Welcome back Falling Skies fans!
Well my dear friends it is all completely, yet tragically true! The danged multi-legged aliens, the Skitters, whom along with their hideous two legged metallic “Mech” monsters are indeed loose on Earth and they are looting our fair planet! To make matters even scarier they have enslaved some of our most cherished; the children! Just what the devil is going on here?
When we last left our band of survivors, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) had successfully escaped the greater Boston area and the resistance was in process of establishing a base of operations outside the city. They had secured supplies as well as enlisted, or should I say captured, John Pope (Colin Cunningham), a trained culinary expert, who is in fact a trained chef obviously guilty of leading a band of criminals and rogues.
While the Earth may be overrun with the alien monsters, at least our focal group of resistance fighters now stand a chance to be better fed by John Pope. So long as they can forage and find food, a few spices, some wild radishes and side dishes for John Pope to prepare, this group will eat hearty. Always a fun topic, expect a few more tasty bits of humor (pun intended) from eating jokes and pranks in Prisoner of War!
Can anyone say Skitter soup or Skitter Nuggets? Well, just hold on a moment and you may very well get a chance to sample such delicacies in Falling Skies “Prisoner of War” by Dreamworks Television Studios!
When we last left off with our heroes Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) had safely and successfully led his group of survivors out of the greater Boston area. John Pope (Colin Cunningham) and his evil band were thwarted saving Anthony (Mpho Koaho) from the racists and Margaret (Sarah Sanguine Carter) from further sexual abuse.
Uncle Scott (Bruce Gray) continued educating the children in a makeshift outdoor school classroom while Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) focused on finding a way to remove the Skitter “harnesses” from the children as a way to divert her attention from tragedy to something positive over the grief she feels about the loss of her own child during the invasion.
In the meantime Captain Weaver (Will Patton) had established a base camp of sorts outside the city. Of paramount import is that Tom Mason is determined to rescue his son from the Skitters. These children are indeed (and sadly) Prisoners of War of a sort.
This is where we begin Prisoner of War. Tom Mason , Anthony, Dai (Peter Shinkoda), Hal Mason (Drew Roy), Margaret (Sarah Sanguine Carter) and Karen (Jessy Schram) are on a mission to rescue some “harnessed” children.
We observe them in slave labor like conditions sorting through scrap metal under the watchful eye’s of a Mech and a Skitter. A comment is made that certainly an advanced race of aliens has conquered the Earth and has better things to do that go in the recycling business when things begin to go terribly wrong?
The Falling Skies story arc reminds me of The White Mountains trilogy of books written beginning in 1967 by an author who wrote under the pen name John Christopher (Samual Youd). The books became a British Broadcasting Company Television series in 1984 by John Christopher.
Similar in several respects, Falling Skies has the harness whereas unlike “The White Mountains” that featured “capping” with an electronic mesh affixed to the skull of the children at puberty. Both devices mentally control their victims by suppressing their ability to resist. The similarity we see is that such works effectively in both stories and the devices are only used on the young. Why? Because as in real life the young are impressionable before they mature into adults. We will clearly see this factor illustrated in Falling Skies!
In Falling Skies the harness is a biologic type of attachment affixed to the victims spinal cord with metallic probe like tendrils connecting the harness to the biologic device. There is no doubt that this interface uses some form of telepathy to control the enslaved since a Skitter is always close by when the victims are working.
To reiterate though, is the story arc virtually the same as The White Mountains? Not really. In that great series of books now tentatively being considered for production as a series of movies by Disney Studios for the 2012 release, the “capped” victims were used to perform the menial tasks by their masters referred to as “Tripods” because of their multi-legged bodies. In “The White Mountains” trilogy of books, the entire technological infrastructure was laid waste, not so in Falling Skies, yet!
In Falling Skies the Earth has been conquered and each city has significant debris to clear for their ultimate purpose. We are left to ponder if the harnessing could be as simple as slave labor, yet I wonder if there is more to it? In any event, the harnessed victim status in Falling Skies is an effective mechanism and will become the center of the adventure in Prisoner of War.
Naturally Tom Mason’s son Ben (Conner Jessup) is not the only kidnapped and harnessed victim as indicated by Mike (Martin Roach) whose son Rick (Daniyah Ysrayl) has been harnessed. When Mason returns to the compound he admits that during the reconnaissance they observed twelve (12) children enslaved by harnesses. Rick jumps to Tom Mason’s defense as he becomes overwhelmed by the many parents whom are at wits end over their missing children likely enslaved by the Skitters!
And what parent would not be driven to a crazed state to get their children back? This element of a parent’s “drive” to protect their young is heartbreaking. A basic motivation in humanity is artfully displayed and is part of what makes Falling Skies so enjoyable to many, but not all. More on those thoughts later.
We observe the look of utter frustration on Tom Mason’s face from the fact that his mission to rescue failed when an alien Mech opened up with laser guided automatic weapons fire when a part of the building roof parapet broke loose and gave away their position.
