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TV Review: Falling Skies – “Silent Kill”

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TNT’s Falling Skies looks for the “Silent Kill” this week, as Tom (Noah Wyle) finally gets the chance to rescue his son, Ben (Connor Jessup), from the alien harness. Well, actually, older son, Hal (Drew Roy), does most of the rescuing, with more than a bit of help from Margaret (Sarah Carter). And Anne (Moon Bloodgood) is the one who does the actual harness cutting, as well as figuring out the best way to subdue the aliens. But still… The only thing that is truly a mistake in “Silent Kill” is killing off Dr. Harris (Steven Weber, Wings, Web Therapy) so soon. Weber is a fantastic actor, and Harris is an interesting character. Too bad.

The question of what the alien harnesses are used for when placed on children’s bodies is one at the heart of the first few episodes of Falling Skies. The more that is learned, the more that remains a mystery. It is currently known that the aliens can communicate over radio waves, and likely do so when controlling the children. The aliens can reach the kids even after the harness is taken off. This may be because only the exterior portion can be removed without killing the kid. Also, the kids do manual labor, and a group of them sleep with an alien “nanny.” They are almost treated as the own children of their alien caregiver, who may also cure diseases, such as Rick’s (Daniel J. Gordon) cystic fibrosis. At present, Tom’s group now has six kids rescued from such a fate.

What is unknown is what exactly the short-term and long-term effects are for a kid who is harnessed. Some kids have different reactions. For instance, Rick wakes up with no memory of his father or his life before being taken. Yet, Ben instantly recognizes Tom. Rick also puts the harness back on to try to free a captive alien, though it does not go very deep, so it is able to be ripped off again, and Rick survives it. Does the device breed some sort of loyalty into the kids? Or is Rick still able to be controlled by the aliens over the radio waves? What does this mean if some of the aliens get close to the camp where many ex-harnessed children are? It’s a frightening thought.

For now, though, Tom is just happy to have his son back, as he should be. There have been a variety of horrors since the invasion, but having an enslaved child controlled by some sort of alien device is now one that can be reversed. There are many more captive kids out there, and many more worried parents. While not every child can be successfully unhooked, Anne has lost only one out of seven, so the odds are in the favor of the children being OK, at least as of “Silent Kill.”

Another thing worth exploring is that Rick is removed just fine, but after Ben’s harness comes off in “Silent Kill,” the other five kids’ vital signs in the room begin failing. Is there some sort of connection or chain reaction that destroys the group? Rick’s co-workers are executed, so there is no chance to observe the effects on them. But perhaps separating the kids before performing the surgery will decrease the fatality rates. Or possibly there is little time to save the rest of the group once one kid is removed. The questions to ponder are nearly endless.

There is a lot of detailed technical discussion about these harnesses, and it is quite imaginable that most viewers do not care about the device one way or the other, but only how it emotionally affects the kids’ friends and family. So enough of the technical stuff, and on to pathos!

There is plenty of emotional turmoil in “Silent Kill.” Much of it concerns Dr. Anne Glass. She is torn about killing an alien hostage who kills a fellow doctor. She is upset about the kid she loses. But these are symptoms of her deeper grief, which stem from her son’s death, and having nothing to remember him by. Anne has a very harsh reaction to having a child die on her watch because it sparks bad memories, and she feels incredibly guilty about her lack of photos and momentos. If only she hadn’t gone to work, she would have either died with her family, or helped them escape. But they’d be together. No wonder she is having a rough time. Kudos to Ms. Bloodgood for the incredible way she is handling the role.

Tom has similar regrets in Falling Skies, as his wife was not supposed to work the day of the attack, prior to the series’s start. Yet, she did, and so she died while Tom and their sons live on. Because of this, especially, Tom finds it hard to put his children in danger any more than he can help it. Unfortunately, he is unable to do much to prevent the threats. Ben has been a hostage for awhile, and Hal and youngest boy, Matt (Maxim Knight), are itching to help the resistance army. Matt is little enough he is satisfied assisting with the radio, but Hal is in on the action. Which is why it must almost kill Tom to let Hal go into the hospital by himself in this episode, an incredibly risky plan that is barely lucky enough to work.

Hal does little to calm his father’s fears. It is understandable in Falling Skies that an eighteen year old does not have the worldly wisdom and foresight to understand a father’s worry. Besides, Hal just wants to help as much as anyone else, and he cares very deeply for his brother, Ben. There is no blame to be placed in this situation, with both Tom and Hal doing what their best to solve a tough problem, and both willing to put their lives on the line for someone they care about. It’s not simply a matter of Tom understanding Hal’s desires, but that has to be why Tom goes along with the plan, against his strong reservations.

In “Silent Kill,” a lot is learned about Margaret. The mysterious woman, who is previously held captive by a not-so-nice gang, seems to know a lot about hospitals and drugs. This is easily explained away by her cancer back story. It’s too bad that the questions are answered so quickly and neatly, as a little bit of murkiness never hurt any story or character.

It appears Margaret may be a third love interest for Hal. Or, really, second, given her personality and physical similarities to Hal’s currently kidnapped girlfriend, Karen (Jessy Schram). With Karen gone, Margret is an older, wiser, deeper version that may stick where Karen does not. It’s regrettable only in that it looks like Schram, who is a delight, won’t be sticking around. Carter is more than capable, so anything the writers choose to give to her is welcome.

Watch Falling Skies Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on TNT.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com