Falling Skies: Stalag 14th Virginia (recap and review)


Tom Mason in the brig Falling Skies
Falling Skies last week introduced a figure from Weaver’s past, who seemed to be suffering from Caine Mutiny complex. Captain Marshall (Melora Hardin) may not have had a set of ball bearings to click and clack in one hand a’la Humphrey Bogart, but she did have an unhealed wound on her neck, complete with leaky bandage, that she could not stop fiddling with. After welcoming her old paramour Weaver to the 14th Virginia things went quickly south as her fixation on Tom Mason resulted in the whole Mason clan, sans Ben, being put in the brig.

This week, sees Weaver finally getting suspicious enough of his old flame to follow her off the base and into the woods. He learns that Marshall is not heading out for a teddy bear’s picnic but to receive orders from an Espheni Overlord. After an attack six weeks previously Marshall has been under the control of the alien and arresting humans for colluding with the Espheni and executing them.

By the end of this week’s episode, Noah Wyle has the chance to once again show off his chops in grand fashion as the articulate and heroic Tom Mason. We also get quick glimpse into what John Pope has been up to, continuing his Colonel Kurtz impression, and having his camp set up in the manner of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome “Two men enter, one man leaves.”

That Pope has gone this direction is not really surprising. Certainly not as surprising as his appearance toward the end of this episode and his lolling on a sort of throne, with torches around it. It was also not beyond the realms of possibility that he was putting on some sort of gladiatorial display for the troops. What was shocking, however, was the tossing of the pistol to the “loser” of the match who then shoots the victor.

Clearly, John has not been thinking too many happy thoughts since Tom was plucked out of their gunfight by a giant hornet. When the member of Marshall’s 14th Virginia stumbles into John’s camp we have no doubt that, despite Pope’s apparent delight that Mason is still alive, this treacherous soldier who relayed the news will be next in the “Popedome.”

Back to the odd acting Captain Marshall, it has to be said that this episode was not nearly as frustrating as last week’s. Weaver has, at long last, recognized that his old pal is not herself. Although it does take the colonel following Katie out to the woods and killing the Overlord that she has been taking orders from to prompt any real action from the man.

As the title of the show indicates, the episode was all about escape, who one could trust and who the enemy really was. Sgt. Kagel turns out to be, as Maggie says, a diseased pig who is shot just as he takes aim at Tom Mason. Anne, gets turned in by the guy whose life she saves and Lt. Wolf gets shot and then set up to be executed. Lt. Shelton, who turns out to not be a douche puppet for Marshall after all, dies.

Keeping to the what appears to be a nod and wink to The Caine Mutiny Shelton has been convinced by Mason that what Marshall is doing is wrong. The lieutenant finally realizes that his captain has lost the plot and he attempts to take charge of the 14th Virginia and as he moves toward his commanding officer, the diseased pig shoots Shelton in the back and kills him.

While there was an almost satisfactory ending to this two-parter, it was still a frustrating interlude where no one, it seems, was smart enough to put two and two together. This pause from the march to D.C. did accomplish two things though. John Pope is now back in the storyline and Ben gets a vision from the Espheni communication device.

Spike-implanted Ben shoves his hand into the glowing transmitter and has a vision. He sees a plethora of Espheni Overlords in poses of supplication, apparently humbling themselves before a higher entity. Somewhat annoyingly, Ben is pulled from the device before he can see what the Overlords are looking at/worshiping.

Weaver says accusingly to the Volm “Higher than an Overlord? Cochise is there something you haven’t told us?” Cochise replies with a little stammer, Uh, I never thought it possible.”

Stalag 14th Virginia was a real mixed bag of plot and storyline. The Mason’s narrowly avoid being exterminated by an Espheni bio-creation (Marshall was not human although she apparently had the real Katie’s memories.) Maggie has to tell Hal twice why she had her spikes removed, John Pope has clearly managed to go even more mad and Tom has not only picked up a lot of reinforcements but he has also, unknown to him, picked up Pope again.

Falling Skies fell back upon the old, “we fear what we do not know” premise and it worked very well. The fear of Marshall’s troops of the unknown allowed her to kill innocent civilians with impunity and to keep her soldiers from attacking the Espheni. This is splendid television and excellent science fiction.

This TNT series, in its last season, has a brilliant cast and features a number of positive female roles. Falling Skies airs Sundays on TNT and is almost compulsive viewing, despite the show killing off Mira Sorvino‘s character, Sarah.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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