Monday, August 04, 2014

FALLING SKIES: SEASON 4, EPISODE 7 "SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE"


Directed by: Olatunde Osuname

Straight up:  THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD. 

Straight up:  THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD. 


We killed a few of our characters last night.

Who exactly died?  And who could still survive?

Seychelle Gabriell who plays Lourdes is the actress and character who has been here the longest... Since the pilot. And Seychelle is a team favorite behind-the-scenes, sweet and funny and an all-around positive influence.  Moon Bloodgood and she were particularly close.  It was very sad for us to see her go - and, when I tell actors that they're dying, sometimes I have only the cold comfort of telling them that "At least you're going in a really cool way."  I don't know how it felt for you, watching at home - but as I read the first outline for this episode, I was certainly surprised by the suddenness of the way Lourdes goes and the blood running out of her eyes - melting from the inside - was, well - cool.

Ryan Robbins was next.  Ryan and I first worked together on a SMALLVILLE epsiode entitled "Exile".  It was, I think the Season 3 premiere, and Ryan played a character that Lex encountered on a desert island, who ultimately turned out to be a figment of Lex's imagination.  Ryan is one of the hardest working, most talented and most-frequently employed actors based in Vancouver Canada. 

He's been great as Tector, a part originally intended to be a very small side-character, part of Pope's gang.  But Ryan made the character his own and his part grew and expanded as the writer's saw what he could do.

As for Robert Sean Leonard - he was originally recommended by Noah when the part of Dr. Kadar first appeared.  He and Noah are friends and had worked together long ago on a movie called SWING KIDS.

Besides his immense craft, Robert brought with him a playful cynicism and all-around good humor, which was quite welcome on the long cold Vancouver nights.  Besides Noah, he became good friends with Connor Jessup (Probably because they both share a near-genius intelligence.)  

Tonight's writer's Brad and David invented Kadar, so I guess it's fitting that they, now, do away with him.

And finally - Sarah Carter...  Well, the question is - is she dead?  I don't think we know yet - but there were a lot of casualties tonight... So the more the merrier.  As I've well documented, Sarah Carter and I go way back and I have a special fondness for her. We have worked well together, again since SMALLVILLE, where she played Alicia Baker.  I was the one who originally recommended her to Dreamworks and TNT in the very second episode of this series - I just had this feeling that, even though she had never exactly played a badass character like "Maggie" before - that she could do the job. In tonight's episode, Maggie disappears during the mad scramble after the explosion,  and we find her buried under a collapsed building in the final montage.  If it's for real, then...  Her death makes me very, very sad

Finally a few words about tonight's director Olatunde Osuname.  Olatunde was recommended to me by Will Patton. (Notice the pattern - almost everyone ends up having been recommended by someone.)  They had worked together on a small movie called THE FOURTH KIND.  Olatunde wrote directed and produced that movie, and when I watched it - although I was strongly taking into consideration that he had directed exactly zero hours of TV - I saw immense promise and cleverness in that film - both conceptually and directorially.

I had a SKYPE interview with Olatunde, and he was a charming and very enthusiastic young man.  He won many bonus points for being a legit fan of Falling Skies, which he proved by being able to talk about the whole series.  (Many pretend to be fans when applying for a job here, but it doesn't take much investigation to find out if they've really just watched a couple of episodes and read the Wikipedia page.)   I think Olatunde was actually a bit shocked he was even being considered.  He has a small resume and he had just started trying to get into TV via his agency.  But, Will Patton doesn't recommend people lightly.  And, truthfully, I had a good gut feeling about him.  We needed fresh blood, and it's always great to discover someone new.  I've done it once or twice in the past - and I've found that, if I'm right, it pays dividends in two ways (a) it takes a while for the rest of the industry to learn about the your discovery - so I can "hang onto them" for awhile and (b) loyalty.  People tend to stay loyal when you've given them a big break.

