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'Falling Skies' season 4 finale review: High hopes for a Hail Mary

'Falling Skies' season finale part 1 "Space Oddity"
'Falling Skies' season finale part 1 "Space Oddity"James Dittiger, used with permission

The Sunday, Aug. 31 season 4 finale of "Falling Skies," episodes 11 and 12, "Space Oddity" and "Shoot the Moon," see Tom set out on his mission to destroy the Espheni power core on the moon, with a different child at his side than picked in the lottery, and that comes with a whole slew of problems. Meanwhile, the 2nd Mass left behind in Chinatown face their own deadly situation, and it leaves them wondering if everyone will make it through the night.

"This is war. We can't think with our hearts. We gotta think with our heads." – Weaver

This has been a season of ups and downs for "Falling Skies," and these last two episodes reflect that. The finale has its highs and lows, accomplishes what it needed to – and in a way that it had to – and ends with a cliffhanger intriguing enough to make us want to watch the show's final season to see how it plays out, despite its recent weaknesses. Like the past few episodes have bordered on the ridiculous, with talk of flying to the moon, there's a moment of it in the finale, with Weaver and Matt chanting "the fight isn't over 'til it's over" to boost their morality, and that just comes off as absurd. It just makes it worse when Anne says, "damn straight" to that chanting. It's times like that, when the show seems to be trying too hard to be what it is, that it fails. However, as stated above, there have been some "highs" to this season, and the finale isn't short on those either.

It pretty much plays out as expect once Lexi returns to the 2nd Mass, with Pope deciding that he'll take matters into his own hands and take out the probable threat in their camps, Weaver trying to stop him, Lexi stopping the bullet herself and Tom maintaining that he can't let her back into their lives. Once again, Weaver is the voice of reason once Lexi insists they need her to successfully complete their mission, while Anne refuses to risk being betrayed again. In the end, Weaver uses history against Tom, as everyone seems to be doing lately, Ben's out and Lexi's in, Tom's armed with a Volm serum insurance policy just in case and Lexi cocoons Tom to save life support so they can make it home when the launch makes a tear in the hull worse.

Maybe it's because "Falling Skies" has employed the "this isn't real/it's a dream world/hallucination/etc." tactic before, but it's just a bit too easy to figure out that Tom isn't really out of the cocoon when he thinks he is at first in "Space Oddity," and just like that's part of Lexi's wish and dream – like Tom wants peace and the war to be over, she wants a world where her family and the 2nd Mass accepts her as one of them – it feels false. Everything's too convenient, too perfect, and everyone seems to be too much how they should be. Maybe it would've been better off it they had done that differently, but then what happens later couldn't have happened – and that moment in that "world" in the end does partially make up for its shortcomings in the first episode. That said, what comes once Tom realizes it's all fake is one of the better parts of the entire two hours. It's a reminder that Lexi is still just a little girl who wants to be accepted and loved, and this is the result when that's combined with her Espheni abilities.

In the cocoon world, Lexi uses Weaver, the Mason boys and Lourdes to tell Tom what she cannot, that he did what he didn't do with his other children: give up after a mistake and because of how the Espheni tried to gain control and forgive her for what she did – kill Lourdes, something she cannot forgive herself for either. "Not like you to give up no family," "Weaver" comments, bringing up "his" daughter. "I didn't give up on mine. I never gave up on her. You can't give up on yours. You have to make things right. Accept her for who she is."

It takes a bit of time, but Tom eventually realizes that the problem is that she is so scared that no matter what she does, he won't forgive her for what she did. "How can I ask you to forgive me when I can't even forgive myself?" Lexi asks. He admits his biggest regret is that he couldn't forgive her, but her dream is also proof that not only does he need to, but that she's also one of them, not one of the Espheni. With that, it's time for them to wake up and get the mission back on track, but that hits another snag when the bombs are damaged from Lexi turning off life support to conserve it and their beamer is pulled to an Espheni ship.

