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Falling Skies 3.08 "Strange Brew" REVIEW

TV REVIEW: A life more ordinary...

Episode: 3.08
Writer: John Wirth
Director: David Solomon

THE ONE WHERE: Tom wakes to find himself in a pre-invasion world, seemingly living his old life… But why is he haunted by the name Anne Glass?

THE VERDICT: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

From its opening moments – a defiantly black screen accompanied by the sound of gunfire and voices, followed by a joltingly beardless Tom Mason snapping awake – it’s clear that this is aiming for something just a little more intriguing. And it’s a strong premise for an episode, allowing us an unparalleled rummage in Tom’s mind. How much of his fantasy is constructed by the Espheni and how much is formed from his own demons? You can, of course, read the whole thing as Tom struggling to reconcile his relationship with Anne with the memory of his late wife – but then that’s exactly the kind of psychological weakness his captors would pounce on, and weave the perfect trap around. Clever writing.

Tom's alternate reality is smartly conjured: beguilingly normal yet just weird enough at the edges. It’s strangely jarring to see cars and people on the streets in Skies and the colour palette is very different to the show’s usual bleak, post-apocalyptic blues and greys. It’s fun, too, to see familiar faces recontextualised, from Weaver’s wonderfully ominous doom-mongering hobo to an academic, preppy Pope, who substitutes an intellectual snarl for his usual biker swagger.

The final scene makes a affecting bookend to the opening, as Tom revisits his old house and almost succumbs to the melancholy power of fantasy. Beautifully scored, shot and played, it may be the most wrenching scene we’ve ever seen in Skies .

FAB FX: There’s something genuinely disturbing about the sequences where the mind-control tentacles are peeled from Tom’s eyes – it feels a little bit Gigerish, maybe, or at least a nod to the queasy tradition of Japanese tentacle horror.

TRIVIA: This episode demanded some serious logistical thinking on the production front. As it prominently featured a beardless Noah Wyle it needed to be shot last, after the season finale itself. And yet because of Moon Bloodgood’s pregnancy the scene where Anne meets Tom in the coffee shop needed to be filmed two months before anything else went before the camera. The solution? Bloodgood interacted with a clean-shaven double of Wyle while, many months later, Wyle played his scenes against a stand-in for Bloodgood. Some crafty editing took care of the rest.

DID YOU SPOT?: Doug Jones escapes Cochise’s prosthetics to play one of Tom’s colleagues in the staff room scene.

DID YOU SPOT? 2: And that’s Peter Shinkoda returning as Dai, albeit in hallucinatory form - he was killed off last season.

HMM: Did someone really say “See you next Tuesday”? Cheeky…

Tom: “Go to Hell!”
Karen: “In case you hadn’t noticed, this is Hell…”

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

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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.