Olatunde came up to Vancouver early to observe, which both he and I wanted him to do.  It was good because he was there during the prep of episode 4 and the shooting of episode 3 and some of episode 2.   I emphasized to him from the beginning that Falling Skies is like the NFL linebacker of TV shows.  "It's big, it's fast moving and if you don't keep a close eye on it's every move it'll knock you on your ass."   Luckily my words were quickly proven to Mr. Osuname as he observed the scale and scope of the work we were doing.

But...  You know what, Olatunde came through with flying colors.  The cast, especially Noah, were very impressed with him constant enthusiasm and his depth of good ideas.

He is, what I call, a "real" director.  Which means that he wants to be involved in and make decisions on every aspect of the show.  He also sees beyond the script, and wants to add to and enhance the story beyond what is, merely, on the page.  A good example of this is the final montage that takes place in the episode - where the camera floats over all of the fallen... Lourdes... Kadar... Tector... Maggie... and the same look and style brings us to the final moment of the show with Tom.   These moments did not appear in the script - it was Olatunde's idea to create this montage, which he felt, with music would be very emotionally powerful.  He was right - and that kind of instinct resulted in him being invited back right away.  (More on that in a future blog.)  

As he went to the floor (i.e. shooting) I impressed upon him my Joe Montana philosophy.  (An old NFL reference I know - but one that has always motivated me.)  The job of a TV director, like an NFL quarterback is to win the game - in regulation time.  By which I mean - it's not enough to just shoot great film - the job requirements is that you do it in the allotted time (12 shooting hours per day!).  The Joe Montana part comes in if you can also do it with flair, while inspiring the team, and pull out a few last second victories.

That's it.  More another day.




Seychelle prepares for her final curtain 


Olatunde Osuname our director - a welcome addition to the team


Will stares me down - guys, just don't mess with Will Patton


It's been a bad night for Tom Mason 

Team Byrne and Carter

A pile of bodies prepare for the day ahead
Pope - when you're right you're right - he never trusted Lexi and - now look!

Ms. Sarah Carter - will death come sweet or painfully to ye'?

Ryan Robbins -- Even his own Wikipedia page could not prevent his heroic death

Robert Sean Leanard was a favorite as soon as he appeared on our set


video

Watch the first look we ever had at the full overlord

In which I heckle Curt Miller, Our VFX Producer to "Get over there and get some sh*t done!"

Then I show him, by example, exactly what I mean

Later, Curt stands riveted by my every word and action!

Ah, Pope - what is your fate?  Will you be next?
The above moment is, literally, one of my favorite moments I've ever directed - the first time I directed Ms. Carter...  I really hope she's not dead

And you, sweet Mira - you just got here - it would be inconcievable to kill you off so soon - and yet, fate is a cruel dance partner?!


Olatunde at his first meeting, contemplating all that is in store for him

11 comments:

Otto Carius said...

Saturday Nigh Massacre...

I really really tried hard this morning to put this nightmare of an episode of my mind! Which means of course copious amounts of Nicole Aniston in the throws of carnal lust! And while this usually cures all that is wrong with the world of mass media for me--no such luck! I tried hard-- I did any pun you want totally intended. However, even her over inflated bosoms heaving to the sounds of German Power Metal ( I added that in myself) could not make think of anything other than how stupid this episode truly was. If that cannot distract me from the horror of this episode what will?

First off Tom tries to sound cool with his "we'll blow the bridge"... Okay blowing the bridge is good. Blowing the bridge with the Mechs on it even better! And that would have made the episode a little better.

Secondly, how is it the Espheni who have air superiority, ground superiority, and a technological base superiority of several thousand of years over that of Humans-- don't understand how to encircle an enemy? This episode was over before it began. All Mr. Espheni with the burns needed to do is actually encircle the city of X (since it has never been named explicitly) and bomb starve the enemy out. Siege warfare.

Thirdly-- don't have a means to do this already-- Oh yes they do, remember those big green fences of plasma? I do... Why wouldn't they just encircle the city with the plasma fence and trap the occupants within it? Wait that would mean our heroes would be DEAD! So, of course the Espheni have to do the dumbest thing possible right?

