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Falling Skies 3.09 "Journey To Xilbaba" REVIEW

TV REVIEW: Going underground

Episode: 3.09
Writers: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Director: Jonathan Frakes

THE ONE WHERE: Tom returns to Charleston, just as Lourdes commits a major act of sabotage that leads to a life and death struggle among the rubble.

THE VERDICT: It’s a chillingly embittered Tom Mason we meet in this episode, one that feels a world away from the nobly bookish freedom fighter we first encountered in season one. Noah Wyle’s a Western fan, so it’s easy to imagine him relishing such gruff gunfighter lines as “Gone. I’m back now”, but there’s something darker here, too. “I used to think that love gave me an edge,” he says. “Maybe it’s just an impediment that clouds our thinking.” This is a Tom Mason whose soul has been corroded by recent events. It’s jolting to hear him tell his sons to channel the pain they’re feeling and use it to their advantage - but it also sounds like hard-won wisdom, a genuinely practical response to the emotional hell of this apocalypse.

Sure, there are moments where people stand around trading platitudes – the scenes between Tom and Cochise are particularly guilty of this – but they’re matched by such underplayed beats as Tom’s gratitude to Pope for his lip-smacking willingness to put him down if he poses a threat. The scenes between Maggie and Hal, confronting their mortality, are also well played, tender and honest.

Director Jonathan Frakes brings a news footage sense of reality to the underground disaster sequences – there’s some effective use of hand-held camera, prowling over the bodies in the rubble – but Tom’s solution to the situation feels too convenient, and for all its subterranean tension the episode never quite feels as though it’s earned its payoff.

TRIVIA: Journey to where? In the mythology of the K’iche’ people, Xilbaba is the name of the underworld, a realm ruled by the Mayan death gods. It roughly translates as “Place of fear”.

DID YOU SPOT?: The man in the director’s chair was Jonathan Frakes, alias Commander William Riker from Star Trek The Next Generation .

BEST LINES:
Matt: There’s nothing left.
Tom: There’s us. We’re left.

Falling Skies is shown on TNT on Sundays in the US and on FOX on Tuesdays in the UK

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