Falling Skies: Everybody Has Their Reasons Review

Ben at the party Buzz Spike Prank
Last week’s Falling Skies gave Tom Mason a break and this episode may rank as one of the most irritating and frustrating installments of season five. Colonel Weaver, Tom and Hal find what appears to be a “fully operating” base and when they approach it are stopped by hostile forces. A standoff ensues and things are calmed down by the arrival of Captain Katie Marshall. The local commander is an old friend of Dan Weaver’s and he is pleased to see her.

The old home week flavor continues when Lt. Demarcus Wolf, another face from Weaver’s past shows up. Meanwhile, back at the distillery, Cochise and Dingaan Botha try to remove the Espheni transmitter device. Cue a slight comic interlude where Botha explains Enigma to the Volm and then tries to move the transmitter barehanded.

Back at the 14th Virginia, things begin to go south the moment they learn that Tom flew a captured beamer to the Moon and that the 2nd Mass have been working with the Volm. As the group integrate with Marshall’s troops, things feel odd and uncomfortable. Isabella is approached by one of the men and Hal steps in to ward off any encroachment to his rescuer.

At Isabella’s suggestion, Hal goes to speak with Maggie and they talk about the spikes she had removed. The atmosphere on the base slowly changes for the worse, at a party later Ben jokes with one of the soldiers and is called “Super Freak” by the recipient of the prank and the military under Marshall’s command turn out to be on a different path to the 2nd Mass.

Dan Weaver and Katie catch up and talk old times. As they talk, Weaver asks the captain about the “beauty mark” on her neck (scar). Marshall begins to tell of a skitter attack that took place six weeks previously when she suddenly trails off and changes the subject. In the infirmary, Anne learns that medical care at the base is a little lacking.

A wound previously treated has flared up and when she attempts to treat the soldier, she learns that they have no painkillers, antibiotics or other supplies. Ben is approached in the latrine by a number of armed soldiers who tell young Mason he needs to go with them. “You don’t want to do this,” he tells them as they start to force his hand. Ben, using the super-soldier strength that Anne did not want Maggie to lose, kicks 14th Virginia butt until he is tased.

As things continue to go pear-shaped, Ben ends up face down on a table and the “Super Freak” soldier that he pranked at the party removes one of the spikes with pliers. In what can only be seen as poetic justice the soldier is injured by the spike after it is out. Tom and Hal are arrested, Anne is kept prisoner in the infirmary and Dan Weaver talks to Marshall and asks what she is doing.

Prior to Tom’s arrest, he spoke with Lt. Wolf and found that the base troops were not fighting the Espheni but capturing human “collaborators,” trying them for treason and killing them. The military on the base are being tasked, by Marshall, to monitor communications and not to interact with the many militia groups who have been fighting with the Espheni.

Mason and Weaver also learn that Marshall and her soldiers do not trust the Volm. Earlier in the episode, once they saw the reaction that the Captains troops had when learning of Cochise, they lied about his presence.

Wolf talks to Mason and voices his concerns about the captain and he mentions the attack six weeks previously. The one which left her with an un-healed wound and “ice water in her veins.” She is, Wolf claims, very different since the attack.

Dan Weaver spends time with Katie and he brings her breakfast. Anne removes dead and infected tissue on the soldiers wound with maggots. He turns down the offer of alcohol as a painkiller and after saying that he can manage, screams throughout the entire operation. The cause of infection turns out to be a piece of his shirt.

As Tom speaks to Weaver about Marshall’s inactivity toward fighting the enemy and her targeting possible human collaborators. The Colonel defends Katie. Mason leaves the room, disgruntled at Dan’s refusal to see what is right in front of him.

Things continue to go bad and later Weaver sends Matt, Tom’s youngest, back to the distillery to bring reinforcements. Cochise, Dingaan and another 2nd Mass Militia member remove the Espheni transmitter and Isabella is almost raped by one of Marshall’s men. Maggie arrives to save the day and proves that even without the spikes, she is a super-soldier as she kicks the would-be rapist’s butt.

Tom, Hal, and Ben (sans one spike) are tried for being Espheni collaborators and sentenced to death. Weaver stands up to protest and Marshall picks at the bandage covered neck wound that has started bleeding. Therein lies the problem with this episode and its most annoying plot thread.

