Falling Skies: 310 “Brazil” (Finale) Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
“Brazil” is by no means a poor outing – on the contrary, it’s a fairly solid episode, all things considered – but it does unfortunately perpetuate the downward spiral of Falling Skies’ finales over its three seasons thus far. The near perfection of “Eight Hours” is still to be matched, and even the problematic “A More Perfect Union” is considerably more entertaining fare than what we get here.
The biggest issue is the series’ failure to leave us hanging from our figurative cliffs this time around. At the close of Season 1, Tom was taken prisoner aboard one of the Espheni ships in Karen’s company, with his fate to be resolved when the series resumed almost a year later. And Season 2 concluded with the arrival of the Volm, whose allegiance was a complete unknown at the time. All Season 3 teases us with as its final gambit is yet more weird extraterrestrial behaviours from Alexis. If this was to be the first we learned of her alien conditioning, then it would be an appropriate revelation to bring the curtain down with, but since we’ve already been informed of this fact much earlier in the season, it’s hardly in keeping with Falling Skies’ climactic motif to end things on such a note.
Another point of contention is the undisclosed leap forward in time from the events of “Journey to Xilbalba”. The preceding episode posed difficulties for the 2nd Mass to overcome before an assault on one of the Espheni’s towers would even be possible – namely, the burial of the Volm’s top secret weapon – but “Brazil” fails to address them in the slightest. All we know is that Tom and Cochise succeeded in recovering the weapon from beneath the rubble, and that Dr. Roger Kadar was in fact able to finish it; we don’t know how they achieved this or how long any of it took.
Whilst Kadar has been endearingly acted by Sean Leonard all season, it does seem as though he is simply a means to surmount any technological/scientific obstacle that the team are faced with, not to mention that his intellect appears unprecedentedly infinite, as evidenced by the ease of which he is able to accustom himself to the Volm technology.
The ensuing attack on Boston’s tower is the definite high point of “Brazil” (the fact that the preeminent portion of the episode is situated at the beginning, as opposed to the end, unfortunately leaves one with a far lesser impression overall), though it is itself not without fault, exciting as it may be (as with last year’s “A More Perfect Union”, it’s clear that a significant amount of budget had been retained for the finale – the sumptuous visual treat of the Boston tower’s cataclysm is prove of that).
The baffling decision to assail the tower in broad daylight goes unexplained (their craft would have been visible for leagues from such an altitudinous viewpoint) – as does the fact that Weaver, Pope and Anthony’s diversions are occurring at night time, yet supposedly also in tandem with what Tom’s group are doing – and then there’s also the startling lack of Espheni infantry protecting the outpost. Two easily dispensed with bombers are all that confronts the 2nd Mass on course to their objective, and they only engage pursuit once the Volm’s decimating weapon has already been deployed. Whilst it was stated in “Xilbalba” that running the Mechs is severely straining the aliens’ limited fuel resources, there’s no real reason for the lack of Skitters at least capacitating as defensive lookouts.
I reiterate what I’ve said time and time again: the threat the Espheni present needs to be a constant, not subject to flexibility dependant on the needs of the writer/writers. They’re supposed to be a race of far greater intelligence than our own (it’s the rest of our unique human attributes that enable Tom and co. to take the fight to them on a regular basis), so them falling hook line and sinker for such a textbook war tactic really does beggar belief.
Meanwhile, the Volm’s attempt to usher the 2nd Mass into encamped captivity to keep them out of harm’s way (are there no aliens in Brazil, then?), whilst being a slight retread of an idea Karen proposed to Tom in “Worlds Apart”, was an interesting angle to their participation in this war (it does seem odd that their intentions were to safeguard the human race, but they themselves were threatening violence if their instructions were not adhered to).
It’s just a shame that writer Remi Aubuchon elected to force the notion of humanity’s unparalleled brilliance down our throats for the umpteenth time in Falling Skies’ history, which prompted some backpedalling from the Volm and denied us a potentially game-changing avenue for the show to explore. Instead, we’re ‘back to square one’, with the Mass headed on the road to Charleston once again.
If the overly negative tone of the review seems at odds with the score I’ve given, that’s simply because this episode’s positives don’t yield much for analysis, whereas its negatives do. Despite everything, this is pure popcorn entertainment. But that’s all there really is to say in praise of it. It’s decent, but sadly unremarkable.
So, how did the series fare overall?
As regular readers will have no doubt gathered; not particularly well. Issues that were largely put to bed with the last season have been resurrected (e.g. inconsistent characterisation; overloaded sentimentality; blatant plot holes; contrived plotting etc.), and scant episodes have managed to strike anything above average. “Strange Brew” proved an anomaly – albeit, one well worth suffering for – and only one other episode really came close to it (“Be Silent and Come Out”).
The series moving forward needs to address all of these problems and the writers must stop playing it so comprehensively safe. At least Karen’s death should give the series a new lease of life on the villain front.