Falling Skies: 204 “Young Bloods” Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
As the title suggests, this episode focuses mainly on the younger generation of survivors. There’s a child used as a decoy, that same child challenging his father’s authority, a child with some continuing extraterrestrial issues, a new group of surviving children is located, someone’s long-lost child is found within that group and some children find themselves in serious danger when they end up imprisoned in a harnessing factory. So, there’s a lot to digest in this episode then, and almost all of it revolves around children.
The episode opens with an eerily calm scene that follows Matt (Tom’s youngest son) travelling through an empty part of some unknown city on his scooter. There are some Skitters on his tail that end up stalking him until a trap is sprung, where they meet their demise at the hands of Tector and Boon and a rather nifty Barret 50 cal.
It was obvious there would be some tongue-lashing from Tom when he eventually found out what these two esteemed members (!) of the berserkers had allowed his son to take part in. That turned out to be the case and his authority over the group of miscreants seems, for the most part, unchallenged. I think it’s good for Tom to have his own group to command, as it rids us of the now overly familiar scenes where he constantly second guesses Weaver’s orders, to no avail.
Matt also receives some verbal punishment for choosing to be ‘Skitter bait’, but, like Tom’s two other sons, he adopts a predominantly disobedient attitude and shows an adamance to become a fighter like the rest of his family. This, rather expectedly, gets him in to trouble much later on during a botched rescue mission.
Since Tom’s departure on an alien craft at the end of last series (something Matt uses against his father during their row) the bonds of the Mason family have been somewhat loosened. Unlike in the first series, the three sons seem uninterested in their father’s approval and more in fighting the aliens, regardless of how he might feel about it. The continuing themes of imperfection and strained relations within their family is a definite step in the right direction, as it allows each member to have some individual character development rather then them being displayed as just your typical ‘all together’, loving family.
Of that family though, Ben’s development is the most substantial and interesting. It continues in a small way in this episode, and while nothing new is really learned, we do get a glimpse in to his current mindset. During the rescue of the children who have been taken to the harnessing plant, Ben touches the glass tank that contains the harnesses and, just like the last episode, his spikes glow a vivid blue. He seems to be a man possessed during this scene, and only when he snaps out of his apparent trance does he suddenly erupt and shoot the tank to pieces. He seems conflicted; aware of the alien’s influence over him, but, for the most part, is unable to control it. This may well result in his eventual departure, should it escalate any further, and there are strong indications that it will. As he said to Hal, if he told anyone in the camp about his spikes glowing, he’d be signing his own death warrant.
It’s good that someone has finally been let in on Ben’s continuingly foreboding situation, albeit somewhat unintentionally, because it’s difficult to understand the level of impact it’s having on him, or why he’s choosing to keep it completely quiet. The reason, as it turns out, is purely fear. Sometimes Ben comes across a bit unaffected and indulgent of his acquired skills, but this may just be a front. Having someone there to probe him will really bring across how he’s coping with it all, and also, considering it is Hal, probably result in some fireworks between the two.
The group of surviving children, who I’ve already mentioned, are an intertwining element of other similarly youthful themes explored in the episode. Among this group of minors is Captain Weaver’s daughter, Jeanne, who he previously believed to be dead. While it was nice to see the good captain get something positive to lift his spirits, the whole thing felt like an emotional ploy.
No sooner had she reunited with her father than she lambasts him for being too controlling, when he is ordering her boyfriend, Diego, not to just rush to the aid of the children who had been captured and instead wait until they can formulate a proper rescue plan. He’s just being sensible and a good leader, something she later praises him for. So why not just listen to him in the first place, if she’s fully aware of his capability as a leader? It really makes no sense. Her following the risky heroics of Diego almost get her, and everyone of his group that they take with them (including, yeah you guessed it, Matt), harnessed.
The other issue is that, by the end of the episode, she takes the decision to depart with her boyfriend and his group of youths. Seriously? What an appalling survival tactic. Surely she would have the ability to convince Diego to stay, who apparently doesn’t wish to remain with a group that has ample food, water, weapons and ten times more man-power than his group, for unspecified reasons. Also, they leave while there are still plenty of people wandering about, and not a single person thinks to put their foot down. Especially alarming when you consider the mortal danger the children’s leader put them in with his amateur and emotionally-driven heroics just a few hours earlier.
The fact that, in the space of an hour, Weaver’s long-lost daughter reunites, gets in to trouble, gets saved and then leaves seems like a fairly obvious plot device who’s effects will no doubt be explored later in the series. It’s the kind of unnecessary and forced sentimentality that occasionally drags down this series, and it’s shame that it crops up quite substantially in an otherwise very good episode.
Best Scene – Harness Factory
Horrifying, is what best describes the occurrences of this scene. Jeanne, Matt, Diego and a few stragglers from his group (most of whom had already been taken), including a little boy who had been found on his own – after the Skitter attack on Diego’s quarters – completely and utterly petrified, had set off on a rescue mission to the harness factory. The scene opens with Matt, Jeanne and the aforementioned boy strapped face down on what look like hospital beds – the aliens improvising with human technology, once again. Not long after they awake, a Skitter approaches each of them individually and displays the same parental affection as we saw in series one. There is a tank that sounds an alarm with the release of steam and with that, a harness is produced and slithers its way down to the unnamed child. I was highly anticipating the first time we would witness the application of a harness, and it didn’t disappoint. We know that the harnesses control the minds and actions of youths, and that over a period of time they convert humans to Skitters, but it appears that they are more than just simple machines. The impression I got, as the harness slithered and crawled up the back of the child before inserting itself in his brain and spine in a fashion not dissimilar to something you’d expect from the “Alien” films , is that these are babies that adopt a parasitic process in order to grow in to adults, or Skitters. The child’s physical reaction to the process was disturbing, to say the least, and just confirmed once again that Falling Skies is not afraid to drift away from its more traditional friendly nature. Also notable, during the destruction of the tank and extermination of the escaped harnesses, was the harness that penetrated Weaver’s leg with the same tendrils/needles that it inserts in to the brain. It’s not definite that this will have any effect later on, but it’s certainly likely given the focus that was put on it.
Verdict – 8/10 [Very Good]
The application of forced drama and sentimentality does reduce this episode’s quality to a degree, but overall it’s still a continuation of the great form that this series has had since the start. I praised last weeks for getting an emotionally driven story right, but here, those elements falter, for the most part. The introduction of an important character’s relative, who we’ve believed to be dead for a while now, should have been handled with more care and precision instead of being shoved in and retracted in a meagre single episode. That said; it wasn’t all bad. In fact, their discussion about Diego was amusing, especially Weaver’s rather fatherly defence of being open-minded after being accused of the opposite by Jeanne. Also notable, is the quality of acting between the pair. With what they were given, they really did their best with and introduced some believability and genuine heart to the situation.