"You know you're optimism is starting to get a little annoying." -Captain Dan Weaver in the face of Tom Mason's seemingly unfailing, unflagging optimism-
My enthusiasm for the return of Falling Skies with Season Three grows. Falling Skies, Season One, Episode 4, Grace continues its steady concentration upon an epic story.
As the episode winds its way on the latest mission to retrieve motorcycles near Somerville, MA, thanks to John Pope, characters are given some time to spread their wings. Anthony was once a Boston police officer. Rick had cystic fibrosis until he was harnessed. Maggie considered taking her own life before resolving to end it with Pope's group. Lourdes was formerly from Mexico City and is clearly one of the survivors with a deep faith. Even Pope is given a chance to join the mission unarmed to prove his worth.
A well-constructed scene reveals some Skitter behavior as a group of skitters sleep hanging upside down from the bottom of a bridge like bats. Tom Mason, Hal Mason, Pope, Anthony and Dai consider shooting them while they sleep like sitting ducks, but defer to caution continuing on with their mission. They know that they may have success taking out the Skitters but will only bring the Mechs raining down on them. The image of the Skitter resting quietly conjures an image of the creature behavior from the terrific South Korean film The Host (2006), which also loomed in the distance resting upside down underneath a bridge.
Meanwhile back at John F. Kennedy High School Anne Glass and Dr. Steven Weber watch over their imprisoned Skitter. While Anne seems almost sympathetic in her attempts to make some connection with the creature, gain some knowledge or perhaps identify a mutual respect of some kind, Weber almost seems to treat the creature as nothing more than an animal there for his seemingly torturous amusement. Weber incites the creature into a rage by wheeling in a dead Skitter. It seems almost cruel and unnecessary. Furthermore, Weber's history seems murky regarding events surrounding the death of Tom's wife whom Weber witnessed die in person. What does he know? Earlier, Anne attempts to express empathy toward Tom by noting that at least his wife died with a friend. But is Dr. Weber a friend? The question remains open.
During the beast's tirade, static seems to emit throughout the building as Matt Mason and Uncle Scott notice a spike in static in their neighboring room. Later, it is revealed that the spike in radio static directly correlates with the creature's anxiety or excitability.
Elsewhere, Lourdes prays, the fitting spiritual compass for the divinity associated with Grace.
And Mike Thompson remains by his son, Rick. Mike plays a pretty sympathetic father. When Rick awakens for just seconds he indicates he does not recognize his father. He also suggests a connection with the creature held in the adjacent room is the kink that jarred Rick from his sleep.
Mike visits the Skitter desperate for answers, for some evidence that the creature can communicate, much the same way Anne had been probing. Only Mike Thompson clearly appears to be a man very much on the brink. The Skitter's life is in danger. Mike goes so far as to stick his gun into the creature's mouth. As a result, the creature passes out. Fortunately, Anne Glass puts the connections together.
Back on the motorcycle mission Pope knocks Dai unconscious and escapes. Pope is a rather amusing character one you love and hate all at once. Instead of escape, the first thing Pope does is return to the site of the Skitter nest and those Cooties who were sleeping and destroys their nest with a grenade.
While alone, Rick awakens again, but this time re-attaches his harness in a nifty bit of science fiction. The harness literally reaches out to re-make the connections to his back. It's all fairly disgusting but truly effective. In the next room, static comes across the radio, Anne, Mike, Uncle Scott, and Weber all realize something is happening.
Returning to the cage they find the Skitter communicating with and through Rick. The Skitter is capable of utilizing the human vessel to communicate. Mike grabs Rick and removes the harness once again as Rick falls into his arms.
At the motorcycle shop the band of four are attacked by kids with harnesses and fully weaponized with machine guns. They know they don't want to shoot the kids but rather the Skitter controlling them would be the preferred target. Despite being attacked, all escape with bikes. A Skitter is killed and the harnessed children stand motionless with their guns awaiting their orders.
