Previously on Falling Skies, ‘Pope Breaks Bad’
Starring: Noah Wyle, Will Patton, Moon Bloodgood, Colin Cunningham, Drew Roy, Sarah Carter, Connor Jessup, Maxim Knight, Doug Jones, Treva Etienne, Mpho Koalo
So here it is, the big showdown! Mason vs Pope for all the marbles! Who will live and who will die in a hail of bullets? Surprise surprise, no one croaks and nothing happens. After shifting the overlying plot and practically rewriting character motivations in less than two episodes, Falling Skies viewers were expecting severe blowback due to Pope’s sudden descent into madness and Anthony’s (extremely unbelievable and universally hated) betrayal. Unfortunately, we’re presented with filler that simply drills into our brains that Tom is the messiah none of us really asked for but okay, we’ll take it.
“Non-Essential Personnel” begins with a lot of promise. John and Anthony are scouting a town, assisting any survivors they meet and bring them back to their camp. Perhaps outside of the 2nd Mass, Pope and crew will finally be able to establish their own efficient fighting force and not suffer a single casualty. Yeah, and the Espheni will just up and leave earth because fuck it… Within minutes, Pope affirms how unhinged he’s become by abandoning those he doesn’t deem crucial to the cause (hence the episode title, duh). What is his cause anyhow? Wanting to kill Mason and his family aside, Pope has no purpose whatsoever.
John Pope’s consistently erratic characterizations aren’t anything new. If one can recall as far back as the first season, Pope didn’t make a favorable first impression, being a murderer, kidnapper and (almost) rapist. The evil in committing these acts has always been inside him, and if it were to be more believable, Pope should have always remained a distrustful x-factor. The shifting between frenemy and anti-hero over the seasons has been a strain on fans who’ve longed to see this marauding opportunist fully redeem himself.
Alas, we’re back to basics with Pope. If Tom was taken out of the equation, Pope would have absolutely no motivation within this current arc. Gone appears to be the fight for earth, his desire to lead, the search for his kids. Nothing matters now except killing Tom, the man he believes responsible for every death in the 2nd Mass (somehow stealing his thunder in the process). Ironic considering he exhibits little interest in the lives of his own men.
What makes “Non-Essential Personnel” so infuriating aside from the abbreviated “fight” between Pope and Mason is the irregular pacing, unbelievable situations and muddled plotlines weaved into the rest of the episode. At one point, the entire 2nd Mass is stopped by a single gunman demanding supplies and transportation for his family. One man with an AK-47, against dozens of battle-hardened freedom fighters. Granted, it was mentioned he was situated on higher ground, but come on now. The guy couldn’t cover every angle.
Rather than double back and disarm him, Weaver was lured by the shooter’s desperate concern for his family (a plot device that many of us knew would turn out like it did). During his rescue attempt, Ben and Maggie continue to have problems being around each other. I know how that goes, wanting to spontaneous make out when lives are on the line.
None of it is more disappointing than the criminally tragic turn of Anthony. Since shacking up with Pope, he’s been nothing more than a glorified henchman who stays mum as Pope mercy kills his own people and beats Hal Mason to a pulp in hopes to validate his deranged agenda. The man has become a walking contradiction (with nary a line!) and it is very, very difficult to watch.
What’s funny is all of this could have never happened if Tom pared responsibilities among the leadership rather than be written as the Golden Child. As the focus turns to Tom being THE Man, all the characters have suffered, literally and contextually. Hopefully, in the final five episodes, everyone will get their shit together, we’ll learn why the aliens have made Tom the Kwisach Haderach, and Pope (if he survives through the finale) is given a relatively satisfying resolution.
Please, for the love of Buddha… make it work.