The recon mission is aborted as they run for their lives! All these elements transpire in only the first few minutes of Prisoner of War and more than effectively set the foundation of the excellent chapter of what is about to come.
As the recon party returns to base, next we observe two of the programs strongest character actors, Dale Dye as Porter and Will Patton as Captain Weaver in a classroom setting with resistance fighters and candidates with whom they are conducting a training and briefing. Porter shares with them there is good news and bad news.
I enjoy this ageless method of story-telling perhaps best done during World War II by Gabriel Heatter, a famous war correspondent of the time. He always began his radio broadcasts with “I have good news” or “I have bad news”. Occasionally Gabriel Heatter would say “I have good news and bad news” and so it is from Porter and Weaver.
The good news is that the resistance has linked up with others in the United States as far west as California. The bad news is that the tower structures we have observed over Boston are confirmed as being built in each major city across the United States and likely the entire alien dominated world. Yikes!
The resistance briefing concludes with a discussion, in fact a debate between Porter, Mason and Captain Weaver about the harnessed kids and the reason to learn how to free the poor little souls from a life of horrible subjugation as slaves to the Skitters.
Another time honored resistance philosophy is imparted to the viewing audience; “Better (for the kids) to Die Free than Live Enslaved” by the Skitters when we learn once again that removal of the harness leads to death within two to three hours of removal. Mason volunteers to use his own son Ben as a guinea pig to help find a solution to help all the children.
Here once again the creators have imparted a masterpiece in story-telling about the human condition. I mentioned Gabriel Heatter and World War II for a specific reason; the horror, no, the absolute scourge of Fascism and dictatorships we witness everyday in real life around the entire world, Libya, China, Iran, The Taliban, and even racism here in the United States. All are forms of fascism filled with hate and bile towards others in the human race.
The open and frank dealing with realistic issues in life are among the Single Effect the creators want to be shared with the viewing audience during the telling of the story in Falling Skies. It is this honest focus on the dark side of humanity via the Skitters that make the story so excellent in the opinion of this reviewer.
Prisoner of War is not without humor, and all of the story arc is coupled with more displays of real life situations. The scenes with John Pope (Colin Cunningham) and Uncle Scott (Bruce Gray) discussing how to ruin, errr cook chicken are superb! Pope spits up the food and shoves the plate of chicken and rice back to Grays character Uncle Scott.
The jokes, in fact gag lines by John Pope (Cunningham) about “rots and rots” of rice are deliberately delivered to illustrate his characters racism even to the point about how he feels about even eating “lots and lots” of rice. For those who may think the item is a cheap shot, you are missing the entire point of the routine. Racism is not funny and putting such a display directly into our faces is a message about the tragedy of fellow humans hating races other than their own.
Moving on in telling of Prisoner of War, the story also features a guest star in one Steven Weber (Leaving Las Vegas, Parenthood, Happy Town) as Doctor Michael Harris. In a poignant scene with Tom Mason, both reveal that they were with the others spouse and were unable to save the others wife.
Just prior to this scene, we sense a bit of rivalry had occurred in their past? Perhaps the two had been competing researchers. As Doctor Harris, Weber is introduced as the genius who says he will be able to safely remove the harnesses from the enslaved children.
We can see Mason wince a bit about Doctor Harris, but the rivalry, whatever the details were, fade as the two realize the fate of humanity rests in their hands and with good cause. If the children are lost an entire generation will be forfeit to the Skitters, much like the youth in Germany and Japan during World War II, the results can and will be devastating.
As we near the end of the episode, Tom Mason and his crew are able to save one of the enslaved children, but he is subsequently jumped by a Skitter while still on his mission to find and save his son. During a fight with visual and special effects that are superb, by pure luck and perhaps a bit of sloppy overconfidence by the alien Skitter, Mason prevails when he is able to reach for his shotgun and blasts the alien creature at point blank range.
The up close and personal aspect of the hand to hand combat creates a clear perspective of the relative size of human versus Skitter. In this scene the VFX by Dreamworks Television are very realistic and quite believable.
After the shotgun blast, Tom subsequently beats the Skitter to within an inch of its life with the butt of the weapon for what they have done to Earth. Suddenly Tom then realizes that a live Prisoner of War is far more valuable to the resistance than a dead Skitter carcass.
In a sequence very similar to Will Smith in Independence Day (1996), Tom drags the creature back to the compound headquarters as the first Prisoner of War for the resistance to study alive! Different from ID4 only slightly, the resistance also has dead Skitters they have been studying. However much different than ID4, that study of the aliens has not been occurring for many decades in Area 51.
