Falling Skies Season 4 Review “Ghost in the Machine”

Falling Skies Season 4 Episode 1 Ghost In The Machine (1)

Just when they thought they were out, they pull them back in! On the premiere of “Falling Skies,” the gang of the 2nd Mass was mere miles away from the freedom of their home Charleston, when the aliens attacked yet again, in “Ghost in the Machine.” Yep, those nefarious Espheni are at it again, and this time they’ve brought new toys to play with, in the form of giant spikes that shoot out laser barricades, in an attempt to corral everyone into “camps” for some reason or another that hasn’t been explained. However, they also keep them alive, and even make food drops to sustain them. Why? No telling just yet.

Meanwhile, in a “magical” place called Chinatown, another form of camp exists that’s more of the Nazi variety, only gone New Age. There, the adults seemingly live at peace, with the kids indoctrinated to love the Espheni, not fight them. No one has weapons, food is rationed out to those who obey, and Ben is none too happy about it when he gets out of a coma. Not only that, but Lexi is a full-grown hot blonde (Scarlett Byrne, of the last three “Harry Potter” movies- she was “Pansy”), who seems to be the ringleader, and has some interesting powers I’m not fully sure of what are just yet. (At one point, she seems to bend light somehow.)

So, naturally, Ben forms a rebel alliance and recruits some fellow disgruntled kids, including Mira (Desiree Ross, “Crossing the River”), whose parents were killed by skitters and isn’t too keen on bowing down to them. Drinking the Kool-Aid are Lourdes and Maggie, who are both tired of fighting. Last season, on “The Following,” they did a cult-like thing as well and it was a bit much (and more than a little ridiculous), but hopefully, “Falling Skies” will fare better than they did with that thankless storyline.

As Anne seeks to find her daughter and Tom and his family, she leads an attack on what is perceived as a supplies truck, potentially filled with weapons, but turns out to be…a bunch of kids? None of said kids is harnessed, so what exactly do the aliens want with them? Also hard to say.

Finally, there’s Tom, who’s fronting a rebel faction of his own as “Ghost,” who makes sure everyone gets their fair share of the rations dropped by the aliens. He’s like Robin Hood on a motorcycle and in a Tusken Raider-type mask, basically. Not sure where Tom picked up these mad cycle-riding skills, but whatever. Whoever did those stunts was pretty bad-ass, though, and nice touch with the flamethrower.

Also with Tom’s camp are Weaver, who got separated from his daughter Jeanne, when the aliens absconded with her for some reason and plopped him down in the camp; Pope, who hoards as much food as he can, is an all-around slob, and has a generator so that he can watch “Gilligan’s Island” on old VHS tapes in a natty bathrobe; and Tom’s son Hal, who is working with Tector to try and bring down one of the laser fences. New to the mix is Dingaan (Treva Etienne, of “Terminator Salvation”), who offers up his services and claims to have broken out of camps before on multiple occasions.

I gotta say, this was a pretty good, solidly-exciting episode. I’ve cooled on the show somewhat over the last few years, and wasn’t 100% onboard this season (especially with a near-overwhelming amount of good stuff on Sundays as it is), but so good so far. I don’t know if I’ll continue to watch as even more good shows come down the pike (i.e. “Masters of Sex,” which is one of the best shows on TV; and “The Strain” and “The Leftovers,” which both look super-promising), but until those shows kick in, I don’t mind giving the show one more shot. There’s always on-demand viewing or online streaming if I decide to keep watching after all, so my DVR doesn’t explode from all of the Sunday night goodness. What can I say, it’s an embarrassment of riches. Sundays: they’re not just for church and football anymore!

Anyway, some good stuff here. The opening scene salvo was exciting, action-packed and added instant drama, “Walking Dead”-style, as everyone was scattered to different places and factions of characters. I don’t know about you, but I would have gone with the swanky digs of Chinatown over the grungy confines of the “ghetto towns,” though I probably would have ended up on Team Ben and gotten myself killed, anyway.

The shot of Tom beholding his scribbled depiction of the “Declaration of Independence” was impressively nutty, like the sort of thing you’d see drawn on the walls of a serial killer’s apartment, only more patriotic. Crazy scrawling: it’s not just for wackos anymore!

Chinatown straddled the line between bohemian, creepy, and, of course, Asian with off-kilter and off-putting results that were like the mirror image of the camps. Both were traps, of course, but Chinatown knows how to feng shui the crap out of everything better. Ben’s right to be skeptical, though, obviously. If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Not helping matters: Lexi’s Zen blank void of emotionlessness, or the Hitler Youth-style “New Coalition.” Love the Bonham necklace, though!

We also learned that the Volm have largely retreated, in fear for their loved ones, and are not faring well against the Espheni, much less in aiding the humans, who are facing extinction altogether at this point. Cochise promises Tom to help where he can and keep an eye out for Anne and company, but it’s not looking good for our side, to be sure. Not in the least with some sort of new machine in the works. Finally, the Espheni are wise to the “Ghost,” if not his identity as Tom, and want him killed- or everyone killed, period in his camp. Talk about a final solution.

So, an intriguing episode, with the promise of moving the series into new territory, but the real test will be how well it sustains it. “The Following” couldn’t get out of that cult camp stuff fast enough for me, so it remains to be seen how “Falling Skies” will fare. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but aliens aren’t the stiffest competition the gang of “Falling Skies” faces- a jam-packed schedule of shows on Sunday is. Good luck, guys- you’re gonna need it!