Falling Skies: “Silent Kill”

Trojan Harness

Falling Skies

TNT, Sundays, 9 PM

“Silent Kill”

Written by Joe Weisberg

Directed by Fred Toye

“I don’t know what’s crazy anymore; we’re fighting aliens from outer space.” – Captain Weaver

Since I get nervous every time I see these guys handling firearms on screen, it’s good to see the heroes from Falling Skies experimenting with different weapons this week. Guys who apparently see no danger in pointing automatic weapons at anyone in the room during a casual chat, or handling them by their muzzles, or dropping them to the ground butt-first with the business end pointing at their heads, are as dangerous to one another as they are to the enemy. This week, it finally dawns on Tom that stealth in the fight against a technologically superior enemy might be a good thing, and his team begins training with crossbows. Remember what I said last week about gasoline-powered motorcycles, and how  they might not be such a good idea in the face of permanent gasoline shortages? Same goes for bullets. Our colonial ancestors might have been able to melt down lead into musket balls, but forging your own ammo for an M-16 or such is another proposition. Possible, but challenging. A crossbow/arrow, on the other hand, might get the job done more quietly. So it’s good to see some lessons being learned here.

“Okay, that worked.” – Anne

Our captive Skitter gets a real workout in this episode. First, it lures Dr. Harris (Steven Weber) over by making interesting noises. Harris, who has avoided contact at every turn, gets close enough to let it grab him. Anne tries her best to rescue him, but Harris dies. When Weaver wants to kill the thing, Anne vigorously defends it, saying that there is more to learn, Potter wouldn’t like it, yadda yadda. Weaver relents. Half an hour later, Anne kills it herself with a scalpel, without Weaver’s knowledge or consent, as casually as she might put down a dog. Granted, she’s proving a point – that the aliens can be killed silently – but I have to ask, as a storyteller, why go to all the trouble to make her the Skitter’s defense lawyer if she’s going to turn around and kill it herself without blinking an eye. What’s the point? On the upside, it’s gone, finally. Even the writers appear to have belatedly realized how stupid it was to keep a dangerous enemy critter in lockup, unguarded, in the same building where non-combatants are housed. One pregnant woman criticizes Margaret for the policy. What no one seems concerned about is that the alien, who demonstrated last week that it communicates by a radio in its head, is sitting at the heart of the fugitives’ compound, probably broadcasting everything it sees and hears to the mothership. How dumb is that?

“I’m going to pretend to be one of them.” – Hal

The Skitter story is only an adjunct to our main theme: rescuing Ben. While planning a raid to rescue (to his credit) not only his son but all the other children in a hospital held by Skitters, Tom keeps running into the same problem: how to extract the children without setting off all the alarms. Hal has a short talk with Ricky (who, mercifully, did not die last week), and comes up with a plan: strap Ricky’s ‘harness’ to his back and infiltrate the compound. I’m surprised his history professor father made no reference to Trojan horses. Tom naturally objects, but it’s clear even to him that no one older than Hal could pull this off. Hal successfully infiltrates, and discovers something odd: the Skitter in charge of the children treats them like its own offspring. It nurtures them, caresses them, hovers over them protectively, and finally sleeps on top of them, as if guarding them. The one thing it can’t seem to do, however, is count them, so Hal gets up close and very personal. In a frantic fight scene, he uses the lessons Anne has taught him to kill the Skitter, and the group rescues all the children.

“The more important the objective, the easier it is to overlook flaws in the plan.” – Captain Weaver

It’s not as easy as all that, however. Once the children are rescued, they begin to die. Since Harris is dead, Anne has to round up amateur volunteers to fill the gaps – medicating half a dozen children, prepping them for spinal surgery, outfitting Uncle Scott the All-Round Engineer with a blowtorch to do the cutting. Inevitably, she loses one child, which to her mind outweighs the five she saves. I’ll grant that a doctor never likes to lose a patient, but I would have thought she’d be a little happier she’d saved five lives. What no one seems to have noticed is that the children began to die after “their” Skitter died, which tells me that the Skitter is acting in a maternal capacity – and may be doing more than just acting. Once again, I begin to suspect where the two-legged “mechs” come from. Could we be looking at a family-versus-family drama here?

“Those odds make you think differently.” – Margaret

TNT has already renewed this show for another season, despite fluctuating ratings. However, the overall average for the series so far is 6.4 million (when accounting for time-shifted viewing), with more than half of that audience in the 18-to-49 demographic. That makes it cable television gold, so it looks like Falling Skies is here to stay. Ten episodes of the show will air in Summer 2012.