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Falling Skies' two-parter finale was remarkable in many ways. It delivered very good moments of television and a satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately, like always with the series, the devil was in the details. The story proved unable to shake off the demons that plagued the entire season. And, although there was no shortage of bright ideas, their execution often left a lot to be desired.
The series has been consistently good when it comes to conveying a sense of urgency or characters' feelings in spite of actors' or actresses' performances. Here again, whether we were watching Dai's return from Colonel Porter's headquarters, or the 2nd Mass volunteers leaving for the assault, we had the right mix of compelling visuals and orchestral music. My issues in these two final episodes have been with the steps leading to such moments.
Trying to use what happened to Weaver in "What Hides Beneath" made sense, plus it led to one of those motivational speeches that even the most cynic among us have a hard time criticizing. The problem is how we got there. My sirens went blazing when I saw Jimmy (who is thirteen) in what looked like a top-level briefing on some attack. Things of course fell into place when Mason needed help to break free. The writers’ ploys should not be that transparent. Things only got worse with the pills since pursuing that angle wasn't necessary and was done clumsily. And finally, Weaver's change of heart was too "theatrical"; not smooth enough for my taste. That being said, his speech and that whole moment in the gym was right on the mark on so many levels that there is no point to go over them here. In fact, "Mutiny" could have been a much better episode if the mutiny at its heart wasn't such a contrived effort.
The subplot involving Rick and Ben spanned over the two episodes and was full of promise until it crashed. There was an appropriate follow-through to the remarkable discovery made in "What Hides Beneath" on the skitters. In spite of poor performances, the scenes between Ben and Scott in the lab were effective, and then there was the very "cool" scene with Rick on the ceiling. For several episodes now, he had been standing around, saying and doing just enough to let us understand he was a skitter in the making. That is why when he appeared on that ceiling, I imagine there was a collective sigh of relief among viewers because nothing is more annoying than a plot that takes forever to come to fruition. Getting him to run off to his brethren was only the natural thing to do, but having him come to his senses wasn't. Not all "Kumbaya" moments are good. This one undercut the writers' previous efforts, even more so because there seemed to be a genetic factor here that shouldn't have been overcome by Rick's disappointment.
The other storyline from the same subplot, the one involving Ben and the signal, fared much better. It was a good idea to use Ben like a frequency detector and to have his mutation process brought up as a bargaining chip in the very last scene — though I would very much like to know how the aliens (the real ones) knew about Ben and Tom, and why they wanted Tom Mason of all people. The fighting sequence with mechs stomping their way down the street toward the school was well done.
Throughout the season, the series has done many things right. The overall design of the invaders' technology and the way that technology was gradually revealed (up until the appearance of the true aliens themselves) has been excellent. Also, even during the worst episodes, the show has always managed to make us feel for the survivors and their plight. What I consider to be the third achievement is the relationship between Dr. Glass and Tom Mason, and the final episode epitomizes that perfectly. Whether they discussed Ben's condition or the situation with Weaver, watching them together was easy. There was — and has always been — a mixture of restraint and actual concern that made their scenes remarkable. The goodbye scene in "Eight Hours" was well-crafted and beautifully executed.
All things considered, the finale was impressive. It built on the very good lead-in provided by "What Hides Beneath," and after a very human-like strife among the survivors, the resistance reaction was enough for humans to be considered "interesting" as a species. And though I have my reservation on the aliens' selection process, who better than our history professor to represent humanity (past and present) in what is probably the first contact with "almost" equal footing?