What the finale seems to want to make us do is question Lexi's loyalty and which side she views as her real family, up until the end when she makes that ultimate sacrifice to save humanity, which is really the only way it could end for her, especially after Tom declares their conversation is just the first of many. Because of that, it's a constant back-and-forth, from Lexi's "how strange" comment when Tom remarks she said the same thing to Lourdes to Tom in the dream world to their final confrontation with Scorch. But just because that's what the finale seems to be setting out to do doesn’t mean that's what it actually does, because there's no real question about where her true loyalty lies, not after her conversations with Tom, not with father and daughter finally connecting just in time for it to end tragically, as it must because that's the kind of show it is.

In a way, that cocoon dream world scenario in the first episode seems to just be setting up Tom and Lexi's goodbye in the second, with Lexi gaining control over that ability of hers just in time to have that last moment with her father after she realizes Scorch disabled the auto-pilot before he died from the Volm serum Tom had on him. It's a last moment for Tom to try to be a father, something he had struggled with while also being a leader and a father this season, and it's nice to see that touch of normality in this post-alien invasion world as he pulls the "I'm your father, do what I say" card.

But no matter what he says, it's Lexi's choice, and before disconnecting from the cocoon communication, she tells him, "Thank you for showing me what it means to be a human being, for showing me how to love. Goodbye, daddy." After that, all he can do is watch as the Volm return in time to take out the beamers on his tail and Lexi flies the Espheni ship into the power core. The explosion sends his beamer off-course and into space.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, it all begins for the 2nd Mass with Dingaan racing back after witnessing the human skitterization process in progress in the woods on the rest of his recon team, and he rushes back to tell the others about the fog and soldiers pinned to the ground with slugs on their chests as they convulsed and transformed. All they can do is try to get ready, but no one's ready when the giant skitterization pod drops down in Chinatown and the fog that seeps out immobilizes all those it touches for the slugs to slither on over to and skitterize.

Matt and Weaver try to barricade themselves inside, but the fog comes in through the vents, and their only offense is Matt throwing a knife in one of the slugs and then the two chanting to stay tough. It just seems wrong to have Matt go from "bam! Bulls-eye in the slug's heart with the knife" to this chant of "the fight isn't over 'til it's over." Anne bursts in to save them after she realizes that fire is this weapon's weakness, but she too ends up stuck in the fog and weaponless, and all Weaver can do to cut off the feeding supply is slam a window on the feeding tube of the slug attached to him. They do all survive, thanks to the skitterization unit being disengaged when Lexi blows up the power core, but their fight to survive starts off strong – with Weaver having Matt use his knife – takes a sharp turn downhill – with the chanting – and picks up again – with Weaver telling Anne he's proud of her.

Meanwhile, Pope and Dingaan try to escape the fog after Pope at first decides to run toward it, tired of playing defense again and again, but they too fall prey (which they deserve, considering where they thought they could stand safely to escape it) to its cement-like powers, and Pope actually ends up biting into the feeding tube to save Dingaan – before Sara surprises them and shows up and saves them both from the "earthworm on human growth hormones," as Pope calls it. "Don't act like you didn't miss me," she teases him after he gets on her case about wanting thanks. They at least seem to be in a good place as the season ends, but who knows how long that will last before they end up at each other once again.

Pope saving Dingaan the way he did is something that's hard to imagine him doing back in season 1, and that goes along with the conversation that Tom and he have in the first part of the finale. Pope has become someone who cares, someone who's tired of digging graves for those he has fought beside. "Somebody needed to do something. Too many people have died. I can't stand the thought of anymore," he admits when Tom confronts him about taking the shot at Lexi. "I can't stop seeing faces, Mason. All the dead and buried, I can't stop seeing their faces." That's the "price you pay for caring about somebody other than yourself," Tom explains, making Pope face the fact that he cares about the 2nd Mass. Colin Cunningham is so good in that scene. He's been so good about showing different sides of Pope this season.

However, it does seem to be telling that Pope says, "I guess you are – were – my people," almost as if that's setting up something to come. Pope then calls Tom out on the fact that he "can't see the forest through the trees when it comes to family," which brings it back to "my family, my problem," for Tom, just like it has before when Tom insisted that he would be the one to make the decision about what would be done about Lexi when she came out of the cocoon. As frustrating as it gets to constantly have Pope vs. one of the Masons, if it's going somewhere for the final season, that could help make up for some of that frustration.

