Sunday, August 17, 2014

SEASON 4: EPISODE 9 - "TIL DEATH DO US PART"



WRITTEN BY: CAROL BARBEE
DIRECTED BY: GREG BEEMAN

WARNING!  SPOILERS!  IF SPOILERS MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE MASKED NAZI PUNKS ARE SHOOTING YOU DOWN -- THEN LEAVE NOW!!!!



ME AND MY PALS (HUMAN AND OTHERWISE) - LIVIN' THE DREAM ON THE SET OF TNT'S " FALLING SKIES"

Here's the truth.  Episode 9 was hard.  I directed it, and I should have known what was coming.  This was that episode which always falls in the (un)sweet spot right before the christmas break, when we'd been working hard for 4 months, the days are cold and short  (on December 21 in Vancouver it gets pitch dark by 4:30 in the afternoon and it doesn't get light until about 9:30 in the morning.)  In general, everyone's nerves are frayed and we were dragging ass to the mid-season finish line.  Of course as soon as we finished shooting episode 9, we got a 2 week Christmas/New Year's break and we came back to finish the final 3 episodes, refreshed.  In the back of our minds we knew all this - but we couldn't remember it at this time.

My memories of the production are just pushing through the exhaustion, putting one foot in front of the other.  

I remember that I kept calling my editor (the brilliant one-of-a-kind Donn Aron) and I kept asking him "Is it okay?"  "How does it look?"  He told me, on a couple of occasions, "It's going together really well, it's going to be a good episode."  But, while I was shooting it, I couldn't feel it.


Donn Aron

Because of the Christmas break - I didn't see the first editor's cut until early January...  And, guess what - I thought it was good!  It really flowed together, I had done some complex shotmaking and interesting scene staging that I was proud of.  I thought the emotional arc between Tom and Anne was strong and I felt emotional when they got married at the end. I loved the story of Ben guiding Maggie with her spike-enhanced abilities and I like what happened between Hal and Ben.   In fact, I think this is my favorite of the three episodes I directed this season - even though it was, by far, the lowest budgeted one.  I like the stories that were told and am happy with the performances that I was able to collaborate on with the actors (Ben-Hal) (Ben-Maggie) (Tom-Anne) etc.

It makes me remember what I already knew, but which is easy to forget - you can not tell when you are in the middle of filming (probably any artistic project).  Never get too comfortable or too nervous - just do your best every day and it'll work itself out.  (Truthfully, in the end, it's all about script - all I can do is enhance the visual aspect of the storytelling, and I can enhance and focus the scene-by-scene performances and the arc of the performance from the actors.)

So, back to the episode -- As I said - The prep had been hard, but I had a good plan.  There was a lot of action to film at night - specifically (in the episode) from the time the Espheni drone bombs the sight where Tom and co. are grabbing the Volm cache, to the end of the firefight with the Espeheni (cum Nazi) Youth Brigade - there was a lot of planning to do. Between the explosion, the fire and all of the shooting and running around - it was a lot of work to organize.  

Falling Skies looks great when we film at night - but it means that the crew and the cast and I are filming at night - all night (until 4 or 5 AM - once until 6:30AM) in the sub-sub-zero weather.  I'm not complaining - it's just part of the job - but it takes a certain degree of physical and emotional preperation (a lot more than filming in 75 degree sunny Los Angeles, for instance.)

As a director, a scene like that has a lot of moving parts.  The way to approach it is to mentally break it down into bite sized bits until it's broken up into it's smallest parts (for a director thats "shots")  - so in this case here's all the parts  (I'm not even counting the daytime work.):

. the Espheni ship arrives and bombs the group

. Tom and the the others re-group, Matt is gone, Kent and the other Team-Leaders arrive and shoot at them

.Tom and Anne break off and shoot two Team-Leaders following them

. Tom and Ann get shot at by Kent, They run for cover, Anne is shot but manages to slide to safety, Tom takes cover in a cargo container, Tom and Kent exchange dialogue, Kent kicks over  gas and fires at it the cargo container catches on fire, Anne runs to save Tom and Tom shoots Kent, Tom stands over Kent as he dies (btw - that's a lot of beats in one sequence)

.Matt chases Mira and gets shot with a dart in the neck, other Team Leaders appear

. Weaver shoots at the Team leaders. Matt runs Team Weaver and Cochise stun blast the Team Leaders.  Weaver and Cochise save Matt.  Mira escapes.

. Matt and Tom escape.

So here's the process I have to go through directorially:

First I have to find a location that I like and that suits all the work we have to do (in this case this meant it had to include the scenes approaching and leaving the Volm cache sight as well.)  This takes a day or two on it's own.  

Our location manager and production designer have thought about it and present me, usually, with photographs from a number of places that might work.  I'll narrow that down to two or three from the photos.  In this case, though, the two or three I selected happened to be pretty far from each other - so it took a couple of days just to find them.  At each place, Bryan Knight, the assistant director; Rob Grey, the production designer;  Nate Goodman, the director of photography; Grace Gilroy, the line producer and I walk all the choices discussing the pros and cons and feasibility of each place.  This includes, not only, how does it look, but mundane things like - can we get the big night lights where we need them to be?  Is there enough road access that we can work fast enough?  And so on.

At each place that has potential, I have to walk around and, at least, rough in how I would stage the scenes.  I have to work quickly, shooting from the hip (but knowing in the back of my mind that I can change my mind a little later - as long as the location has enough flexibility to do so.)  We go back to the production office and discuss exactly how we'll shoot the scenes - being as specific a possible.  After we've done that (which will take a few hours twice or so over a day or two)  we then try to figure out how many hours, realistically, it will take to shoot the scenes.  One of the best ways to be efficient is to shoot out lighting directions - i.e. shoot all the shots facing (for instance) west/southwest and then later shoot all the shots facing (for instance) east/northeast...  This is logical but may cause me to have to shoot way out of story order - which can be hard on the actor (and my) brains.  But night lighting is one of the biggest time consuming factors.  The other is transportation time - i.e., how long does it take to physically get equipment from base camp to set?  How long will it take to get the actors from hair & makeup to the set? etc.  TV is a game of inches - we have 12 budgeted shooting hours per day - but even if I went over that (which I can't do consistently and keep my job) - the sun will come up at some point and I will have to stop.

After all that, we add it up, and, inevitably, the first couple of times through - Guess what?  To shoot what's written and what I think are all the shots needed to tell the story will take 18 hours more than we have over the three 12-hour days we have to shoot."

