‘Falling Skies’ Season Premiere Review: “Ghost in the Machine”
‘Falling Skies’ season 4 rains down its 1st episode of the year with the season 4 premiere “Ghost in the Machine,” as a vicious attack scatters the 2nd Massachusetts, placing Tom and others in a Skitter-controlled ghetto, while Matt languishes in a reeducation camp, and Ben discovers a shocking evolution for the ever-mysterious Alexis (Scarlette Byrne).
Last year's ‘Falling Skies’ finale “Brazil” saw the 2nd Massachusetts discovering that victory over the Espheni came with a steep price from the Volm, while Tom shared his final confrontation with Karen and received an unexpected reunion.
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about the 'Falling Skies' season 4 premiere episode, “Ghost in the Machine”!
The 2nd Massachusetts happily make their way over the hill toward their Charleston home, though an ominous warning from Alexis heralds the arrival of multiple beamers overhead and mechs from behind. The beamers drop multiple metal columns that link up with one another to form a network of energy fences, killing some and swiftly dividing all the different survivors, including Tom, his children, Weaver, Anne and Alexis. Before passing out, Tom last sees Matt trapped behind another fence, and urges him to run.
Four months later, Tom resides within a solitary cell of an enclosed Skitter ghetto, scrawling the Gettysburg address onto the wall, before finally being reunited with Weaver in the neighboring cell. Just outside, the uncaged survivors of the ghetto brawl for scraps of food, before a grotesque flying Skitter swoops down from above and kidnaps a fleeing man to the mothership hovering above. Nearby, Hal and Tector stealthily attempt to short out one of the fences, but realize they’ll need a bigger power source for their device.
Out on the road, Anne leads her own personal squadron, among them Deni and Anthony, in a militaristic hunt to find Alexis. Deni brings word of a Skitter transport 18-wheeler arriving the next morning, which Anne surmises they can capture for ammo. Elsewhere, Ben awakens from a coma to find Maggie waiting for him, before she introduces their peaceful haven in Chinatown. Confused by the lack of anything resembling the war he left, Ben is even more shocked to see that Alexis has aged into a teenager with white hair, and appears to be worshiped by the residents of their sanctuary.
Tom manages to escape from his cell and masks up atop a dirtbike, riding into town just as survivors scramble over the latest food drop from above. The masked Tom points a flamethrower at Pope to ensure fair distribution of the rations, just before Skitters chase Tom through the ruined ghetto, and he manages to evade capture on the bike. Tom returns to his cell and pulls a framed photo off the wall, revealing a map wherein he marks off the location of the patrols chasing him. Meanwhile, Weaver stews in his cell and wonders why the Espheni haven’t killed them, to which Tom theorizes that they want them alive and lucid for some reason.
Flanked by other uniformed students at a college, Matt watches a propaganda video designed to brainwash the children into believing that Skitters want only a peaceful coexistence. The sinister Team Leader lines up the children and forces them to recite brainwashed rhetoric before being allowed to eat, while Matt is tasked to take control of an unruly girl named Mira. Back at the ghetto camp, Hal and Tector find Pope leisurely enjoying an old episode of ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ and forcefully attempt to take his generator when he refuses to aid in their escape attempt. Pope beats Hal into returning the generator, as a mysterious man observes the fight from nearby.
Anne and her team’s attempt to destroy the bridge ahead of the 18-wheeler fails, for which Anne hastily puts together a sticky bomb and hurls it herself, killing the driver. Rather than the expected ammunition however, the group is shocked to find the trailer full of un-harnessed children. Back at the reeducation camp, Matt reaches out to the girl Mira to explain that she should play along with the rhetoric for the moment, and join him later to discuss forming a resistance.
