“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the War” (Falling Skies: Season 5)

Falling Skies Season 5
Not the best poster.

I had to marathon Falling Skies‘s last six episodes in one day, because I ended up choosing The Flash and Mr. Robot instead of it, but I kind of liked the binging format. It was very good for the show. Yeah, Falling Skies is over. I’m sad, but kind of glad. You’ll see. Just keep reading.

After Tom and Lexi’s suicide mission to the moon to destroy the Espheni power core, Lexi sacrificed herself, and Tom was lost in space. However, he made it back to Earth with the help of a mysterious alien intelligence called the Dornia, who is disguised as his dead wife. Tom treks back to the 2nd Mass (I swear, this happens every season), and helps to formulate a plan to march on Washington, DC. After the discovery that the Espheni queen is coming to Earth, Tom and the rest of the 2nd Mass find their only chance to win the war.

This season was pretty weird. And, no, not really in a good way. I don’t know what happened, Falling Skies! You used to be such a good show! It seems like in this season, the show as a whole took kind of 180. Well, that’s not right. I could kind of see it happening in season four, but it was much more easy to overlook, and I was able to tell myself that it would blow over. But, it didn’t. Oh, man it didn’t. It really didn’t.

Let’s start with the characters. Tom, who had previously had a high regard for life, and was generally respectful of people, was suddenly really pushy, and was getting kind of uncharacteristically violent. This escalated to the point where Weaver had to ask him what was up, but no more interesting social commentary on people or the war as a whole came from this, and it was passed off as a generally okay thing. That, I could ignore, if I really wanted to. But then, there were the love triangles. Oh, god, the love triangles! Yeah, there were way too many.

Dingo and Matt
It’s Dingo! And Matt!

First, there was Hal and Maggie. They were nice, and it was fun to see their relationship grow over the course of the show. Then, Ben jumped in, and then he and Maggie had some connection, due to the spikes, or some shit like that. So, it was Hal and Maggie’s true love, and Ben and Maggie’s alien connection, or whatever. That was annoying enough, until they resolved that (in an, admittedly, very fun scene). So Maggie got her spikes out, because she didn’t like feeling out of control of herself. Good for her. So her and Ben are out of the picture. But, since Hal and Maggie had been broken up for a while, Hal found a new girlfriend on the road. It was then that I realized we had traded one love triangle for another. But, that was fine because everyone sorted it out, and Hal and Maggie got married in the end. So, I guess it ended the way I wanted it to, but the road getting there was not fun.

But those are just minor gripes. Here’s the meat of the argument. Pope was completely mishandled. Yeah, that’s right. John Pope was a mercenary who popped up in the second episode, and reluctantly joined the 2nd Mass, pooling his skills. Now, he’s one of my favorite characters, because after seeing the way he grew from a massive asshole in season one, all the way to a seriously great person who learned to help people and be a generally decent human being up in the later seasons, I rooted for him. He’s the underdog of a person, and you want to see him pull through. But, now he’s a murdering psychopath. Why? Because the plot demanded it, of course! Why else?

Pope and Sara
Where it all went wrong.

Yeah, Pope totally over-reacted, forgot about all the hardships that everyone else had to push through for the last three years, and started killing people left and right, declared war on Tom, and created a rogue faction inside the 2nd Mass, fracturing the group. But then, no one really cared. Sure, they tried to fix it, but not because they wanted Pope back, it was just because he was in their way. Everyone (including the writers) seemed to forget that Pope had been really helpful, and that he was a pretty good friend before he went crazy for no reason.

That was pretty much the main plot point of the season. And don’t give me anything about how fighting the Espheni was more important, because I know it was! Apparently, the show didn’t, and that’s what I’m trying to point out. Falling Skies has always been a character driven show. Before they were organizing a resistance, it was just a family trying to survive. But in season five, there was just too much drama. It was like everyone had forgotten that they were so close to winning the war. Every seemed to forget that the goal they had worked towards for the past three years was in their hands.

Characters make stupid decisions, and other characters judge them so harshly for it that the whole affair takes up entire episodes. Everyone was at each other’s throats. The one thing that I could think of was “I remember when these people liked each other.” And this was never played off as “we’re so close”, or was used to show that tensions were running high, it was just forced drama. Don’t get me wrong, drama can be good, especially when tensions are high in the end, but is was so fundamentally mishandled here. All it did was get in the way of the plot Falling Skies had promised us from the beginning. It was useless, stupid, and went against everything the rest of the show had established.