At that point I have to (a) go back to the writers and tell them we have to reduce the script.  For some reason, they are never happy with this.  I try to bring specific ideas to the table that can cut beats without dissembling the key story points. (b) I also have to compromise what I want to shoot.  I have to, literally, play a version of "Name That Tune" in my mind... Like "OK, I can tell that story in 4 shots, not the 12 I originally wanted."  For some reason at first this always seems impossible - although even after I've cut it down to what I feel is the absolute minimum number of shots in prep, on the day of shooting I usually have to drop a few more.

All this is pretty normal, but tedious.  And we, frequently, have to do this on several story areas.  The shootout I've been describing...  Maggie's gunplay spike-practice scene... And the final wedding all had to get smaller than what was in the original script.

After the first night of filming the above-described action it snowed.  And not a little, a lot.  Vancouver rarely gets snow, but this year they sure did.  So while I filmed the day scene where Tom and co. walk back to the camp, a crew of special effects guys ran around all day with heated air blowers and blow torches melting the snow around the set where I'd already filmed the night before  (We couldn't have snow appear halfway through the scene without a horrible discontinuity.)


I also just had to accept that, inexplicably, in the middle of the episode, our heroes are returning to camp across a vast snow covered field.  (I was comforted by the fact that, at least it was really, really beautiful.)  I'm also happy with a super nice moment that happens in that scene when Tom looks at Anne walking ahead of them, and Anne looks back with affection.  It is, for me a nice congruity between performance (including a very natural moment from Moon) and design and editing.  I love when a moment works like that!

I thought I'd take a moment to talk about two of our guest cast and how they came to be in the show this year.

First, thirteen-year-old,  Desiree Ross who plays Matt's somewhat-love-interest, Mira.  Maxim was nervous and excited that he was going to have his (I think) first on-screen kiss and asked me frequently how the casting was going.  We read a lot of young ladies in Vancouver...  A few where close..  But there was always some missing quality.  I kept trying to talk myself into one or the other, but I knew in my heart it wasn't right.  Meanwhile the casting directors in Los Angeles were reading a few young ladies.  I really didn't want to cast this role out of Los Angeles.  That would mean additional monies for flights, hotel rooms and per diems, which (because a minor would also need an adult supervisor to accompany them) adds up to a lot of money, which could otherwise be allocated to other areas of the series.

But then our casting director called and said, "There's a girl out of South Carolina that you really should see."  Well, if I didn't want to cast out of L.A. I really didn't want to cast out of the East Coast...  that's a way more expensive pair of plane tickets.

But then I saw Desiree's tape.

She just stole it.  That's what happens when the right person reads.  They are just right and you just have to forget all the other stuff.

I love working with young people and have done it a lot... (My resume includes a large number of Disney Channel movies in the 1990's).  I find them to be, generally, eager and spontaneous and open.  Desiree was certainly that, she brought a great naturalness to the role, and was willing to push and take chances whenever I directed her.




13-year-old Desiree Ross - what she really looks like

The other actor is Dakota Daulby, who plays Kent.  He is from Vancouver (whew)...  He had read last year for role of the harnessed kid who shows up with the skitter at Charleston to tell Tom the state of the skitter rebellion.  He had been my first choice for that role, because I thought he had an eerie other-worldiness - but I was overruled by a group vote.

This year, he read for Kent and was excellent.  David Eick particularly responded to his audition.  He had long flowing hair when I first met him, and immediately after his audition I asked if he'd be willing to cut it if he got the part.  You'd be suprised how many actors balk at this.  But Dakota was game for a Nazi haircut.  He said he'd never played a bad guy before...  Which is hard for me to believe.  I'm sure he'll play more.   

I think he died very well in, what I feel, is a creepy and chilling final moment.



19-year-old Vancouver actor Dakota Daulby - what he really looks like


UP...
...UP..

One last thing which may be of interest...  When the show was first edited together it was about two minutes short (I'm sure all of you wise TV viewers know that TV episodes  - at least on commercial stations - have to be of a specific length.)  because this episode was an under-pattern budget episode we  cut it too close to the bone and we ended up with less cut film than we needed.)  

That meant we had to shoot an additional scene.

Whenever this happens (It's happened before - in Season 1 a lot )  - it's always tricky because the next episodes are shooting and specific cast members aren't available.  Also whatever we shoot has to be clean and simple no VFX or FX and not too many characters.  I suggested that maybe there was a  scene to shoot that could involve Ben and Maggie - either before or after the jump -  going into more depth about the powers...  

Well, Carol Barbee took this idea and ran with it.  She wrote a scene that, I think, is one of the best in the episode.  Sarah Carter and Connor loved the words and the emotion and where it took their characters.   I put it on it's feet (i.e. staged it) as a long walk and talk that could be shot in just two angles (with two sizes).  We shot the whole thing in less than two hours...   I love it when stuff like that happens.


AFTER THE JUMP... WOO-HOO JUMPING OFF OF 3 STORY BUILDINGS IS FUN


DANGER = GAS MASKS

MY MOST ADORED MOON

KENT AND COMPANY


THE GANG'S ALL HERE!



CONNOR CONTEMPLATES MAGGIE'S SHOOTING ABILITIES

ME - GEARING UP FOR A LONG NIGHT OF SHOOTING

TWO BRO'S - ROB GRAY AND NATE GOODMAN

MAXIM AND Desiree Ross 
NOAH AND WILL - LIKE I KEEP SAYING - DON'T MESS WITH THEM!

24 comments:

Hyperion said...

This was a pretty good episode that highlighted what is good (and could be better) and what is disappointing about Falling Skies. On the one hand there was some proper exploration of the drama that has to underlie any good series, as opposed to jumping around between too many often peripheral characters. Less good were the gaping plot holes and painful clichés, which we have seen too much of in this series and especially in Season 4.

One thing that immediately felt much better about the episode was the 100% absence of Lexi. Sadly this will not last but it just showed in an all too glaring way what a phenomenal mistake the Lexi character has been. If a supposedly major character is not only NOT missed but where the absence is a cause for celebration then you know you have messed up big time.

There were three strands of relationship drama in the episode: Tom/Anne, Maggie/Ben plus a bit of Hal, and Pope/Sara. The first two were much more successfully executed than the Pope/Sara piece, and pretty obviously the drama surrounding Maggie was the most interesting thing of all. The scenes with Tom and Anne were generally good although it is still a mystery how Anne is supposed to make it all wine and roses in relation to Lexi when Lexi murdered Lourdes in front of everybody.

With Pope and Sara it was just not convincing that Pope would turn on Sara for having one bottle of pills when she clearly did hurt her wrist. Pope does not really need to be as repellent as he is often portrayed, so I have some sympathy for Sara doing a runner.

