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Besides being appropriately titled, “Molon Labe,” which stands roughly for “Come and take it/them” in Ancient Greek, this was an episode with a couple of preeminent moments. However, beyond those excellent moments, the adrenaline-fueled episode was a collection of half-hearted attempts, which felt either premature or rushed. Even the series trademark emotional moments were, for most of them, not as gripping as they often are.
The story picked up things where we left them off last week with Ben and Karen in the woods. During the first few minutes, there was treason (Karen’s), gunfight, rescue, and the capture of an alien overlord to round things up nicely. The overlord storyline proved the most rewarding one throughout the hour because each time he was directly involved, things got a lot more interesting. It was neat to have Ben tagging along when Tom first burst into the alien’s cell, which allowed the overlord to have someone through whom he could speak. I also liked that this encounter went on with less of the general platitudes about aliens and the human race, the overlord turning it quickly into an impressive show of force which turned out to be his undoing. But before he was shot, the alien hinted at something that shows why this season, despite its shortcomings, is much better than the previous: He spoke of a specific task, of a purpose for their visit to our corner of the galaxy, implying that it had nothing to do with exterminating the Earth’s population.
Tom Mason’s plan later to use the overlord as insurance policy was sound, so was the way the storyline used his presence to help Tom and Weaver realize there must be some truth to the rebellion story. Unfortunately, the episode which started with such an interesting storyline quickly veered into a much less enticing chain of events before getting back on its feet much later.
While they were still flirting, Hal and Maggie were fine as a couple, and occasionally, even great with those entertaining one-liners. Everything seems to have gone downhill from the kiss a couple of episodes ago, even if what they did in “Molon Labe” wasn’t as bad as the lows of last week’s episode. Here, at least one of them (Hal) made some sense most of the time. What is frustrating with these characters is not that they go through some sort of evolution and change, which is to be expected in life as in fiction. What is irritating is when change happens without proper preparation or explanation, subtle or not. Maggie’s change of heart and Pope’s return to the Second Mass. are two such things. It wouldn’t work to just say she is fickle or that Pope has now found the voice of reason, especially considering how steady a character she has been so far and how irrationally angry he was before being banished. It gives the impression in both cases that a character’s mood swings to accommodate the story and the writers. I know that in the case of Maggie, the story clumsily tried to make the statement that going through all those events with Hal made her see things differently, but it was far from being smooth…
Falling Skies’ sci-fi elements are generally well developed, and even smart compared to other shows, but in this episode, the bugs seemed to come out of nowhere and their extermination (or the rescue operation) was very unrealistic. The bugs sole purpose seemed to be to add a bit of thrill, and maybe also to quickly dispatch a character who seemingly appeared out of nowhere in the first place at the beginning of this season. Jamil’s death, which was supposed to be a heartfelt moment, was somehow not as resounding to me as it should have been, drowned as it was by the arrival of the uninvited bugs and by the fact that he never really got in the inner circle of characters I care about.
Another disappointing could-have-been-poignant moment was Ben’s farewell. I would argue that this one can be explained by the fact that the teenager’s evolution, from his struggle of identity to him becoming the staunch defender of the human race, sent us all over the place. At some point in previous episodes, it even looked like he didn’t have any feelings anymore, so now, his softening all of a sudden wasn’t enough to move me.
Things got better with Karen who was appropriately smug and so confident in her understanding of human nature that one had to enjoy Hal’s casual “Well you must have missed a subatomic particle or two cause things haven’t gone exactly according to plan ever since then, have they?”, which brings me back to aliens and their agenda.
I like the fact that the series is raising the stakes this season, the fact that it is much less shy about aliens and their schemes. We not only have a rebellion brewing, but “skitters” and their overlord are no more elusive beings. Humans could possibly form an alliance with skitters, and we are beginning to understand how they think. What’s more, they are no more only a menace used to showcase human stories, but they seem to have issues of their own and possibly, an enticing hidden agenda. In terms of ambition, the series has widely improved, but the execution still has some room for growth.
I will end with another positive note. Although Jamil’s death was, to me at least, a failed business, its fallout proved much more interesting. Lourdes’s grief was more gripping than the passing of her boyfriend. Because of what we have gathered so far from her and because of the actress’s performance, her interactions with Anne on the subject were close to perfection. Her lack of will to fight the bugs, and her implacable resignation at the very end (“And it will happen to you and me. All we have to do is wait”) were flawless insights into a person’s grief.