Episode Title: "Mutiny"
Writer: Joe Weisberg
Director: Holly Dale
This advance review contains several spoilers for the first half of the two part "Falling Skies" season finale, airing this Sunday on TNT. If you don't want to know what's going to happen ahead of time, then come back here on Sunday.
Previously on "Falling Skies"
A few days before the last remaining human resistance fighters planned a major assault on the alien stronghold in Boston, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) noticed that Captain Weaver (Will Patton) was behaving very erratically. Weaver also insisted that he accompany Tom and his son, Hal (Drew Roy) on a scouting trip to Boston. While there, the trio caught a first glimpse of the Skitter's alien Overlords, a bipedal race that looked like they were nine feet tall or bigger. As they attempted to escape the city with their new intelligence, they came across Sonya (Blair Brown), a lone survivor inexplicably free in the city itself.
Weaver ditched Tom and Hal to return to his family home. Tom and Hal soon caught up to him and Weaver apparently had a mental breakdown in front of Tom as he related the story of how his wife and children died in the invasion. An alien mech soon attacked them and Weaver snapped out of his severe depression when he found evidence that suggested his wife might still be alive. When the trio confronted Sonya about leading the aliens to them, they caught another glimpse of one of the Overlords with Karen (Jessy Schram), Hal's girlfriend, who was captured and harnessed by the aliens.
Back at the 2ND Mass camp, Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) discovered that the Skitters themselves were harnessed; which suggested that they were also slaves. And John Pope (Colin Cunningham) discovered that the secret of creating bullets that could harm the mechs was creating new bullets with the metal from the mechs themselves.
As Hal and his brothers, Ben (Connor Jessup) and Matt (Maxim Knight) watch an animated movie in the auditorium with most of the 2ND Mass families, Anne shows Tom the results of her Skitter autopsy and what it might mean for Ben. Tom is particularly disturbed that Ben's continued physical changes could mean that he'll lose his son all over again. Adding to Tom's worries is the fact that Weaver begins shutting him out of the military planning in favor of Lt. Danner. Tom also reiterates his concern about Weaver's mental state, but the older man brushes him off. Shortly thereafter, Dai (Peter Shinkoda) arrives at the camp badly wounded with orders from Porter.
With Dai unconscious from his wounds, only Weaver heard his message from Porter. But he refuses to answer Tom's questions about what Porter's orders were or if the 4TH and 5TH Mass are still alive to aid in the assault. As Tom watches his kids sleep, Anne approaches him and brings him to Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel), who warns Tom that she had been giving Weaver amphetamines at his request; which may account for his recent paranoia and behavior. Weaver tries to keep Tom out of his way by sending him on a scouting mission with Hal, but Tom sends Margaret (Sarah Sanguin Carter) in his place.
Meanwhile, Pope oversees the construction of the new mech killer bullets and forms an odd bond with Matt. In private, Tom confronts Weaver about the pills and the captain responds by accusing Tom of trying to usurp his command. He has Danner and Jimmy (Dylan Authors) take Tom into custody and lock him in the boiler room, although Jimmy is notably concerned by the turn of events. Elsewhere, Ben helps Uncle Scott (Bruce Gray) search for frequencies that can jam the Skitters' communications. Ben feels pain during one of the frequencies, but he doesn't tell Scott why.
In the boiler room, Tom's attempt to appeal to Danner's sense of reason falls on deaf ears. Weaver visits Pope and orders him to make his big bomb into four smaller bombs. Then Ben finds evil space Rick (Daniyah Ysrayl), who also heard the frequency from Scott's radio and he disturbingly insists that the Skitters are coming to take them home. Hal and Margaret soon return with news that the Skitters have redeployed and blocked the freeways. Jimmy alerts Hal and Margaret that Tom has been imprisoned. With Jimmy's and Hal's help, Tom breaks free and restrains Danner. Elsewhere, Ben confesses what happened earlier to Scott and says that he doesn't know what he is.
Reunited with Anne and Lourdes, Tom hears the truth from the newly awakened Dai. The 4TH and 5TH Mass may be lost and Porter's forces were under attack and possibly destroyed. Porter ordered the attack to be aborted unless the 4TH and 5TH made contact. Realizing that Weaver intends to stage the attack anyway, Tom confronts Pope at gunpoint and demands that he disable the bombs that he made. They then lure Weaver to the infirmary, where they hold him at gun point. Tom attempts to be conciliatory and wants Weaver to be honest with them. But the tables are almost turned when Pope shows up with a gun and sides with Weaver.
Tom pleads with Weaver that they don't have enough men for a suicide mission as Anne and the rest insist that they want to follow Weaver, he just has to let them. Weaver finally relents before he and Tom address the soldiers with the facts and ask for volunteers for the mission. Hal and Pope are among those who choose to go despite the odds, and Weaver admits to Tom that Porter was right to make him second-in-command. As Tom stays behind to help guard the civilians, Ben and Scott approach Tom about the anti-Skitter frequency just as Weaver's forces move out for the attack.
Going into this episode, I was concerned that the escalated conflict between Tom and Weaver wouldn't be believable, but the episode did a good job of tearing that relationship asunder. "Mutiny" was almost a bottle show, with very few locations and practically no action; presumably to allow the final episode to have a bigger budget than usual. So I can see why TNT decided to air the episodes back-to-back. But to be clear, this was a very entertaining episode on its own terms.
Tom's suspicions about Weaver's mental health actually made for some good tension, as the audience was largely kept in the dark about how far gone Weaver was. The one cheat about that was Weaver's later mention that he stopped taking the amphetamines; despite his seemingly increased paranoia throughout. It could have been from the pressure of leading what may be the last pocket of human resistance in Massachusetts, but it's never fully explained.
There was an interesting subtext to Weaver's deterioration as it practically destroyed his almost fatherly relationship with Jimmy. Weaver seemed stunned that Jimmy had turned against him in favor of Tom and Jimmy clearly had a hard time standing up to his father figure. On a side note, Dylan Authors is aging noticeably quickly on this show. The writers aren't going to be able to portray Jimmy as a 13 year old for much longer.
Regarding the softening of John Pope, I'm happy to report that Pope is back to his anti-heroic ways in full swing. He does seem to genuinely have some affection for Matt, but his betrayal of Tom demonstrates that the only thing that Pope cares about is killing the aliens. Matt's later confrontation with Pope was a little over the top, but it reaffirmed that Pope is not to be trusted. There's even a nice reminder that Pope and Margaret still hate each other; which kind of fell by the wayside this season.
The sense of desperation in this episode was really palpable and a good way to go into the season finale. I have a hard time believing that the writers would kill Porter offscreen, but that really puts the screws to the 2ND Mass and it makes things even more dire for humanity. Noah Wyle and Will Patton owned this episode through the intensity of their respective performances, but the resolution of their conflict was a little too easy. It was just a little too Disney-ish to see them come back together and stand side-by-side.
Regardless, this was a great setup for the finale and one of the strongest episodes of the season.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.