There was a lot wrong with last night’s Falling Skies episode—including an over-reliance on plot hammers and zany twists—but the show at least tried to do real character development. And this moment shows when they absolutely succeeded.
In a nutshell, last night’s Falling Skies had the Second Mass up against it, with swarms of brand new Skitters massing in a valley. I guess that’s where the bug came from that bit Tom, and the bug wasn’t responsible for Tom hallucinating his dead wife a second time after all? Anyway, Tom has to figure out how to wipe out these new Skitters, and where they’re being created—and, because this is the final season and time is short, he accomplishes all of that in this episode.
I could be here all day listing things that bugged me. As usual, when one of Tom’s kids goes off half-cocked it turned out to be a good thing—Hal goes off with Maggie, chasing that girl and her Skitterized brother, and this leads to the capture of an Overlord who conveniently knows everything. Later, Maggie and Ben demand that Tom torture the Overlord, even though they’ll feel it—because then they can read the Overlord’s mind, because the Overlords are incredibly powerful telepaths with ZERO mental control. Yup. And then Anthony shoots the Overlord, because we’ve randomly decided after years of him being the steadiest member of this crew that he’s losing his mind because someone he barely knew (Denny) died.
But the interesting part of the episode has to do with Tom facing a dilemma—save Pope’s girlfriend Sarah first, or rush off to destroy the new Skitter factory? We know that Sarah is toast, because she has a few gratuitous scenes where she talks about how she’s just three days away from retirement, and she and Pope are going to make babies, and everything is perfect, and she has everything to live for. But it’s cold-blooded, the way that Tom just races off to destroy the Skitters and decides he’ll get to Sarah later. That’s straight-up cold.
And the clip above, where Dan says that he doesn’t think they should have rescued Sarah before attacking the Skitter factory—but he can remember a time when Tom would have made that choice? That’s super effective. It’s a neat callback to the earlier seasons, when Dan was always happy to sacrifice the civilians (or anybody, really) to achieve his goals. And now, that’s Tom.
Of course, the effectiveness is somewhat blunted by the fact that we don’t know how much of Tom’s change is real character development, and how much is alien hallucinations screwing with his mind. Incidentally, apparently the alien that impersonated Tom’s dead wife is a member of the presumed-extinct species that were mutated into Skitters. And the Overlords have some kind of secret near Fayetteville that they’re using a jamming device to keep secret. Also, something else mysterious happening in DC. In a few scenes about this stuff, Tom pretty much turns to the camera and says “And that’s our endgame for the rest of the series.”
Anyway, credit where credit’s due—Tom’s choice to let Sarah die was a super interesting piece of characterization, and Dan quietly calling him on how he’s lost his humanity was neat. This show has a really strong cast and did a lot of work to establish its characters back in its first couple seasons—so it can still lean on those things, when it remembers to.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.