It does seem just a bit too convenient that Hal and Maggie have the "we'll just be friends" conversation right as the skitterization unit drops on Chinatown, and they and Ben just happy to get stuck together and it just happens that Ben and Maggie working together is what saves Hal from potential human skitterization. That love triangle has been one of the weaker parts of the season, with the promos meaning every conversation early on between Maggie and Ben seemed to have this undertone of what could be coming between them and then once the triangle did take form, there seemed to be too much back and forth. Maggie blames the spikes, insists it's just them and she loves Hal and then kisses Ben. Hal gets pissed off, goes to talk things out, sees them kiss again and then gets pissed off again. That said, things do seem a bit better in the finale between the three of them, and Hal may have the best lines about their situation, from his comment, "because it's so easy to trust you these days" to "it's great to see you two working together" after they save him.

Tom also finds out in the finale that Cochise threw the alien equivalent of a teenage rebellion fit when his father declared Earth a lost cause. "I told him I would find the power core, and I would destroy it on my own," the Volm explains to his human friend. Cochise's father does finally answer his call, just in time to save Tom from incoming beamers, but as Cochise explains to the 2nd Mass once the most recent fight is over, with Tom off-course, it's like looking for "a needle in the ocean." The Volm's return – and Cochise keeping the fact that he defied his father's orders from Tom – just brings up the question of what the Volm know and how much they're keeping from humans again. The Volm seemed to continuously fade into the background this season, which Cochise's remarks does explain, but perhaps there should have been more of these alien allies than there was, especially given that there were two more episodes.

As the finale ends, the 2nd Mass is without Tom, without their leader, and Tom is without the 2nd Mass, without his family. Anne is the one who steps up to rally the troops. "If I know one thing for sure, Tom always finds his way home, and until he does, we have to finish what he started. We have to end this war," she declares, and Hal echoes her as he takes on a leadership role like he has all season: "Power core is down, and the Espheni are sitting ducks for a change. Let's kick their ass." It may be enough to boost their morale, but their numbers have once again diminished, and they don't know what the Espheni still have up their sleeve to use in the war. It leaves the 2nd Mass in a very tentative position to go into the final season, and maybe that's what these fighters need, especially without Tom. In Lexi's cocoon world, Weaver comments that they could have a "winnable war" on their hands with the power core down, and it looks like that could become a reality on Earth now.

Finally, Tom is all alone until the very last moment of the finale. With his ship off-course and no way to pilot it, he seems very resigned as he settles in with his book from Anne and an old, worn photo of his family pre-invasion, so small on that ship like the ship is so small in space. But that changes when he wakes up on a bed in a pretty nice room, with that old photo of his looking brand-new in a frame on the nightstand. However, when he reaches out, his hand goes through it. What's real? What's not? Is he real? Or did Lexi's dream foreshadow this? After all, in that dream, he comments that he doesn't feel like he's really there.

Wherever he is, it seems that those responsible have been reading up on him, as voices from history echo throughout the room. "You are safe and sound. We come in peace." "We hold these truths to be self-evident." "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." When the curtains are open, he's looking out into space, and then a voice tells him, "Tom Mason, it's about time." The door opens, and something new stands there. "Oh my god. I had no idea," Tom says. "You're beautiful."

As far as cliffhangers go, introducing something new is not new for "Falling Skies," even with a different staff at the helm, so the season 4 finale does follow that pattern. While Tom may be…somewhere…and the 2nd Mass thinks he and Lexi, since they don't know she sacrifices herself, are lost in space, it doesn't seem that dire of a situation, at least not for Tom. Obviously he's going to make it back to the 2nd Mass at some point, so it doesn't seem like it's a possibly hopeless situation in the least bit, but it does leave us with questions about where he is, who/what is in the doorway and what this means for the 2nd Mass, as well as how the 2nd Mass will cope without Tom and not knowing where he is.

"Falling Skies" returns for its fifth and final season on TNT next summer. What did you think of the season 4 finale? What do you think that is in the final scene? Speculate in the comments.