Tweetable Takeaway: The series finale hits all the right notes, but can’t help but feel disappointing. Tweet
Airtime: Sundays 10 PM, TNT
By: Paul Gulyas, Contributor
Well, that’s it for TNT’s five season sci-fi drama FALLING SKIES. And while the final installment, which aired last night, was predictable and somewhat anticlimactic, it wasn’t without its merits.
We opened on an Espheni air raid on the 2nd Mass and its allies, in which it appeared only one flying Espheni swooped down, killed new-to-the-show-this-season Marty, and took off. The sequence was over before it began, and didn’t really set up the great threat the Espheni pose our main characters in this impending final assault.
Unfortunately this “meh” action sequence set the tone for the rest of the action in the episode. I got the sense that it was a budget issue. If the Falling Skies team had the budget of Independence Day, the infiltration of an alien-ravaged Washington D.C probably would have looked and felt a lot cooler. As it was, we got one brief panning shot of a smouldering city with character voice over. Then, instead of the courageous and dramatic Braveheart-esque charge of war you wanted to see the 2nd Mass engage in, we got an excuse to put the characters in a secret underground tunnel to get into the capital.
This covert infiltration was fairly uneventful and without tension. The characters never really felt in danger traipsing through a mine of Espheni Overlord eggs. Weaver starts talking to a soldier who if we met before I don’t recall. The soldier says he’s envious of Marty who died earlier in the episode, giving his life for the cause. Weaver tells him there’s no sense in making yourself a martyr. Marty wasn’t anything in death that he wasn’t while he was still alive. Why spend the time with this character when you have precious minutes left in your series is beyond me. I guess they wanted you to feel something for him before they killed him off moments later; rocks piling on top of him after some gunfire. So that guy died. And I felt nothing.
And that was the problem with the final episode, and ultimately the final season itself. The writers and creators never had the balls to kill off any of the original cast members… None of the Mason family died. It made it feel like a kids show, lacking the grit an epically-scaled drama like this could benefit from.
You could argue they killed off Pope last episode, and I would say refer to my last review to see how I felt about that poor excuse of a send-off. But it’s moot anyway. Pope shows up in the final minutes of the show! He’s alive! Badly, badly wounded. It’s unclear how he survived, and even less clear how he knew to find Tom Mason at a remote beach he himself had never been to, but at least Pope didn’t go out in that half-assed way I thought he did!
But then he did anyway. He wobbled over to Mason like a zombie, told him he wouldn’t get the pleasure out of killing him he thought he would, and asked Tom to put him out of his misery. Tom doesn’t, but Pope dies there anyway. Okay. If you’re going to do the fakeout death and bring a character back for one last hurrah, you need to either make it very dramatic, OR have it make sense. This return from the dead did neither of those things. The only saving grace was Pope’s last line was calling Mason a pain in the ass, which was true to character.
Back to the final attack on the Espheni. Tom is separated from the group in the rockfall that killed that soldier and must go it alone. He gets to the Lincoln Memorial where the Queen was expected to be located. After finding Lincoln’s head torn off, Tom finally sees the Queen herself. And it is a terribly CGI’d spider-thing with a lady’s voice from a prescription insomnia medication commercial. Completely weird and nonthreatening. It binds Tom to a wall with some goo, where she James-Bond-Villain explains why the Espheni attacked Earth in the first place–they killed her weird spider daughter 1,500 years ago. Um. Okay.
Anyway, Tom gets to make his big speech about how even if he’s killed, humanity will never give up the fight, yadda yadda yadda. The Spider Queen puts he sharp talon on his chest and holds it there just long enough for Tom to reach the glowing weapon the mysterious alien race gave to him a couple episodes ago. For a conquering space queen, she sure seems unaware of immediate threats within her field of vision. Tom grabs the weapon, it kills her, and she glows and explodes like a final boss in a Final Fantasy game. And then magically, all the Espheni around the globe do the same. How that makes sense other than it being convenient to end the series, I do not know.
So the humans win. Anne was killed in the tunnels beneath D.C but ever so briefly–Tom was able to convince the other aliens to bring her back to life. And it turns out she was pregnant! Not only do all Masons survive, but there’s another on the way! Hal proposes to Maggie mid-battle. And Tom is poised to become the first President of the New World or whatever government is going to look like post-aliens. I have to admit after watching the entire series, it was satisfying to see everyone all cleaned up and happy at the end, and Tom’s short speech over the Washington Monument about humanity coming out better than before the Espheni came was touching. Noah Wyle carried the series to the end and I hope to see him in other stuff soon now that his schedule’s opened.
In the end, I wished the episode was a little more gutsy with the fates of the characters, a little more tension-filled with its action sequences, and had a little bigger of a budget for its special effects, but in the end the series was a fun, popcorn-y ride that was never too heavy and was solidly entertaining for what it was.
Paul co-created and writes for SHOWoff, a game that lets players predict what happens next on their favorite TV shows, earn points for what they get right, and see where they stack up against friends and the world (free in the iOS App store). Check out the SHOWoff app at playSHOWoff.com