. They better be good in the next episode ...

  • GemmaWakefield Jun 27, 2014

    I hope Hal and Lourdes are reunited soon, because she is looking so beautiful in her Chinatown outfits. And I actually loved this episode. It was crazy but that was why I liked it. And finally they're giving the ladies more screentime!

  • woz22 Jun 26, 2014

    Well that was silly in a guilty way if the baddie aliens I can't remember their names kill Mason and Weaver already ,also they seem to stick them in a cell so easily he can go on his night adventures. I do like the Hitler brainwashing camp although it is borrowing revolution story arc.
    The new age camp in China town is borrowing from Joe cult in the Following and Lexie is like diana from V series old one not new. I do hope they kill of a few main characters otherwise this series will end up like revolution stale. Looking forward to next episode but I will be having a few beers to get through the ridiclous moments.

  • Swinglabacase Jun 26, 2014

    Well, I see that they still "borrow" from World of Warcraft (The Klaxxi) for their Aliens.

    Where do I think Falling Skies is headed in Season 4?
    Well, like in the previous seasons the premiere is about the most action and Aliens we're going to see, with a few moments scattered along the season to keep the viewers hoping for more. The rest will be the usual "evening-soap" writing the series has accustomed us with. And many will keep watching: hoping for more... and they can carry us for a couple of more years, probably.
    I don't know if I'll be able to endure this show for another season hoping for something to happen...

    Anyhow, it was nice to see that they still have a good supply of dye (or peroxide) for Margaret. She probably did Lexie's hair while supplies lasted... Oh! And she seems to still have a good supply of Botox too so it's cool.

  • mad-pac Jun 26, 2014

    I was just thinking of two shows with some similarities, which are aliens and apocalypse: Falling Skies and Defiance. I'd say Falling Skies succeeds where Defiance fails. The aliens arrived, things went to Hell, and we can blame the aliens. Aliens can be untrustworthy allies at best. But in Defiance we can't even blame them and must accept their multicultural contributions to our (destroyed) society? No way! Kill all aliens bringer of apocalypse!

    As for the new season of Falling Skies, yes I'd like to see humans win for a change. It's just too much sadness and pain. Come on, we need some hope for a change!

  • andreweather Jun 25, 2014

    /sigh

    Gritty Sci-Fi...

    /sigh

    They finally start making progress and they 'reboot' back to the grim and gritty crap. How about humanity taking the fight to the aliens for a change...

    Season 3 was terrible, season 4 just seems more of the same so far.

  • compfx Jun 25, 2014

    I don't know why so many people hated this episode. Falling Skies has been pretty awful from the start. Its writing has always been rather stupid and childish. What do people expect? It's like going to the 44 and a half cent store and buying some cheap, no-name coffee and then complaining that the coffee is disgusting when you taste it afterward. Of course it is.

    The way I look at this series is the way I've always viewed it--it's something marginally tolerable to watch until the good shows come back on the next season. Most of the good shows are off on season break. For instance, Continuum just had its last episode this season. So all you have is this. Oh, and Under the Dome, starting next week. Oh Boy. Can't wait.

    You know there is a reason they put shows like this on when all the good shows are taking their seasonal breaks, and it's not because the shows themselves are great.

    I read complaints about the series practically resetting itself. But it kind of did that last year. The writers probably thought, since the series was renewed the last time, that the whole reset thing was some good writing.

  • compfx Jun 25, 2014

    Continued from above: Actually, as far as the Volm are concerned, this season's reset was practically identical to last season's. At the end of Season 2 the skies above the little rebel encampment were filled with hundreds of little spacecraft personnel carriers streaming down to the ground. And out from one of them stepped a Volm. And there were dozens still falling. So ended that season.

    Yet, when season three started, all you had was one Volm, riding around on horse back. Really. Where did the rest of them go, you know the ones implied by all the hundreds of ships? Where did those ships go? Where did the advance technology go that was also implied by all those ships? All you had was one Volm with one gun riding around not in some fancy ship but on the back of some smelly old horse.

