After a couple of episodes focusing more on the characters and building up the tension around the Chinatown setup, this week’s episode of Falling Skies definitely lived up to its title, “Saturday Night Massacre.” It should be a credit to this series that despite the basis being a dark idea of an alien invasion, which includes experimentation on children, it manages to maintain a level of entertainment value that keeps the show from becoming too bleak. So when you have an episode that features the death of three recurring characters, there is certainly a level of significance to the proceedings that feels all the more effective due to how involving these sorts of developments are; even when it includes a character I could not care less about.
Pretty much every week I have made a comment in some way concerning the nuisance that was Lourdes. As opposed to Scarlett Byrne, whom I have not been impressed by, it is not Seychelle Gabriel’s performance as Lourdes that was bothersome, just the purpose of the character, which was ultimately useless. This week features the death of Lourdes in the cold open, and while I can admit to having a slight smirk in regards to this event taking place, it also made me wonder what else we would be in store for. This event and the events that follow were all triggered by Lexi awakening from her cocoon and deciding to leave Chinatown, leaving the remaining population open for attack. This would not just be any attack, however, as it was all about revenge.
Based on Tom’s actions from the last major action-focused episode, when he and his people escaped from the ghetto, there has been a lingering plot thread revolving around a skitter overlord who was scarred by Tom. We may not have a lot to go on, as far as the characterization of the Espheni goes, but I do like the simplicity of an overlord wanting to get back at Tom by making him suffer, before obliterating his people, which would solve the Espheni problem much more efficiently. Really think about that: Tom is a constant thorn in the side of the Espheni and having an exact read on their location could lead to an easy evisceration, but instead, stubbornness prevails and we get a more drawn-out battle that gives the humans a chance. It is the kind of cheesy thing that makes the Espheni more human than they realize, but hey, that at least does something to put a face on the Espheni that is not just Karen again.
With all of that in mind, following the drama involving Lexi’s departure, the rest of this episode is focused on setting up for battle and fighting the Espheni battalions looking to kill Tom and then kill off the rest of the people in Chinatown. Because of this, the narrative for this episode is fairly straightforward, as we have our entire cast in one location, focused on one major task. With that in mind, while strategy is a major part of the early portion of this episode, there are some significant moments provided to at least some of the major players.
Pope continues his relationship with Mira Sorvino’s Sara, who slowly sheds her armor, as the two begin to connect more and more. The two things that help are Sorvino’s performance and a more consistent balance of Pope as a character, which has been a constant issue in past seasons. Hal has a talk with Maggie about his decision to no longer focus on “love on the battlefield,” along with dealing with his family issues from last week. It’s still a bit clunky, but keeping him from being a major focus helps. Also, Ben decides to go find Lexi, and Matt totally cannot keep that a secret. We even get a calm before the storm moment with Dingaan, who talks jazz vs. rap with another lookout.
Once the action starts, it really does not let up, managing to work a level of excitement despite some drawbacks. Falling Skies may not have the biggest budget, and the mechs are always tricky to pull off, but there is something about the approach this show had to them this week that was effective enough to make their arrival tense. Seeing mechs both slaughter a group of people and be destroyed by a clever thermite explosives plan made for a strong utilization of the visuals in play. Still, even with the humans doing everything they can to stop the threat, it was not enough to stop the major explosion in this episode.
While I found the gas main-based explosion to feel rushed in its initial execution, the results were certainly significant, as it meant the death of Robert Sean Leonard’s Dr. Kadar character, along with many others. Noah Wyle gets a chance to truly shine, as he finally has a chance to show Tom breaking down, due to too many deaths ending up in front of him. This leads to the drastic measure of him deciding to take on his Espheni adversary himself, by way of a big rifle. We had a setup of this rifle earlier by Tector (Ryan Robbins), who has been a reliable supporting character these past couple of seasons. Unfortunately, we had all the proper setup to signify the death of a character like this in an episode with taking characters out on its mind.
The finale of this episode led to Tom and Tector setting up a sniper camp in an effort to take out the overlord, which instead lead to a big explosion that allowed Tom to fake his death. Tector took a big one for the team by blowing himself up, while everyone else remained in hiding. It was certainly a way to go out like a champ, but it makes me wonder both how necessary that approach was and what the next plan of action is for the remaining humans. Sure Tom managed to escape what could be seen as a death wish (he is the star of the show, so no big surprise there), but with crippled numbers and morale, this could venture into some even darker territory, if the 2nd mass is not careful.
“Saturday Night Massacre” was a strong episode overall. Given that Falling Skies is not a series that employs the killing of recurring characters very often, I did find it surprising that we lost so many people this week, but did not find it to be an ineffective approach to the drama at hand. I was also happy to move on, in a way, from the Lexi storyline for now. Not that I need a full-on action episode to make me happy, but it was a nice change in pace to be where we are at now, with less focus on Lexi and more on the characters that I find to be most effective to watch. Now to see what comes next in the aftermath of this Chinatown destruction.
Other Thoughts From The Desk Of Tom Mason:
- We did get a glimpse at Maggie, and she is presumably still alive. Given the long shot of her, I’m guessing we have something significant for her to do, beyond being the center of a love triangle next week.
- So where is Ben going and do the Mason’s get a Frequent Espheni Flyer Miles Card at some point, given all the abductions they are a part of?
- Not enough Cochise in this episode, but he did blow up a bridge, so mission accomplished.
- That shot through the head of a skitter was a bit too stylish for a dark episode like this, but hey, it looked pretty cool…
- “I love the smell of dead skitter in the morning.” – Goodbye Tector, you seemed like a good dude.
- “Lexi had the same color eyes as my daughter.” – Goodbye Dr. Kadar, hopefully someone will finish your work.
- Shut Up Lourdes: …well she’s doing that for good now. RIP.
- Next week, someone has “A Thing With Feathers” #TNT BOOM!