Examined: Falling Skies – “Mind Wars”

Airbender Lexi

This Season on Avatar: The Last Airbender … I mean Falling Skies

This week’s episode of Falling Skies entitled “Mind Wars” was full of misdirection, awkward moments and horrible realizations. Though despite these bad moments, we saw some decent character growth for some and story closures for others. So let’s analyze the good, the bad and the ones that made us want to drop to our knees and scream NO!

Dealing With Other Survivors:

One of the biggest themes of any post-apocalyptic TV show is how do you deal with other survivors. The Walking Dead did a great job of that last season by putting forth the notion that the end of the world weeds out the gentle. This week’s Falling Skies episode took a page from that playbook when it introduced the characters of Nick and Cooper; and from the moment we met these two travels all by themselves, we could tell something was off.

Harkening back to Season 1, this turned out to be nothing more than a few survivors who had been staying alive by working for the Espheni. Their back-story and quick acceptance of Tom’s group just seemed too contrived. Thankfully Tom picked up on it; but who wouldn’t? What this episode was shooting for – but Walking Dead did FAR better – was to show viewers what life is like for other survivors who don’t have the fortune of being with our heroes. We saw this slightly last episode with the introduction of Sara – the crazier female version of Pope.

Please don't do Tom any favors

Please don’t do Tom any favors

The Espheni have been on Earth for a few years now and if you’re not with a big established group; you’ve basically gone rouge. The kind and weak would not survive this long outside of a group. You’re either crazed from lack of human contact or the worst humanity has to offer – ie: selling out your own people and children. Again, it was a nice touch but could have been handled a lot better. The only moment during this whole exchange that unnerved me was when Cooper decided he should shoot Tom too.

In the end, Cooper suffered from the same character flaw as Nick: he couldn’t see anything beyond himself. They both knew Tom was a rebel and a freedom fighter yet Cooper just figured Tom had nothing to live for since his son – and maybe the rest of his family – are dead. He never stopped to think about the ‘good’ or humanity in general; but rather how ones life meaning is determined only by biological family. Family is important; but in an apocalyptic situation everyone doesn’t have that luxury sadly. This idea was explored a bit when Hal told Dingaan that despite being alone, the group itself is now Dingaan’s new family.

Matt’s Ill-Timed Lesson:

While Tom was directly dealing with Nick and Cooper; Matt and Weaver were following behind waiting for a chance to spring Tom free. Though rather than striking early – and more safely – this time was used to undermine the emerging leader Matt was becoming and send him back to his early bipolar days of ineffectiveness. Allow me to elaborate.

As you’ll recall, in earlier seasons Matt was either the child away from the war front or displaying an extreme affinity for blowing stuff up. Normal kid behavior? Sure; but since this season started we saw a much more mature and controlled Matt. He had become a great leader who not only was able to resist being brainwashed in the Espheni Youth Camp; but also maintain his cool and put his energies towards an insurgence plan. Where was the Matt that had learned to stay cool under pressure.

Matt

To show Matt flying off the handle in rage about his father is one thing; but not wanting his father to shoot a rabbit when they haven’t eaten for 3 days is another. This whole scenario just put Matt back in a neither here nor there situation. Is he the pacifist that couldn’t hurt a fly; the warmonger; or the calm and collected leader? The only thing more unsettling about the whole “undo Matt’s character growth”, was that this all happened while Tom was in a dire circumstance.

If they knew not to trust Nick and Cooper, why did it take so long for them to act. They couldn’t have been that far away from the camp. Why was there a need to track them? Why did Weaver give Matt the gun if he knew the kid couldn’t pull the trigger – or had so much room for error? This was a dire situation where time was of the essence. They had the element of surprise the entire time so why not use it sooner rather than the last second like Weaver did. It would have made more sense to rescue Tom that first night and swoop in – like Weaver did barely 5 minutes before hand when they first got to the camp?

In the end, too much happened in this scene ‘by luck’. There was ample time to save Tom yet they didn’t act. There was also ample time to notice there was no blood pouring out of the sleeping bags after they were shot. Again, this whole side story had good intentions; but was far too contrived and counter productive to be executed properly.