    So, I guess this is the second time the Volm skittered off when they were needed the most.

    So, you have the writers ending a season in a thrilling bang by bringing in some guys with some serious fire power, enough fire power to win the war. But by the time the next season starts, the same writers are saying to themselves, "Hey, you know, those super aliens we introduced last season? Well, we can't actually have them around for this season. They'll win the war in an episode and what are we going to do for the rest of the season? Plus, the war scenes will blow our budget!" So, boom, just like before, the Volm are gone. So the story goes from the big fancy final fight implied and promised but never shown during the previous season finale to a bunch of guys fighting each other with pointy sticks, surrounded not by big expensive, high tech sets but by cheap to build dilapidated wooden shacks.

    I guess the shows kind of a rip off. They promise you this big fancy wonderful thing but instead give you a bag full of sticks and lint.

  • aeverhart139 Jun 25, 2014

    I LOVED it.

    Screw all these haters.

    The end.

  • taisto1108 Jun 24, 2014

    Why is it that critics or people that write stories / reviews etc always seem to love watching sh@t & praise horrible entertainment?
    The rest of us apparently more normal down to earth human beings seem to be majority when it comes to agreeing on movies, TV shows & music that suck! Look I'm a huge fan of Falling Skies, I've been with it since day one & though I can agree on some points made about certain aspects of last season (3) I overly felt things left off clear and gave us something to look forward to.
    So WTF!?! This first episode started off albeit briefly with some great action & from there I spent half the show trying to figure out what was going on. Call me whatever but judging by posts on Facebook and across the web it seems for every one person who liked season 4 opener there are 20 that voiced how bad it was.
    I'm not giving up because of one episode but seriously things need to improve. I mean look, hitler youth camps / reeducation camps for kids instead of harnesses ( what! no budget for harnesses anymore?), and WTF is up with The ghettos? The story line and arc of the series seems to have hopefully just stumbled but I liked this show because it was a fresh new type of alien end of the word scenario on TV. And after last season I thought ok saw that coming but now that they had some success & closure excitedly I thought what's next? And I thought as did so many that season 4 would continue with new & better material going forward. Guess we were all wrong because instead we got a weak season premiere full of confusing material & a story that has been done a thousand times before in other films / shows.
    I really hope the story gets back to good because another alien hybrid baby that's grown up in record time feels really dated to me, especially the reeducation BS (the harnesses were a new direction, these youth camps not a new direction.
    I'm just one fan however and that is just my observation of the season 4 premiere.

  • Homwell Jun 24, 2014

    I’ve seen four season premier’s of continuing shows so far, “Defiance” has been the worst, “Falling Sky’s” the 2nd worst. I am tired of the reinventing themselves every season, but even that was tolerable. I've got some personal pet peeves but I know they are just that, it wouldn’t change whether I continued to watch it or not if the storyline was smart. They just dumbed it all down. Maybe towards a wider audience. In any case, too bad.

    I was hanging in there until “Game of Thrones” Lexie showed (seriously?!) and the ‘drank the kool-aid’ group. Then the show actually lost my respect with the Nazi camp for kids. Honestly, we are going there? Nobody is clever enough to think of anything else to do with invading aliens and the whole planet earth? - yea, yea the whole underlying 'history repeats itself', I get it, repeatedly, for 3 seasons.

    It seems the producer’s and writers threw out the primer on sequel shows: first you put your team together and give the audience something to root for - then you tear them apart. Oh, if your going to rewrite history cliché’s - try one at a time and then actually rewrite them! (a hint: change up the stereotypical wardrobes.) But yea, felt Spielberg’s presence in both those story lines whether he had anything to do with them or not.

    Best part was Anne’s character; briefly.

    I’ve been telling friends for years “Falling Sky’s” was worth watching. Shaking my head, can’t decide if we’ll watch again next week or not. They had a great cast of characters at the end of last season - the actor I'd come back for more is Will Patton's Captain Weaver.

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