Ben and Maggie are now connected by their spikes which opens up a rich field of drama, and also opened up the way to show what those with spikes can do. I have said it before but I will say it again: it is a source of wonderment that FS does not show these abilities more often and, for example, why the super strong Ben etc would not be used to excavate the beamer in no time at all. This is a sci-fi element we can all buy into since it has been there since Season 1, and does not depend on magic or any other BS. Hopefully this is something they can use in the show more in the last season.

The long conversation between Ben and Maggie was the most successful drama related element in the episode, and makes you wish for more proper conversations like these in the show as opposed to the superficial interactions you see all too often in FS. Any show needs proper interactions like this between a few main characters, and it does not need to become soap opera just because the show has a bunch of perhaps implausibly good looking actors in this dystopian environment (think Wyle, Bloodgood, Roy, Jessup and Carter). It is just refreshing to have actors engage in proper dialogue as in this scene rather than "Hand me some more bullets".

So some drama is good but plot holes are not. How is it that the Volm did not know until now about the Espheni power source on the moon? How is it that the Espheni can plant Mira near the weapons stash but not detect that much of the 2nd Mass is still alive "a few miles away"?

Also not good are the cliches that FS has been piling up this season. In this episode we got some more of the Nazi team leader, although thankfully only briefly until shot by Tom; Matt believing Mira when she was tied up; Hal seeing the exact moment when Maggie kissed Ben. I know that TV producers often think you can never go wrong under-estimating your audience but with the sheer quality of much of TV now, that is increasingly not a good bet.

Aldenata said...

@Greg Beaman:
Having once spent a very... enlightening January in the heart of Chicago, you have my sympathy on trying to work at those latitudes.

At least now we know what all the snow was about. I saw that scene in the previews and it reminded me of Bonaparte retreating from Russia. If only Bonaparte had had Lyle at his side...

(Fanwank: Espheni are having insurmountable trouble on a distant continent and decided to soften up the resistance with an asteroid or two. Side effects: global ice age...

...which would really suck for me. All those rough-hewn hills and deep dark hollers that I call home? Those were carved by glaciers.)

Are you going to do the Questions and Answers posts at the end of this season? You didn't the last time, but I always thought that it adds depth to the storyline as well as some fascinating background on how Falling Skies is made.

Also, I'm sure I'm going to miss quite a few details due to my extended TV hiatus. I'll have a chance to binge on Falling Skies either this week or next week and I fully intend to do so.

@Hyperion
"This is a sci-fi element we can all buy into since it has been there since Season 1, and does not depend on magic or any other BS."

Arthur C. Clarke might have a few words to say about your disregard of "magic" in a Science Fiction setting. In any event, whatever the spikes are and whatever they're doing to human bone mass either is "magic" by any other name, or there is more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in Issac Newton's philosophy.

Spikes let harnessed kids pick up cars? Great, so what causes them to keep from sinking into the ground every time they try it, or even every time they try walking around with all the bone and muscle mass that would logically be required to do that?

(This is going to be a problem with ANY super-powered human; HG Wells didn't even have time to die before people started asking how The Invisible Man was able to see anything.)

Lexi killing her followers: from what I've heard of it, I don't see how Lexi can be deemed anything except a villain at this point. Redemption might still be possible for her, but only a fool would expect her to avoid any punishment for what she's done. Vidkun Quisling expressed remorse over his dealings with the Nazis, but in the end he still faced a firing squad.

(Quisling started out as an philanthropist in the Norwegian labour movement, by the way— Jim Jones was a poverty and civil rights activist. Even if she was genuinely looking to stop the war, Lexi wouldn't be the first to think that good intentions make for dandy pavement.)

Pill popping: someone who calls himself a "beserker" really shouldn't have a problem with that. Whether it's Vikings and their mushrooms or modern jet pilots and their go-pills, war and drugs go together like counterinsurgency operations and torture (search your feelings, you know it to be true).

Mira and the Skitler Youth: She was Matt's friend from the Skitler Youth camp, right? So I was right about her being a narc?

...I hate it when I'm right.

Otto Carius said...

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.,
(The Charge of The Light Brigade, Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1854)


This episode was essentially the dramatic equivalent of the famous charge of the Light Brigade in the battle of the Balaclava (October 25th, 1854). A totally quixotic attempt to create a grandiose gesture of the drama from the poorly thought out left overs of this season.

To be honest when I hear a filmmaker complaining about the environment or climate of a location—it makes me wonder if this person has any clue at all about how to use the natural elements effectively in filmmaking? One should not woefully scorn the hardships of weather, but learn to harness them, and thus to make them part of the story itself. If you know the weather is going to be cold at your location for shooting—make it an essential part of the story arc. It seems to me that this production has the problem all television series do—it plays at being dramatic or realistic. Yet, never really achieving any believable state of realism in the final product. The characters seem always far too clean, well too feed, and all too pampered and comfortable. And I hate to say it comes out in the performances in this series in every frame of film. Every time I see Sarah Carter’s perfectly groomed locks of blonde hair always in picture perfect fashion—I laugh. It shows a person that spends hours in a make up chair and not a person that is concerned survival more than personal appearance. It would be great if she just sat looking at a broken mirror with a mat of barely kept hair wishing that she had some of her old luxuries-like a hair stylist and a spa day. Little touches like that really attach the character to the world in which they inhabit. However, modern conventions in film say not that cannot happen… so we get super models with air brushed dirt and perfect hair in a combat zone.

Now, on to the more important grips—did anyone actually find any of the loose ends that you attempted to clean up in this episode effective? It seems that this season spent the first 5 episodes dragging out the finding of Lexi only to now find that it had left far too many wide open questions about “What happened to the kids at the Nazis Boarding School of Boredom”? So, clearly this seasons’ solution is simply to kill them off as soon as possible. Sure, it makes sense that the Volm cache of weapons located in the ruins of a Chemical Plant ( Wonder if it was a Dow Chemical Plant?) would exactly the location of a Brown Shirt Detachment. I mean and wow what luck said Brown Shirt Detachment has everyone Matt knows form his days as reluctant Brown Shirt Cadet! What Luck Indeed! See, look a small firefight (poorly done I might add) and those loosed ends gurgle to end with a blood soaked SA member!

