TV review: ‘Falling Skies’ S3 EP3 “Badlands”

This review contains SPOILERS

Starring:  Noah Wylie as Tom Mason, Moon Bloodgood as Anne Glass, Will Patton as Captain Daniel Weaver, Colin Cunnigham as Pope, Drew Roy as Hal Mason, Connor Jessup as Ben Mason, Maxim Night as Matt Mason, Sarah Sanguin Carter as Margaret, Doug Jones as Cochise.

Series created by:  Robert Rodat

Episode Directed by:  David Solomon / Written by:  John Wirth / aired in the UK:  30/07/13

What’s this episode about?

Soldiers from the 2nd Mass and Pope’s Berserkers are standing guard for the anticipated attack from the Espheni when they come under fire from unknown aggressors…

In review

“Badlands” could probably be best described – in Star Trek terms – as a ‘bottle show’ in that the events of the episode take place in and around Charleston with virtually no visual effects (save for the beamer attack at the cliffhanger, there’s no sign of the Volm or Skitters), no doubt employed for budgetary reasons so as to save the ‘big guns’ for another week.  This is no criticism as this episode is well placed, building anticipation of the Espheni assault (to head straight into the said attack would have been a little jarring in my opinion) whilst providing a lot of character focus.

The attack from the shooters together with the deserted, crumbling locale has airs of Saving Private Ryan as one of the assailants takes aim at Crazy Lee (Luciana Carro) who is subsequently shot and becomes impaled – through the head – on a rebar.  This gives one of the show’s peripheral characters a few moments to shine (along with more meat to chew on for Maxim Knight) and more layers to Pope as he mourns for his fallen comrade, becoming enraged and once again butting heads with Tom Mason by placing blame squarely on his shoulders.  It’s refreshing that Mason doesn’t argue the point, adding legitimacy to Pope’s reaction.

Meanwhile, Crazy Lee’s shooter is captured, a human women (Lt.  Fisher, played by recurring Continuum actress Luvia Petersen) who eventually breaks her silence and reveals that she is part of a team sent by President Benjamin Hathaway, in office at the time of the alien attack.

Further dramatic character moments ensue as Anne continues to be unsettled by the continued strange behaviour of Alexis, of which only she is witnessing, allowing Moon Bloodgood to expand the range of her character as she becomes frustrated and dismayed that no-one believes her (even losing her cool with Lourdes at one point).

Hal regains the use of his legs but believes that he may be acting as the mole under Karen’s control and despite Maggie’s resistance vows to turn himself in.  Despite all this, Jeanne Weaver is supervising the construction of the ‘Liberty Tree’ – a monument to all those who have fallen since the alien invasion two years ago.  It’s an appropriate sentiment (whether intentional or not) by the writers, reflecting the real world losses suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Badlands” comes to a close at the heartfelt unveiling of the Liberty Tree, interrupted by aerial bombings from a squadron of Espheni beamers…and was that a little smile from Alexis?

The bottom line:  “Badlands” provides some decent focus on the characters of Falling Skies, an element of the series that is rarely absent but allowed a little more time to breathe this week, between the action of the previous episode and what we may see in the next.

Falling Skies Season 3 airs Tuesdays at 9pm on Fox (UK).  Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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