However being a video editor and camera man in a past life, I did notice a minor flaw in the scene between Noah Wyle and little Matt Mason (Maxim Knight) that detracted from the emotion of the scene between father and son when Matt reveals he knows what Dad has to do and say “Go Get Them”! Rather than zoom in sooner, two adults are observed talking in the background. Camera focus was on the adults and not on Wyle and Knight. It only lasted about 3 seconds. A pan zoom in post edit in could have enhanced this, but it is possible the scene was left in for effect.
In the final critical sequences we experience several “special treats” the creators saved for us, the viewers ; learning about how the Skitters think and operate versus how humanity reacts under such circumstances.
First, Hal Mason (Drew Roy) is observed alive after the earlier street battle. We were not sure since he and Karen (Jessy Schram) were themselves apparently captured. Writhing on the ground, Hal is obviously still dazed, stumbling and confused from being nearly hit by rocket launcher direct fire and explosion from a Mech. Hal then sees two “harnessed” adolescent slaves dragging Karen off to an uncertain fate while a Skitter orders a hideous act!
Too weak to offer resistance, we segue to a Mech and Skitter coming into view with a group of slaved children while Hal is unable to stay on his feet. Much to our surprise, the youngsters appear to be drugged (more later), Hal figures it all out screaming as the Mech opens up with its arm mounted machine gun and kills the five innocent victims right before his eyes and then let him go!
Why is this sequence significant to viewers and real life situations as well as very well done in Falling Skies? Because it is precisely what tactics the Nazi’s used in World War II and those modern day fascists use to send a message back to their opponents in a war.
The antagonists typically leave one person alive after a massacre to deliver their “message” back to the resistance fighting against them. What is the message? Leave us alone or we will kill more innocent victims, including the hostage they just took, Karen while Tom and Hal escape for now to deliver the message.
Next up is an amazing scene we have been waiting for, the removal of a Skitter harness without killing the victim. Doctors Michael Harris (Steven Weber) Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) are assisted by young Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) while Captain Weaver (Will Patton) and the distraught Mike (Martin Roach) father of Rick (Daniyah Ysrayl) look on. They watch as his son is strapped in for the horrifying procedure. As suspected the Skitter “harnesses” probes utilize a bio-metallic needle which is delivering a morphine like substance to control the enslaved children directly into the spinal cord! Yikes!
The harness removal procedure was developed by Doctor Harris at the cost of several lives until he figured out that the victims die from withdrawal from the drug, not the actual harness removal. His procedure is to administer a morphine drip via IV to offset the loss of the Skitter narcotic.
The good doctor actually uses a frakkin blow torch to cut the metal probes and remove the harness. As he is working we learn that the harnesses metal tendrils have a biologic mutation with the tips melding and blending with the victim spinal tissues. The upshot of this horrid discovery is that if the harnesses remain on the enslaved too long, removal will become impossible!
The seriousness of the situation is offset with a humorous section where John Pope has prepared a culinary masterpiece!!
The final sequences are heart wrenching and frightening! A confrontation between Tom Mason and Doctor Harris. Both had lost their significant others. Harris is drunk having located a bottle of what appears to be Glen Livet Scotch. Tom punches Harris for what he knew, that his wife was left for dead when Doctor Harris ran off to protect his own life.
Knocked to the ground and bleeding from the lip, Harris gives Tom the real news. Yes it was true, but it was actually his day on duty and Tom’s wife let him sleep rather than pull another shift foraging for food and supplies. It gets worse, drunk Harris informs Mason that had he tried to save his wife, he would have been killed too and then would not have been alive to perfect the harness removal procedure to potentially save Ben, Tom’s other son whom is still enslaved by the Skitters! After talking with Anne, we see Tom go to the wall of the missing and place his son’s picture there with a tear in his eye!
The very last sequence is a most horrifying development. We see the Prisoner of War begin to come out of his gun butted unconscious state. We segue to the poor victim. His eyes open wide! So know we know that the Skitter harnesses metallic tendrils create a permanent telepathic bond with the enslaved kids as illustrated below.
Editors Note: As the screen fades to black, I recall very few tweets on Twitter about people who do not like Falling Skies. The one who did seemed unable to link together the historical elements of fascism, sexism and racism that still exist in societies around the world to this very day. A few others said the story moved too slowly wanting instant gratification and answers. We here at WHR must disagree strongly with such thinking. Each episode of of Falling Skies is akin to the chapter of a fine novel and we hope that those impatient people will simply sit back and enjoy the ride. Thank you!
Falling Skies returns each Sunday 10 PM east/pacific, 9 PM central time in the United States. “Grace” is the fourth episode in terms of actual numbering. Having seen this episode I can only say you do not want to miss it under any circumstances since the interaction between the Skitter “Prisoner of War” and the enslaved children are explored further in Silent Hill! In the meantime, we include the full Prisoner of War episode below courtesy of TNT for your enjoyment!
Thank you for visiting WormholeRiders News Agency and reading the theories, book history back story and historical reference material imparted by the creators in Prisoner of War.
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