Marshall clearly has been either infected or otherwise compromised by the Skitter attack in the forest. The wound, or something in it, has to be controlling her actions. Why else would she zero in on Tom, Hal and Ben. These three have done much to defeat the alien threat. The Dorniya have already told the elder Mason that if he dies all is lost. What better way to defeat the human resistance?

At first it appears that Katie may just have a courage problem. The Weaver/Marshall backstory has her hiding in a building rather than fighting the enemy. The Colonel helped her, which is what Weaver does, and she “got back on track” apparently. However, this particular reason for her inactivity does not hold up under scrutiny.

Her orders to Wolf about monitoring and not interacting with Mason’s Militia (a term that she seemingly despises) as well as her fixating on Tom’s destruction of the moon’s infrastructure leads to evidence of her being controlled. Add to this her soldier removing one of the spikes which have been instrumental is harming the Espheni cause and it is obvious that this lady has been turned.

What is particularly frustrating about the episode is Weaver’s lack of attention to detail. From the moment he first mentioned the neck wound alarm bells should have been going off. Katie’s talk of the way he looked at her and discussing his misguided loyalties, and the woman’s constant meddling with the still bleeding injury was completely ignored by Weaver. So much so that by the end of the episode it is beginning to look like he has been turned as well.

There cannot be many viewers who were not practically screaming at the screen, “Look at her neck!” It is obvious that the entire “functioning base” is not a real military facility at all. Cheating a bit and looking at the next episode title, Stalag 14th Virginia it looks like someone, Katie Marshall, was lying through their teeth about what their mission really is. That no one caught this woman out makes this one of the most annoying episodes this season. Regardless of this, though, the cast continued to perform more than capably.

Noah Wyle, Will Patton, Sarah Carter and newcomer to the cast Catalina Sandino Moreno all performed well this week and it was nice to see Treva Etienne back, even if it was only for a few moments of screen time, as Dingaan Botha. Melora Hardin as Katie Marshall was very good as the commander with a hidden agenda.

Falling Skies airs Sundays on TNT. This is the final season of this science fiction action thriller. Do not miss this wrapping up of this brilliant show.

Falling Skies: Respite (recap and review)

Respite Megamech remains
With last week’s climatic showdown, Respite; the Falling Skies episode this week, ends up giving Tom Mason a break from all things 2nd Mass. During his shoot out with Pope, after being shot in the leg, Mason gets carried off by a giant hornet. Hal escapes his captor with Jessica’s help and he immediately sets off to find his dad. Pope is left out of the equation this week and the show focuses on the Masons with a little time set aside for the Marty/Weaver story arc, the transmitter, and the Ben/Maggie thread.

Tom Mason wakes up in a bed, with a woman he thinks at first is Rebecca treating the wounds on his face. He has been reacts badly to her presence and the woman leaves the room locking the door behind her. Mason finds a weapon, something that looks like a big emery board, and a older man enters with a rifle. After a brief standoff explanations are given from both sides.

The leader of the 2nd Mass is in a part of North Carolina that has not been touched by the war. The man, his daughter and her three children are staying out of the fight. Mason gets a break from the war, and it is overwhelming; he cries at dinner and tells the family that he is fine when asked.

The woman is Alicia (played by Chelah Horsdal) and she lost her husband to another war and she wants to protect her family. Her oldest son, Kyle, strains boundaries and wants to know what is really going on. When he learns about the conflict from Tom the 15 year-old wants to join the effort.

Back at the 2nd Mass, Weaver is having a hard time accepting the fawning gratitude of Marty, the grief-stricken and slightly mad father from last week’s episode, who shot Daniel. As they bivouac for the night, Marty is so intrusive that he is making Weaver uncomfortable; arranging his backpack and tent, and finally Weaver asks Marty to find him a bottle of whiskey.

They have followed the signal to a distillery and Weaver has split the 2nd Mass into separate groups to search for the source; the transmitter. Maggie asks Anne to take out her spikes, that Ben gave her, and Anne says no. Glass tells her that later they can talk about removing them, but now she needs her “super soldier.”