Then we have the entire problem with Maggie and Ben turning into part-time lovers and full time Spec Ops! So, why is it the Skitters are such poor soldiers and seem to have absolutely no super powers other than being able to walk on walls? While Maggie and Ben are like Spiderman on Steroids? That makes no sense at all…

Also how is it the Beamer that Chocise used his Volm equivalent of a shoulder fired SAM is looking so good? And how is it if the Volm use bio-mechanical technology can a South African lineman really help you at all in the attempt to fix the craft? It would seem the only people that could help out would be Volm Technicians? But hey they need to go the Lunar Base (i.e. Endor) and destroy the Power Generator ( I.e. Shield Generator before end of the season (I can bulls eye a womprat from a T-16 and that is only 1.5 meters!)… So I guess the ship was hit with a missile, crashed into a building, and had all the rubble fall on it—but really it is okay to fly!

Otto Carius said...

(continued)

Pope and Sarah—Pope is part of a crystal meth dealing biker-gang from the looks of things? He also drinks too much… So really why would he care if his girlfriend is a pill popping Vicodin addict? I mean that doesn’t seem like a problem for a guy who has spent as much time in jail or with unsavory people? It seems to me that he would role with it and just worry about how good she is in the sack?

Finally, we come to the Wedding? It felt way too Luke and Laura if you ask me.

Frankly, I feel this episode missed all the important marks and just solved the loose ends in a slap-dash manner with not real thought or reason as to why they were important. In fact the entire episode felt contrived and poorly executed—especially the night scenes!

And let’s talk about that firefight with the SA Detachment—poor. I love how Tom and Ann couldn’t hit one of them while they walked in a skirmishing line straight at them? And why did the SA detachment have gas masks? Presumably, if this were just a chance encounter with the humans they would not be prepared for the Chlorine Gas Clouds looming around this chemical plant--Right? It would seem pretty unlikely that the SA detachment would be train for gas attacks if the enemy doesn’t use it? And we’ve never seen the Espheni use any paralytic or nerve type toxin in a gas form so it seems that the Espheni are not fond of the use of chemical weapons either. So why then do the SA unit members have Gas Masks? The only person that is aware of the danger if Chocise and so only the humans should have gas masks. But hey this is so much better right? Forget LOGIC!

Also let’s talk about Ben and Hal and Maggie—does anyone else get the feeling that Eick has a few left-over scripts from BSG (2004-2009) he has been dying to reuse? This entire love triangle feels like the Lee “Apollo” Adama , Zak Adama and Kara “Starbuck” Thrace love triangle that morphed into the Lee , Kara, and Anastasia (Lt. Dualla) in the final season of the show. It was bad when they did in that series and it is even more pathetic now.



However, let’s be honest the biggest problems with this show seem to be the revolving door of show-runners and well Spielberg himself. I have no use for Spielberg or his brand of 12 year old fantasy filmmaking…. But let’s face it all of these producers want to cozy up to Spielberg and improve their careers so none of them are willing to tell Spielberg—his ideas are CRAP! I mean really who’s willing to stand in a room with Spielberg and tell him his ideas are crap? Not many. I would---but I also wouldn’t work with Spielberg at all. He is the antithesis of what I consider film can be about no matter the delivery media.

But that is not the point… The point I’m making is that no one in this production team is doing anything to make this series new or interesting. It is just a collection of tired old Sci-Fi tropes that have all been done better before. Then you couple this to the fact that it has only 10-12 episodes per season and find a series that is nothing more than away to appease Spielberg! I say screw Spielberg! I say if you’re going to do something like this do it right! Make it NEW or just don’t do it at all!

Adrian Hickman said...

Sorry I haven't been posting much. I've been watching every week and tweeting with cast and fans alike.

Also railing against Entertainment Weekly for giving away a pretty big spoiler two weeks ago.

But a combo of my loss of a bit of focus while dealing with my kidney cancer, as well as a broken spacebar on what is now my old laptop, made it frustrating to try to type more than a few sentences at a time.

In any case, I loved this episode for a few reasons. One, you managed to bring the YOUTH CAMP storyline back into the narrative in a good way, including bringing Mira back to complicate things for Matt.

Also kind of fun that you introduced the YOUTH CAMP while you had Robert Sean Leonard in the cast, since he played in SWING KIDS which was about Hitler Youth, and even better, Noah Wyle played a antagonistic youth camp leader in that film. I suggested it to Matt as something to watch.

Also waiting for the Pope and Sara romcom that should come after the final season, playing a bickering couple, mayhe THE POPERS.

Also good to see Noah have some fun with the JFK/ Space Race parallels. You know I love when the show depends on history to advance the plot.

Finally, while it does create an uncomfortable triangle, it was great to see Connor be able to play Ben with some emotion and playfulness, instead of how serious he tends to have to be in the show.

Finally, it has been 4 years since I got to meet Noah Wyle in Philly when he was promoting the Season One premiere. It is about time to bring the rest of the cast to Philly for Wizard World or just some cheesesteaks. I know where the best are, I'll treat.

Nunya Bidnezz said...

After hanging on through every improbably ridiculous cliché and soap opera moment, I am officially done with this abortion of a show.

I was beyond thrilled with the first five episodes because I thought it was finally returning to what made the first season so great: action and Tom actually remembering that he has sons. Instead, we're right back to catering to the lowest common denominator: the fat, middle-aged housewives and teenage fanfic writers who need everyone to "hook up" on every show possible.

Ben/Maggie/Hal? I guess Hal just got two old for Mag the Hag, so she went after his 16-year-old brother. Creepy as fuck. Of course, Hal/Maggie was never believable, nor was Tom/Anne, so why not keep the tradition going?

Tom and Anne's supposed parental bond toward a murdering alien who is only related to either of them by a very thin margin is just beyond stupid. Tom knew his "daughter" for all of 2 or 3 days before Anne ran off and then came back with this weird 10-year-old. There is no connection and no reason not to just do the show a favor and put a round in Lexi's head.

While we're at it, we might as well just stop the action cold and stage an awkward, ugly, and totally unnecessary wedding. Why not? At least it keeps the housewives sighing happily.

Pope has successfully been neutered into a pouty little nancy boy.

Tom taking his 10-year-old son to the moon makes no sense at first, until you consider that at least it keeps Matt away from Maggie's graspy hands.

I came back after the pregnancy plot turd of S2. I came back for the second half of S3 once Anne and her mistake were gone. Then I came back for this season. At this point, I feel like Charlie Brown and that football. Unlike Charlie Brown, I won't be back again. The characters have all turned into repellent little cockroaches and I really hope the Espheni unleash a huge can of Raid.

Otto Carius said...