Fourthly, Let's say for some odd reason they cannot or will not use the Plasma fence. The Mechs melt in water? The Espheni have absolutely no Bridge Building Capabilties? The Skitters are hydrophobic? I mean why not swim or in the case of the mechs walk across the river?

Fifthly, Gas Main Explosion? You're telling me that with the city as damaged as it is not one leak in the system exists before this point? That seems odd right?

Sixthly, how does the explosion manage to kill off all the unwanted characters, yet, only maim Maggie??? Also where exactly did it explode in relationship to Dr. Kandar? He was in a lab but some how only a small window blew out and sent a chard of glass into his liver or Kidneys? Yet, the explosion was big enough to kill everyone in the front lines? This is a strange explosion indeed.

Finally, Lexi can read minds, but doesn't see any of her brother Ben's pain from being harnessed? Cognitive Dissonance is strong with this young padawan.

This writer really needs to never write agian.

Aldenata said...

@Otto Carius:
City of X: I suggested Charlotte at one point, Greg Beemen said that it was either Philadelphia or somewhere in Georgia; they never really decided.

River crossing: I haven't seen this episode yet, and probably won't be able to for quite a while, but my theory was always that the average Skitter could swim even a wide river, or "hold its breath" (assuming they have lung capacities as we understand them; they're big enough to justify it) and walk across the bottom.

Mechs, however, would probably have trouble getting through the silt, though the big ones could always try to leap across.

Assuming the river is too big to jump, why not just ferry troops over by beamer?

-Gas Main Explosion? Are you serious? You're right on the unlikelihood of finding any significant gas pockets at that point; a rat can't fart on a gas main without it rupturing.

...I mean, digging up an unused line and trying to cut into it with a blowtorch might be a bad idea, but you'd be very unlucky indeed if you made it this far only to die because your house was sitting on top of some faulty POL infrastructure.

(Sounds kind of like a bad cover story for a mob hit. Stabbed by shrapnel? Hah! I bet you believe what they told you about Lone Gunman too!

Do you think the Espheni tried hiring Cosa Nostra to whack the 2nd Mass?)

Hyperion said...

This episode was the Night of the Long Knives from a cast perspective (for those of you who like Tom Mason style historical analogies). Before commenting on individual deaths, I would say the show needed to cull its ranks since it has too many characters that you are supposed to care about to some degree. As I have commented before, this has lead to very poorly drawn main characters with the possible exceptions of Tom and Weaver, and even with these two you do not feel you really know them as much as you should by Season 4.

They had made Lourdes so annoying that you were frankly relieved, and certainly not surprised, when she exited. That this was at the hands of Lexi was more surprising. And yet we still got Anne trying to find excuses, with even Tom and Ben clutching at straws on this murder. Both Tom and Ben came under suspicion in Season 2 but they never murdered anyone as Lexi has. As I have said before, this is a character beyond redemption for the audience so the writers really need to dispose of her for Season 5, if not sooner.

At this point the episode became largely a battle with the Espheni deploying their remarkably inept forces. All along FS has had to deal with how the humans can actually fight the Espheni despite much inferior technology. In Season 1 stealth and mech bullets were used. In Season 2 much the same plus rebel skitters. In Season 3 Volm tech came to the rescue. In this episode the theory is that the overlord had a personal vendetta against Tom hence the ground game rather than just bombing. On top of that the humans will hide out until all is over. This is television so you have to make allowances for the literally incredible but there were things like the gas explosion that strained credulity beyond the limit (a full gas main after 3 years?).

The other 2 deaths were also not that surprising when you are looking to trim the cast, although Dr Kadar was very useful (if implausible) while Tector was actually one of the most believable characters to have survived this long post invasion. It was also not so likely that he would blow himself up for one measly skitter. I am not sure if the crispy body at the end was supposed to be Tector but blown up bodies do NOT look like that I am afraid.

