No matter what show, no matter what genre, a season opener has the job of recapping what happened in the previous season, and showing where the new season will lead. Falling Skies has always been a show willing to change things up in order to prove that each season will be different. From Tom getting taken, to Charleston being found, to the Volm, and so on. With Season 4 (and someone new running things) it was going to be interesting to see how things would change again.
And boy did they, and not all for the better.
To be clear, this wasn’t a terrible episode, but nor was it the best the series has ever done. “Ghost in the Machine” did lead the series in a new direction, several in fact. And in doing so it changed what little status quo we believed we obtained. That in itself is praise worthy, but when looked at as a whole one must questions some of the choices.
In recap of Season 3, the Volm came to “save” us, but not in the way Tom Mason and the rest of the 2nd Mass wanted, so they agreed to go their separate ways and fight the Espheni on their own terms. As we enter the episode, everyone is happily making their way to Charleston. Tom and Anne are together, Lexi (their alien-human child) is enjoying time with Lordes) and jokes are being said…
Yeah, that’s going to last!
Enter the most tense five minutes of the episode. Charleston? Attacked. The 2nd Mass? Ambushed, then separated via some very cool (and very deadly) Espheni fences. Tom, Anne, the boys, Lexi, everyone is separated. Tom is hit and blacks out. And suddenly it’s four months later.
Personally, going to another time jump is rough for me, as the show has done in it every season some degree. And it leaves us with the overdone question of “what happened during that time?” Thankfully, the show did answer most of those questions. Unfortunately, some of those answers weren’t very appealing.
Tom, Dan, Hal and many of the remaining people of Charleston are now trapped in the city, via the fences. Prison essentially. Yet the Espheni aren’t trying to kill them, just the opposite they’re trying to keep them alive. Why? Don’t know. Not even Cochise who reappears with dire news knows. This shift is welcome, as it shows that the Earth has gotten under the Espheni’s skin to the point where aggression isn’t working and new tactics are needed. But one has to wonder how long this will last…
Anne gives us a welcome shift in tone, doctor and mother figure no more, Anne is now full on leader of the 2nd Mass in Tom’s “absence”. And she means business! Moon Bloodgood delivers in this episode as she shows a side of Anne we really haven’t seen, and hopefully it’ll continue to build up as the season continues.
Matt and Ben are in the most curious, and by extension weakest parts of the season opener. We’re shown two entirely new parts of Earth, with two very different philosophies and intents. Matt is in a reeducation camp, one inhabited by kids, and kids alone. This is clearly a reflection of events from our own history (one that Matt brings up), and in a way it makes sense that this would happen. On the other hand, how much can we expect from this storyline? Especially since Matt’s “unit” is only 5 kids strong? Time will tell.
Ben’s story is easily the weakest, but ironically it’s not his fault. He wakes up in Chinatown, a sort of paradise where their is no violence, no war, just unity. That and an again aged Lexi. Who’s now a teenager…and blonde…and even creepy. Not sure which is worse…
Anyway, the idea of a peaceful place isn’t so strange as is the timing of it. Ben wasn’t shown getting hurt unlike Tom, so how did he get hurt? And how did he get there? More to the point, what the heck is going on with Lexi? And Lordes? And Maggie!? Maggie’s shift from bad girl to choir girl is a shift many fans may cry foul on. The dialogue and conversations between the characters were so bad it had me believing that this might have been a Matrix scenario like what Tom went through last year. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be.
Lexi is the weak link here. It was interesting to see here have “powers” at the end of last season, as it could have been slowly played up Neo style (sorry for all the Matrix references), but instead we’re introduced to another version of Lexi who has more powers than ever and no explanations. And if the previews are to be believed, this storyline might get a lot worse before it gets better.
As the episode wrapped up the storylines were set. Tom, Hal and the others in the ghetto wish to escape, Matt wants to screw with the center, Anne wants to find Lexi, and Ben wants to show that their can be no peace and no unity with the Espheni here. Unity be danged. And of course, the Espheni are watching, and will clearly have more impact on our heroes this season.
In the end, “Ghost in the Machine” did a good job of shaking things up. Which many will say a series like Falling Skies needs. However, shaking things up too much can cause problems. Weak storylines, and weak character and setting additions turned this into an episode of asking “What?” instead of “Why?” And that’s not good. Let’s hope the season picks up the pace and the slack, else the review scores won’t increase.
3 out of 5 Nerds