Falling Skies: 205 “Love and Other Acts of Courage” Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
It’s yet another week where the title pretty much sums up the core focus of the episode. While one half focussed and built on many of the predominant themes that have been established since the start (acts of courage), the other spent time lingering on the romance blossoming between Hal and Margaret (love). It’s a literal tale of two halves, and presents the two most dominant attributes of the series to date; action and high doses of emotion. While the former is almost always pulled off effectively and is a source of constant enjoyment in the series to date, the latter sometimes hogs more time in an episode than it really deserves, and often feels forced and unnecessary. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case this week and, for a second time this series, the emotional storytelling was pulled off with real conviction and was highly enjoyable, as a result.
Hal and Margaret’s oncoming romance has been hinted at throughout the series, with the exchange of smiles, flirtatious jokes etc. It was actually pleasant to see that finally culminate in to something more substantial and really find out where they are going to go from there. It’s not a simple boy meets girl either, there are some clear stumbling blocks for the two to overcome if something serious is to be made of their obvious feelings for each other. Predictably, and understandably, those blockades are mostly coming from Margaret’s end. It will not be a simple thing for Hal to try and convince her to really let him in and get close, due to the nature of some of her experiences since, and indeed prior to, the invasion.
It was also nice to see that the whole Karen scenario hasn’t been dropped from Hal’s mind completely. He still has some issues dealing with her disappearance, and this was made apparent after Margaret’s rather unthoughtful jibes about her. She seems to be an element of the story that’s vanished for a while, but the stricken expression on Hal’s face, at the mere mention of her name, gave the clearest indication yet that she has not been forgotten about.
While I did enjoy this episode taking a large portion of its time to develop the romance between Hal and Maggie, mostly due to the stellar acting and chemistry between the pair, I think it would be better to serve it up in small doses for future episodes. We’re coming in to the second half of the series now, and the writers simply can’t afford to spend too much time on relatively unimportant character relationships from here on in.
Well, it didn’t take old red-eye too long to rear his ugly head once again, and bring with him a truck load of new plot elements in the process. It seems (strong emphasis on the word, seems) that he is not actually evil at all. Rather, he was also harnessed, but on another planet and belongs originally to a different race of aliens. The Overlords – as they have now been confirmed – are very clearly the hierarchy of the invasion force and adopt the Skitters as their personal slaves, but it seems that some, who appear to have retained an essence of their previous existence prior to being harnessed, have formed a resistance of sorts and intend to ally with the humans to fend off the oppressors.
This is a continuation of the rather inspired uniqueness of Falling Skies’ alien race. To have different factions within the invading forces question their leaders is something that’s rarely done with aliens, but something that history tells us was a frequent occurrence in any kind of conflict involving humans – just ask Tom. It, once again, adds far more depth and intrigue to the other side of the war and will surely become a central and hugely important part of the plot when we arrive at the final episodes.
The other return in this episode was that of Rick. He was another child, like Ben, that was harnessed and then had the device/alien removed before the process could complete. Unfortunately, he was always a bit further along in his transformation than Ben was and, as such, most of his humanity was lost. His role in this episode felt somewhat wasted, as he was merely a device through which the captured Skitter could communicate to the humans. After this was all done, he was caught in the crossfire as the resistance attempted to exterminate the now escaped Skitter prisoner.
So, he returned, was talked through and then killed. Considering he was a fairly important character in the first series and his mysterious disappearance was mentioned a few times as if it would hold some significance later on, it seems a shame that he was utilised in such a poor and relatively ineffective way before meeting his untimely demise. Even more alarming was the group’s, apart from Ben, lack of concern about his death. I know he caused trouble for them in the past, but it seems shockingly out of character for the normally caring 2nd Mass to not even bat an eyelid for him.
It seems I was right about Ben’s eventual and inevitable departure from the 2nd Mass. He told Matt of his plans to leave towards the end of the episode, and urged that his little brother keep it to himself. While it really has been obvious for a while now, it does worry me slightly. Depending on how the departure is dealt with, that is. I really think writing the character out of the series completely, or even a number of episodes, would only be to the detriment of the show. There is a significant amount of interest surrounding his character, and to lose him, even for a short period of time, might be a mistake. Not only that, but for him to depart and not be seen again as we approach the end of the series would be a serious misstep, as a lot of the running themes seem to correlate around him. Still, it remains to be seen how it will be done, and if it actually will.
Even more notable though – regarding his departure – is that, should Tom become aware of his intentions, he might not even try to stop him. Weaver expressed his growing concerns about Ben’s possible threat to the 2nd Mass’ safety and Tom was inclined to agree, citing that he would not know what to do should a situation arise where Ben possibly needs to be exiled. This is great character development and a true interpretation of a father that just doesn’t understand or entirely trust his son any more, given the circumstances. In series one, we saw Tom’s unyielding love for Ben, no matter the apparent change and obvious alien influence. Now though, he clearly sees the danger his son poses and that the safety of the 2nd Mass must come before the love he has for him.
Best Scene – The Opening
This was probably the shortest opening scene in the show’s history, yet its impact the biggest. We still don’t really have a clear picture of what the Skitters were doing, or why. They appeared to be worshipping something, but the real question is, why were they joined by Ben in their ritualistic act? His bursting through the door, on to the rooftop and falling to his knees, arms raised, with a rather blissful expression on his face, was surely the most eyebrow-raising scene in the entire episode. As such, it was the moment that stuck out most in my mind.
Verdict – 9/10 (Brilliant)
This was a demonstration that Falling Skies doesn’t need to ditch its reliance on sentimental character interactions to progress a story, and that it can, in fact, go hand-in-hand with the more preferable high octane approach to create one of its best episodes to date. The episode also continues the developments of themes that have either been running from the start, or since a couple of episodes, to keep you hooked for the next one, whilst still managing to tell an individual story at the same time. The only real fault was the poor use and disposal of Rick, who I felt could and should have been replaced with some unknown harness victim, while his fate was either left a complete mystery or resolved at a later date.