Falling Skies: 209 “The Price of Greatness” Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
Last week’s episode saw the long journey to Charleston finally come to a close. I think it’s fair to say, the 2nd Mass were expecting some sort of utopian society; somewhere they could rebuild; start anew, in perfect harmony with the other survivors residing there. It’s to the show’s credit, then, that what they got instead was a little bit more complicated.
The episode’s opening moments has you buying in to this place being some kind of makeshift paradise; there’s ample supplies of food; professional facilities, but it doesn’t take long for the cracks to become apparent and Charleston to be exposed as the semi-dictatorship it is.
Arthur Manchester, Tom’s former college mentor, played by Terry O’Quinn (whose performance is excellent throughout), has assumed the position of acting majority leader and employs strict tactics to ensure the survival of his community. For what it’s worth, I did enjoy the hypocrisy of his character. His attempts to be remembered for establishing the first functioning civilisation and government, post-invasion, by hunkering down and ignoring the alien threat; as opposed to sending them from his land; is in stark contrast to the famous names of the American revolution that he sees fit to compare himself with. It was entirely fitting also, that Tom, with the use of Arthur’s own writings, should be the one to make this hypocrisy known to Charleston’s residents.
However, General Bressler’s acceptance of any and all orders from him, until, rather predictably, Tom and Weaver make him realise his desire to fight instead of hide is the right thing to do, is more than a little jarring. Regardless of the civilians’ reverence for Arthur, it seems way off the mark for an army man of Bressler’s stature to just play ball when it’s something he’s so clearly against. Another issue is, Col. Porter, who hurriedly allies with the 2nd Mass in their revolution against Arthur’s ways, and yet has failed to do so before now. Why is that, exactly? It’s clear from both his and Bressler’s first scenes that Arthur’s methods don’t sit comfortably with either one of them, so why does it take any convincing for them to knock the egotistical ruler off his perch?
The whole situation is just dealt with far too quickly for my tastes. If Arthur’s choice to ignore the threat and ‘play it safe’ bothered Porter and Bressler as much as it clearly did, then I fail to see how Tom and his gang merely pointing out the issue, an issue they’ve obviously been aware of for some time, would suddenly force the pair in to such drastic action.
The idea in itself is not a bad one, though, but when confined to a single episode, instead of being allowed to develop properly over the course of several, it just does not work.
Without doubt, the biggest disappointment of this episode is the writer’s chosen direction with Tector; whose development in the preceding episode was a clear highlight. No sooner has he solved his deep-seated army issues, than he is back in the gear and taking questionable orders without protest. Luckily, as the attempted escape of his resistance buddies is halted, and they’re being held at gunpoint, he has an abrupt change of heart and stands by their side once more. The clear stumble with his character, though, has me wishing for his refinement to a simple background player once again. You don’t get over issues of that nature so quickly, and you certainly don’t turn against the one man who helped you through it, however temporarily.
Best Scene – Pope’s Meal.
Pope’s general lack of screen time, and choppy, back and forth character development over the course of this series, has left me somewhat frustrated, it must be said. It’s a good thing then, that, for the first time in a long time, he is back to his brilliant, scene-stealing best.
Invited to Arthur’s quarters, and offered a nice meal; in an effort to wheedle out any dirt he has on Tom (taken prisoner on an alien ship, then let go and found to have a bug of some kind lodged in his eye; there’s plenty he knows, at the end of the day), his behaviour is tremendously satisfying and typically Pope-like.
Accepting the food, he sets about preparing himself for it in the most awkward and unnerving way, and appears to be assessing Arthur’s reaction to this in the process, or he may just be enjoying himself. When finally asked what he knows, he decides not to divulge any of it. His decision is not based on his respect or fondness for Tom, but rather his own personal desire to ‘knock Tom Mason off his pedestal’. Something he will not allow anyone else the pleasure of doing.
Verdict – 5/10 (Average)
It’s clear that this is merely the calm and quiet build-up to the finale’s crescendo, but its achingly slow pace, lack of any solidly excitable plot element, illogical character development and failure to pan out the story in a believable way; results in a less-than-satisfying penultimate instalment. It was clear that the series’ excellent run of form had to cease at some point, it’s just a shame it’s come at the worst possible time. Hopefully, the last episode will see a return to winning ways.