Cochise tells the girl that he will take them out. Later, he attempts to remove the three spikes and on the last one, problems arise. The final spike attempts to dig in further and starts cutting of Maggie’s spinal cord. Cochise gets Anne who steps in to finish the procedure. The spikes are successfully removed and Ben is upset that Maggie had them taken out.

“I gave you part of me,” Ben says, “and you threw them into the trash.” Ben also tells Maggie that he loves her. Meanwhile Tom continues to heal and bond with the little family who saved him from the giant hornet. Hal and Jessica are also bonding as they search for Tom. On the way they find the giant hornet, it is wounded but still alive. Hal empties his gun’s clip into the creature and Jessica tells him that it is dead.

At the hornet’s body, Jessica notices wheeled tracks that lead away and they follow the trail. Earlier, Jessica revealed that her father was a diplomat who taught her people were essentially good inside, she tells Hal that she learned differently. These two could turn into an item, they certainly relate well, and use humor in their conversation. Hal mentions Jessica helping him to “escape” and she replies “you mean when I rescued you…”

Back at the distillery, Marty has gone off to find his hero and savior a bottle of whiskey. Just as he finds the elusive item, he sees something glowing underneath some wooden flooring. He pries a board up and finds the Espheni transmitter. Telling Weaver, Marty gets more praise for his find than for the whiskey and it looks like this may turn the tide of the war.

Back at the “farm” or at least a good rural facsimile of a farm, Tom has to tell Alicia’s oldest son about the war that she has hidden from him. The boy finds remains of a Megamech and Kyle tells Tom that he wants to be a fighter like his late father.

The episode ends with the family staying where they are, Hal finding Tom and returning to the 2nd Mass. Ben is upset, as is Anne; although she is angrier at Cochise, “you want to explain to me what you thought you were doing,” she asks him and he replies, “Not really.” Jessica may have bonded with Hal, but when they get back to the new camp, the existence of Maggie, who she was aware of, puts the dampers on this burgeoning relationship.

Director Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction) does brilliant job at his third stint in the director’s seat for the show. Frakes also directed Journey to Xibalba (2013) and Door Number Three (2014) for the series. He exhibits a deft touch at the family scenes and with allowing Noah Wyle’s character to relax and reflect for a moment.

This final season of Falling Skies is moving rapidly along and setting up for a big finish. Several questions remain, will Hal and Jessica become an item? Is John Pope going to spring up later like some evil jack in the box? Will Ben forgive Maggie and will Weaver get fed up with Marty’s hero worship.

Perhaps the only real problem with Respite, was the presence of Alicia’s father who felt quite a lot like a Hershel Green retread. Certainly the character was not a carbon copy, the chap had both of his legs for a start and he was not an alcoholic. In terms of filling the “wise old man” role, however, Alicia’s pop was a dead ringer for Hershel from The Walking Dead. This comparison, which springs immediately to mind when watching the episode, took away from the story although not enough for the viewer to not “well up” when Tom breaks down later at the family meal.

By the time the end credits roll, Tom has learned about the transmitter and Weaver is excited about the thought of defeating the enemy. Falling Skies airs Sundays on TNT and fans of Noah Wyle, Will Patton, Sarah Carter and Moon Bloodgood will not want to miss this final season.

Falling Skies: Non Essential Personnel (recap and review)

John Pope Falling Skies still
Last week Falling Skies had John Pope completely losing the plot (going a little bit crazier than usual) and taking Hal Mason hostage in order to punish Tom. In Non Essential Personnel Mason senior is told that if he dies the war is lost and a giant hornet removes him from a firefight with Pope.

The episode begins with a group of people trapped in a house by skitters. Some of them decide to escape and once outside they are cornered by two skitters. A police SUV roars up and Pope, along with Anthony, gets out and shoots the creatures down. Afterward, Anthony rescues the group still in the house. When they get back to Pope, the new leader learns that his “right hand man” has designated four of the group as “non essential personnel” and they are told to leave. One of the survivors, Isabella (Catalina Sandino Moreno) says she is a nurse and can be of use to Pope and his crew. John agrees to let her stay but the other three must leave. She tries to bargain for them to remain but loses.