See, for the final season of a battlefield-Earth style guerrilla war against alien invaders show, there was a surprising lack of alien-shooting. It was all about drama, and in-fighting. Which is okay, as long as you strike a balance, which Falling Skies‘s fifth season failed to do on nearly every level. It was severely disappointing, because this final season would rather throw “OMG GUYS POPE IS EVIL NOW” in our faces, rather than, oh, I don’t know, attempting to finish the war that the show started with!

Bald Pope
Pope shaved his head, too.

And because of the focus on human drama, the writers had to (in effect) get rid of the Espheni. So, now they have no power, the Mechs don’t work, nor do the Beamers, and the Skitters are… somewhere. Seriously, the Espheni’s massive plan this season was to just keep storming the 2nd Mass’s base, and hope for the best, a couple times. So, the immensely powerful and scary villain that was the Espheni is essentially gone, and the show is weaker for it. Really weaker. I was watching a show about shooting aliens that decided to make it’s main focus family troubles, doing away with the shooting aliens part. Of course, without the threat of the aliens, that leaves us back with the shitty human drama.

But it wasn’t all disappointing. The first three episodes were just standard fight the aliens fare, that were pretty fun, but it all went downhill when Pope did. There was a fun scene were Tom went all Metal Gear on Pope and his gang, and ended with one of the most unintentionally funny shootouts I’ve ever seen. The 14th Virgina two parter was very good, and that completely nailed mystery and drama, feeling like a blast from the past, with it’s “who can we trust” psycho-thriller aspect. But those parts were unbearably short, and I missed them when they were gone.

After that, I was left with the stuff I was forced to get used to. Apparently, Tom is the chosen one, by the Dornia. Yeah, let that sink in, and think about this point here. Back in seasons one and two, and probably three, it was a show about staying alive, and every single victory felt really achieved. And there were literally only three. They killed one Skitter, de-harnessed Ben, and made some mech bullets. It was intense, and down to Earth.

Expendable
Every single secondary character on this show has died. I’m not kidding. Don’t get attached.

Originally, it was about staying alive, but in season five, all the characters do is argue with each other, try to kill each other, and organize other people across the country. The whole concept is different, and it doesn’t work for Falling Skies. Now, it’s not about survival, or scraping out another day, it’s more about the politics of organizing an army from your command center, and not moving. Of course, in the end, we see almost nothing of these “Mason Militias”, even though it was kind of a nice thought.

Now, it’s just gimmicky and tedious, with it’s alien babies, and deus ex machinas, and Phantom Menace like endings. (SPOILERS) In the end, Tom gets a magic glow stick from the Dornia, and they end up not storming the giant wall in DC, but instead going under it, and moving really silently, because baby Espheni in orange Xenomorph eggs might kill them if they make too much noise. There’s an explosion, Tom is separated, and ends up staring the Queen Espheni right in the face. He tries really hard to grab the Dornia’s magic glowstick, which was knocked out of reach, and the queen tells him why she’s here, and starts draining his blood. Tom reaches the glowstick, and sticks it inside his blood. The queen can’t get out fast enough, and explodes.

All the Espheni die Phantom Menace style, and Tom goes an gets the Dornia to revive Anne, because she died, apparently. Then on the beach, Pope comes back from the dead, and asks Tom to kill him. Tom, of course, refuses, because he’s found his humanity now, of all times, and says “I’m done killing.” In an admittedly very nice moment. He then proceeds to leave Pope on the beach to… starve, or something.

Oh. It's you.
Oh. It’s you.

Yeah, Falling Skies fifth and final season is pretty bad. I mean, the first three episodes are pretty good, basically just classic Falling Skies fun, and the 14th Virgina was pretty interesting, but everything else has pretty much nothing going for it. Just a whole lot of things going against it. Mainly everything going against it. I’m surprised that TNT ended the show at season five, because it’s evident that Falling Skies needed soooooo much more time to develop. Honestly, they should have at least gotten six, preferably seven seasons.

TNT cut the show short for no apparent reason, and took what little time they did have to just create stupid drama, and not finish the storyline that they promised to finish from day one, which had so much potential. Honestly, the finale was the best that I could have hoped for, but it should have been so much better. There should have been more time, there should have been better time management, there should have been more regard for characters, and there should have been more regard for finishing the story that they started with.

I hate to say this, but Falling Skies‘s fifth season wasn’t very good at all. The first couple of episodes were pretty fun, but when Pope went off the rails, the rest of the show did. Suddenly, one of the most interesting characters on the show made a completely unprecedented 180, and didn’t have any redemption by the end. Everyone else was more interested in fighting themselves as opposed to the aliens who for some reason now can’t take over a single building, let alone the planet Earth, and all of the fun was gone. The finale was the best I could have hoped for given the material shoved out of the writers room, but honestly, the rest of the season certainly wasn’t.

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