Weaver and Mason have a nice moment later in the entry where Weaver shows his humanity to Tom once again demonstrating real empathy for Tom's position as a father of a missing boy. Weaver has his own demons, but must wear the brave face of a leader.
Later Hal cautions his father about the potential realities surrounding Ben. He may not be the same suggests Hal. His father, perhaps to a fault, refuses to believe anything but the best possible outcome. Tom Mason survives on hope. He lives and breathes it more than any character on Falling Skies. There isn't a pessimistic bone in his body at this point. He's incredibly strong-willed in this way. Hal is certainly younger and a little more dubious about the future much like many heralding from the younger generations regarding their future prospects for America today.
The final scene sees the principals sharing fresh baked bread made by the now deserting Pope led by a prayer to God from Lourdes. "Dear God, we thank you for this meal and for this safe place we live in. We know not everyone is as lucky as we are today," prays Lourdes. "You really think we're lucky?," wonders Weaver. Lourdes, assures, "Yeah, I think we can still appreciate what we have in our life - even now." The scene is ever so sweet as these people are thrown together by fate and break bread together literally. Jesus Christ broke loaves of bread and shared them. Will Pope betray them like Judas? Tom Mason takes bread and shares his with Captain Weaver in a real sense of brotherhood. The community of man is alive and well as they take one another's hands. "Heavenly father for everything you've given us and especially for our connection with each other may we be truly thankful. In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit. Amen." Even the tough-as-nails Captain Weaver speaks those words suggesting that even he has not lost faith and wants to believe in victory through the guidance of a higher power.
This final, powerful scene of genuine grace toward one another as they hold hands in prayer is incredibly moving. The bird's eye or Lord's eye shot is particularly fitting for the closing of Grace. Those final minutes are so unlike most anything out of Hollywood that it comes off as the antithesis of much of what Hollywood supports and represents. It's refreshing to see in film. Perhaps to some degree this foot toward the Christian faith is what gives these normal Americans hope and faith. It may also be what is partially what works against this show today. In a day and age filled by divisive politics and a pop culture that often rejects any connection to Christ it cannot sit well with the certain segments of the Hollywood establishment.
It is moving and heartfelt in those final minutes. With aliens falling from the skies and off bridges, the characters under assault in Falling Skies are bound by a sense of faith and look to the heavens above and the man upstairs for their blessings. God's gift to humanity of salvation, saints and sinners alike, is that of grace or mercy. God gave this to humanity when he sent Jesus Christ, his son, to die on a cross to give us eternal salvation. This is the meaning behind Grace. Falling Skies is grateful for the precious little things it lives for, while The Walking Dead has shown little to no interest in a greater faith beyond the almost nihilistic day's events for survival. Falling Skies is indeed taking big risks with such a spiritual connection and a deeper philosophical connection within its science fiction tale. In some respects its square by comparison, but not as much as you might think.
Writer Melinda Hsu Taylor brings an emotive touch to the storyline. Taylor delivers the first of two entries on Falling Skies. She also had a sizable impact on Season Five and Six of Lost as well as shows like Touch (2012) and Medium (2005-2011). If Falling Skies is lacking anything, it's a little more in the way of an emotional, dramatic punch that some of the best series develop. Lost did a good job with that aspect of the series. You need those gut-wrenching character-driven moments that are filled with emotion and revelation every now and again. We need to feel for them. Falling Skies benefits with a little more care in this area. Grace gives us a glimpse of that strength in its final moments. The potential continues to shine.
Grace offers us a terrific character entry in the series with some interesting developments from the Skitter universe as well as a healthy perspective on grace divine. Amen.
Grace: B/ B+.
Writer: Melinda Hsu Taylor.
Director: Fred Toye.
Holding out hope for a Falling Skies Season Four despite the lack of momentum this series is capable of generating with ten episode seasons. As a viewing experience on Blu-Ray, all at once, it's a story worth watching.