As Falling Skies rounds the corner on another season, it takes a moment to seemingly confirm the deaths of Anne and Alexis by demonstrating Tom's need for swift and terrible vengeance against the Espheni forces - and, specifically, Karen, following her failed interrogation of him last week that included a brief glimpse at what was apparently their dead bodies.
It would certainly be a surprise to find out that this was not another of the Eshpeni's ploys to twist and corrupt an opponent in an effort to bend them to their will. As has been demonstrated all season, the Espheni seem to have altered their tactics somewhat, relying more on subterfuge, spies and mind control than full-on assaults. The approach certainly doesn’t have the shock and awe of endless bombing raids, advancing waves of skitters or terrifying patrols filled with mechs, but as far as undermining the resistance's belief it can be relatively safe within the walls of Charleston, or a soldiers' confidence that the person he or she is fighting with truly is who they say they are, then the change in tactics has been a successful one, which could pay huge dividends for the invaders in the long term.
In that regard, 'Journey to Xibalba' kicks off just as Tom's walkabout from Boston to Charleston comes to an end, and although he's carrying valuable information with the potential to turn the tide of the war in favor of the resistance, past experiences weigh heavy on Weaver and Porter as they're not entirely convinced Tom wasn't implanted with a bug – since the Espheni seem to really enjoy doing that sort of thing to the Mason clan. But Tom is ready to strike back at his hated adversary regardless the decision of the higher-ups, and, naturally, he recruits his children, telling them to channel the pain they're feeling at the loss of Anne and Alexis and use it as fuel in their action against Karen and her alien brethren.
On a certain level, this bit of plotting helps tie the last three episodes of season 3 together quite nicely – regardless of how next week's season finale plays out – as 'Strange Brew' took the long and peculiar way around demonstrating just how Falling Skies tackles the notion of grief, by paying tribute to the life Tom had before the alien invasion, and the new one he was building with Anne and their newborn daughter. Now that grief has turned into a thirst for vengeance, which Tom is willing to literally bet his life on to see done. And a key component to Tom's vengeance is the top-secret superweapon the Volm have been quietly constructing the entire season, which has caused no end to the speculation that once the Espheni are out of the way, humankind will be the Volm's next target. Naturally, President Peralta continues to have reservations about the superweapon and the Volm in general, likening the faith placed in a single weapon and a strange ally as putting "all the eggs in one basket" – which is actually a pretty good summary for the entire season 3 storyline.
So much of this season has been driven by the promises of the Volm and the threat of the Espheni grid that everything else taking place wound up feeling like the writers were just moving pieces around the game board until they could literally pull the trigger on the resistance's largest offensive maneuver since the season 1 finale. And while that build up has allowed for some interesting episodes like 'Search and Recover' and 'Strange Brew' those episodes were destined to come second to the finale, since so much weight had been placed on this last ditch strike against the Espheni that would obviously only take place in the at the conclusion of the season.
'Journey to Xibalba' takes certain steps in combating the notion that the writers are just biding their time between introducing the Volm and unleashing them against the series' main antagonists by finally revealing to the characters what the audience has known since the assassination of President Hathaway: that Lourdes is the mole. This is done via two destructive events, beginning with a massive explosion that buries the superweapon beneath tons of rubble and ostensibly wipes out the Volm army – with the exception of Cochise – and Lourdes' sabotage of Charleston that collapses a portion of the underground facility, placing various members of the Mason clan in potentially perilous situations.
To be fair, though, the only real tension comes from the belief that Lourdes may actually succeed in killing an injured Cochise, while he convalesces after being injured in the explosion. But once the Lourdes situation is resolved, the focus quickly turns back to the pending attack on Boston and Karen, leaving little time for the characters to contemplate just how successfully the enemy has undermined their belief in one another.
It would have been nice for more acknowledgment of how successfully trust among the resistance has been shattered, but with any luck, the Volm weapon in the finale will help to bring some resolution to the emotional turmoil that's been the motivating factor this season.
Falling Skies will conclude season 3 next Sunday with 'Brazil' @10pm on TNT. Check out a preview below:
Photos: James Dittiger/TNT