Answering Last Week’s Question:

The only productive thing to come out of this whole side-story was that it answered one of our questions from last week: Is the Espheni skitterization plan doomed to fail or was Jeanne just a failed attempt? According to Nick and Cooper’s accounts, there were various tests for human skitterization. Some tests resulted in full body harnesses and others resulted in deformed skin shedding monstrosities.

On the road

Jeanne certainly sounds like the second of these two possibilities, so her ‘remaining humanity’ was – as we suspected – just the result of a flawed early process. Either way, the Espheni seem to have their act together now – as we learned from Tom’s conversation with the Overlord ‘Scorch’ – and there’s no telling what these new stable skitters will look like or how strong they’ll be.

A Highly Illogical Plan:

While Tom and his crew were busy discovering Hal’s Croatoan message – and then stupidly exploring the place even though they knew the other left in a hurry – Hal’s group were trying to find a way into the supposed ‘safezone’ described in Lourdes message. Judging from their recon teams, the area surrounding the Chinatown refuge is crawling with mechs, skitters and other patrol groups.

This segment seemed a little bland compared to everything else going on; but in actuality it was one of my favorite moments of the episode. With no crazy cults or homicidal blondes, I enjoyed this segments opening up some character development. ‘Shaq’ voiced his inner Vulcan with his ‘highly illogical plan’ and learned what sarcasm is while Pope faithfully contributed to the group without. It even seems like Pope is a good influence on Sara.

Illogical Plan

Overall this scene had great little moments of character growth and continue Hal’s emergence as a leader away from his father’s shadow. Best of all it did this all without any forced or contrived scenarios. ‘Shaq’ hacking into a Mech was such a brilliant idea that I don’t know why it wasn’t thought of sooner. It was like Season 1 when they decided to melt down mechs and use their metal as new bullets. We need more innovation like that and this scene gave it.

Cut The Cr@p Lexi:

If the best segment of this episode had all character but no plot development; then you can be sure the WORST had the exact opposite properties. With uneasiness and continuity issues aside – because I’ll be getting to those in a bit – the whole segment around Cult Lexi spun even more out of control this episode. Remember during the first episode of this season when I was excited about the Lexi story? Well each episode this season has made me enjoy her less and less – not that I liked her story last season that much – and she irked us in this episode like no other.

Anne has definitely been a little unhinged this season; but in the Chinatown refuge she is actually one of the saner ones. No matter what her family say, Lexi sides with the Espheni and goes as far as choking her mother while throwing a temper tantrum. That’s right, you heard me. Lexi is now an air-bender. That’s just what the 2nd Mass needed. (Yes, sarcasm). Add in Lourdes blaming Anne (the victim) for making Lexi use her powers, and Cult Lexi is back to normal – whatever that is.

When Dr Kader was talking about Lexi’s inspiring uniqueness, was it just me, or did anyone else say “Shut up Lourdes” when she said “She inspires everyone”? Oh no, wait, Anne was thinking it

When Dr Kader was talking about Lexi’s inspiring uniqueness, was it just me, or did anyone else say “Shut up Lourdes” when she said “She inspires everyone”? Oh no, wait, Anne was thinking it

The only thing worse than this was the fact that Lexi told Lourdes to knock out Anthony to release the Espheni. There is so much wrong with this. Like why is there only 1 person guarding the alien? And WHY does anyone trust Lourdes or turn their back on her? COME ON ANTHONY! Rookie mistake! Lexi’s adherence to her horribly naïve ideas and complete dismissal of everyone around her is beyond irritating right now. She is so blind that this whole situation has passed tragic and is just like beating a dead horse – or choking it with air-bender powers. .

Mind War:

Much like the last time Anne had a formerly harnessed person commune with a Skitter/Espheni, it ended pretty badly since Anne lost it. This time ended even worse; but it wasn’t Anne’s fault. Mentally linking with a Skitter is one thing; but communing with an Espheni Overlord is quite another. While Ben was linked up to the Espheni cordially known as “Monk”, “Monk” tightened his grip on Ben to show that he was the real one in control. Though this little show proved to be something much worse than a mental lockdown.

