Falling Skies 3.04 "At All Costs" review

TV REVIEW: All the President's men

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Episode: 3.04
Writer: Heather V Regnier
Director: Greg Beeman

THE ONE WHERE: Tom travels to meet President Hathaway. Anne absconds with Alexis and Hal’s possessed side takes over…

THE VERDICT: This one’s bookended by two terrific action scenes. We’re thrown straight into a Mech attack, all big, rattling guns and pyrotechnics, with some effective use of hand-held camera as the 2 nd Mass scramble and the military brass debate. And we end with a white-knuckling aerial dogfight involving a Lockheed Electra. Both sequences prove that Falling Skies knows how to open the throttle when it needs to.

Inbetween is an episode that switches to cruise control, content to lay the groundwork for future pay-offs. The summit meeting with President Hathaway is clearly merely the opening of negotiations, while the revelation of Alexis’ alien inheritance – and Anne’s subsequent (and unexpected) bolt from Charleston - edge the wider saga forward, and intriguingly so. Skies has had a particularly jittery, paranoid feel this season, so it’s instinctive to distrust Hathaway and his rival government, despite their seeming reasonableness, while Cochise’s impassioned speech about the Catarious flower seems designed to win our trust. Bluffs? Double-bluffs? Place your money.

The moment that Hal confronts his evil side in the mirror could have been hoary as hell – it’s surely in the top three of well-worn genre tropes – but it manages to stay just this side of Gollum/Green Goblin. Just.

A serviceable, fitfully impressive instalment.

STAR TURN: Doug Jones totally sells the scene where Cochise reveals that the simple thought of a flower on his home world motivates him to keep battling the Espheni. It’s a remarkable piece of acting, given that there’s not a hint of his face to be seen – it’s all nuance, poise and the subtlest shifts in body language. He also manages to milk a little comedy from Cochise’s aversion to Pope’s plane.

TRIVIA: This was the last episode that Moon Bloodgood shot for season three. Her pregnancy meant that she had to be written out of the show. Greg Beeman opted to direct to ensure that her departure was handled sympathetically.

DID YOU SPOT?: President Hathaway is played by Stephen Collins, best known to genre nuts as Commander Willard Decker in Star Trek The Motion Picture – and Jake Cutler in TV Raiders rip Tales Of The Gold Monkey , of course.

DID YOU SPOT 2: And yes, that's Michael Hogan, alias Battlestar Galactica 's Colonel Tigh.

Matt: “What are you doing, suckerfish?”
Ben: “Nervous eating. Stress spelled backwards is desserts.”

Falling Skies is shown on TNT on Sundays in the US

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Nick Setchfield
Editor-at-Large, SFX Magazine

Nick Setchfield is the Editor-at-Large for SFX Magazine, writing features, reviews, interviews, and more for the monthly issues. However, he is also a freelance journalist and author with Titan Books. His original novels are called The War in the Dark, and The Spider Dance. He's also written a book on James Bond called Mission Statements.