TV Recap: Falling Skies, ‘Strange Brew’

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Plot: Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) wakes up from a dream about an alien invasion next to his wife Rebecca (Jennifer Ferrin). They both shrug it off as a simple nightmare and Tom proceeds about his day as an American History Professor at Boston University. However, strange messages from a woman named Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) and a homeless man (Will Patton) convince Tom that things aren’t as they seem. Meanwhile, Weaver and Pope (Colin Cunningham) continue their investigation on who the mole really is, with President Marina Peralta (Gloria Reuben) as their primary target.

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In an effort to change things up a bit, “Strange Brew” falls back on the classic science fiction trope of a dream being more than a simple dream. It’s an age-old idea that has been used in almost every science fiction based media in existence. For those who aren’t aware, the idea is that the main character is in a dream or virtual reality world and is convinced that everything is as normal until the world begins to fall apart around them. Only then do they come to the realization that some outside force is acting upon them. The dreams are usually their perfectly ideal life. In this instance, the dreamer is Tom and his dream is that he’s back in Boston with his family completely intact and a cushy job at an esteemed University. It’s as if the alien invasion never happened. This dream world is what started out the episode and it lasted for a solid amount of time. While this put us off on a strong foot, unfortunately “Strange Brew” sort of fizzled out near the end.

My favorite part of this entire episode, and very possibly the whole season, was the entire dream sequence of Tom back in his ideal Boston. In all honesty I am a real sucker for this concept. I’ve seen it done so many times and yet it never gets old, so right off the bat I was having a good time. First off, it was great to actually see Tom’s wife Rebecca for the first time ever. She died before the show actually began and it was nice to familiarize ourselves with her. Then we get to see Ben (Connor Jessup), Hal (Drew Roy), and Matt (Maxim Knight) in their innocent, pre-invasion “forms.” Ben is a book worm, Hal is a lacrosse jock, and Matt is the young elementary school kid who still has a lot to learn about the world. It was a ton of fun watching these three live normal lives after watching them go through total hell for over two years.

The fun really continued in the University where Pope, Anthony (Mpho Koaho), and Marina are Professors, Maggie (Sarah Carter) and Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) are students, and Weaver is some insane homeless guy rambling about the end of the world. We even got to see the long deceased Dai (Peter Shinkoda) acting as Anne’s husband and Doug Jones as…Doug Jones. No costume or anything! Bloodgood even came back after a long disappearance, albeit in a much toned down fashion. Call it cliché, I call it awesome for being able to see a different world for once. A world that is intact and Tom is a clean shaven guy who wants to become a Dean.

It’s pretty obvious from the start everything is totally fake, and lo and behold Tom is on an operating table being screwed with by Karen (Jessy Schram). Her goal is to find out which tower Tom wants to hit in which city: New York, Boston, Jacksonville, or Chicago. Tom refuses, is promptly rescued, and performs the immensely badass action of shooting Karen in the head. It doesn’t take long before he releases this world is also fake by shooting Weaver in the head. Can you imagine if that was real? AWKWARD! Then he wakes up by Karen again. Everything else after this is actual real life and not Tom dreaming. While I did really enjoy Tom experiencing his ideal world, it was nice to get back to the harsh reality of everything going to hell.

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Then things started to get a bit weird. In an effort to scare Tom into honesty, Karen shows him the wrapped up dead bodies of Anne and Alexis. Naturally this horrifies the shit out of him but honestly, we all know that’s not them or if it is they’re not dead. Anne is such a major character in the show that her death would be a MUCH bigger deal than that. It wouldn’t just be a one off scene with no real resolution. As if that’s not enough, Tom escapes on an impulse by tackling a Skitter off a balcony and using its body to cushion his fall. Yes this was pretty awesome to watch but it’s not very practical. Tom isn’t a superhero so willingly jumping off a really high up balcony shouldn’t come naturally to him. Plus, he just escaped from an Espheni fortress with Karen as acting Overlord watching over him. Why is no one hunting him down? He didn’t even try to make his escape subtle. It’s as if all the imagination and creativity for Tom’s story this week went into his dream world and the events immediately after were a sort of an afterthought to get to Point B of the story.

Back in Charleston, the investigation into who’s the mole got interesting, especially since we know the real mole while everyone else doesn’t. Pope, Weaver, and Anthony get right to the nitty gritty by immediately confronting Peralta about her whereabouts during Arthur Manchester’s (Terry O’Quinn) assassination. It was great watching Pope and Weaver act on common ground, a rarity for the two, as they try to make Charleston safer for everyone. I can totally agree with their suspicion of Peralta as well. Before Lourdes made her grand reveal last week, I was convinced it was Peralta too! Their investigation is going as expected, only circumstantial evidence so far, and I look forward to them actually discovering who’s really behind all of Charleston’s troubles.

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As I mentioned earlier though, the plot sort of fizzled out near the end. Despite all the fun with Tom’s dream and the engagement of the Charleston investigation, nothing really moved forward plot-wise. We’re literally back to where we were last week. Tom is still separated, the real mole is still unknown, and nothing has changed with the Volm weapon despite the Espheni defense grid going live. Tom’s final scene in his old Boston house where he talked to his deceased wife Rebecca was very moving as it showed Tom was ready to fully leave his old life behind, but was that really necessary? Not really, Tom is still the man he always was before. Now we know that he still harbors feelings for his wife despite the major changes he has gone through. The Mason’s returning back to Charleston was incredibly subdued as well. Only Maggie greeted them and when she asked where Tom was, Ben simply replied that he’ll find his way home without any real concern in his voice. Yes, Tom is now alone in a world filled with creatures who want him dead. I’m sure he’ll come home just fine. Plus he’s in Boston now which is pretty far away from Charleston, South Carolina. Not exactly sure what the plan is there.

Falling Skies went in a completely different direction tonight with “Strange Brew.” Tom having his own dream that’s more than a dream is part of a long science fiction cliché but was still a lot of fun to watch. It was easily one of my favorite moments of the entire season. The investigation back in Charleston was great as well with Pope and Weaver working together for a common goal. However, the episode definitely fizzled out in the end with Tom’s bizarre escape and no actual progression with the main story outside of the few seconds it took the defense shield to go up.

Rating: 8/10

1 COMMENT

  1. I feel this episode was lacking in some areas. While I did like the universe made up in Tom’s head, I feel this could have been done at a better time (i.e. early Season 2). This would have also made sense of him moving on from his wife and then starting to pursuit a relationship with Anne. I felt with all of the other surealness of this episode, I didn’t know if Tom was still captured for a moment.
    I was originally asking myself why Tom didn’t lie as to which city they would attack, but then again, maybe he just didn’t know.
    Tom’s daring escape would have been so much better if he used Karen to cushion his fall, as it would have provided both a moment of confusion (which would have enabled Tom’s escape). Plus I just want to see her dead already.
    Speaking of season 2 (again), I think it would be pretty funny if he got a ride from that same girl on a motorbike again. He needs to get back to the plot, and fast.
    I guess the Picketts are boned anyway. I also liked the Doug Jones easteregg appearance.

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