To Nunya Bidnezz,

Don't you think statements like this one:"Instead, we're right back to catering to the lowest common denominator: the fat, middle-aged housewives and teenage fanfic writers who need everyone to "hook up" on every show possible"; seem a bit misogynistic in nature? Also just plain stupid? After all look at the Romantic Comedy-- 75% of them are written and directed by males--so it would seem the lowest common denominator is not in fact over-weight middle aged housewives and teen fanfic writers, but basically the human need to develop relationships other people? Some call it a product of our predilections of being a social being. While I would agree that good relationships are great dramatic tales and poor ones are just fodder for SNL skitts-- I wouldn't say that a series should be total devoid of any relationships.

After all Combat creates strong relationships between people. It brings them together in a way that is not easily stated in a Soap Opera format. This to me is the problem with this series-- it wants to be a serious drama but the writers as if they are writing the next episode of a Day Time Soap. This of course has no place in a serious drama.

Frankly, I wish they had more realistic relationships for everyone on the cast.

Nunya Bidnezz said...

@Otto Cassarius I have no interest in being politically correct. I state my opinion and let others be offended or not as they will.

I am a woman, and frankly I think female fans are responsible for killing this show as well as several others that slide into soap opera nonsense. If you read the forums, blogs, and FB page you see that the majority are squealing for more and more hookups, babies, and high school junk. Unfortunately, I think writers take this as a license to be lazy: just throw two characters together whether it makes sense or not and the oinking masses will be satisfied. Having two characters bone does not character development make.

Your point is well said, though: there will be some amount of romance, BUT it needs to be done well or not at all. Every "couple" on this show is poorly-done and not at all believable, but let's take Tom and Anne for example: they meet a few months after the invasion, that is to say a few months after Tom's wife has been slaughtered by aliens while trying to feed her family. Tom has one soldier son, one who is just a child, and one who has been abducted, mutated, and is struggling to find his place. What does Tom do? He shacks up with Anne, is sleeping with her while Matt is who knows where. He seems to have forgotten his wife, although he still wears a wedding ring. The boys don't blink at having their mother replaces by some stranger. To make it even dumber, neither of these college-educated individuals can figure out how babies are made and she gets pregnant. All of this goes on while they should all be concentrating on fighting and staying alive. None of this is realistic at all.

Hal and Maggie giggling and simpering at each other DURING ALIEN ATTACKS. Pope and Mary Sue(honest to Christ I don't know that woman's name and don't care). Ben and Maggie because we haven't had enough teenage drama with Hal and Maggie. Matt and Nazi Camp Girl (again, don't know her name). I was just waiting for Lexi and Lourdes to hook up. Because--because why not?

I'm not one of the fans who want all action and no characters. That's the other end of the spectrum as the fanfic girls. But real relationships take time to develop. In this show, the writers have shown no reason any two people are together at all.

Part of the problem is that with only 10 episodes per season there is no time for all the ridiculous subplots and hookups. Writing needed to be tight and neat like it was in the first season, and it just never was after that. Someone told me they fired their staff after every season. Not sure if that's true, but it would explain all the aimless wandering.

I predicted the decline of the series from the moment Anne first simpered at Tom. Pregnancy--check. Alien baby--check. Downfall of humanity--check. I held on because the feedback was so strong and negative that I figured they would correct it and the series would get back on track. Besides, I loved the Masons, especially Tom's strong bong with his sons. That's all gone and it's pretty much just chaos and random scenes now.

Sorry about the novel I wrote. Hope some of it makes sense. It's just beyond disappointing when I get so invested in a series and it goes to shit.

Otto Carius said...

To Nuyna Bidnezz:

I think the only real problem you have is the execution of relationships in this series. Which I agree with most of the of the time do seem more like they are scripted for Adults who read tweenie-post-civilization-dystopian novels in their spare time instead of real novels.

My point wasn't just about Romance actually it was that combat creates strong relationships between all the people involved in it. Especially in a scenario like this one where the threat is right on your front door step. I think the best real world analog for this scenario is the "Great Patriotic War" as the Russians' call WWII-- where everyone is fighting or attempting to resist the will of an invading force. And the difference is that people form all sorts of relationships to make through the war--but in FS they just seem to have none of the nuances that a strong series would attempt to create. So I agree with you in the fact that relationships in FS almost always become romantic and really their doesn't seem to be a need for that totally.


I think the worst relationship in the series right now is the Pope-Sarah relationship. First off Pope is a prison-biker-gang who supposedly according to seasons 1-2 either knew or possibly encouraged his gang to rape Maggie. So thisn't a guy that is going to running around worried that his new gal-pal is high on Vicodin or Oxy hell Heroine either really if you ask me. In fact the only thing I can see Pope worrying about is if he can get her to play a naughty version of June Cleaver...



As for the Masons thing-- well at some point I would like to see one of the Masons' get it. I mean it is bordering on the absurd that Tom Mason can save his kids from all the dangers in this fictional universe at this point. I would have killed Matt before I killed off Lourdes.


I hate to break it to you but in the first season Hal spent the pilot giggling and simpering about with Jessy Schram's character. This sort of teenage love thing has been an integral part of the series since day one. The only difference in season one is that it seemed to have a slightly more focused overall feel than it did in seasons 2-4.

As for season length-- 10 episodes is a bit absurd given the 44 minute maximum length Television now operates with. Most of these episodes only 42 minutes long.

Nunya Bidnezz said...

@Otto Carius Yes, exactly, the execution of the "relationships" is piss-poor at best. Again, there is no time in a 10-episode season for a lot of fluff, but they crammed in as much of it as they could. Why? They seemed to shift from targeting a male audience (as an action-centric series should) to targeting a female audience, which is not compatible. Of course, I'm generalizing here; I'm a woman and I love action and wouldn't watch a romance if you put a gun to my head. Just kill me quickly and get it over with, y'know?

You're right about Hal and Karen in the first season, but I could buy that. Hal wasn't yet a seasoned soldier or a leader. He was just a 16-year-old thinking with his dick. But still not sure why they had Karen be Hal's girlfriend at all, I mean, he forgot about her pretty damn quick as soon as Mag the Hag showed up with her oh-I-am-sooooo-dark-and -complicated routine. I know we were supposed to care about Karen because she was hooked up with a Mason, but meh. I liked her far better as the Overlord's mouthpiece and overall evil bitch.

I'm with you 100% on seeing a Mason die. Just a few episodes ago I would have given you a jillion reasons why I don't want them to die, but now I really don't care. Who do you think it will be, assuming they don't pull a rabbit out of their asses and have them all walk into the sunset together?

And Pope...what happened to the 2nd Mass resident turd in the punchbowl that everyone loved? He went from "If anyone is going to bring Mason down it's gonna be me" to Tom's bestie in a few short months. He fell victim to the pair-'em-up-and-neuter-'em syndrome. Ah well, at least he went out last. RIP, Pope's balls.

