Film and TV

Falling Skies: "Prisoner Of War"

"Nobody puts paprika on chicken."

So it would appear that Pope, the Ralph-Fiennes-from-Strange Days-lookalike captured last week, is actually a chef. And the hotshot new doctor with the apparent solution to the problem to removing the "harness" organism from the enslaved children has a link to Tom's dead wife (and is played by a recognizable actor - Steven Weber - which instantly makes him suspicious). Hell, all we need now is a guest appearance by Barbi Benton and we'd have one hell of a Love Boat episode.

Our second week of Falling Skies delves further into Tom's past and provides a bit more info on what the aliens are doing with the captured kids. There are a few curve balls as well, though if you saw the preview from last week you already know: just because you remove the hypno-slug from a kid's neck doesn't mean they're out of danger.

Seriously though, go look at a picture of Fiennes from that movie. Dead. Ringer.

Col. Porter informs his commanders the alien arcologies (for lack of a better word) are going up over every major metropolitan area in the world, and in addition to looking for intel, they're told they also need to go on "search and requisition" missions to secure more materiel for the resistance. Porter also tells Tom they've been joined by a surgeon, Dr. Michael Harris (Weber), who thinks he has a way to remove the harnessing organism without killing the host, and tells the prof to grab harnessed son Ben to try out the procedure.

Tom, relieved to be going after his boy, is probably nonetheless apprehensive about using him as a guinea pig. Luckily, fellow fighter Mike (Martin Roach) spots his own son and grabs him before they can find Ben. Chaos ensues, and in the ensuing retreat, Hal (Tom's oldest son) and Karen are left behind. She gets dragged off by a couple of harnessed teens (including Ben). Meanwhile, a mech mows down the remaining children in front of Hal.

The lesson, according to Tom's hurried aside about the Nazis, is fairly clear: Take another kid, and we'll murder the rest. Tom knows he can't go after Ben now, but a sort of silver lining appears in the form of a skitter he captures and takes back to HQ (the "prisoner of war" of the title, though Karen probably qualifies as well).

I wonder if Tom's right. It almost seemed to me as if the skitters were subordinate to the mech, and wouldn't the link between the skitters and the harnessed kids - Mike's son Rick is still "tuned in" to the captured alien, even after Harris removes the slug - mean they suffered some sort of negative feedback when all those enslaved children were killed?

I liked the dynamic between Tom and Harris. When the subject of Tom's wife came up, we of course suspected there was a little somethin' somethin' going on, but reality was even worse: Harris bailed on Mrs. Mason when the alien shit hit the fan, leaving her to die. Not his finest hour, but perhaps he can make up for it by saving Ben.

We learn at the end of the show Porter has asked Harris to stick around to examine the alien POW, meaning Weber's on board for at least a little while longer. I'm sure I'm not the only one getting a distinct "Baltar" vibe from the guy.

"Prisoner of War" was a solid episode. The high points being Tom's tense fight with the skitter and the surprising upping of the stakes with the slaughter of the kids. I was a bit disappointed with the relegation of Pope to comic relief, especially after he figured so prominently last week.

Many parallels are being drawn between Falling Skies and that other post-apocalyptic kid on the block, AMC's The Walking Dead. Both deal with human survivors of a global catastrophe, and both are trying to make characterization a strong point. I'm skewing towards Falling Skies right now, which shouldn't be considered a knock on TWD, but more of a referendum on which overplayed premise I'm less hostile to at this point.

Next week: Harris gets to work on the captured skitter, and Rick doesn't appear very enthusiastic about his new freedom.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar