Plot: Reunited with his son Matt (Maxim Knight), Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) begins to track down Hal’s (Drew Roy) whereabouts after he finds their hideout abandoned. Anne (Moon Bloodgood) resorts to violence to get answers on Lexi’s (Scarlett Byrne) condition but runs into unforeseen complications.
A lot of ground has already been covered this season. In the course of four episodes, Tom busted out of an Espheni camp, Matt was discovered and rescued from his indoctrination school, Anne reunited with her daughter Lexi, and Lexi’s safe haven has started to fall apart. You’d think the show was running out of space and desperately wanted to get as much done as humanly possible. But then we come to “Mind Wars” and the pacing slows down significantly. Out of the three storylines in focus last night, only two of them actually moved this season’s plot along. The third however was essentially filler in every sense of the word. Unfortunately for us, that filler took up the bulk of the episode as it focused on Tom himself.
I think it’s fine that the show decided to take an hour to breathe before we entered the next major set piece of everyone reuniting at Lexi’s sanctuary. In fact, I welcome it. It gives this season a chance to stretch some storylines out a bit more. However, filling it up with a Tom kidnapping story wasn’t a wise decision. It didn’t progress the season at all and it contained no new information. In terms of theme, it does fit as a lot this season has focused on the psychological problems with living in this war ravaged world. Nick (Gil Bellows) is really just one of many people we’ve seen to willingly give up his family members to ensure survival. Yet dedicating plenty of episodes to a youth school that literally advocated that exactly subject took away the punch. At the end of the day, Nick was simply another broken man who is already forgotten.
You also get the sense that the writers don’t quite know what to do with Matt now that he’s out of the school. When he was within those walls, he was ready for action and rebellion. Matt was less of the rambunctious punk we saw last year and began emulating his father. It was a nice change that brought some excellent growth to the youngest human Mason. Traveling with his father again has unfortunately changed this. “Mind Wars” directly opened up with Matt scaring a rabbit away so Tom doesn’t kill it, despite a three day lack of food. This kid was willing to take down an entire institution but is too nervous to kill a harmless rabbit? He then fluctuates between acting like an adult and being a child. When Tom, Matt, and Weaver (Will Patton) stumble onto Nick’s camp, Matt is all about getting food there. It’s an extremely stupid decision that backfires hardcore, and you know Tom knew it was going to happen, but they go along with it anyway. When Tom is a captive, Matt is all about killing Nick and Coop (Aaron Douglas) to rescue him, but then expectantly drops out last minute. Bottom line, the writers need to decide who Matt is going to be on this show, and fast.
Hal’s story was a significant improvement over last week. For starters, it was a lot shorter than Tom’s, which gave us no time to focus on Hal’s personal moral debates. That was absolutely for the better as it put his journey to Lexi’s camp at the forefront. This allowed us to watch this ragtag group of humans take down a super mech without firing a single shot and develop a bit more insight on how the Espheni communicate. The action was punctuated with Hal successfully teaming up with Cochise’s (Doug Jones) small group of Volm. It’ll take a long time before Hal becomes even half the leader his father is, but it’s clear the writers are setting him up as a suitable replacement.
Nothing of note really happened at Lexi’s little camp until the very end of the episode, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Something tells me that Anne is trying to make up for lost time after being absent throughout Season 3, so now she’s easily the most aggressive person. And who can blame her? She was experimented on by the Espheni and now her daughter is some kind of messiah. Obviously she wants answers from the hooded Overlord, and that’s what took up the bulk of her story. She starts off with a lot of yelling and gun pointing, but eventually resorts to the tried and true method of a wooden beam to the face, torso, arms, and legs. Unfortunately that backfires and causes significant damage to Ben (Connor Jessup), but it was still fun to watch. The “big reveal” near the end was primarily for the characters and not for the viewers too. I think we’ve all realized by now that Lexi and her hooded Overlord have a biological connection. Now we have that legitimately spelled out for our characters which will hopefully bring us to some new alien/human hybrid territory.
Completely separate from all of this, I feel the need to directly mention the show’s representation of Cochise, or lack thereof for that matter. Cochise and the Volm were awesome additions last season but unfortunately not nearly enough time was given to them. I was hopeful that this would change with Cochise back as an ally again, but clearly the show has no intention to do that. Cochise’s absence was excusable while Tom was locked up, but now that he’s out we keep getting completely bullshit reasons why he can’t continue. “Evolve or Die” had Cochise receiving a brutal injury and having to enter hibernation to recover. “Mind Wars” had him leave Tom to search for his recon unit, completely ignoring the fact that he last saw them with Hal and Tom is on his way to reunite with his oldest son. So now Cochise has vanished again and will most likely reappear exactly where Tom is, completely erasing any reason to leave in the first place. It’s almost laughable by this point.
With more than half a season to go, it’s absolutely surprising that next week’s preview contained Tom finding Lexi’s camp and desperately trying to find answers. If this all plays out as expected, this supposed season long story arc could be over in six episodes. I don’t know where we’d go from there but hopefully there won’t be any more episodes of our main character spinning his wheels. If you’re going to give the lead a throwaway story for an episode, at least make it one that can fit into the overall narrative. Something like what Hal and Anne had last night works perfectly and neither of them had the sprinting pace we’ve seen recently.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor 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.