The majority of fan reaction has been pretty much like mine, judging from the Facebook page comments. Do you see them finally taking into consideration what the majority want to see, or do you think this will just limp along until the final episode next year?

Aldenata said...

@Otto Carius:
"Maybe Spielberg doesn't want to change the world, just be thought of as the guy who wanted to. "
-Last Psychiatrist

(Nunya might like that article, and the one that came before it.)

I have no strong opinions on Spielburg as a person or a director. I'm a Millennial; Spielburg may not be the voice of God to me but he's definitely up there in apostle territory. So he plays a role in framing my worldview whether I like it or not.

Snow: I'll withhold judgement on the producers' actions in the event of snow, because I live in the South and y'all know good and well what we do on the thrice-a-year occasion of it snowing in the South. IT'S SNOWING!!! HEAD FOR COVER EVERYONE IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!

Character aesthetics: it's funny; half the fanbase says that our movie stars are too clean to look like survivors of the apocalypse, and the other half says that they're too dirty. "Things would never get that bad surely they could their hands on some combs and razors and soap."

Is it even possible for people who haven't actually lived through the collapse of civilization to look as though they did? A lot of it, I imagine, can't be convincingly faked. Just how starved, shellshocked, semi-feral, lice-invested, and incessantly-diarrheal could we make someone like Sarah Carter before she either quits or it starts to seriously affect her health. Sure, that actress in V For Vendatta was willing to shave her head and starve herself as part of her role, but she didn't have to keep it up for multiple seasons. She was also probably payed more.

How would you do it, Otto? Send your talent scouts to the most impoverished parts of Detroit and Kentucky, or to actual famine-stricken countries? Do filming in said countries, where regulations are more lax, unions less of a problem and no one will hold it against you if some of the actors die?

(...this is why I could never go into film. "Live rounds are cheaper than blanks, so let's use live rounds! *BANG* Um, oh... does Noah Wyle by any chance have a twin?")

Honestly, I don't pay much attention to Sarah Carter's character, because she gives me the creeps. Maggie is supposed to be, what, ten years younger than her?

Casting for the teenagers has been weird in general. Tom Mason looks like a 40 year old man with a 30 year old son and a 35 year-old might-as-well-be-daughter-in-law. To be fair, this is better than what they did in Jericho: using real teenagers and them let them have significant air time and speaking roles.

Advice to producers: stop doing that.

Skitters and superpowers: good question, though I seem to recall one of them picking up and throwing a motorcycle in one of the comics.

Depending on internal physiology, it could be all the Espheni can do to keep their mutant army from air-drowning or being crushed under their own weight. Terrestrial arthropods shouldn't get that big; the closest equivalent we have in our own fossil records is this fellow. I can find no word on how heavy he may have been, but apparently never had the bone structure or muscle strength to carry itself out of water. Perhaps pre-harness skitters couldn't either.

Aldenata said...

Love Triangles: When I saw that Carol Barbee was going to be on the writing team, I was hoping she'd bring some of the GOOD ideas from Jericho with her. One of the most unpleasant parts of that series was the "good" Greene Brother abandoning his pregnant wife to go boink the local barmaid.

(Pregnant wife is a doctor and this happens immediately AFTER the nukes fall. Y'know, moral considerations aside, some would question the wisdom of pissing off the woman who will hold your life in her hands should you ever get sick.)

Yes, adultery does happen in the real world and the family-values types seem to do their fair share of it, but even an adulterer, if we're supposed to maintain any sympathy for him, should have probably spent a little more than a couple of episodes upset over her dying in childbirth.

For that matter, do these TV-style love triangles happen in the real world—outside the Springerverse? Folks having the hots for folks that are already "taken"? Yeah, even I know that that happens, but is it just a personal/family/regional bias on my part to think that cheating with what might as well be your sister-in-law is socially unwise and borderline incest?

Advice to producers: stop doing that.

Chemical plant: my brother says the Volm learned to make caches from reading Earth's military history. Is that true? Is that really the kind of thing you have to study history to have as an idea? I know that both the Volm and Espheni are ancient empires, and those tend to lose their ability to innovate after a while, but that sounds very odd.

As for the Jugends, maybe there's another narc in the 2nd Mass... or maybe Matt was bugged somehow.

Functional beamer in the rubble: that does sound unlikely. Especially seeing as how we had previously seen them being shot out of the sky with vehicle-mounted machineguns. An unlucky flight of geese can knock most airplanes out of the sky; even comparatively hardy craft like A-10 Thunderbolts have to have their frames X-rayed before they can be cleared to fly again. You might could recover a shot-down enemy aircraft and make it fly again (the Luftwaffe did it to a couple of downed B-17s), but it's going to be quite the feat of engineering.

Wedding: Luke and Laura? What's this now, did Ben and Hal get married?

(Never letting that go.)

Gas: I myself have wondered if it would be tactically effective to gas the skitters. They're stated as being resistant to radiation, so I'm leaning towards "no".

Aldenata said...

BSG: What can I say? Last work of fiction to do this right may well have been Anna Karena, and you do remember what happened to her in the end...

@Adrian Hickman
Glad to see you back, and happy to hear you're doing better.

I doubt I'll agree with a single thing you said once I watch the episode, but it is nice to having someone countering all the negative waves from Otto and Nunya. Always with the negative waves...

I do agree with your idea about "THE POPERS" (Papists? No, that was Lourdes.) That sounds hillarious!

Space race: Tom Mason should try to visit the Apollo sight... just so we can have "the question" answered once and for all.

@Nunya
You're abandoning ship? That's a bad sign; last I heard from my niece she was likewise starting to lose interest.

The pregnancy in and of itself never really bothered me. Family planning is all well and good but at the end of the day we're going to need that next generation of cannon fodder ASAP; people with functional wombs in a world like this one would likely be encouraged to use them.

(I've heard it said that the Germany seriously considered legalizing polygamy in the aftermath of World War II. Paraguay DID legalize it after the War of the Triple Alliance. Massive population loss tends to do weird things to the social mores... which might invalidate my previous criticisms of the Ben/Maggie hookup, though I doubt it.)

I'll agree that the Anne/Lexi scenes from season 3 were borderline unwatchable, even though that season had lots of good things to balance it, like Tom Mason having a dream where he shoots two people in the face repeatedly (Repeatedly? Thanks to the back button on my remote, yes.) Still witholding judgement on Season 4.

@Nunya and Otto:
He who makes "brown sugar" jokes is worried about political correctness? Really?