Meanwhile, Tom Mason is following clues that Pope relays via radio transmitter. Captain Weaver and the rest of the 2nd Mass are ambushed by what appears to be one gunman who definitely has the drop on the convoy. He demands a truck and half their ammunition or he will start blowing up vehicles.

Weaver goes into talk and once inside he gets shot. Anne comes up to make sure he is alright and Weaver tells her to play along with the lone gunman as he has a wife and two kids he is trying to protect. Something that the captain and Anne can identify with.

Isabella, after convincing Pope that he can use her, gets her first tasking. She must patch up Hal after his father’s antagonist cuts him so Tom can hear him scream. Tom Mason tells Pope, “I will kill you.” Later, when he gets into Pope’s camp he tries to do just that.

Back at the ambush, Weaver tries to get into the gunman’s head, but this man is off with the fairies and not to be reasoned with. Anne, reluctantly, orders half the ammo to be placed by the door. She tells the rest of the troops that they will double back later and get Weaver.

Isabella patches young Mason up and he tells her that it will not take Pope long to realize that she is not really a nurse. He also tells Isabella that he knows why she fought to keep her friends with Pope’s crew, “you care, he says and tells her that it will not take long for his captor to figure that out as well.

A giant hornet attacks the camp and one of the new recruits is injured. Isabella begins to treat the man when Pope asks if he can still fight. “I don’t know” she starts to reply and before she can finish her sentence Pope shoots the man dead.

Mason continues his frustratingly slow journey to get Hal back and has another vision from the Dorniya. Appearing as Rebecca once more, the creature tells Tom that if he dies the war and Earth will be lost. Mason refuses to stop going after Hal as he will not let his son die for the “greater good.” “I love you,” says the Dorniya Rebecca, “you’re not her,” replies Tom as he leaves to rescue his son.

Weaver tries to overpower the ambusher and loses. Later, while the gunman is in another room talking to his family, the captain gets his hands lose. He asks for water and when the man gives him a drink Weaver grabs the pistol off the other man’s belt. Both men stand facing each other with weapons at the ready when Anne comes in.

After a short tense stand off, Weaver talks the man down and tells him they can help. He reveals that he and Anne lost kids, as he surmised the gunman has, and he explains that they are there for him as they, the 2nd Mass, were for Weaver when he was found. His speech calms the distraught father and he shows Weaver what was in the other room. His family are all dead and in body bags.

Hal gave a very similar spiel to Isabella, about “being there” and this was why she decided to release Tom’s son rather than just escape.

Back at the camp, Tom shoots Pope in the face as Hal and Isabella start to drive away. As Tom waits for another shot at John, the giant hornet that attacked the camp earlier comes back and grabs Mason; lifting him up and flying away. Hal and Isabella get away and later a wounded Pope, the shot grazed his cheek, questions Anthony about where Hal is.

This week saw Will Patton shine as Weaver. His character got a little comic relief in, his argument about the car at the start, and later his passionate speech to the grief stricken gunman who ambushed the convoy. Patton got to show those huge chops that make him such a great character actor.

Newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno, as Isabella was spot on. If Catalina looks familiar it may be because of her performance in The Bridge as Alma Ruiz. She looks to be a part of the show for at least a little while longer as she travels with Hal.

Big kudos, however, have to go to actor Colin Cunningham for channelling his inner “crazy Pope.” His rage and the cruelty it has spawned is truly disturbing. The end result is a villain that one cannot wait to see get his comeuppance. There cannot be many who were disappointed to see Tom Mason’s shot turn out to be non-fatal. With Pope’s decent into madness, whatever sympathy the viewers had for him about Sara’s death diminishes almost completely.

Tom Mason’s being abducted by the “hornet on steroids” (coined by Anthony) could mean that humanity is now lost or that the Dorniya have stepped in to guarantee his survival. The “extinct” messengers, via Rebecca, made it fairly clear that they want Mason to succeed as the savior of Earth and it may have been that the visions have now been abandoned for more direct coercion.

*Sidenote* Are Maggie and Ben now going to share something more than pins? Certainly looks that way.

Falling Skies continues to provide cracking entertainment and its final season has not disappointed thus far. The series airs Sundays on TNT.

Falling Skies Final Season: An Impressive Run (review)

Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) in Falling Skies
Watching the final season of Falling Skies, number five to be exact, it is plain to see; the show has had an impressive run and watching the first two episodes of the series at its end, the reason for its success is clear. On top of the Steven Spielberg beginnings the verse populated by Noah Wyle, Will Patton and more lately Mira Sorvino and professional chameleon Doug Jones along with talented guest stars like Terry O’Quinn, has a feel of reality. The dirt looks earthy, clinging and muddy. The guns run out of ammo just as they would in real life and do not have magazines with never-ending rounds in each one.

In Episode 5:1 three teams head out to kill the invaders and in at least one firefight, the one with Tom Mason (Wyle) and his crew, as they shoot their weapons, the rounds run out all too soon, just as they do in reality. Later on, in the high school Skitter-shoot in the gymnasium, the weapons, a combination of man-made and alien, the magazines do not run out quite so quickly, but that is a well known device used by film and television to bolster the effect of the shootout and is forgivable.

Episode 5:2 offered up a scenario where constant Skitter attacks lay Mason, Weaver and the rest of the survivors under siege. Titled Hunger Pains the segment focusses on the lack of food and just how desperate people are to eat. One camp defender tries the Skitter leg that is being roasted in the hopes that the alien flesh is edible.

Cue some excellent FX where it looks like the diner who tries a piece of the limb has his lower jaw and mouth disintegrate in a mass of bloody tissue. After finding some cans of pineapple in the wreckage of a building, that turns out to be local produce, a small team go out to retrieve more in the hopes of saving the starving camp members.

In the same episode there is the splendid irony of the search team finding junk food that may just save the camp from starving. The loading of the food is interrupted by someone who has prior claim on the Ding Dongs, beef jerky and chips that the group have found and the team are locked in and forced to lay down their weapons.

A large door behind the women begins trembling as something big starts banging on it. “That’s my brother” says the girl who got the drop on them, “He doesn’t like it closed too long.” A great moment where the team have to talk their captor into releasing them.

Two episodes and thus far Tom Mason seems to be the “vision master.” Where he gets some sort of warning about upcoming events although he does not always understand their meaning in time to be of real help. He has several visions in season five and he is learning to heed their warnings.

The aliens that the 2nd Mass face in season five are called Skitters, there are other aliens that seem to be working in an alliance with the humans, and they are pretty creepy. Arachnid in nature, with several legs and able to skitter like a spider but with a tall body and no thorax, these things are a brilliant touch. Again, not having watched the show from season one, it is not known if these have been there from the beginning but they make an excellent “big bad.”

On top of that, there are “Skitter-ized” humans which sound a little like a Hulked out Tasmanian-Devil. This was the “brother” behind door number one at the depot. At the end of the show, a “wasp” that stung Mason earlier is put under a makeshift microscope and they discover it is a hybrid with Skitter feet and human eyes. The creature turns out to be alive and it escapes.

Mason and Anne (Moon Bloodgood) follow the “wasp” and find that there are a lot more of them along with some other, bigger winged-creatures; not far from the 2nd Mass camp.

The cast list for Falling Skies has some quality names on it, Will Patton as the hardened and grizzled Captain Weaver and Noah Wyle as Mason head up a sterling group of actors. Mira Sorvino may look different from her Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and The Replacement Killers days but she still has those impressive acting chops.

While it is annoying to stumble onto what looks to be a very entertaining science fiction show during its last season, there are enough avenues to binge back to the beginning and catch up. In the meantime, season five continues to air Sundays on TNT. Fans of Noah Wyle will love it and won’t have to wait for the next season of The Librarians to get their fix.

The November Man: Pierce Brosnan Kills It (Review and Trailer)

The November Man: Pierce Brosnan Kills It (Review and Trailer)

As The November Man Pierce Brosnan “kills” in this post Cold War spy film where action replaces smooth moves and sterling wit. At 61, The former Bond and Remington Steele actor may have been deemed too long in the tooth to play 007, but the Brit performer shows he still has what it takes in the action man arena.