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After the amateurish two-parter, Falling Skies rebounded this week with “What Hides Beneath,” an episode that not only kept us interested for the full hour, but also managed to advance the main story with fascinating surprises. The story’s flaws — which are mostly inherent to the series — didn’t prevent it from delivering an impressive lead-in to the last two episodes of the season.
The episode did three things right from the very beginning. It first introduced us to Weaver’s unrest, then laid out the resistance strategy from which two of the four storylines stemmed from, and finally brought Ben Mason to Dr Glass. The writers then skillfully unraveled the storylines like spider webs from those starting points.
Weaver’s was the weakest although it raised the most difficult questions for any survivor. It allowed a lonely and conflicted man to find a reason to continue the fight, which is good, but I find it also confirmed a trend: all main characters have a personal stake — beyond their own lives — in the success of the resistance. Dr Glass might not be aware of it yet, but it is obvious Tom Mason and his family are for her a bigger incentive to survive. Even Lourdes, with all her selfless approach to things, has a burgeoning teenage love to cling on. This is why I think it would have been a nice touch to have one of the main characters just fighting for the greater good. But, that storyline ultimately failed because of the way it was put together after a good beginning. Rick’s drawing among other things wasn’t helpful…
In everything that led to the “super bullet,” there was a particular care to avoid some of the usual pitfalls. So, I rewarded the story by ignoring the fact that John Pope was around, the fact that he was a skitter-hunter turned cook, then explosive expert, and finally ballistic expert. I even managed to like his interaction with Matt Mason, which is a feat in itself given that Maxim Knight — who plays Matt — is probably one of the worst child actors in the business. The storyline was interesting and the mistrust of Pope not overplayed. Ben silently watching Rick sneak away after the bullet pierced the mech protective armor was one of those moments of television that shouldn’t be spoiled by characters’ words. Plus what can I say? I like my moments of cheers and hope with orchestral music in the background…
The above storylines were interesting, but none of them matched the revelation that skitters had masters. The fact that they are actually serving some humanoid aliens fits much more easily in our common conception of the “evolved” alien from outer space. In a smart move, the episode immediately followed the first sighting of the newcomers with a flyby of a jet or spacecraft in which it would have been difficult to imagine the primeval-looking skitters. All of the sudden, biped mechs made sense.
It was brilliant to have the new discovery in the field reinforced by what happened back at the 2nd Mass base camp. Uncovering that skitters are just the results of the “harnessing” of some other beings showed how well thought out the overarching story was. This particular storyline was my favorite because it involved two of my favorite characters, and because it was flawless from Dr Glass examining Ben to her conversation with Lourdes after their procedure. The two actresses were perfect throughout the well-written scenes — with Ben Mason’s only involvement being to say “no” a few times. The element of surprise was skillfully included and was followed by the question of how to handle the new knowledge, opening up new possibilities. These were basic rules of storytelling at their best. I look forward to the next episode.