Once the battle was the focus, the only other scenes involved Ben going off to look for Lexi. It still seems odd for the writers not to use super soldier Ben in these battles but him heading off felt like it should be similar to Luke with Vader and Palpatine at the end of Return of the Jedi. However all we got to see was Ben in bright sunshine and beamer lights which did little other than to show that yes, even in the post apocalypse, Ben does indeed have perfect hair, skin and teeth. There was no follow up at all in this episode so presumably there will be next time or none of it makes sense. PS the shot of the beamer landing was lifted from Season 1, episode 10 - don't think we don't notice these things.

Otto Carius said...

Aldenata:

I've been to Charlotte a lot lately--I have an older sibling that lives outside the city (within 15 minutes or less). It didn't give me that feel at all. However, it did give me the feel of being in Vancouver! What can I say every time I see location in Canada pretending to be in the US it just seems wrong to me.

The River Crossing: is bad. Well I would make the Mechs amphibious if I were the Espheni. That's just me. I would want them to be all-terrain capable as possible if I intended on using them to destroy planets and enslave their populations. As for the Skitters--well they don't have packs or gear so swimming across the river is actually a possibility. I remember being a Marine and in advanced combat training we had to cross rivers with about 80lbs on our backs. The Skitters have an advantage in that they have no packs.

The Beamers-- could ferry them across but, why wouldn't they have a dedicated transport craft as well? I guess they never use airborne troops? But, let's say the budget of the show cannot afford the extra CGI of the Eshpeni equivalent of a C-130J. The enemy could build a pontoon bridge, simply be amphibious, or even swim across the river.

Furthermore, this was supposed to be something like Hitler's obsession with Leningrad or Stalingrad. But, it just didn't work. It felt like the Germans--I mean Espheni were just simply stupid. Yes, Hitler was stupid in both of those incidences-- but couldn't we see a little more adept usage of resources in the case of the Espheni.

Yes, the gas main blows up 3 years after the city was bombed to complete rubble. I guess this was one of the really delayed secondary explosions.

And , yes, Kandar does die from shrapnel of a broken glass in a lab some distance from the explosion with no other damage to the lab. It is a miracle it is like one small window blows out and hits him with a large chard of glass in the kidneys or liver (I'm not exactly sure where it hit him in the back.) It seemed to me more like the Kidneys.

I think the Espheni hired some bad writers for their military staff.

Oh, best of all they brought a Sharps Rifle in full on Black Powder Cartridge Glory... I actually own a 45-120 and let me tell you this yeah you can shoot it out 1200yards or more-- but the bullet takes an weak to get there. It was so bad to see Tector talking about that rifle I nearly wet my pants from laughter. Don't get me wrong I love shooting fashioned Black Powder Cartridge Rifles-- they are fun... but a modern sniper isn't going to know one damn thing about them. They should have given him back a M82A1.

Well catch the episode when you can remember home is where the heart is on the bus as Frank Zappa used to say!

Nunya Bidnezz said...

I'm just happy that hot mess Lourdes is finally dead. Holy Roller annoyed the living crap out of me from the first time she simpered her way onscreen.

I have one wish for the next (last) season: please get rid of Lexi and drop all the painful and unbelieveable soap opera crap. Tom/Anne, Ben/Maggie, Hal/Maggie, Pope/WhoCaresWhatherNameIs... it plays out like bad fanfiction written by a fat, unsatisfied housewife. Dump all of that and go back to what made S1 and S2 stellar: Tom focusing on his sons and building a life for the four of them.

Aldenata said...

Managed to learn more about what happened from my niece, and I might have to use her as my personal reveiwer for several of the coming episodes.

@Hyperion:
Yeah... I think the writers killed Lourdes off long before her death.

As for Lexi: I'd like to say, and used to believe, that there are limits to how much misbehaviour will be tolerated from otherwise-competent adult children by otherwise-competent parents before the denial, excuses and enabling will end. But judging from how certain members of my own family reacted to degeneracy amongst their offspring, changing their parental methods not a bit when the younger siblings got old enough to join them on welfare or in prison...

...hopefully, this form of degenerative parenting will die alongside the society that made it possible.

Espheni ground forces: well, to an extent they've always been inept.

