Falling Skies Season 3 Premiere Review: Cowboys and Aliens

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Falling Skies S03E01 & S03E02: "On Thin Ice""Collateral Damage"


Near the end of the second half of Falling Skies' Season 3 premiere, the newly promoted Colonel Weaver questioned the motives of the newest addition to the show's endless parade of menacing alien invaders—the Volm—by pointing out how asinine their story is. Cochise, the noseless wonder and apparent leader of the not-quite-fish-heads-not-quite-skitters Volm, claimed that they were intergalactic freedom fighters who were once invaded by the Espheni and now follow their former overlords across the galaxy, liberating the planets and peoples that they invade and generally just making it their prime directive to dick around with them at every possible opportunity.

Lol. Okay.

Weaver asked whether Tom had ever considered the possibility that the Volm were lying, or that maybe they were simply teaming up with the humans to oust the Espheni so they could be our new masters... and Tom replied that he hadn't and that was a good point. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the New United States. 

Personally, I don't know which option is better with regard to the Volm. It's true that their sweeping—er, dropping—in at just the right time with a slew of handy-dandy alien technology and insight into the Espheni way of life is a terribly contrived way to hand the humans a few honest-to-goodness victories and to quickly shift their priorities from scavenging for food and spare bullets between skirmishes to orchestrating actual, tactically relevant battles with goals beyond "don't die." However, throwing yet another big baddie onto the pile of Falling Skies villains would have been equally lame and frankly, I'm already over the whole Hal-is-implanted storyline. 

Are the Volm just using the humans? I don't know. Maybe. I don't really care. If they turn out to be sincere allies, then that was a seriously lazy way to write the Mall dwellers to victory. But if the Volm end up being their own brand of evil, I really don't think anyone here will be surprised. Either way, they're a kind of meh addition to the series, so I'm happy just to ride out the storyline, see where it goes, and oogle all the new toys.

However: I would like to point out that I at least entertained the idea that the Volm might not be the saviors they're claiming themselves to be and the fact that Tom didn't makes Tom look really dumb. Dumb, Tom. DUMB. 


Anyway, when we returned to Charleston, it was many months after the Season 2 finale and Anne was super-preggo and about to pop—and then she did, and the baby, Alexis, was super creepy and super-mobile (and articulate) for a newborn because what Falling Skies needs now that Ben is a definite good guy and Matt has made the full transition from precocious adolescent to bitchy teenager is an unsettling child. What is it with this show and the freaky childrens?

The Mall Brigade liberated Jeannie Weaver's boyfriend in a mission that two seasons ago would have been considered high-stakes, but nowadays qualifies as little more than a step outside for some air... except this time, the Espheni and the non-friendly Skitters knew they were coming because battles are boring when stuff doesn't get blown up. Also, the rebel skitters have super convenient facepaint now so that we (and the 2nd Mass) can tell them apart from the toolbag ones. It's too bad that there isn't a huge market for Falling Skies action figures, because I'm so jaded by Star Wars' endless variations on the same freaking things that my first thought upon seeing the paint wasn't "cool," it was "action figures." Idk. The paint was cool, though, and like Tim pointed out when he reviewed the Season 2 finale, something had to be done to differentiate the rebels from the non-rebels. 

Rather than chalk up the ambush to some random fluke, el presidente and the gang immediately jumped to ESPIONAGE... which was 100 percent correct. They rode back to the city on their horses (because they have horses now) and Tom put Ex-President Manchester in charge of finding the mole. For whatever reason (probably because playing nice is better than being locked in the brig), Manchester decided to fully support the administration that disgraced and then defeated him at the end of last season. That's fine... though I'm not sure why he had to be reduced to a bumbling doofus. Because once you put his shaky methodology aside, Manchester built something really impressive out of the remains of Charleston before the 2nd Mass arrived: a functional (if flawed) government, a (relatively) safe haven, and a society that wasn't just barely surviving, but flourishing, if only on a very small level (it's important to stress the small part). Doing so required a lot of questionable decision-making, but it also required cunning and insight—which kindly Old Man Manchester seemed to be inexplicably lacking seven months later. 

