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Falling Skies – Silent Kill

With "Silent Kill," Falling Skies has undoubtedly delivered its best episode so far. This is true for the writing as well as for the story structure and its execution. The episode has also established — through its most obvious flaws — that Noah Wyle is several notches above all the other cast members.

Those like me who thought Ben — Tom Mason's harnessed son — would be used for a while as some kind of tantalizing out-of-reach object couldn't have been more wrong. The episode starts with preparations for the rescue operation both from the medical perspective (drugs resupply) and the strictly military angle (planning of the attack). The opening scene actually shows Hal and Margaret returning with the medical supplies. It is an expedition that would have taken a whole episode if the writers had stuck to the pace of the series until now. The leap ahead didn't impress me right away because it was followed by slow battle planning scenes and some conversations that seemed to have "nifty delaying trick" written all over them. It wasn't until Dr. Anne Glass killed the skitter that I realized things were markedly different this time around.

Falling Skies - Margaret & Tom to the Rescue
The planning of the attack, the awkward conversation between Hal Mason and Rick (the now harness-free kid who survived his father's stupid actions after all), and the odd exchange between Dr. Glass and the old school teacher were not so much badly written as they were delivered without much conviction or the necessary consideration for the other character. Then there was Dr. Glass's emotional outburst after her attack on the "Prisoner of War." As I was watching those scenes unfold, I realized — as it is often the case with such things — that it is much easier to appreciate what we have when we see it lacking somewhere else. From the beginning of the series, I have followed Tom Mason with an always crystal clear idea of where he was emotionally. Noah Wyle has effortlessly managed to make us understand his character without "static" in the delivery. It now seems obvious to me that the other characters revolve around Tom Mason and seem much better when they are interacting with him than when he is not around. This means Wyle is effectively carrying the show.

Something else dawned on me during this episode. After watching it, a friend of mine mentioned she had some issues with the level of violence. The comment immediately made my mind wander to some specific scenes. That is when I noticed it wasn't so much the images I was reacting to, but the soundtrack that accompanied them. I realized for the first time that the show has a score that provides a "cinematic feel" to the production. In this episode it was true when the mech guarding the hospital walked about or when Anne Glass performed the first "Silent Kill," effectively giving its title to the episode. The show relies heavily on compositions that help build up the particular emotion the writers are trying to create in the particular scene. That gives a distinct motion picture feel, and just like for summer blockbusters, it works...

Falling Skies - You Did It
I liked how the story was laid out and how it used the drugs expedition to elegantly provide some background information about Margaret. In just one episode, they gave us enough to spike our interest and accept her advice on how to shoot arrows without skepticism. I liked how they got rid of Harris. It didn't seem contrived and it even made sense considering his relationship with the prisoner. It also allowed the good doctor Anne to take center stage during the harness removal procedure. I liked how we got to know her a bit more even though her explosion could have been better. The episode cornered her with the pressure to replace Harris effectively and to do so with a group of harnessed kids that included Ben. The visuals of the harness removal scene were impressive. I have to say the invaders' technology — the mechs and the harness — seem much cooler than their designers. It was interesting to see Hal try to affirm himself, though I think Drew Roy's performance here did undercut some of it. I also liked the hints to the fact that the writers have developed the skitters well beyond what we are seeing so far.

The show also seemed to improve on other points. Tom Mason's historical references are now less noticeable, and even Lourdes — although still on the annoying side — is much more watchable. What can I say? The character must be growing on me. My favorite scenes of the episode are Anne Glass's "Silent Kill" and the 2nd Mass commander moment alone with the old record. Those two sequences show the winning combination the series seems, wisely, to be capitalizing on to remain attractive: the face-off between humans and skitters with its thrills, and the yearning for survival among the resistance. With more episodes like "Silent Kill," it might just work...


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