Mason Goes To Hell
Did the alien invasion series go out in style? Our verdict.
UK Broadcast Fox, finished
US Broadcast TNT, finished
Episodes Reviewed 5.01- 5.10
It’s quite impressive that Falling Skies lasted five seasons, given that not many people would name it their favourite SF/ fantasy show. For those who did hang on in there until the bitter end, the final 10 episodes are pretty consistently entertaining – albeit often on a fairly superficial level. Barring the aptly- named “Respite” ( though “Longueur” would also have worked) every episode delivers on the action front, and in between the machine- gun battles the human-resistance- vs- alieninvaders show is still capable of tossing in a new twist – such as piranha- like mutant insects, or alien- controlled doppelgangers.
Falling Skies certainly can’t be accused of failing to develop over its lifespan – though a revolving door policy on showrunners explains that. David Eick, final incumbent of the big chair, previously worked on Battlestar Galactica and brought some of that show’s moral greyness with him. For BSG fans it’s impossible not to watch episodes like “Everyone Has Their Reasons” and “Stalag 14th Virginia” – in which the Second Mass discover surviving military forces, but soon find delight turning to disillusionment – without thinking of Admiral Cain and the crew of the Pegasus.
Nowhere is this evolution from family- friendly fare more apparent than in the figure of resistance leader Tom Mason, who began the series as a paragon of virtue and ends it as the sort of man who has no qualms about torturing an alien prisoner for information. It’s a remarkable transformation, and Noah Wyle does a good job of projecting the damaged psyche of a man brutalised but not beaten by his experiences.
It can’t be accused of failing to develop over its lifespan
This final run also puts more emphasis on inter- human conflict, with ex- crim John Pope setting his sights on Mason after a leadership decision sees the woman he loves die. Pope was sometimes portrayed as a loveable rogue, but year five remembers that he’s a very dangerous man, and the episodes centred on his monomaniac quest for vengeance are among the strongest; given licence to turn the “psycho” dial up to 11, actor Colin Cunningham has a ball. It’s a shame, then, that the writing team seem to lose confidence in this conflict. It’s left on the backburner too long; when it returns to the fore it’s dealt with perfunctorily; and the character goes out with a whimper, not a blaze of violence. It feels like a massive cop- out – just like the ease with which a major character death is magically reversed. Compared to, say, The Walking Dead, Falling Skies is annoyingly keen on clicking the undo button.
Season five’s biggest disappointment, however, is the way the Espheni are finally defeated. Multiple militias march on Washington for a final battle, but it falls to Tom Mason alone to save the day. We can just about swallow the notion that killing the Espheni queen will take down her entire race but the fact that Tom’s handed the necessary bio- weapon by yet another alien species undercuts any sense that this is a triumph for human courage and ingenuity, as does the ease with which it’s accomplished – seriously, the queen isn’t guarded by a single Skitter? For those who faithfully followed all 52 episodes, it’s a little galling to see the war finally won in scenes that play out like a videogame character taking on an end- of- level boss. Ah well. Game over. Ian Berriman
“If only I hadn’t shot my cleaner dead.”
“Don’t worry, we’ve conveniently written out the eye- worms.”
“How come we never tried eating a Skitter before?”