Episode 4: At All Costs
By: Carlos Uribe
Falling Skies is a show about the human war effort, along with it's allies, against an alien invasion force.
It is one thing to build up a major narrative event and have it disappoint the fans because it couldn't match the scope of what was being promised. It's quite another thing to not even try to match the scope. The invasion happens in the beginning of the episode and it's easily defeated by the Charlestown troops. It did serve a purpose but how disappointing was that? I wasn't expecting a lot but I was expecting something. It ended so quickly that it's kind of insane that the writers spent a significant portion of the premiere and second episode building up to it. This seriously could have been an ambush by the skitters on Charlestown at the end of the last episode and it would have been better. At least then we weren't expecting some awesome invasion of Charlestown. I mean, we were promised that the skitters were going to throw everything they got at our human army. What we instead got was an easily defeated force that really served no real threat to our characters. If it hadn't been built up then it could have at least served as an effective cliff-hanger and no harm would have been done. Since it was build-up, it's like the series spent so much time setting up something it didn't really want to deliver in the first place. Not cool, Falling Skies. Not cool. At least it sets up the rest of the episode which is absolutely AWFUL. I'm starting to think that my half-joking theory that they decided to throw all of the ideas they had on a whiteboard into the show. There's just so many ridiculous and stupid plots going on that it's making me think the show has started to go off the rails. This is surprising since the producers played it so safe for the first two seasons. Was there some behind-the-scenes change that caused the writing to go crazy? Was the cable network worried about the declining ratings in the second season and demanded that the third to be so plot heavy? At least the episode isn't a complete waste as it does present an interesting question for Ben. That the episode then decided to answer in the least interesting way possible.
The worst plot of the episode has to go to Anne's baby. It turns out she is an alien! Anne was right! She has the DNA test to prove it! She can be vindicated and they can start to deal with this issue. Oh, what's this? Anne has gone completely crazy? I understand fearing for her daughter's life but there is a limit that the episode crossed in how much irrationality is acceptable. First, Anne has been shown to be afraid of her daughter. She doesn't think it's human. That calls into question her commitment to protect it. Assuming that this commitment wasn't called into question, she's doing it in the worst possible manner. She knocks out the engineer that helped her with a wrench and poisons Lourdes so she can kidnap her baby. This isn't irrational behavior for a believable human created out of fear. This is just plain stupidity. She quickly gets captured by the bad skitters as they decide to take her baby. Hal helps them because he's evil now. I guess the idea of Anne and/or the baby getting captured would be a good plot device to drive the character's actions but it was achieved in the worst way possible. I simply did not believe that the Anne we had known for the last two years would do this. I understand fearing the loss of her baby especially since she had lost her son earlier. I understand even doing irrational things in that fear. It's just that those irrational things have to still ring true to the character. They have to be as smart as the character. These two things didn't happen. This wasn't the character of Anne we knew and her action wasn't as smart as she was. The irrationality didn't fit. This is literally a character acting in a certain way for the sake of the plot. The whole baby plot has been iffy with me but it has completely bombed now.
The Hal plot gets a ridiculous development this week. Hal looks into the mirror and starts talking to himself. Mirror Hal starts talking back. Mirror Hal is Evil Hal. Hal punches mirror. Evil Hal takes over Hal's body. Evil Hal has sex (of course-sex is bad people!) with Maggie and then proceeds to help Anne give up her baby to the skitters. That's what happened with Hal this week. If the effect was to make me laugh out loud and stop taking this show so damn seriously, the plot completely succeeded. It's just plain stupid. I get that he has a chip implant but the way this show executed his personality change really reminded me of Do No Harm. You know, that show on NBC that lasted like two episodes before it got canceled because it was terrible? Yeah, I just don't know...this show. There must have been some behind-the-scenes work done because I just don't see this episode being written in the first or the second season. I guess this third season is going be laugh-out-loud bad in a lot of parts so I better get used to it. As to the future of this plot? I'm not looking forward to how this ends. There's very little room for any drama that I think could potentially salvage this plot simply because it's hard to take the very concept behind it seriously. The only good thing is that it gives Drew Roy some actual material to chew because Good Hal is just so bland. Evil Hal isn't a lot better but at least he makes some kind of impression. I wonder, did Drew Roy see The Vampire Diaries and other shows with evil versions of characters and ask if the writers could do that for him? So this way he wouldn't be stuck with a boring character? I don't know, I'm just spitballing here.
The main season narrative gets developed a bit as Tom goes to meet the President of the United States. Only he brings Conchise with him so that the President can meet their alien ally. The two talk, the alien ally gives a great story about how he's always dreamed about seeing a flower on his homeworld, and then the compound gets attack. There's an air battle where the President's plane is taken down. The general tries to avoid getting Pope's plane and our human main characters go down. The premise of the next episode is that Tom and Pope will have to work together to survive. They'll probably look for the President's plane so they can get Conchise. The plot was okay but it wasn't terribly interesting. It was just Tom trying to convince yet ANOTHER character that it's okay to trust these new aliens and their technology. It was nice that we actually got to know Conchise a little bit but not so nice that he got separated from our characters. I guess the promise of a Tom-Pope episode is a strong one but I'm hoping that they quickly find Conchise because Pope's hatred of aliens would make such an episode more fresh. We did spend two whole seasons of Pope and Tom on the road, sometimes together, struggling to survive. We didn't really need a third. The only redeeming part of the episode was Conchise's monologue. Everything else felt like rehash and the episode cliff-hanger didn't promise the best episode because Conchise was on the wrong damn plane. Oh, well, at least it's possible to take this plot seriously.
The only good plot of the episode came with Ben. He has an opportunity to take off his spike with the other spiked kids. I knew the series wouldn't go through with it because it would mean eliminating the rebel skitter's ways of communicating with the humans at Charlestown. I'm actually kind of surprised that their being allowed to remove the spikes considering the use they provide to the military, long-term health problems be damned. Ben and his current love interest debate about whether they should take off their spikes and be normal or not. It's a great question but the problem is the two characters just talk about it. There's no real action involved. It would have been more interesting if they tried going twenty-four of what their life would be like without their spikes or something that was beyond the two just talking the pros and cons of being useful even if it made them outcasts. The debate made sense and the episode could have still gotten the points across. Overall, it was really the only dilemma that I actually cared about this week.
At All Costs is not a good episode of Falling Skies. It's only decent plot is with Ben and it's executed in a dull fashion. The main narrative development feels repetitive as Tom has to prove an alien's worth to yet another character but we do get a hint of Conchise's identity. The other two plots were just off-the-rails insane. Anne has gone from being a rational person to making absolutely no sense for dubious reasons. Hal has gone from being bland to being evil because he basically punched a mirror while having an implant inside him. Here's hoping the writers can start to salvage the season next week or we might find ourselves with a season that went broke with crazy plot developments or a series that gets a reputation for being so bad it's funny.