TV Recap: Falling Skies, ‘Ghost in the Machine’ Season 4 Premiere

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Plot: Emboldened from their latest huge victory, the 2nd Mass returns to Charleston with their heads held up high. Their good fortune is short lived however as Espheni forces suddenly lay siege on their meager numbers. Now it’s four months later, and the resistance is completely split up. Can they come together to continue the fight?

It was time for some change to come to Falling Skies. This generally under-the-radar show has just reached its fourth season, a mark many program nowadays don’t reach, and it needed to update its formula. The introduction of Cochise (Doug Jones) and the Volm tried this in Season 3, but unfortunately their physical presence was too minimal to really change things. In hindsight, Season 3 was simply business as normal except with better guns and Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) in a bigger leadership role. There’s also the matter of Tom’s daughter Lexi (Scarlett Byrne) being an alien/human hybrid, but we only got a real taste of that in the finale. A lot of the last season was spent on her just being one terrifying child. It was like a cheap horror film at certain points. So what do the writers and new showrunner David Eick of Battlestar Galactica fame do? They take cues from dark history to really throw characters into entirely new situations while still maintaining some qualities to keep the show rooted in its past.

Photo Credit: Jamies Dittiger
Photo Credit: Jamies Dittiger

It’s clear right from the get-go that a huge element this season will be the theme of imprisonment. Seeing as he’s the main star, I’m going to focus on Tom first. After we jump four months into the future, we first see Tom within a rundown internment camp. The previously killing focused Espheni are now spending resources on keeping humans alive. Why you ask? That’s the big mystery of this story, but clearly Tom has no interest in finding out. He spends the entire episode sneaking out of his cell and screwing with the Espheni as a masked vigilante the public has nicknamed Ghost. Dan Weaver (Will Patton) is conveniently located in a cell right next to Tom and spends most of the episode going absolutely crazy. Both Hal (Drew Roy) and Pope (Colin Cunningham) are within the camp as well, and each man is handling the situation in entirely different ways. Pope just wants to live life as comfortably as possible while Hal is trying to break out in his own way.

What really works for this one story is how it updates everyone’s previous qualities. Tom, always the brave leader, absolutely would maintain a sense of rebellion with enormous odds stacked against him. Yet he’s never had to act as this lone wolf before. Now that we see him breaking out of his cell on a daily basis, meeting with Cochise in secret, and randomly riding a dirt bike to attract attention, it’s clear he has no qualms with being a one man army. The same can be said about Weaver. He was always a bit off-the-rails as a character, but he had no issues with keeping in line with Tom before. Now he’s just a figure of pure blind rage. Hal, always the boy scout, is now perfectly willing to take matters into his own hands. This even includes fighting Pope to keep him in line. Would Hal have ever fought Pope before? No. Situations have changed though and now Hal is more fearless. The previously lazy and greedy Pope is now even lazier and greedier too. While Pope never really cared about anyone but himself before, he’s now perfectly willing to let everyone else suffer so he can survive. It’s the same old Pope just like it’s the same old Tom, Weaver, and Hal, but now they’ve reached brand new extremes.

Photo Credit: Jamies Dittiger
Photo Credit: Jamies Dittiger

The idea of imprisonment extends beyond physical spaces. There’s also psychological captivity which is where the rest of Tom’s children remain. Ben (Connor Jessup) is the first Mason child we see outside of Tom’s camp and he’s been roped into some crazy new Unity movement. Apparently for the past four months, Lexi has continued evolving to become some blonde haired deity. She now leads this place called Chinatown which is completely devoid of any conflict or strife. For some unknown reason, the Espheni completely leave the place alone. Ben isn’t buying it though and just wants to leave. Unfortunately for him, Maggie (Sarah Carter) has become completely sucked in and constantly pushes the ideals of coexistence. In a similar manner, Matt (Maxim Knight) is now in an indoctrination school where peaceful living between Espheni and humans is promoted. Propaganda videos play spouting ideals, but just like Ben, Matt isn’t suckered in either. We last see him gathering his own little freedom squad to revolt.

This is really where the show is breaking new ground. Since the very beginning, it’s all been about humans fighting their evil oppressors. The only people working with the Espheni were those with an alien harness. Now it looks like the aliens have taken cues from World War II propaganda to psychologically change the human populace. It’s a nice status quo shift and I welcome the idea of Matt becoming a leader like his father. I wish I could say the same about Ben’s story though. I like the idea of Lexi being some new wildcard, but this setup is just unbelievably predictable. Somehow, someway, the fragile peace of Chinatown will get destroyed. It’s blatantly obvious that the disabled mech will come back to life as well. Why else would that still be inside the base? I also can’t buy Maggie becoming completely involved with this Unity movement. This is the same woman who was skeptical of everything and everyone. How could she be suckered into this obvious farce? Lourdes (Seychelle Gabrielle) being there is a blatant red flag too. What, is everyone just going to forget she tried to kill them all?

Photo Credit: Jamies Dittiger
Photo Credit: Jamies Dittiger

Separated from all of this is Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) still maintaining the fight outside of captivity. It’s really only her and a small band of humans on the outside looking in. If anything, this is where the show has stayed essentially the same, but I had completely forgotten how badass a person like Anne can be. She was absent all of last season. Now that she’s back, I love how she’s ready to kick ass and take names. Hopefully she’ll meet up with Cochise later and we can get a killer pairing.

With a brand new season, it’s clear that changes are coming. Most of them are good and welcome but some don’t exactly work with previously established characteristics. I will say though that the four month time jump was a smart idea. Just like the break between Season 2 and Season 3, this skipped past all the boring acclimation to new surroundings. Did we need to see Tom getting thrown into a makeshift prison and slowly writing on his wall? No, we really didn’t. Seeing Tom as this badass new vigilante like Ghost is an entirely different story. Hopefully the rest of Season 4 will take these cues to bring the show in new direction than before. I don’t want something similar to Cochise being taken out in a variety of contrived ways. Let’s have these separate stories all work on their own and given equal focus, only to come together in a big way later. That can make this one awesome season.

Rating: 7.5/10

Related Articles:

TV Recap: Falling Skies, Season 3 Finale (Luke Kalamar)

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Interview: Doug Jones AKA Cochise of Falling Skies (John Lawrence)

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Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.

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