Falling Skies – Sanctuary Part.1
My reaction towards this show must seem schizophrenic at best; depending on the episode my reviews are full of either praise or bile with nothing in between, though the show itself is nowhere near as inconsistent as that would suggest. It’s a mediocre show and has remained that way throughout it’s run but I do get excited when it escapes the traps and bindings coupling it with such mediocrity, I also get more than a little vehement when it walks straight into them but on a whole these movements are only ever footsteps besides a straight line; venturing to the left, than to the right, back to the left, etc. but never actually moving off that one particular path. This episode though fails to fit into that admittedly already strained metaphor, in that it didn’t veer to the left – slipping into the pits – nor to the right – transcending them completely – it simply skated straight down the middle.
On one hand we have some very nice narrative momentum; it would have been too easy for the show to simply spend it’s entire first season sitting in the school, venturing out for occasional supply missions and Monsters Of The Week but instead it is ready to move on only four odd episodes after it arrived. While this is obviously what one really would do in such a situation, it’s not something that networks smile upon for a whole host of reasons: A) Budget, why build multiple sets when you can just make one? B) Familiarity, audiences get as accustomed to the location as the characters do and so if they miss an episode of plot they won’t much mind being in the dark so long as it all looks familiar. C) Shelf life, when you have a successful show on your hands (as TNT certainly do here, it has pulled some of, if not the, biggest cable numbers of the year) why not try and stretch it out a little, spend as much time static as you can, spin your wheels a little, you get paid per episode not per personal happiness. So seeing the band of characters ready to away and the freshness such a move promises was a nice surprise I must say.
Though it was one tempered by the show’s unfortunate decision to again focus all its time on the children, won’t you think of the children?! There was a little B-story that opened the episode showing one family’s attempt to escape the compound so they could make their own way in the new world and this acted as a perfect pre-cursor for the rest of the episodes arc. As the fighters attempted to chase them down all we could hear were orders not to fire because they have a child and when confronted the parents intoned that they instigated the coup because they have a child. I could easily stand the shows central conceit being the rescue of the captured children, and didn’t so much mind the existence of any of the earlier material though I did have some issue with its execution, but there is a certain point where you’re definitely overdoing it and the show reached that point this week.
The main plot of the episode that this little adventure worked to foreshadow was that of the move and the camp’s decision whether or not to send their children ahead to safety while they stayed behind to meet up with reinforcements / hold off the encroaching tide. It is an interesting enough plot line which makes the fact that the show treated it as one to be ashamed of all the more bizarre. The scenes of debate were all but played in fast-forward with the camera entering mid-way through an argument, hearing two points and then jogging off to an action sequence lest we, the audience, get too bored. There is nothing banal about such debates when they are done properly (as viewers of Battlestar can attest) but you need to give them time and context for the words spoken to have any meaning: we need to know who is on each side, why and what difference turning the opposition will make; none of which Falling Skies bothered to give us and so the scenes were boring. I expect better from a character driven show quite frankly.
Then of course the worst part; it is revealed in the stinger that there was no great need for migration nor is there any chance of future salvation, instead the whole affair was a plan devised by a traitorous agent to gain control of the surviving children. Though I find great fault in the reasoning behind this action – is there simply no other force left on earth to drive human action? – I must admit that it was reasonably well executed, rather a bold move and a nice shard of sour darkness in a show oft criticized for being anachronistically saccharine and sweet.
So long as the show is asking interesting questions, giving us exciting action and deepening its cast of characters than I am willing to pay it some respect but it is the shows predilection for plot motion that makes me like it, so I simply hope that the Part One in the title doesn’t denote that the status quo will be restored by the end of next week, for that would well and truly be a steep step to the left.