Skitters can only kill in melee and are seldom seen in large groups. They may be fast, but I had a lot of trouble imagining how they could advance against entrenched enemies over open ground without horrendous losses. The body armour didn't impress me; it wouldn't take long for humans to start aiming for their legs and even with it I think their carapaces would crack after more than a few hits from any decent (i.e. 7.62x51mm) rifle rounds.

I've mentioned this before, but if a C4 brick or a grenade bundle can kill a mech, then so too should a high-caliber rifle (modern M82 Barrett, WWII-vintage anti-tank rifle or even an old elephant gun). Even deer elk rifles and shotguns slugs could probably score mobility kills if they hit a joint or other soft spot; trying to kneecap a one with a 30-30 might be a bad idea, but a good marksman with a .300 Win Mag could probably do it.

Mega-mechs change the equation only slightly. I haven't done the math for them yet, but suffice to say the square-cubed law hates giant robots even more than I do. Barretts and the like should still be good for crippling them, and any reasonably-potent rifle grenade round could probably take one out of commission.

So, how did a force like that ever stand a chance against humanity? In Seasons 1 and 2 we were still reeling from the damage to our population and infrastructure caused by the nukes and EMP. In Season 3 they surprised us with the mega-mechs, and those didn't seem to help a lot (remember, their first attack on Charleston seems to have been a complete failure; compare to the Battle of Fitchburg).

The Espheni would lose like that almost every time if it wasn't for air support, and apparently that was called off in this episode. Not entirely implausible; a lot of people still think that Hitler did the inverse at Dunkirk and halted his panzers just so Goering could destroy retreating British troops from the air (simplification, but it'll do).

What I want to know is why the gas main blast was needed at all. Apparently the 2nd Mass only managed to fight off a small portion of the Espheni (with thermite? hidden in Chinese lanterns? okay, that does sound cool). Why not have endless hordes of skitters slowly but inevitably battle their way to the firing lines before chopping most of the humans to pieces, with only a few survivors left to launch a victory-or-death breakout (with some outside force helping to lift the siege if need be; the Volm, remnants of Charleston, the crazy lady from the end of Season 1, some other group that we seemingly forgot about)? It could have been like a mix of Zulu, 300 and Peter Jackson's Battle of Helm's Deep all rolled into one. Instead they give us... both sides dying from a flaming subterrainian fart? Really?

Crispy corpse: niece says that he was already crippled and was about to be killed by a skitter anyway. Also says it looked like the corpse was burned, not blown up. She thinks he may have somehow survived.

Aldenata said...

"Even deer elk rifles and shotguns slugs"

Memo to self: no strikethrough here.

@Otto Carius:
Vancouver: I hear you. I grew up in North Georgia and I also wish they could have filmed it in this part of the continent. It was just as bad watching Under the Dome try to make North Carolina look like Maine (for the few episodes that I watched Under the Dome).

Wonder if the two film crews could trade places? :P

Mechs: I highly doubt that mechs can float, and I have to wonder just how high a flow rate it would take to flip one. Anyways, if I were the Espheni, I wouldn't have given them LEGS. It just ain't a good idea to put legs on your robots; Darpa has been trying to design a mechanical mule for decades, and have they been able to make anything to date that can do the job better than a motorcycle, or an ATV, or even an actual flesh-and-blood mule?

(it can refrain from kicking your dog's eye out... that's a plus I guess... even though I think my dog kind of deserved it)

River crossing: Marine? That's cool. I considered joining the Marines once, then realized that they'd probably want me to know how to swim. Then there's that "psyche test" stuff they think's so important...

I had an idea for how Espheni river crossings might be opposed. Blast all the bridges (because they WILL manage to take one intact if you don't), set explosives into the water and then set it off as they try to swim or walk across. If you have anything that reacts violently on contact with water then so much the better.

(Very close to what the British planned to do to their own beaches should the Germans try landing. For that chapter, the explosives were mostly Amatol and the incendiaries were a mix of thermite, turpentine/resin and calcium phosphide. I think that's what it was; don't have my notes with me right now. Georgia Militia tries it again on the Etowah River; doesn't work that time.)

