The creative team got, well, creative this week with pretty decent results.
“Strange Brew” opens with Tom and his wife in bed, waking up. Tom just had a nightmare about aliens invading and kept mentioning Ann. Otherwise it was a perfectly normal morning in the Mason household. The happily married couple, 3 kids getting ready for school, and no aliens whatsoever.
We later realize that what we are viewing was a simulation created by the Espheni: ‘Wizard of Oz’ meets ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ meets ‘Total Recall.’ Well, maybe a touch of the first two, but mostly in the style of ‘Total Recall.’
The simulation was to try to determine which of 4 cities the humans were focusing their attack. After the scene at home, we visited Tom, teaching history at the University. Nearly all the main characters appeared as other characters in this alternate vision. It was especially nice to see Pope (Colin Cunningham) as a coworker of Tom’s. Though he also played the role of Tom’s foil, he got to deliver lines that were not in the vein of “I’m going to fry me up some fishhead ass.” (and when he did say that let’s hope he’s not speaking literally). For good or bad – I say bad – Will Pattons’ character as a crazy, homeless, ‘the end is near’ sign bearer seemed too similar to his actual character.
After the first simulation, there was a 2nd, depicting the war room with all the regular characters in place, once again trying to determine which city the humans were going to attack.
The change of pace that came with these simulations was refreshing, and I like how the entire episode was not dedicated to them (comparable to how Hal’s taking his dad hostage in an earlier episode was not stretched over the full episode). However there was way too much focus on the four cities – It’s sort of understandable that the Espheni would want to press this issue, but so much emphasis on this made me wonder if Bob Barker was going to come out and tell us who the next contestant on the show will be.
It was still nice to change things up, and again remind us that the humans all mostly came from a pre-invasion traditional family unit, and that this unit has been replaced by the ‘fighting survivor’ unit.
The remainder of the episode was fairly mediocre – not too much developed. Ann and the baby were shown, and were declared by Tom as being murdered, though I don’t think that is the case. Tom visited his old house which was a scene I’d hoped we’d see at some point. His dream about his wife was somewhat touching, but seemed to give him closure in an area where he already had closure. It was a good use of a dream sequence, though, since we’d just been in simulation mode and weren’t exactly sure what was happening.
The simulation portion of “Strange Brew” felt a lot like one of Spielberg’s old “Amazing Stories.” Really playful, and nice to see that the Falling Skies team doesn’t take themselves too seriously. As this season’s end approaches and we know we’ll be treated to a fourth, it will be interesting to see if this series is able to further develop the Mason Family and other main characters, or if it slips too far into Sci-Fi Land. Right now it’s staying the course- a good reminder for those scripting aliens vs. human conflicts to never forget the human side of things.