Whatever, he's dead, Jim!


You'd think that Manchester's murder would have panicked someone—anyone—in Charleston, but the teeming masses and their fearless leaders actually took the news rather well. Tom made tracking down the killer a priority... but not more of a priority than blowing up the local nuclear reactor so as to put a halt on the Espheni fuel supply. Also: radioactive mutant harnessed children, because again with the monster babies! 

It's not that the mission wasn't a worthy one, and I can appreciate the effort to make Tom's presidency a difficult one. It certainly puts Manchester's mindset into perspective. The assault on the power plant just seemed like a sharp change of pace after the first half of the premiere, with its emphasis on the mole. I think it would've been less jarring if the "two-hour premiere" had been aired as a true two-hour episode, rather than a back-to-back two-parter. "On Thin Ice" left us hanging with Maggie discovering the supposedly paralyzed Hal's muddy boots and Tom, Weaver, and Cochise kicking around a potential attack on the Esphemi defenses, only for "Collateral Damage" to throw us into a random mission-of-the-week with a very self-contained story of its own. Yes, we saw more of the spy in action, and yes, we learned that Tom is pretty much the only dude in Charleston who wholeheartedly believed the Volm's story—but mostly the episode was about hot-wiring a power plant so it could be destroyed without killing half the Eastern Seaboard. Go team!

Tom's decision to send Weaver's men out as bait so that he and Dr. Strangelove could complete the real mission themselves was ballsy, and even though Weaver seemed to "get it" after the fact, his men are a different story; even Weaver, for all of his understanding, didn't seem to appreciate being the bait, but who would?

Falling Skies' two-episode Season 3 premiere wasn't perfect, but it did attempt to correct some of the flaws of the much-maligned second season, and nitpicks aside, what the episodes did well, they did very well. Words cannot fully express how delighted I was that Anne's pregnancy wasn't this huge drawn-out thing and even Alien Baby's birth was relatively mellow. As much as the Hal stuff makes me groan, the Maggie stuff that goes along with it is solid, and while I can see the inevitable Weaver/Tom divide forming on the horizon, "On Thin Ice" and "Collateral Damage" set us up for a slow burn, which actually shows both characters quite a bit of respect. Tom has proven that he's not incapable of making tough calls and maybe even being a little bit dispassionate for the sake of survival. And Weaver, for as much as he may personally dislike some of Tom's ideas, is not yet ready to stage a straight-up coup because he's not a moron and he realizes that splitting the humans has never really worked out for the humans on this show.

So all in all, I'm excited for the rest of the season. Really! Not in a gripping, edge-of-the-sofa, not-gonna-make-it-to-next-week kind of way, but in a respectable way. I genuinely enjoyed the premiere... when I didn't have to think too hard about it. 


NOTES


– "Human logic is to be discarded when at war with extraterrestrial beings." Spoken like a true human, alien savior. 

– I really like the communal feel of New Charleston, with its bar and its school and stuff. It feels like a logical progression from Season 1's group of rag-tag survivors living out of cars to, as their situation feels less hopeless, a band of people who are ready to live again. 

– Super glad the back of the plant wasn't actually undefended because REALLY? I can't believe Weaver bought that, though. I mean, really

– Of course the village nerd broke his glasses. Of course he did. 

– So... even though we know that Hal has been sleep-meeting and sleep-sexing (WTF) with Evil Karen in the woods, he was hanging out waiting for his creepy demonic stepsister to be born, so he couldn't have wasted Manchester. Who do you think did it with the alien ray gun in the underground bunker?

– What'd you think of the premiere overall? How would you describe your level of excitement (or lack thereof) for the rest of the season?

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