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Advanced Review: ‘Falling Skies’ 2.09 – ‘The Price of Greatness’ is A Bullet

Apocalyptic fiction often comes down to the same idea: “communities are hard.” When most of your cities are on fire or dust, it’s hard to maintain the social contract, and some of the best end-of-the-world fiction deals with that. Look at Night of the Living Dead, which had a mismatched group of men and women jostling against one another when all the social structures around them seemed to have broken down. Who got to be in charge? Who had the best ideas for keeping them all safe? Who had leverage?

This has, of course, been an ever-present thread throughout Falling Skies, specifically with its historian-turned soldier hero Tom Mason. Tom is an idealist with clear ideas about the shape of history, and often in the show, he’ll usually try to defend the course of action that honors our 200-plus years of western democracy. The problem is, when people are hungry, they don’t really give a damn about the vote.

This week’s episode sees Tom and his ideals up against the underground community in Charlotte, and unsurprisingly, their new safe haven has perils of its own.

So after Captain Weaver gave his rousing speech last week about the Second Mass needing to soldier on after finding Charlotte leveled, the group gets a surprise when they’re found by the last remnants of the U.S. military, who’ve hunkered down in a community with civilians underground beneath Charlotte. And they’ve set up a community with John Locke as their president!

Lost star Terry O’Quinn pops up this week as one of Tom’s old instructors-turned-politician who has some lofty ideals about creating a new democracy under the ruins of Charlotte. His character brings two big conflicts to the episode: first, he’s pretty slick when it comes to due process and the rule of law when it comes to maintaining control of his community and second, he has no stomach for taking the conflict to the aliens.

Now, there’s a compelling argument to be made that maybe the last known remnants of humanity on the East Coast might want to keep their heads down and wait out the alien invasion. Armed, but not as well as their enemy, with a handful of trained fighters (and only a few that have seen open combat), an concerted effort against the aliens could be the thing to wipe the last of the American resistance off the map. But Falling Skies isn’t really interested in that argument, instead making O’Quinn’s character a weak-kneed political animal from the get-go.

And that’s fair, I guess, under the remit of the show which has been and continues to be to frame the conflict with the aliens in terms of the American Revolution, with Tom, Weaver, and the Second Mass bravely defending the good old precepts of liberty. Typically, there’s very little room for moral doubt in this series, and for the most part, this episode continues that trend, although Pope’s observation at the end of this episode upends that quite a bit. And the implications of the end of this week’s episode seems to be pushing the survivors from one kind of quietly despotic system to a more overt one, but I wonder how long Falling Skies will let that play out (it’s a story that deserves room to breathe), and I’m hoping that its resolution doesn’t come out of another impassioned speech by Tom.

Finally, it looks like we’ll be getting a welcome return of some alien action as the dissident faction among the invaders sends a messenger to the Second Mass, requesting Tom’s presence. This and last episode have suffered a bit by putting the invaders in the rearview, making them something we hear about more than we actually see. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d really like to know more about what’s going on in the growing civil war and how that will affect our survivors.

Falling Skies airs Sunday nights at 9 on TNT.

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