“The Espheni are getting better and better at it, because all they got left is smoke and mirrors,” Weaver says to Tom in the Sunday, Aug. 23 episode of “Falling Skies,” 509, “Reunion.” The war is almost over, with each side making its final moves, and while, after the fast-paced action of “Stalag 14th Virginia,” things slow down considerably in the show’s penultimate episode, the goal remains the same: get to D.C. and take out the Espheni, once and for all. However, before they can leave the military base that is now firmly in their control, there are still a few surprises in store for the 2nd Mass.
“What we’re about to embark on is massive, unpredictable, and if you’re anything like me, there’s some fear and trepidation, and that’s okay. But don’t let your feelings turn to doubt. We are so close. Belief in what we’re doing will get us there.” – Tom to the Mason militias
This “Falling Skies” episode may not be as good as the previous one – it would be hard for it to be, considering that episode 8 did manage to live up to all expectations held for when the firing squad did make its appearance – but it does its job and sets up the finale. Is it all it can be as a penultimate episode of a series? Not entirely. Like has been stated already several times this season, “Reunion” is an episode filled with highs and lows and all too predictable moments. It lives up to its title; there is the chance that a family reunion is imminent, and a familiar thorn in Tom’s side makes a very, very brief return to serve as as minor a distraction as there can be when gunfire is involved.
The highlight is easily Ben’s determination and persistence to get as much information from the shadow plane and the overlords as he can about the Espheni’s Queen and her location, going so far as to risk his own life so soon after being tortured by the military and having one of his spikes forcibly removed. Because getting that information means experiencing the pain of entering the shadow plane via the Espheni device and ice baths, a painful process that does result in, thanks to a chalkboard set up, even before the episode begins, “Opposing force? Outer defenses? Compromised? Formation is necessary. Trees?” He adds “She is here” and “assembly has begun” at the beginning, and later on, when he goes in by himself, despite very vocal protests from Anne and Weaver, “At the foot of the giant,” before ultimately picking up something that warns him that his father is in imminent danger.
“Part of me feels like I need to apologize to you for not being the one to go on that mission to the power core,” Ben tells Lexi in the brig. “The rest fears you haven’t come back and that what I see is just another threat to all of us and I am so tired of that.” As the war is reaching the end – and with the march on D.C. only hours away, the end is clearly near, with Tom remarking to Weaver, “if we’re not successful,” as they all feel that this is the final push – that last sentiment from Ben is the perfect way to describe the 2nd Mass and a clear reason why Ben pushes so hard, even with Anne warning him what it’s doing to him. As he tells Maggie, just like she was willing to do anything to have her spikes removed, he’s willing to do anything to get the information they need.
Another highlight is the off-screen introduction of the Queen. At the end of the last episode, it was inferred that there’s a higher being than the overlords for the Espheni, with a very, very quick flash of that regal-looking being and Cochise’s comment that he didn’t think it was possible. In the time that passes off-screen between episodes, Cochise has told them of the Queen, and while it is a bit disappointing that that conversation does not occur on-screen, there is only so much that can be shown in 42 minutes and this allows the action to pick up with them already knowing about her and instead trying to figure out where she’ll be and what this means for the war. Putting the Queen into play seems to be an “all in” maneuver on the part of the Espheni. When Tom questions Lexi in the brig, she compares it to humans’ God and says it means that the Espheni’s objective has changed, from invasion to occupation. (On the other hand, everything Tom shares with Lexi just raises the question of sharing intel with the enemy.)
What’s more is that Ben picks up chatter about the Nazca lines in Peru. The myth states that aliens are responsible for the geoglyphs there, and it seems that’s not a myth at all. Lexi hints that the Queen had been to Earth before, making Tom realize the importance of the Nazca lines, a subject that is barely touched on before the truth about Lexi is revealed (but more about that in a bit).
This is another episode that shows just how much Matt has grown from season 1 and even from the beginning of season 5, at least in his confidence around Evelyn. In fact, it’s because the 2nd Mass is preparing to move out from the base and head to the final battle that things seem relaxed enough for Maggie to apologize to Matt for the position her love triangle with his brothers put him in. And it’s because Matt has grown up (some would probably say too fast, but alas, it’s a post-alien invasion world) that he can stand his ground and insist they bring back Lexi when they find her in the woods despite Maggie insisting, “She’s not who you want her to be.” (Again, more on that in a bit.) It’s also why Matt is able to stand his ground and argue with Hal about what he would have done if it had been Tom in the woods and why, when what they all suspected turns out to be true, Matt apologizes to his father for bringing her back to the base.
