[This is a review of Falling Skies Season 5, Episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
As the fifth and final season of Falling Skies begins, the ultimate battle for Earth looms. In the season 4 finale, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and his daughter Lexi (Scarlett Byrne) struck a devastating blow upon the Espheni, by taking out one of the power cores on the alien's ship. It was supposed to be a suicide mission, but as seen in the premiere, Tom has escaped certain death once again. But, like his previous encounters with the Espheni, it remains to be seen if he returned unaffected and in full possession of his mental faculties.
It is a recurrent theme in Falling Skies whether or not any human will ever have complete control of their mind after the Espheni have gotten ahold of them. It has been seen with the lingering effects on Ben due to his time spent harnessed, and with Maggie after some of Ben's harness spikes where given to her. It happened again, when Hal was under Karen's control and had no memory of their secret liaisons. In addition, each time Tom returns, he never seems completely in his own right mind either. Whatever the Espheni really are, their ability to manipulate the minds of their enemies and control the actions of others is diabolically unparalleled.
The fact that Tom was hallucinating visions of his dead wife Rebecca throughout the season 5 premiere does not bode well and foreshadows some of Tom's lingering instability. But whether the Espheni or someone/something else is responsible for Tom's visions remains to be seen. For now, Pope (Colin Cunningham), Weaver (Will Patton), Anne (Moon Bloodgood), and the rest should keep careful eye on Tom and watch for further signs of his mental instability - especially since he is having visions leading him to make potentially detrimental decisions for the 2nd Mass. With Tom doing his utmost to rally his army, the Volm, and the rest of the human militia around the globe into attacking with everything they've got left against the Espheni, it leads one to wonder if this is the alien race's way of gathering all the opposition together so that they can finally irradiate all of it once and for all. It also leads one to wonder if Tom is still in control and this is just his last desperate attack to try to get back the planet. The "find your warrior" speech was quite compelling, but it still feels like a last stand and not necessarily one that the human resistance will win.
There is also the question of whether the Espheni are the final enemy to be faced. Over the past four seasons, a variety of aliens have worked under or in a coordinated effort with the Espheni, ranging from the Skitters to Mechs to Crawlies to Eye Worms to the recently discovered Black Hornets. Dare we hope that there is still not one more devastating alien creature that the Espheni might use in attacking our heroes? Surely, the Espheni have one more curveball to throw their way, just when they are not looking.
The Mason family is also stretched to their limits. It no longer feels like they are working together. Hal (Drew Roy) still cannot accept that his girlfriend Maggie (Sarah Carter) is so conflicted about her feelings for his younger brother Ben (Connor Jessup), and it leads to tension among all three. Younger sibling Matt (Maxim Knight) continues to struggle to be accepted as a capable fighter against the enemy - though Tom did finally concede that Matt could join in the expedition to fight the nearby Skitters. Then there is the fact that Anne and Ben are mourning Lexi's death. Lexi may not have been entirely human, nor that popular after her actions during last season, but Anne grieves for her daughter and Ben genuinely misses her as well. The fact that Tom and Hal seem oblivious to Lexi's death is a sore point and it seems to put distance between them all. With the Mason family not as rock-solid as the 2nd Mass has come to expect, it will lead to further distrust and factions of loyalty in the survivors. Plus, there is the fact that Tom is relying on visions to guide him in his quest to destroy the Espheni. That has to give Pope and Weaver some pause in relying on him so fully.
And just what is that mechanical bug that Tom swats on his neck at the end of the episode? Is that yet another Espheni device, or is someone else a player in the war for Earth?
One truly cheer-worthy moment from the premiere episode was when Tom point-blank shoots the Overlord right in the head. It also felt great to have Sara (Mira Sorvino) be the one to shoot the winning shot in blowing up the nearby Espheni pod. But these moments of victory are fleeting. There is an entire Espheni army still hovering above Earth and occupying the planet. Even with 317 armies aligned across the globe, humankind's last stand may not be enough to take down a vastly superior alien race. Human determination and will to survive is great, but can it win against a better-equiped race? If films like Independence Day have taught us anything, it is we can fight back, but a devastating price will have to be paid in the process.
With the human death toll continuing to rise, even significant wins against the Espheni are coming at too high a price. It feels like an ever-increasing game of high-stakes chess, and there are only so many pawns left on the board. With nine episodes remaining in the final season, the death toll will only grow. It is terrifying to imagine which of the heroes will be sacrificed next, in order to save the human race. In the end, will the ends justify the means? Will humanity have sacrificed its soul and an untold (and perhaps unrecoverable) loss of life in the process? That is what the death march toward the series finale hopes to answer. But until then, we wait with bated breath.
Falling Skies continues next Sunday with 'Hunger Pains' @10:00pm on TNT.