Writer: Remi Aubuchon
Director: Greg Beeman
THE ONE WHERE: Seven months on from the events of “A More Perfect Union”, the 2 nd Mass discover a spy within their ranks when they’re ambushed raiding a mine. Anne gives birth to a strangely intelligent baby and Tom shows Weaver the weapon that may win the war…
THE VERDICT: “I’d say in this past seven months plenty’s changed,” declares a recently promoted Weaver – and he’s not wrong. This season opener finds a show unafraid to plunge us into a new status quo, one where Tom’s already in situ as President and the 2 nd Mass exists in an state of uneasy alliance with new alien compatriots the Voln. We also have some funky new iterations of Mech to topple. It’s a smart call, cutting out a load of unnecessary expositional slack and allowing the show to return after the long season break with a jolt of novelty.
“On Thin Ice” opens well. The assault on the mine is impressively staged, a riot of pyrotechnics and gunfire. It’s clear that some money’s been lobbed at this particular setpiece: it’s positively swarming with Skitters and we also make the acquaintance of the Mega Mechs, pumped-up remodellings of the show’s familiar stompy alien bruisers (looking forward to meeting the Mega Mega Mega Mechs, which should hopefully be of Pacific Rim proportions). It’s a bravura action sequence that also cleverly reassembles the gang – everyone gets an entrance – and ensures that the episode hits the ground running. Frontloading this kind of spectacle also ensures that the adrenalin level then dips and never quite recovers – no wonder TNT bolted on another episode to make this a two-part opener.
The presence of the Volm add an interesting new wrinkle to the show’s mix. Does it dilute the pure Us against Them dynamic that powered the first two seasons? Maybe, but it gives us new narrative possibilities too. Their leader, Cochise, is a cool piece of old school creature design, brought to the screen with a prissy, almost Spock-like vibe by legendary monster performer Doug Jones.
Noah Wyle may be rocking a Crazy Man beard these days but he makes the newly Presidential Tom a decidedly more commanding figure than before, edging our family man hero closer to warrior than teacher. Wyle’s given a gift with that big, rabble-rousing speech at the end, and he plays it well.
This story’s less successful at setting up the broader arc of a mole within the 2 nd Mass. It all feels a bit pat, this stuff, and the sequence where Manchester meets his death while whispering “So it’s you…” feels decidedly clunky. Anne waking to find her newborn baby staring at her with a curious intelligence promises something a great deal more intriguing.
TRIVIA: The title “On Thin Ice” is a ghost echo of an early plan to stage the episode’s explosive opening on the glacier at Whistler Mountain, 50 miles north of Vancouver (the same one used in the season four finale of Smallville ). This ambitious plan was ultimately abandoned as impractical.
TRIVIA 2: It was exec producer Steven Spielberg himself who advised on whether the Volm could be brought to the screen entirely with practical FX rather than CG. In the end the prosthetic version wasn’t ready in time, meaning the showmakers had to resort to CG for a few shots.
DID YOU SPOT: The Volm leader is nicknamed Cochise after the famed Apache chief who led an uprising in 1861.
Tom: “The White House? I’m the President of twenty square blocks!”
Falling Skies is shown on TNT on Sundays in the US