I think it was HL Meniken who said that misogynists are men who hate women as much as women hate themselves. Anyway, I don't know if television is being ruined by things women want to see per se, or just by things that (male) TV producers think that women want to see. Then they cheap out on the finished product because, hey, the audience is full of women! Why bother with quality work if the only people to watch it are going to be a bunch of women?

Longmire looked like a promising series at first, even if it was clearly aimed at older women with unhappy marriages and overreliance on their xanax perscriptions, but I had to walk away from it after one too many Lifetime Movie Channel plots.

(An alleged women's channel, that shows NOTHING but women thrust into hellishly-bad situations? Really?)

"I'm not one of the fans who want all action and no characters. That's the other end of the spectrum as the fanfic girls."

What would a show like that even look like? Has it ever been done before? I guess Combat! comes close to having great action scenes but mostly-forgettable characters. Probably a lot of other war dramas from before my time that were like that, but if such a trend ever existed it was certianly gone by the time Clinton took office... which, to reinforce your points did coincide with the rise of the Soccer Mom.

Maybe if more techno-thriller novels got made into TV series instead of movies.... but that's basically what The Last Ship is and I continue to hear that it sucks.

Aldenata said...

"Wedding: Luke and Laura? What's this now, did Ben and Hal get married?"

*snort*

Sorry, Ben and Maggie.

Seriously y'all, don't run around with your brother's girl! Just causes confusion for everyone.

Otto Carius said...

To Nunya Bidnezz:

So, basically, we are of like mind when it comes to the relationships in this series: they are really poorly executed. Which is pretty much a given if you ask me given the type of story they want to tell and the demographics they are going for. I think this series is trying to capture the 18-49 demographic male/female with a lightweight story and flash over substance approach. Which in a nutshell is basically everything by Spielberg if you ask me.

Personally, I have nothing against the Maggie character except that she is almost too cliched in some respects about her past: Drug Addict, Cancer Survivor, and Convict. But with a heart of gold. I never really bought the fact that she would fall for a person like Hal. I could see Maggie being totally into the self-destructive, abusive, misogynistic, and narcissistic John Pope. That would be the guy I could see Maggie with given her past and how she sees herself.

Personally, I would have kept Karen around longer as a human. I think that turning her into the Overlord Mouth Piece was a total after thought by the writers because they didn't want to get rid of the character completely. They also didn't want to turn her into a drone-skitter thing either. Too me the entire thing scream "I Am Locutus of Borg" and felt as if the writers felt they needed to do an homage to Star Trek: The Next Generation's most popular episode "The Best of Both Worlds Parts I and II". That was my impression of the reasons behind keeping a Jessie Schram around.

Personally, I think I would have killed off Connor Jessup in the first season. Partly due to the fact that Tom Mason needs a little more loss in his family to make his character realistic. And also because frankly Connor Jessup as an actor just feels like a I'm watching a cardboard cut out with a pull string delivering per-recorded lines. There are times when I sure that he just has zoned out during a scene and just couldn't even be bothered to actually think about the emotions needed to make the role work. However, the biggest problem with a character like Ben is that writers always want to give that character some type of super-power or whatever thing and it never works out.

I've never liked the character Pope. Which means that actually Colin Cummingham is doing a good job with the character. So I don't fault the character's actor for my dislike of Pope since that was the intention of the character at first. He was supposed to be a necessary evil that the 2nd Mass had to accept to fight the enemy. The only problem I found with Pope was that he was sort of unbelievable as the Jailbird-Polymath. If I had written Pope-- I would have made him not a former Marine suffering from PTSD from the first Gulf-War, that turned to a biker gang because in some ways it fit his broken psyche. That is just me that I would make him a guy that once was full of words like duty, loyalty, honor and so on and so forth-- but after seeing war-- he found that it was just a slaughter. He's been fighting the duality of his own personality and trying to find a place where he can be both loyal and reckless at the same time without the restrictions of modern society i.e. the reason he's a Biker Gang leader. And it makes since after WWII make Biker Gangs formed out of Veterans. So, I would give him this weird code of honor that lives by now. I would make him highly confrontational to Tom for various reasons.

That's just me. I think the problem with Pope now is that they just don't know what to do with him. He went from being the Polymath to being the head of a Commando Unit to what now? A guy with a Drug Addled Girlfriend? It seems like the plan is failing when it comes to Pope.

As for fan reactions... I never really tend to follow them that closely for two reasons: 1) I'm lazy and 2) I don't what most other fans think.

Otto Carius said...

To Aldenata:

Kentucky-- I've lived in Kentucky in Louisville to be exact. Did my undergrad work at the U of L-- while in the Marine Reserves.

Eastern Kentucky-- out by the Coal Mines of places like Harlan County would be a great place to go to film this series. It would give a great feel to this series. And it would a hell of a lot more like the area of the country they are supposedly in.

However, my problem with Greg Beeman is that he makes all of these excuses about the climate or environmental conditions instead of incorporating them into the story itself. John Cassavetes (the father of American Independent Cinema) said once "the way I dress my set will tell my actors more about the characters they are to play , than anything I can say to them"--I think it is very true! The environment you create for the actors will help them realize the characters in the most realistic fashion. Sometimes that means the actors and actresses need to feel a little a deprivation from the Hollywood scheme of things. It wouldn't hurt the cast of this show to maybe reduce the make up and abstain from a couple of days of perfectly styled hair. Maybe let their beards grow out and so on. I think all you need to do is go to news footage of fighting in Syria and you will see what people look like in a war zone.

And the Luke and Laura I'm speaking of is from General Hospital. Luke basically rapes Laura and then by the end of the relationship he and she are getting married. What I was saying is that Tom and Anne have some serious issues and all of sudden they are getting married? It seems all too sudden.

As for Brown Sugar-- what you have a problem with the Rollin' Stones? Actually, I called Dezi that not because I don't like the character but because she was put into the series last year to be Ben's love interest. She was supposed to be the girl that got Ben's near-metamorphose into an Alien thing completely because she shared the experience. Now, what is the point of her character? Is she the new Dualla to Ben's Apollo?

I have no problem with Sarah Carter's age. My problem with Sarah Carter's character Maggie is that she would not be attracted to the High-School Jock. Everything about her character in the Pilot episode and season 2-3 says she should be with an abusive and self-destructive relationship with a guy like John Pope.

Also I want to know why she isn't pregnant or Karen for that matter either wasn't? Would have the Lexi baby been cooler if she had been Karen's and Hal's love-child of doom? But hey I guess they found a lot of condoms and over the counter RU-486 tablets while looking for food.

