Falling Skies: Non-Essential Personnel

This week’s episode of Falling Skies was by and large a disappointment. “Non-Essential Personnel” seems to have taken from more than it gave to the season.

There were two parallel subplots explored in “Non-Essential Personnel,” the cat-and-mouse game between Tom and John Pope over Hal, and a stall in the 2nd Mass’ progress toward Fayetteville.

Pope seems to complete his transition back to his old, criminal self. Where he was once a man on the road to redemption through deeds against the aliens, the ghost of recidivism fully caught up with him and he is now embracing his old, perhaps true, self. John Pope now looks more like a leader of a gang of vagrants rather than survivalists. He starts by proclaiming that “non-essential personnel” would not be allowed to stay with him, after rescuing a band of survivalists from a Skitter attack. This causes him to turn away four people that he deemed unfit to fight. One of them however, a woman named Isabella, said that she was a nurse, a useful skill for Pope and his crew. Pope lets her stay. The ruse is quickly revealed however (secretly), when Pope, after another rampage that presses on the edge of his sanity, makes a ghastly laceration to Hal’s arm with a knife, and has Isabella patch him up.

Falling Skies Non-Essential Personnel OBD
Pope continues to flip his shit.

Fortunately for Isabella, Pope is absent when Hal remarks that she’s no nurse because of how amateurishly she patched his wound up. He warns Isabella that Pope will soon discover she lied to him, and the results would not be good – a point that seems crystal clear when Pope shoots one injured man in front of her because he would no longer be able to fight.

All the while, Pope contacts Tom through a radio, giving him bait and clues as to Hal’s location.

The other major leg of the episode was when the 2nd Mass’ convoy came under fire on the road to Fayetteville. Multiple rockets nearly struck their vehicles, and it appeared that they had stumbled straight into a fort full of a hostile band. After a brief firefight, in which Cochise warned that a frontal assault would lead to massive casualties, Dan Weaver orders the 2nd Mass to stop firing and leaves his cover unarmed, as if he wants to negotiate. He is quickly shot (in the arm) when he enters the compound, but ascertains that there is only one gunman.

The result is a long negotiation that eventually has Weaver (with some help from Ben and Maggie pointing guns at his assailant’s back) talk down the man, who claims he only wants to protect his family. His family of course, concealed behind a door, is dead. By the end of the episode, the man, Daniel, seems to have joined the 2nd Mass.

Tom on the other hand, is in a lot more trouble. After a Metal Gear-like infiltration, three things of importance happen – Pope and Tom have an old Western style draw, where Pope gets shot, but not fatally, as he keeps shooting at Tom, Hal and Isabella escape, and Tom gets snatched up by a Black Hornet.

This is an interesting development. Black Hornets, we know from season 4, are remnants of the Skitter Rebellion from seasons 2-3, which were transformed into “mindless drones” by the Espheni. Prior to Tom’s infiltration of Pope’s HQ, the mysterious Dornia appeared, telling Tom that they were working on a weapon to annihilate the Espheni forever, but that only he could win the war. It was therefore imperative that he survive. Tom is thus put on the spot much like he put Pope and Sara on the spot two weeks ago – serve the greater good, or look out for your loved ones first? Tom, hypocritically, decides on the latter this time.

Could it be that the Black Hornet was sent by the Dornia (the original form of the Skitters) to save Tom from a bad situation? We’ll find out soon enough I suppose, but he has disappeared from Hal and Isabella, who searched for him in the area numerous times.

And Pope? He’s pissed. The Mason-Pope rivalry is far from over.

My rating for this episode is…

4/10 – Negative

Again, I was disappointed. If my review seems unenthusiastic, that’s because it is. “Non-Essential Personnel” felt like a totally unnecessary waste of time – time that Falling Skies desperately needs to convincingly wrap up its story, as there are only five episodes left in the series. Pope’s rebellion to me feels useless, ruining the redemption that Pope found and his growth as a character in favor of displaying the virtue of the Masons. I suppose there could be one last hook regarding Pope at the end, but I don’t like this part so far.

The subplot with Daniel holding up the 2nd Mass was even more useless. It added nothing important to the story, and the time could have quite easily been used on a far more compelling subplot, such as what the role of the Volm would play after last week’s episode, or gathering militias for the final confrontation with the Espheni. The only reason that “Non-Essential Personnel” scored as high as it did was because of Colin Cunningham’s acting.

The series is known for its unnecessary fillers. This season thus far has avoided most of them. Hopefully it picks up its old groove in the next episode.