Following many bloody attempts, Weaver manages to undo a bolt from his bed and snap the leg off for a weapon. Weaver attempts to get the Skitter guard’s attention, hoping to fight his way out and go after Jeannie, though Tom begs him not to, promising to have a larger escape plan for them all. Shortly thereafter, Tom meets with Cochise on the other side of a fence, as Cochise explains that the Volm have largely left Earth to combat an Espheni threat to their own race’s children. Though light on details, Cochise also reveals that the Espheni’s ghetto operation has gone worldwide, and appears to be part of their new plan to construct a power source and eliminate humanity. Disheartened, Tom asks only that Cochise keep an eye out for Anne and his other children, until they meet again.
The mysterious man from earlier introduces himself to Hal and Tector as Dingaan Botha, an African refugee who has escaped from numerous Skitter ghettos before, and believes he can find a way out of their current predicament. Meanwhile in Chinatown, Ben confronts Maggie over buying into Lourdes and Alexis’ maddening peaceful rhetoric, though Maggie admits that the aliens appear to have no interest in them for the moment. To wit, Maggie points out a de-powered mech that had happened upon their camp months earlier, but was struck by lightning on a prediction from Alexis.
While Alexis meditates and appears to manipulate a stream of moonlight, Anne wakes from a nightmare memory of her time with Karen aboard the Espheni ship. Back in the ghetto, Tom returns to his cell and explains to Weaver that he’s working on a plan to free them all from the camp, and reunite the 2nd Massachusetts. Just outside, a survivor graffitis an image of Tom’s masked “Ghost” visage, while an observing Overlord demands the “vigilante” be brought to him.
Season 3 definitely opened up ‘Falling Skies’ in a strong manner, introducing yet another alien race in the Volm to provide a sense of context to the ongoing war, and simultaneously striking some of the largest blows against the enemy for the series. Somewhat understandably, the resolution of the “power grid” storyline and Karen’s part as the villain left season 4 scrambling a bit in service of a stronger storyline, and “Ghost in the Machine” serves as the unfortunate fallout of that, dipping even more heavy-handed than usual in the opening minutes to establish a new status quo.
And even with its influences in ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ our heroes are scattered between the likes of Tom, Weaver, Hal, Tector and Pope in the ghetto, Matt in a reeducation camp, Lourdes, Maggie, Ben and Alexis in Chinatown, and Anne and Anthony out on the road. Of the four, we were most interested to follow Tom’s efforts in the Skitter ghetto, somewhat implausible as the “Ghost” vigilante persona may have seemed. At the very least, the Tom and Weaver side of things play to the show’s strengths by finding hope amid increasingly desperate circumstances, and telling a few more human stories between Pope and Hal amid all the increased Skitter visuals.
The other three sides to tonight’s premiere felt a tad more cartoonish in their execution, as the “reeducation camp” and “peaceful commune” ideas seem to define the characters more so than lend credibility to the twists themselves. Characters like Lourdes or Matt have long felt at the mercy of the writers, though shock value seemed to be the name of the game rather than figure out any of the logistics of why Alexis might have suddenly aged up (and changed races?), or the Espheni might have shifted gears from harnessing children to brainwashing them. Anne’s story was at least understandable in her militaristic search to recover what she’d lost, though the actual acts of it played a bit toward cliché, considering we didn’t get to see Anne’s actual evolution into a hardened warrior over the four months.
There’s definitely enough worth following for now, and a few new mysteries to boot, though “Ghost in the Machine” suffered a bit of awkwardness in being burdened with such elaborate setups. At the very least, it was good to see Cochise and the Volm still around, while the story afforded better spotlights to characters like Tector and the new recruit Dingan Bothaa. Keeping with the stronger stories, it was also cool to see some of the newest alien iterations, and ponder how Alexis’ apparent moon powers might factor into the story going forward.
Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of Skitter-y ‘Falling Skies’ action? What did you think about Sunday's premiere? Join the discussion in the comments, and check back again next Sunday for another all-new episode recap and review of 'Falling Skies' season 4's latest, "The Eye" on TNT!