Niece says that the Espheni were not trying to cross the river under fire, they were just trying to find a route into the city. So apparently arrival time didn't matter to them and walking to the nearest standing bridge seemed more convenient at the time.

Espheni commander must have not read Murphy: "The easy way is always mined."

Beamers: I was using that term in the same way the 2nd Mass does, as a generic description of any alien craft. They probably do have transports of some kind, though the biggest ones we've seen so far don't look like they could hold more than a handful of skitters and mechs. So more equivalent to CH-47s than C-130s.

I don't think paratrooper-equivalents are likely; that implies a level of training that the Overlords would be unlikely to want to give to their Skitter slaves. Closest to it we've come so far is the Volm dropships at the end of Season 2. Bridging equipment seems doable.

Sharps Rifle: I have a Remington Rolling Block chambered in .43 Spanish. No idea if it got into this country as a war trophy from the Spanish-American War or if Franco's government sold it as surplus from the Spanish Civil War (yes, they were still used on both sides even in the 30's) but is a pretty neat gun. Standard powder load for it is just about subsonic.

Lots of folks in my area are into black powder breechloaders; considered primitive weapons for the purpose of deer hunting. I don't know if the same is true in Texas, but it wouldn't surprise me if Tector learned how to use one for that reason...

Then again, I'm told he tried to snipe an Overlord and missed. So maybe he ain't quite the sharps shooter that we though him to be.

Aldenata said...

@Nunya Bidnezz: Hey! Don't you be talking bad about us fanfic writers; we ain't all a bunch of...

...actually, we are all more or less crazy.

BTW, did the host from Second Watch ever write the Falling Skies/Game of Thrones crossover that he suggested? That would be amusing.

Aldenata said...

@Saturday Night Massacre, now that I've actually seen it:

-Okay, this episode wasn't quite as bad as I feared. Gas main is still kind of dumb, but I'm guessing y'all just didn't have the money to kill so many people in a massive Zulu Dawn-style last stand. Shame you couldn't give Tector a Martini-Henry and have him Save the Colours with his last bullet and dying breath!

Anyway, it looked more like a fuel-air bomb than any industrial accident. My loony personal interpretation is that the "gas main" story is still a cover up; Tom and friends were playing around with oversized bombs again and didn't want to admit that they pulled an own goal.

-Civic/Religious Leader sucks the life out of mindless follower, all the while thinking she's doing her a favor. No subtext in that, is there?

At the risk of sounding callous and sociopathic (which, in all fairness, I am), Lourdes reminds me of a terminally-ill family member who's been dying so long that you've already finished with the grieving and now you're just waiting to bury her. Two-dimensional character to begin with who never recovered from having her soul crushed way back in Season 2; it was not a good death but I'm just glad it's over.


-I could almost buy it that a several-month old human thinks that killing people is a good way to make them less violent (because it is!), but how did she... do it? Bursting a few arteries in the brain wouldn't be too hard for someone with psychokinetic powers, but snapping the spinal cord would have been far less traumatizing.

Logically speaking, shouldn't Lexi have not wanted to kill Lourdes at all, but take her to Espheniland to be turned into a mutant?

-Pope should have had a better plan than having his mob stand around at point-blank range to engage what for all he knew was going to be a Yog-Shoggoth.

-"You know how to make thermite?"
"Of course. All you need is rust, aluminum and lots of love."

The rest of this series is going to have to be very, very bad to negate the enjoyment I got out of that. Smoke pots were also good thinking.

Using Chinese laterns to secrete the thermite above the heads of your enemies was indeed a nice touch. I'm going to remember that for any future projects I do.

Gambol said...

I have to agree with what has been written above
It is very strange that every time when coming battle Ben is not around.
Normally Ben would leave no possibility to kill a few aliens. Is Connor Jessup asked himself for a small part in this season? his character is important to the show and it's strange to watch these scene where he should be, and he is not. Are you hiding him? ;d

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