Tom’s latest conversation with the Dornia falls in the column of a “high” of the episode, but also has its drawbacks. Following another vision – this time of Matt, telling him, “Don’t just stand there, Dad. The tide’s going out. Hurry!” – Tom follows the Dornia to the shore, where he witnesses its ship rising out of the water, with the beamer in which he and Lexi traveled to the moon attached. The highlight come as an explanation is given for his return in the beginning of the season. As the Dornia explains, when they acquire other forms of life, they determine its value to them and utilize it accordingly. In his case, they (or rather, the last of the Dornia) can use him to bring a weapon to the Queen that will wipe out all Espheni on Earth.
However, one of the lows of the episode results from this weapon, a capsule that they figure may also prove fatal to humans. It turns out Marty isn’t just along to serve as Weaver’s butler. It just so happens that his time working in a brewery is just what they need to alter the weapon to be safe for them to be around, as, when he overhears Tom and Weaver talking about the periodic table, he conveniently reveals that he’s a biochemist. It still doesn’t make up for everything else, just like his defense of the Masons to the soldiers last week didn’t. It really is too convenient, and in a way, it just serves as a reminder that if Dr. Kadar were still with them, Marty wouldn’t be needed. (Who else still misses Dr. Kadar?)
As already mentioned, Lexi is back in this episode – or at least what Matt wants to think is Lexi and what the others automatically assume is just another Espheni plant, like Kate was. As good as it is to see Scarlett Byrne back as Lexi, to see that the Espheni plant wasn’t just a one-off, to see Anne’s determination to not give into any false hope that it could be her daughter, to see Tom’s struggle with seeing Lexi again – he admits to Hal, “There was a time where I thought I was a pretty good judge of people. The good ones. The bad ones. The Popes. The Anthonys. I think this war has taken that ability from me,” before asking what he thinks is in the brig, his sister or an Espheni plant – because they just encountered one of them, it’s a bit too obvious that Lexi isn’t Lexi.
Maybe it would have been better if Lexi had been how the 2nd Mass was introduced to Espheni plants, if they had been able to question if the Dornia had brought her back like they had brought back Tom because of her story of her return. But at the same time, it would be worse if Lexi had been Lexi because it would just prove what Pope has been saying – that somehow, the Masons manage to go along, untouched, while the others lose loved ones. So, because of that, Lexi’s “return” is, in a way, both a high and a low.
Also falling in that category if only for the predictability of it is Anthony’s redemption move. While Pope has always been a foe for Tom, Anthony has been a valuable member of the 2nd Mass, one whose actions this season have been motivated by grief, by the war, because, as he tell Weaver, he lost his way, but when it comes down to it, instead of firing on his former allies, he chooses to risk his own life to save Anne, suffering an injury he knows means he wouldn’t last for long if left behind by the 2nd Mass – and still understanding if Weaver chooses to do just that.
Unfortunately, one of the lows of this episode is Pope’s return, which lasts all of two minutes. No, really, that shootout between Pope’s new group and the 2nd Mass and the soldiers is only two minutes, and there is absolutely nothing new in it. Tom and Pope yell a few words back and forth, Tom sees the fuel barrels loaded in a truck – him noticing Matt pushing one earlier might as well be a giant red flashing sign that it will be important later – and he and Weaver shoot them and bury Pope and his people under rubble. Whether Pope is dead or alive – his body is never shown, but surviving something like that when there are also aliens out there is a death sentence in itself – it’s still a letdown. Pope deserves better than that. The conflict between Pope and Tom deserves better than that, even if that’s not the final resolution, especially given their confrontations earlier this season.
And of course, the episode has to end with what can be called a victory of sorts for the 2nd Mass, followed by incoming trouble. Tom figures out that “at the foot of the giant” means that the Queen is at the Lincoln Memorial, giving them a final destination (thanks to Ben’s recklessness), but just as they’re getting ready to leave the military base and hit the road again, a swarm of black hornets are heading right for them.
“Falling Skies” season 5 airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on TNT. What did you think of episode 9 “Reunion”?