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'Falling Skies' 'Mind Wars' review: Humans and monsters

'Falling Skies' season 4 episode 5 "Mind Wars"
'Falling Skies' season 4 episode 5 "Mind Wars"
Bettina Strauss, used with permission

The Sunday, July 20 episode of "Falling Skies," 405, "Mind Wars," sees Tom, Matt and Weaver encounter strangers on the road, which ends up pretty much exactly like that always does on shows like this. Meanwhile, Anne finds herself at a loss when Lexi gets sick, and Hal works with Shaq to find a way through a mech patrol.

"You don't mess with my family." – Matt Mason

This episode of "Falling Skies" shows humanity – and family – at its best and its worst, just as this series tends to do time and time again. While the 2nd Mass – and specifically Matt – and Nick are at the two ends of the spectrum, Cooper, while leaning more towards his brother's side than the 2nd Mass' is the victim of circumstance, more bad than good but in a different category from his brother. Something else the TNT drama has consistently done is show how the alien invasion has brought out the best and worst in people, and "Mind Wars" is just another example of that.

It also shows that crossing the Masons – and the 2nd Mass – is not a good idea. "You don't mess with my family," Matt proclaims the message of the entire series as he and Weaver track Tom, Nick and Cooper. Yes, while that "family" is primarily the Masons, it's the 2nd Mass as well. Being related doesn't make someone family. It's what you do for another person that makes someone family, and as Tom explains to Matt in the end, real brothers "look out for each other." Nick and Cooper? They weren't really brothers. The Masons? The 2nd Mass. They're family.

Granted, the plot of the episode isn't exactly any original one: a survivor makes a deal in order to guarantee their own future (or so they think) and offers to hand over a wanted member of a resistance force. Tom's "Maybe this time we'll catch a break" is a bright red flag that the people they're about to meet will make them wish they had kept walking in the other direction. The set-up leading to Nick and Cooper making their moves is a bit weak as well, from the moment Nick recognizes Tom as the Ghost to his story about escaping the skitter farm and Cooper throwing the knife, and the reveal that Nick made a deal and handed over his brother's kids is easily predicted, as is Cooper killing his own brother and then turning the gun on Tom and presumably planning to then shoot himself. But hey, it gets "Battlestar Galactica's" Aaron Douglas on the show.

Though the story may be a bit lacking when it comes to the strangers on the road, it does allow for the exploration of what this war has done to Matt. He wants to make the brothers pay for taking his family, and he doesn't change his stance even when Weaver warns him that "it can make you feel kind of crazy" when someone hurts your family and not to let the enemy let you forget who you are. Matt has had to grow up quicker than he would have without the aliens, and he has come a long way from where he was in the first season. Still, when it comes time to take a shot, he can't do it. "You're a human being," Weaver tells him. "Don't be sorry."

Yes, the alien/human war has changed people in many ways, but it ultimately comes down to how far a person will go when it comes to human vs. human – and there's still good in some people that prevents them from crossing that final line. Nick claims he made the deal he did because "they were going to turn [him] into a monster," but in the end, he turned himself into a monster. Choices like that distinguish the good from the bad people still out there. Some people are willing to do anything for family; others just care about themselves.

Meanwhile, Hal continues to be a leader for the refugees of the ghetto camp who have stayed together, and that means having to figure out a way to get out of a sticky situation, with a mech patrolling the area. "I left my crystal ball back in the magical land of Oz," Pope laments because he's Pope. Hal hopes to use the Volm's recon drones to scan the area, but unfortunately, Shaq informs him that they're searching for the Espheni power source.

The Volm does have a "highly irregular" idea that could work, and it does, with Hal getting the mech's attention, Tector and Dingaan pulling up a rope to stop it in its tracks, Pope and Sara running it down and Shaq powering it down. "We crushed that thing like a cheap beer can!" Sara cheers, settling in pretty nicely with the 2nd Mass and at Pope's side. Shaq then uses the mech's transmitter to link into the Espheni remote frequency and gets them a look at the best way, free of Espheni troops, to Lourdes' safe haven.

Not only has separating the 2nd Mass into groups allowed a bit more exploration of some characters, it has also given "Falling Skies" a chance to show new groups being established. With the ghetto escapees and Tom and Weaver away, Hal has formed his own council of sorts in Tector, Dingaan and to an extent Pope (when he can be useful, at least) and has his own Volm in Shaq. Speaking of, anyone else enjoying Hal and Shaq's exchanges? "You going to tell me what you have in mind or we going to stare at each other until the sun comes up?" Hal asks. "That would be a highly inefficient use of our time. We'd further exhaust ourselves…" Shaq replies. They may have nothing on Tom and Cochise, whose friendship has become one of the best parts of the show, but they're becoming pretty entertaining. Plus, with Tom and Cochise, season 3 picked up with them already having formed a bond of sorts in the time between seasons. With Hal and Shaq, we get to see how they act around one another after just meeting.

Finally, the conflict in the previously "peaceful" Chinatown continues, with Anne questioning the Monk and the Monk insisting he is protecting Lexi (whom he calls the link between humans and Espheni), wants peace and is not like the others, but that conversation is put on pause when Ben's nose begins bleeding from the "difficult" connection. Lexi disagrees with her mother's treatment of the Monk, and that's when things get dicey. "I need him and you're keeping him from me," Lexi proclaims, getting angry and choking her mother?! Lexi then collapses, and when Dr. Kadar checks on her, he discovers she's burning up – with a temperature of 118.

Anne turns to the Monk for answers and gets physical when she doesn’t get any, actions that affect Ben despite not being in the room. (That connection has to be setting up for something coming near the end of the season, right?) The Monk does give Anne the answer to help her daughter (the special flower she showed her), but when Anne learns Lexi had the Monk freed, she asks her why. She needs him, Lexi repeats. Oh, and "he's also my father."

There are no real major surprising revelations in this episode (Lexis' "he's also my father" is predictable), and so instead it is an exploration of how far someone will go for family, for themselves and for what he or she perceives as what's the "right" or "only" move. Despite its flaws, it's not a bad episode at all, just a bit too predictable at parts. That said, it would've been nice if it had followed up on the final scene from last week – that strange telepathy landscape – because now that exchange seems even more out of place from the rest of the series.

"Falling Skies" season 4 airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on TNT. What did you think of episode 5 "Mind Wars'?