Falling Skies – Prisoner of War
Though Falling Skies is by no means a ‘smart show’ it decided to spend it’s second week on screen convincingly constructing an episode around ‘intelligence’ in all its forms. First and foremost it set-up a whole host of cloggy expositional scenes , despite giving us the impression that the info-dump was over after last week’s lean and mean sophomore ep:
We are told what it is that the ‘conquerors’ are doing with the captured children, though at this stage their master-plan most resembles that of Bubbles from The Wire; they’re using the zombified captives as slave labour, looting all the metal they can from the now vacated city of Chicago, though for what purpose we simply don’t know. Then, after one of the harnessed children is re-captured in an already overly familiar action sequence, we sit and watch as the somewhat shady new Chief-Surgeon tests out his latest theory on the removal of the alien mind-control device, catching us up on thirteen months of research as he goes. Pope parts with his top-secret, top-tips for poaching chicken before a get-together with the general finally halts the incoming tide of information, wherein he tells the group of survivors that their new task is to gather as much intel on the invading force as they can.
While I usually love getting as much information about a shows universe as I can, the execution this week just felt forced and so I found a lot of what they were shoving at me a little too hard to swallow. The worst part of it is that they did so well in the early weeks by jumping straight into the action and allowing us to figure out the details as we went along; it was all so smooth that even if they hadn’t delivered grade-four sandpaper this week It likely would have been comparatively jarring; I’m not sure though whether or not that is such a valid excuse, I’m favoring the not. Hopefully next week’s episode manages to handle this element a lot better, hopefully they’ve now learnt just how far away from the viewer they need to dangle the carrot so that we are driven forward at a more perfect pace.
When the plot managed to move this week though it did move well: there were a number of scenes outside the compound that held my attention well and in one case aroused my suspicion in a way that the show hadn’t previously, it was the first time that the aliens have actually shown some evidence of being an intelligent life-form, their first use of counteractive military tactics and it was quite a clever and moving moment. I really like how fast the show has moved in giving us the intel on the aliens when so many others would have tried to first squeeze them for suspense and having Tom sequester a skitterer was another bold move in this direction. I anticipate that this new Prisoner of War may well be a good source of future information, if that schlocky cliff-hanger has nothing to say about it of course.
What didn’t work so well this week was the way in which the show tried to pose a philosophical question about information being more important than emotion when it comes to survival; ie. the smartest need to survive and not the sweetest. I have no issue wit the question itself, as a self-proclaimed elitist I’m all for such a logical standpoint, but the way in which the show attempted to ask it was weak. On the opposite side of the board I also have to say that the action stakes were not as gripping this week, though againlast weeks second episode set a very high standard for this so perhaps I am simply being unfair. To me though this week’s scenes didn’t have the danger or the exhilaration and they really needed to, because the show doesn’t provide enough depth to skate by on other areas. This is a summer series and so we are here for the excitement, of course context builds bigger excitement but its best not to get too bogged down in building-up your world as Prisoners of War has done.