The show continues its astronomical course among sci-fi fans and now I'm convinced it won't stop until the finale. Indeed season 2 has proven that Falling Skies is capable of contenting both hardcore and casual viewers. It still has plenty of questionable elements, already reported in my previous reviews, but they don't ruin the experience. Moreover even if I already suspected it this 7th episode has opened my eyes on something very important. The characters have changed but so has the team behind the series. It's obvious their skills have improved and quickly checking the intergalactic database I've noticed veterans like Greg Beeman (Smallville, Heroes) at the direction and fresh writers who have replaced some people who worked on the first season.
After Ben and Karen's departure at the end of Homecoming I was expecting the story would be split in half in order to also follow the 2nd Mass' side. But it would have slowed down the pace and probably made things less exciting. That's why their early encounter with an overlord, a Mech and Skitters really surprised me. And what a disgusting feast for the eyes to have our favorite parasite back. In the film Starship Troopers we learned that a good bug is a dead bug but apparently in Falling Skies they have the tendency to creep late at night in the woods.
Taking an overlord hostage couldn't have been more thrilling because it was a double-edged decision for the them. In the one hand Tom didn't have much choice and in the other hand they quickly learned that its people would try everything to save it. That's why I welcomed the Captain's anger when he faced the tall creature. By the way the rendering of its visual effects shined even more at night. From its textures to its animation without forgetting its seamless integration to real settings it's absolutely wonderful to watch. And trust me when it comes to computer graphics and filmmaking I can be picky ! So as usual the production was cosmic but as often in the end it was really about the story. And this time its development was even more stellar than its beginning. First covering hard choices was interesting because it allows us to relate Tom's issue to our own. He tried his best to avoid the separation with Ben but as he explained, it was his decision to make. How inspiring, specially for the young audience !
However it's really Tom's confrontation with the overlord that amazed me. Using characters around it as vessels to make it speak is a smart move and the shooting sequence a bold one. Release me ? You're the boss ! I didn't see it coming but my only regret is that such an intelligent being should have predicted Tom's desperate action. I know we're just mere mortals so it's complex to imagine how a superior race would think but I still believe it would be possible. As for Hal and Maggie I'm glad we finally learned why she repelled him. It made sense because she just thought he was still in love with his girlfriend Kate. It leads us to the fascinating dialogs they had as he was conducting her to the agonizing master. It was so captivating and well staged that it actually reminded me of Caprica's The Imperfections of Memory. Karen's speech was related to physics, specially the atomic particles that compose the universe, and organic communication as they're apparently all connected like neurons are in the brain by synapses. It's reminiscent of novels like Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead and Robert Heinlein's work of course.
Last but not least this critic wouldn't be complete without mentioning what happened on Anne's side. Trapping her with Tom's younger son and Lourdes was conventional but it worked really well. Seychelle Gabriel is charming as a young nurse and even if her role is only minor she represents a complementary talent to Moon Bloodgood. As for the son considering what he had to do in order to save them I was slightly disappointed that the writers didn't make a subtle reference to John McClane's cult catchphrases in the Die Hard film series. More seriously last time I mentioned Jamil was one of my favorite characters so I was shocked by his death but also pleased by it because I'm quite fond of unpredictability ! The robotic spiders coming out from his mouth were frightening and reminded me of The Blue Lagoon, when the children discover the old man's corpse. However just one would have been enough because when it comes to the horror genre it's not the number that counts ! Still I'm glad they were outnumbered by them because it served as an excuse to turn Anne into an Angus MacGyver on heels. DIY flamethrowers ? The ultimate weapon of mass entertainment when it comes to a metallic bugs invasion !
Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.