Season 3 continues to show promise with “Badlands.” The introduction of the Volm in Season 2 was a risky move, but the writers are handling it well. With no major developments – we are still fighting the aliens who invaded us, despite making some headway and a few political changes – it’s understandable that the producers felt that this new element was necessary to keep the series moving.
In a way the subplots are all things we’ve seen before – a potential ‘devil’ (or alien) child, a mole, a human whose brain was implanted, dissent from the troops, leadership being questioned, a secret weapon being built… etc. But they are done well, and it should be noted that there are plenty of silly alien clichés that have not been used to date. The loss of Crazy Lee, though not a major character, does make the battles more realistic, and gives the show a heavier ‘mortality weight.’ This keeps us thinking that the show can change direction, characters can die, and the series is just that much more unpredictable.
The potential ‘alien’ quality of Alexa is also done in a more realistic fashion, without the horror movie devices that the producers may have been tempted to use. What we’ve seen so far is fairly subtle, too, which also keeps us guessing. This is better than just presenting us with a definitively evil / alien baby.
With Hal’s implant and meetings with Karen, the ongoing war, the baby, Weaver and his daughter, ongoing Pope / Tom friction, and the mole investigation, there is always a lot going on, sometimes too much. But I think this gives the show energy and pace; not dedicating too much screen time to any one of these subplots really helps to move the series along, and also eliminates the risk of one aspect of the show bringing down the whole episode (e.g. the length of time dedicated Crazy Lee was just enough – any more of Noah in the hospital and it would start to feel like some apocalyptic episode of E.R).
Finding out that there are humans still fighting for the ‘real president’ was a nice add, and a completely realistic one. I LOVED that the Liberty Tree song and ceremony was interrupted by the alien attack. There have been a few really nice scenes showing the humans connecting, sometimes set to music, but the Liberty Tree was given so much attention that simply ending the episode ‘peacefully’ would have felt pretty empty.
In “Badlands,” Falling Skies continues to prove itself as one of the best alien / shoot-em-up series currently on TV. This episode was a lot of fun with some grief and drama mixed in. Looking forward to finding out exactly what the deal is with that crazy baby.