Episode 3: Badlands
By: Carlos Uribe
Falling Skies is a show about the human war effort, along with it's allies, against an alien invasion force.
The premiere had ended with the promise that the skitter attack on Charlestown was going to happen despite their efforts to impede it. Badlands is an episode that somewhat tries to keep the tension of that alive with only mixed results. It worked well in the beginning as the characters had to set up a defense around the city and doubt lingers over Tom's leadership by the berserkers. The threat stays alive even when you see a human aiming a sniper rifle at a girl. The possibility that the mole would be undermining the front lines is a strong one as it might allow even a small invading force to overwhelm the city's defenses. The answer turns out to be disappointing as it's a human female the characters have never met before. She's a soldier whose claiming that she's working directly for the real President of the United States. The reason she had attacked them is because she saw that they were working with skitters and a new alien group and deduced that this military regiment had turned on their own kind to work with the enemy. She seems reluctant to even accept the idea that there could be good aliens that help humanity with her claim that the only good aliens are the dead ones. Bigotry is indeed going to be a recurring theme albeit this time it's from an outsider looking into the mini-nation rather than coming from the inside. She's not going to reveal where this President is which is a danger because some friends of her had gone back to her people. This meant that they could pose a threat and open up a second front for the Charlestown people to deal with: skitters and humans. That would be a significant setback that they would not be able to recover from. I guess it's a good way to make the war more complicated is by introducing a whole new human faction but I'm skeptical of this plot for one major reason: I don't feel like the show is up to the task of adding a whole new ball to it's juggling act. These new humans might cause the narrative to fall apart as it scatters itself too much to really have any kind of impact. It's already showing signs of strains without this new element being thrown into the mix. I'm afraid the third season of Falling Skies is going to be a jumbled mess and this new faction only confirms my fears.
I simply don't feel like this show has the writing to deal with a whole new faction of characters. We have the skitters, the overlords, the rebel skitters, the new alien group, and the humans at Charlestown. This is a pretty full plate for the series to have already. The skitters and overlords might be the antagonists for the series but they should continue to present the biggest threat to the characters. The new alien group is completely mysterious but I would like to get to know more about them. Mystery only works when the cause of the questions is actually present. We don't just know nothing little about their intentions, who their from, or their technology but we also know precious little about the individual aliens who have made an alliance with Tom. They need to be developed more so that we can understand them better as a group before a whole another one should be introduced. The humans at Charlestown don't need to be as developed but it's clear their internal conflicts should be sufficient for the writers to mine for human drama. All of these are sufficient for drama. They can all raise the stakes, they can all drive the narrative. Adding a whole new faction means having to introduce new characters, new motives, and it complicates every major plot because they had to be taken into consideration. Their actions have to come into play for them to remain integral to the narrative. There's very little shows that I trust would be able to hand more elements and Falling Skies is not on the top of the list. I don't know where the writers are going with this but I'm skeptical to approve of something that simply feels like it should have waited a season. I could be wrong and Falling Skies could theoretically have a tight narrative for the rest of the season but the previous two seasons don't seem to indicate any sort of master plan.
While the writers seek to juggle a whole new element to the plot, the current sub-plots already show how little focus this episode had. The primary one is the Alien Baby plot. Anne continues to be worried when her baby is doing advanced things it shouldn't be capable of so her logical conclusion is that it's not human. This actually makes sense but she's going to have to convince other people this because they all think she's crazy. I guess the writers were trying to make us question her sanity as well because the baby only happens to talk or stand when nobody else is in the room. This completely fails because: a) this is science fiction, b) the show's direction/writing isn't convincing enough, and c) we spend so much time with other plots that I'm not convinced this is even what the show was going for. If any poor viewer did have any doubts that this was Alien Baby, the preview for next week's episode all but seems to confirm that it indeed does. So far, I can't say but state that the Alien Baby remains ridiculous and poorly executed. I'm sure it's going somewhere but I'm also failing to see it's relevance to the series as a whole. I'm starting to think that the writers wrote down their ideas for what to put on this season on a whiteboard. They then decided to throw everything they had written into the show. That's honestly what it's starting to feel like and this is only three episodes into the new seasons. I wouldn't be surprised if the show's ratings kept falling.
This is at least better than the whole Hal story. He's managed to completely recover his ability to walk, only limping occasionally. That was awfully quick recovery. I get that the only thing holding him back was his own mental will but you'd still think he would have some more adjusting to do before he's back on his feet. Anyways, I'm not going to harp on that. I'm going to harp on how badly his whole decision to leave and then admit he might be the mole to his dad largely because the story is told through Maggie's perspective. Everything we find out about his plot only comes from when she finds out. Which doesn't make a lot of sense since this is really a story about Hal. We don't get to find out what potentially being the mole actually means to him. We don't see him arrive at the conclusion, deciding to leave, and then choosing to admit his potentiality to his father. There is no character arc for Hal. The only present is where Maggie decides to not give up on Hal. Which is great I guess and makes some sense but is nowhere near enough compelling with what Hal should be going through. Anyways, he doesn't get a chance to admit his potential moleness because the city gets ambushed just as he's about to get clean. This ambush happens when the whole town is erecting a monument to their dead in what was a surprisingly strong speech by Tom. I guess there is a reason on why he's the President of the New United States.
I wish I could say that I was excited for the next episode but that would be lying. The previews seem to indicate that the focus of the episode is going to be on this new President and the Alien Baby rather than the invasion. This probably dooms this ambush to be a short-lived and disappointing one despite all the build-up. As for every plot? There isn't one left-over from this episode that I'm actually excited about. A new human faction? Worrisome. Alien Baby? Ridiculous and stupid. Hal's whole Karen thing? Being executed too poorly to be interesting to the point where it just feels like typical teen romance garbage. Badlands had some good moments: the girl's death and the memorial. It was largely an episode filled with plots that didn't work or that doomed the season going forward. I now have serious doubts the third season will improve on the second.
It seems like the season is bringing Matt to the forefront as he's getting a lot more scenes this season. This episode he gets to deal with a friend of his passing away after trying to get a look at her privates. Adolescence.
Sorry for being so late with the episode.