As for the Southerns and Snow... You people freak out too easily. The Snow is your friend. When I first got down to Kentucky in my Reserve Unit-- I was in School and we got like 2 inches of snow and it was closed down... Me not thinking being form Up-State New York-- went to class only to find the place deserted... It was eye opener for me.

Aldenata said...

@Otto Carius:
In all fairness, there's only so much you can do to be prepared for snowstorms in a region where they happen less often than tornadoes.

Interesting ideas on Pope. Reminds me of Tim McVeigh to an extent, who's disillusionment seems to have started after, among other things, seeing the retreating Iraqi Army bombed into oblivion on the Highway of Death.

Harlan: "In the deep, dark hills of Eastern Kentucky/that's the place where I trace my bloodline."

Well not really, but some parts of North Georgia are about as bad. I noted last season that there is a town called Keystone in nearby McDowell County, West Virginia. If I was going to set up a national redoubt, it would be in that region.

The crew of Justified, to their credit, seem like they tried to make California look as much like Kentucky as they could, and said that they did want to eventually film there (seeing as how local police and county/city government are portrayed in that show, this might not be the best idea).

Luke and Laura: I was thinking Luke and Laura (Leia!) from Star Wars. Y'know, George Lucas waiting till halfway through the trilogy before letting them know just how close they came to incest. Guys, you don't have to copy EVERYTHING that happened in the Empire Strikes Back.

Brown Sugar: Never heard the Rolling Stones song. To me, RS is just another bunch of foreigners that was popular amongst city-slickers during the Marshall Tucker Band Era. I thought it was a reference to Tom and his two younger sons' predilection for miscegenation (you would not have been the first to notice that).

You're right about the snow being handled badly. It was odd seeing little bits and patches of it in one scene and then switch Kent after he was shot, lying on the ground and half-expecting him to start making pretty red snow angels with his dying spasms.

Aldenata said...

@Till Death do us Part:
-JFK speech was funny. Would have been even funnier if someone in the crowd had been a moon-landing skeptic.

"Well when we get up there we'll bring back a piece of the lander for you."

-Has a Beamer never fallen into human hands before? Seems odd that one could survive being shot down and buried and none of them ever crashed under more... accessible circumstances.

-Volm had to study human history to come up with the idea of supply caches? That doesn't seem to me like the kind of idea you need to steel from others.

-Anne holds it against Tom for what happened to Lexi? I don't see how; was it not Anne who thought it would be a good idea to get captured by Karen in the last season? Lexi becoming the Queen of Hell—and practically every other bad thing that's happened this season—would have never happened if she had been kept in Charleston where she belonged.

-Did Pope, or his scriptwriter, wake up on the wrong side of the bed for this episode? Guy seems to be snapping at anyone who comes into reach.

Then again, a lot of "higher-functioning" drug dealers have a burning hatred for their clients. So if he finds out that his girlfriend is one, maybe that's why he lost it.

-Leaving Matt to guard his girlfriend was a bad idea.

-Spikes being lifeforms in their own right (with their own emotional states to boot) is a really bad idea. Take the host, harness, and all the spikes on a harness and that's... how many different personalities trying to backseat-drive one human being? Every deharnessed kid on the planet would end up killing themselves.

-Shooting flammable fluid is not a good way to make it burn.

-How does someone empty half his magazine at a screaming, limping woman standing 20 feet away from him and not hit her a single time? Pulp fiction ain't got nothing on y'all.

-"How do you like me now?"

Uggh...

Maggie does gun kata now? Shoots at bottles before moving on to some that sweet, long-awaited love triangle? Really? Did you let a 12-year old write that scene!?

-Wedding was handled surprisingly well. But... when did Weaver join the clergy?

valdezign said...

Hey Greg! Created this photoshop of Ben and Maggie as a "Psych" parody called "Spych." Hope you like it! Image

Aldenata said...

@Valdezign:
That's... actually kind of cute. Seems like a better fit for Anthony though; he wouldn't be the first good crook-hunter who made a terrible spy-hunter.

Drarry said...

@Otto Carius

For me, Ben is one of the best characters in the show and Connor Jessup plays great. When he' s connected with Espheni his face is like ,, zero emotions" I think that it has to be. I admit that Connor plays specifically and previously I also thought that he's a terrible actor but then I came to the conclusion that Ben isn't spontaneous. He isn't like the other characters.
Ben is not like Hal. Ben does not show emotions like Tom and Hal. I've never seen Ben in a situation like Hal has.We haven't seen many scenes where Ben is angry, upset, stressed or joyful. Or when hitting on a girl, worried or something.For the six months he was something like a puppet that someone controls. After such experiences, I doubt that Ben could be a simple, open to the world, and emotional boy. I'm not surprised that Ben is usually neutral, calm and balanced.
I think it's made special, and Connor is doing great. I can not imagine that Ben was playing someone else. For example, Hal. He's got too much life and emotion.
I think that Connor's game is purpose.
Besides If the creators of the show thought that Connor plays like a cardboard face,Ben's character have been killed, or actor would be changed. No one would keep Connor for 5 seasons because he is handsome.
His game apparently satisfied them, and I think that saying that Connor doesn't know how to play is wrong or unfair.
In fact, I don't see anyone else in Ben's role, who have checked better than Connor.
In S1 he played an innocent boy who had nothing to do with the fight, and so on.
In S2 and S3 Ben islike kicking ass super soldier. The change is huge . someone who shows a lot of emotion on his face does not fit for Ben's character.
But, I must admit that in S4, there were a few scenes where he should show more. For example, during a conversation with Lexi He Should be more surprised when the air around them spinning
On the other hand, in episode 5 when Anne beat The Monk, he was great.
In fact, during the first few episodes of season 4 I had the impression that everyone is playing something strange.. worse, especially Anne and Weaver.
Everyone likes something different. For somepeople, Connor plays fantastically, and other people believe that he don't know how to play. I think it's a matter of taste or understanding ben's nature, and other characters.
I will say that Hal game woodenly, his whole character is shallow and common. Many people would not agree with me, and I will not be surprised.
I'm not a fan of Hall but I don't tell that Drew can not play because he fits to the role of Hal (Although I prefer to see the death of Hal than Ben)
I can not even imagine Drew Roy in the role of Ben. Or Connor as Hal.
Connor has an innocent look, and he is restrained.
Drew has a lot of life, and he shows a lot of emotion. So I cann't agree with the opinion that Connor is a bad actor, because for the role someone like Ben he fits perfectly.
I say, each role is different.
I think you look wrong at the Ben's character , or you don't understand what's going on with his character. because of that Connor's playing teasing you

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