Episode 9: The Price of Greatness
By: Carlos Uribe
Falling Skies is a show about the human resistance against an alien invasion force-months after they wiped out most of humanity.
I'm about to give a criticism to Falling Skies that I thought I would never have to give: this episode was too busy. Almost every other episode of this show has been the exact opposite but this stands as the exception. If future episodes could be just as busy as this, then I would be happier with this flaw than the other. That's because a busy show is at least going to be entertaining. If there's a plot you don't like, you won't have to wait long before another plot shows up. This doesn't create a great show unless it's able to make everything work like gangbusters (The Vampire Diaries comes to mind) but it's a better show than what Falling Skies has mostly been. It's true that this season has had two standout episodes but the rest of the season has largely been lacking in quality. This episode is superior to almost the entire season simply because it didn't stall but it definably could have been handled better. It sounds like it's impossible to please me but I'd say that “Molon Labe” and “Homecoming” is the kind of quality that could work well for this show. Those episodes had events occur but the episodes were able to get there organically. The events of this episode felt rushed because it contained numerous plots that needed time in order to work properly.
The Second Mass has arrived to Charlestown. It turns out that the entire population lives in some kind of underground mall. It was under construction during the attack and it was able to escape relatively unscathed. They have managed to set up an independent agricultural system and they're heading towards self-sufficiency. This new city could theoretically survive the war without seeing a single battle. That's highly unlikely to happen but it's one that is present. It's also the theory that the leader of Charlestown is supporting. He uses the logic that because the aliens don't know about the city then they won't have a reason to come and attack. It's good logic but there's always the risk that the aliens will accidentally discover the city or that they know but they're merely waiting until the right time to attack. Whose the leader of Charlestown? Terry O'Quinn! His character's name is Arthur Manchester, a previous Boston College Chair. Arthur is worried throughout the episode about some election. He wants to keep his power and he fears that bringing the fight to the aliens will cause him to lose his city. He's simply a politician who only cares about his own skin.
It turns out that Arthur and Tom used to be colleagues. This bond has Arthur asking for Tom's support in the up-coming election. This seems to indicate that their going to be allies. The episode then zips through Tom's gradual falling out with Arthur and eventually going against his old friend. This culminates with the military of Charlestown staging a coup and the general taking over. The problem with this entire story is that it all took place within one episode. This meant establishing the relationship between Arthur and Tom, showing Tom's loss of faith in his old friend, Arthur turning against Tom, and the coup happening all at once. If the series had any sense of pacing then they should have spent at least a couple of episodes on this story. The only issue is that it probably wouldn't have been as entertaining and the series would have taken an entire season if it chose to take it's time. All of this political play could have been an interesting sub-plot for the last episodes of the season but it ends up being rushed to set up the season finale.
That isn't the only problem that the Second Mass faces in this episode. Anne has to go from being a combat doctor to a pediatrician and the change hits her hard. Ben has problem making friends at school because the Second Mass isn't as popular as the show seems to indicate in just about every other scene. This dissonance between Ben's story and what was really happening could have also been dealt better. Pope is going to leave but he gets caught trying to steal the city's guns. Dan reunites with his dauthter but has problems with how the town is being led. The sub-plots kept things interesting but it would have been nice if this episode had merely hinted at Arthur's dictatorship instead of hinting and then revealing.
Falling Skies had a busy episode. It might have been one that rushed some pretty good plots but it was also more entertaining than the episodes that actually took their time. It's a weird trade-off for the series to make. If this series can learn to balance it's stories more then maybe it could become great. The next episode is the season finale, which apparently ends on a shocking note. The question becomes if the show can achieve greatness in the next season or whether we'll just have any mediocre season that hints at how good this show could be.