As we saw later in the episode, Ben and the “Monk” were still linked although much stronger than we’ve ever seen before. It didn’t seem as though Ben was feeling the Espheni’s pain; but rather the pain was being transferred to Ben completely as the after effects of Anne’s attacks appeared on him Ben. Now to be fair, we didn’t see the Espheni’s skin in all of this; but considering his lack of struggle its safe to assume he felt nothing.

Mind War

This is the moment that embodies the episode’s title and what Maggie said in the mini-webisodes ‘The Enemy Within’. The Espheni war machine might be scary; but you can fight that. It’s their mind games that is the worst of all. Sure they might be manipulating Lexi – and by extension and entire cult – but “Monks” ability to mentally connect to Ben while he wasn’t there and transfer all of his pain to him remotely is disturbing on so many levels.

Does that mean this Espheni is immune to death or does this ability only work on non fatal blows? If it were killed would Ben have died too? If the Espheni can hack Ben like that, what else can he make Ben do? Once again, we have so many questions as we haven’t really learned much about the Espheni race themselves. Though here we do see something decidedly different Scorch, who was wounded while linked to a human yet the human remained unharmed. What made this scenario so different?

Uneasy Love Triangle:

It’s been building for weeks now and we just keep seeing more and more “moments” between Ben and Maggie. Now on one hand, they would make a really great couple. They’re similar, make each other laugh, and just overall care a lot about each other. Though I still just cant get past the fact, Maggie has been dating Ben’s brother Hal for the past 3 seasons!

A Maggie and Ben moment

Yes, Ben seems a better match for Maggie; but you just know this is going to end badly. Ben and Hal spent most of the past seasons fighting each other and now they have one more reason to fight. From a relationship standpoint, Hal really dropped the ball on a lot of things lately where Maggie was concerned. The whole ‘killing Karen’ thing upset him which could be understandable if she wasn’t an Espheni puppet who put him and his family through hell for 3 seasons.

Is this going to turn awkward? Oh yah! Will it happen just in time for Hal to get to the camp? Most likely. I have no idea how this can end all happily unless someone dies. Otherwise, any romantic plotlines from here on out with them are just going to be awkward. Though I will gladly take this awkwardness if it meant being spared from the shows shocking twist.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Continuity Issue Confirmed:

Though in this case, when I say TWIST I don’t mean “Wow, I did not see that coming” because we did see it coming. What I actually mean by TWIST is “Oh my God, I can’t believe they were dumb enough to do that!” Seriously, am I losing my mind here?

As I pointed out a few recaps ago, Anne’s dream was actually being set up as a repressed memory; but in that flashback she was shown in Espheni custody while Lexi was still in her stomach. In reality, Lexi was already a few weeks old when Anne was kidnapped. That’s a pretty big continuity issue right there and by making Lexi born ON the Espheni ship rather than afterwards, you actually rewrite most of the episodes of Season 3.

“I never really wanted to choose between you and him” – Translation: Lexi just did

“I never really wanted to choose between you and him” – Translation: Lexi just did

Again, maybe it’s all a lie. Maybe “Monk” is just pretending to be the father and this is some huge surprise; but I doubt it. There is no way Anne could have been kidnapped before hand since the last time she was with Espheni before Lexi was when Karen discovered she was pregnant but that was a quick visit and no one lost sight of each other. Between those points Anne was safely locked in with Volm and human guards.

I don’t know why they are trying so hard this season to stress Lexi is half human/half Espheni. This episode they explicitly said Espheni – not the general ‘alien’ they had been. I’ve said it a hundred times by now. Lexi’s only alien contact prior to birth was Volm; not Espheni. Unless when Tom was kidnapped between Seasons 1 and 2 the Espheni implanted something in his … NO, no no. That’s too out there for even this show. One way for another, this was a moment for any avid watcher of this series to drop to the ground and scream “NOOOO!”.

Control your daughter Anne

Despite all the NOOOOOOs and wasted time of this episode, it seems as though everyone is finally back together by next episode. Hope this means the show can spend more time on moving forward and less time rehashing/rewriting the past. Well, at least we can hope. It’s no wonder they’re making Season 5 their last season. The faster they can wrap this up and not hurt any more continuity, the better.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s