For an episode that ended in one bittersweet emotional drama, and two very alarming cliffhangers, I still gave a satisfied hum when I saw the “To Be Continued” card.
Frankly, I keep waiting for the disappointment effect to catch up with me (the point in which I put the show on too high of pedestal so I am inevitably disappointed), but it has yet to happen. I actually think that of the first four episodes, I like “At All Costs” the best.
But let’s take it story by story.
The A-story is Tom’s meeting with the actual President of the United States, made possible when the captured soldier ostensibly realized that maybe the Volm weren’t really the enemy. I’m, however, not entirely convinced that this isn’t an elaborate bluff, especially seeing as at the end of the episode, the base where Tom meets the President is under attack, and he was forcibly separated from Cochise (the name for the Volm, and another nod to American freedom-fighting history) as they ran away.
This story is a bit bland, and is filled with all the usual paranoia that we’ve been seeing in the past few episodes. “Why is an alien helping us?” being the question du jour. Well… d’année, really. Cochise gives a beautiful speech about why he’s fighting. Although he’s never been to his home planet, he fights the Esphensi because he hopes someday his children, or his children’s children will. Still, there is little to no answers if the Volm are really trustworthy – that’s up to the viewers gut — and no answer on whether or not the President isn’t actually the one collaborating (this is my very poorly backed up theory based on my own gut instinct).
The B-Story is that of Anne, and her quest to figure out what is wrong with her baby, Alexis, who has been smiling and talking way too early and just generally being creepy. She gets DNA tests of eleven subjects with the help of the shut-in, Dr. Kadar, who looks like he may get more than his plot-hole-tastic appearance in the second episode. When they realize that Alexis has alien DNA intertwined into her own (I knew the baby was the one that killed the Vice President!), Anne knocks Dr. Kadar out, drugs Lourdes who was babysitting, and runs away with the baby. Why? Well, it’s heavily insinuated that she’s terrified that when the government of Charlestown finds out, they will kill Alexis.
They could have ended it there on that disconcerting note, but the cliffhanger is far better than Mason and Co. crash landing somewhere out in what looks like the Appalachians. While Anne runs, she runs into a Skitter with a child translator who knows her name and her child’s name, implying that this was the master plan of the Espheni all along. Making it even more than mildly disconcerting is that when she turns around, Hal is all evil smirks and telling her it’s all right.
Which brings us to the C-Story, which is Hal and his “mole” status, or really, unwitting mole status. At first you think the episode is going to be dotted with Hal’s continued “boo-hoos” and “woe-is-mes”, but it becomes so much darker than that, and you realize that the writers are finally stepping up their game.
We only get more confused, however, when Hal starts to talk to himself in the mirror, his reflection telling him that he’s always going to be a mole because he wants to be with Karen; that he let Maggie convince him not to tell his father because he doesn’t really want anyone to know of his connection to the Espheni. Drew Roy in this scene plays the dichotomy of sleeper-agent Hal and the Hal we all knew and “loved” so amazingly well, that any corniness you may be perceiving from my description can be immediately discounted. When the Hal we know and “love” is sick of hearing sleeper-agent Hal’s thoughts, he breaks the mirror intending to shut him up. Hauntingly, the sleeper-agent Hal continues to talk back in the shards of the shattered mirror. When the camera pulls away, we see that even as the real Hal fights back, the sleeper-agent has all the control, in one of the best shot scenes this season has seen so far.
The D-story is by far my favorite, and it involves Ben and his new friend Danni deciding on whether or not they should keep their “spikes” from when they were harnessed. It’s discovered (by Lourdes, who seems to have substantially leveled up her medical prowess between season 2 and 3) that while the spikes give them superpowers, that they will shorten their lives significantly. This was a great story to interject in the fast-paced drama of the other three stories. It gives Ben an opportunity to interact with other characters (the scene between him and his brother making fun of how their dad surely never got laid in college being the highlight), and really shows the audience a side of Ben that we sort of knew was probably there, but weren’t sure of.
What we had before of Ben was his rivalry with his brother, the strain between him and his dad’s old perception of him, and the bizarre sexual tension with his brother’s ex-girlfriend. Now what we have is someone who can easily act on his own without his plot having to do with “you’re killing Dad with your independence” and “why can’t you just be an obeisant son?”, and I find that refreshing. Just the simple fact that Ben doesn’t talk to anyone in the family aside from Matt about his dilemma of giving up superpowers so he can live longer means that Ben’s character is really going to blossom, and hopefully soon.
The entire Ben-storyline was welcome respite to the frenetic pace of the rest of the episode, and had drama in a subtle but no less exciting way. I love the symbolism of Danni’s glasses (something she would need again if she got de-spike), and how they end his storyline with the two choosing to die early so they can be more helpful to the cause. I love even more that their story ends with the two wearing glasses– Danni’s repaired with a piece of a tape after she broke them to prove she didn’t want to be de-spiked- staring up the night sky, ultimately deciding that it didn’t matter what star the Espheni came from, just that they left theirs.
For all these stories and more (acting and cinematography being at the top of the list), I feel the need to, yet again, give a high score to this episode of ‘Falling Skies’.