Episode Title: "Journey to Xibalba"
Writers: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Director: Jonathan Frakes
A few minutes into this week’s episode of “Falling Skies,” the thought crossed my mind that humanity would be pretty screwed if the Mole actually did something to harm the Volm or take out the super weapon.
And then it happened.
In retrospect, that was really the only way it could have played out. If the human/Volm attack had gone off without a hitch, that would have been boring. Every good drama needs its heroes to face seemingly impossible odds. Although the ending of the episode suggests that it won’t be quite so hopeless heading into the finale.
There are full spoilers ahead for "Journey to Xibalba," so you should probably skip this review if you aren’t up to date with “Falling Skies” or else Lourdes will mercilessly mock you from a hospital gurney.
To the surprise of no one, Lourdes was outed as the Mole this week. But not until after she caused major damage in Charleston, including a devastating attack on the mall. Somehow, Lourdes also set a bomb that took out all of the Volm stationed nearby... except for Cochise (Doug Jones), the one Volm whom the series has bothered to develop as a character. I really like Cochise and some of the episode’s strongest moments show off his bond with Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) as he tries to comfort Tom about the loss of Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) and their child, Lexi. Cochise’s despair at the loss of his people was also a compelling turn. I sometimes wish that all of the lead human characters could be as compelling as Cochise has become after only a handful of episodes.
Although Cochise’s healing ability begs the question about why he seems to be the only Volm able to do so. I can’t remember every moment of the season, but it seemed like this was just a convenient way to keep Cochise around while putting the rest of the Volm off screen. Dramatically, I suppose that allows the battle in next week’s finale to be more of a human effort, just like Colonel Daniel Weaver (Will Patton) wanted all along.
Backtracking a bit, the episode began with Tom sailing(?!) back into Charleston on a boat, only to be greeted by John Pope (Colin Cunningham) and Lyle (Brad Kelly). The explanation for Tom’s escape last week actually made sense: the Mechs were too low on fuel to pursue him after the resistance blew up their fuel refinery a few episodes back. However, Tom seems to fully buy Karen’s (Jessy Schram) claim that Anne and Lexi are dead and he urges his sons to use their hatred against the enemy. The puzzling thing is that Tom directs a lot of his anger towards Karen herself, seemingly forgetting that she is also a victim of the Espheni. It’s not clear how much of Karen’s real self is left in her body, but she used to be one of the 2nd Mass and that’s being overlooked.
Similarly, Tom acts like Lourdes was willingly a traitor to humanity even though we know she’s been bugged by the Espheni. Only Hal Mason (Drew Roy) considers that Lourdes wasn’t in her right mind... but only because it happened to him first. And from the way that Lourdes goaded Tom on, I thought that Karen was directly controlling her for a few minutes.
I’m not satisfied with the half-baked explanation that Lourdes was probably infected by one of her patients, because that implies that the Espheni could have infected many people in Charleston. As one of the only doctors in town, Lourdes could have picked off the human leaders one by one and no one would have known. Think about it, Lourdes has an alien blaster and several destructive bombs and alien devices... but no other bugs to control people?! That’s just sloppy writing.
The eventual reveal of Lourdes was also bungled, as her current loyalties were exposed by something minor she said to Tom. I think this means that Anthony (Mpho Koahu) is a pretty s***ty detective, since it was his job to find and eliminate suspects. So that plot went nowhere this year. It seemed like the perfect way to expose Lourdes was already in the episode: Weaver caught her coming out of the place where she left the alien devices. If anyone had bothered to investigate that, it would have probably implicated her.
In one of the subplots, Hal and Maggie (Sarah Sanguin Carter) were trapped together in the armory as their air was running out. It felt like some of their scenes worked, but far too much time was spent on that storyline and there wasn’t a compelling reason for that level of attention.
After setting up the hopelessness of the situation, it was a little disingenuous to suggest that Cochise can’t operate the Volm’s super weapon, but Dr. Roger Kadar (Robert Sean Leonard) probably can because “he’s a quick study.” Sure... I’ll believe that. It’s just like aliens using computers that are compatible with Macs. I think it would have been more interesting if the human resistance had to go into the final battle of the season without any of the technological edge that allowed them to push back against the Espheni.
Despite the apparent destruction, I’ll bet this was one of the cheaper episodes to film. Keeping the action at the regular locations with fewer special effects is usually a cost cutting measure. Hopefully that means that the finale will have extra money to give us a spectacular conclusion. I would really like to see that. This was an entertaining episode, but I think it’s far past time that “Falling Skies” delivered on its potential.