“Mind Wars” is an appropriately on-the-nose title for a very on-the-nose episode, in terms of the messages it wants to get across. While we are now down to only three main storylines, I cannot say this was a stellar episode, mainly because the control over characters that were less scattered this week faced the issue of going more for a point than what may have felt natural. That, and there is a performance that I have decided is just not working for me. With that said, two key guest stars did fine work with Noah Wyle this week, which may have felt like a diversion, but served its purpose effectively enough.
I will start with that whole plotline, as it is the most significant and best part of the episode. It’s been a few days since Tom, Weaver, and Cochise rescued Matt from the Espheni camp. The group is still away from their rendezvous point and hasn’t eaten. It is apparently an important setup, as we watch Matt deny his dad the chance to take out a rabbit to eat. We’ll get back to that. Upon arriving at the rendezvous point, Tom discovers the message left by Hal on last week’s episode and realizes that they have moved to somewhere safer, based on the coordinates left behind. A quick brush with the skitters only establishes that Tom is being sought out by the Espheni overlords, but we are quickly back to following just Tom and his group through the forests.
It is becoming more and more apparent that Cochise is a blessing and a curse for this show. On the one hand, Falling Skies is a series that features Doug Jones as a regular actor on the show, which is great. On the other hand, Cochise is too useful of a character to keep around, meaning he has to be sent packing all the time; otherwise it would always be easy for Tom and the others to stay safe. So with that, we get another scene where Cochise must leave the gang, as he searches out the other Volm, who are looking for the Espheni power source. It does not help that we, as the audience, know that the other Volm are with Hal, making the separation almost unnecessary to begin with. That said, Tom, Weaver, and Matt on their own leads to a dramatic scenario.
In search of food, the trio comes across too survivors out in the woods. They are played by character actor Gil Bellows (The Shawshank Redemption and Ally McBeal tend to be the first things I think of with him) and Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica and more recently The Bridge, which I also happen to cover for this site). The two play brothers who claim to have escaped from a skitter farm. The skitters are apparently creating hybrids, which Weaver is all too aware of, based on the events of last week. Tom and Weaver are both suspicious of these two (Nick and Coop), which they have every right to be. As it turns out, Tom has quite the price on his head, which leads to him being kidnapped in the night, with the impression of Weaver and Matt having been killed.
Coop blindly shot at sleeping bags, which were actually empty, as Weaver was a step ahead. Tom is dragged along by Nick and Coop, but while being told his son and Weaver are dead, Tom is wise enough to know that is not actually the case. As this plotline carries on, Tom digs at the two brothers, eventually understanding the scenario. Coop takes orders from Nick and doesn’t ask questions. Once alone with Coop, Tom realizes that Coop has lost his children and has little to live for. Tom eventually understands the real truth, which is that Nick gave up Coop’s kids to save himself. It is a harsh reality the humans live in, but Nick is clearly set up as the anti-Tom, who gives in to the pressure and is not a selfless person. This aspect of the episode is quite engaging, with a solid level of drama coming from these three talented actors. Of course, Nick and Coop are both killed, so that dynamic has nowhere else for that to go, but the message is clear enough.
The issue I take is with the Matt and Weaver side of the story. While I get the emotional place we see Matt in, as he talks big about wanting to get vengeance on those messing with his family, I am not quite sure this show has earned that place for Matt to be put in. Maxim Knight certainly does what he can as an actor, but it felt more like the show wanting to give him a scene like this, because that is how it was scripted, rather than making me believe Matt is at a point where he would act this way. As a result, the emotions are undercut by a lack of belief in the actions taken, but Will Patton, as always, sells Weaver’s pains to get a lesson across, as he allows Matt a chance to shoot at his father’s captors, knowing that Matt is not that kind of person.
The other plotlines in this episode are less important to an extent, though one clearly continues to be building. On the Hal side of things, “Mind Wars” is more or less a throwaway episode for him, as we basically see what he and his group are up to, as they make their way towards Chinatown, based on Lourdes’ radio broadcast. We get some interaction between Hal and the Volm, which is not nearly as fun as Tom and Cochise, but satisfying, as well as a fun action beat that involves Pope and Mira Sorvino’s Sara character. It is the loosest part of this episode and played as such.
Getting to the Lexi plot, look: Moon Bloodgood has been solid this season, as Anne has had a lot of emotional turmoil to go through and express, let alone a lot of different actions to be taking compared to the first couple seasons she was featured in, but her new counterpart is an issue. I have not been enjoying what Scarlett Byrne is trying to do as Lexi. I understand the type of state and presence the character is supposed to have, but Byrne is really not all that effective, which is why I cannot really attach myself to the character drama going on in this part of the story, despite curiosity regarding where this plot is all going.
This week Anne questions the captured Espheni, which is handled in a manner unacceptable to Lexi. Anne and Lexi argue, leading to Lexi using her powers, but becoming overwhelmed and placed in an exhausted state. This all eventually leads to Anne beating answers out of the captured Espheni, which lead to a solution to bring up Lexi’s health, only to later find that the Espheni was also released by Lexi somehow. The big reveal then comes out, as Lexi explains that this Espheni is one of her fathers. As a viewer, we certainly already knew that Lexi had a deeper connection to the Espheni than the other characters may be aware of, but now we have a pretty clear label of what that connection is.
So yes, while the story has not moved too far forward this week, there is some solid character drama with Tom, despite my quibbles with Matt’s involvement. Hal is getting closer to Chinatown. And Lexi needs to step it up in my eyes. Ideally next week will at least bring two groups together again, tightening up this show further, but we will see how well it digs into the characters we are following. After getting so much Pope for the last two weeks, maybe I just miss having a bit more fun. Regardless, what is really needed is more Cochise, as usual.
Other Thoughts From The Desk Of Tom Mason:
- So Falling Skies was picked up for a fifth and final season. This certainly works as a way to set a path for an eventual final outcome, which pleases me.
- Ben and Maggie around this week enough to see Ben be overwhelmed by the Espheni using him as a translator, then later take a beating, based on Anne beating the Espheni, while it connects to Ben. And there is just enough time for another bit of sexual tension between Ben and Maggie, which I really don’t need.
- I do like how Tom’s vigilante persona, “The Ghost,” is a story spreading amongst the humans.
- Hal explaining that he used sarcasm is part of the fun I guess we were having with his part of the episode.
- “Highly irregular.”
- Shut Up Lourdes: The girl really knows how to blame everyone else.
- Next week, we find out what’s behind “Door Number Three” #TNT BOOM!