This week's episode marks the point of acceleration toward what must be an epic, season concluding cliffhanger. The show runners don't simply speed up slightly, they pin the pedal to the firewall and bury the needle in an action packed bid for your eyeballs. There's a plethora of gun violence and explosions for the adrenaline junky, new advanced technology for the Sci-Fi buff, and finally some blissful answers to a number of mysteries that have been haunting fans all season. For all that it boats there are still a few nagging problems. Some of the gun battles are confusingly shot or edited, there's a technological inconsistency that's glaring, and one character seems wholly inept at an easy task. This was a borderline great episode over all, which is only marginally slowed by some minor concerns. If you've already watched it (or don't care), please revel with me in the full analysis below the spoiler line.
Full spoilers in the section below:
Thematically and structurally, I know that it would be bad for the show if Rachel succeeds in killing Monroe with her hand grenade. I know this and yet it is ridiculously unsatisfying that she fails, given her close proximity to him. The total lack of fulfillment extends not from his survival, but rather in the complete lack of effort on her part. Rachel is a ruthless and brilliant woman that we're supposed to believe wouldn't roll, lob, or throw the grenade in Monroe's general direction? Later conversation between the two is supposed to cast doubt on Rachel's conviction, but even that makes a strong case for her getting the grenade father from herself and closer to Monroe. I am nitpicking, I admit it. This is a very strong episode and thus the nagging problems lie under a powerful glowing spotlight.
We discover via flashback that Grace was already concerned about just such a situation as the blackout and crafted the pendants as a fail safe or backup plan. It's good to know that the scientific team as a whole was absolutely frightened of the military usage of their technology. We also learn more about the societal break down in the near aftermath of the blackout, with starving people unable to adapt to life absent the conveniences to which they'd grown accustomed.
Randall excitedly explains how the control center on level one of the Tower would allow covert surveillance of anyone on the planet, and that some tech on level twelve will allow for remote execution of anyone. Working satellites make sense as the nanites have no way to leave the atmosphere to drain them. On the screens a glimpse can be had of two major European cities; London appeared relatively ok (jiving with Miles' comment from a few episodes ago about Georgia having trade contact with England), while Paris appeared completely overgrown straight out of a Life After People episode.
Most people would be at their worst while bound and captured at the hands of Monroe's men; not Tom Neville. The man thrives as a manipulator extraordinaire. It's almost spellbinding to watch him work the fears and concerns of his captors. His ability to inspire mutiny while tired to a post is impressive, to say the least, and it opens up some compelling possibilities for the second season. Does Monroe survive the season cliffhanger? Neville could easily step in as the brutal dictator in charge of the Monroe Republic, so Bass doesn't necessarily need to survive. I would miss David Lyons a great deal, but Bass is starting to run his course. He can't be much more crazy and he had a minor cathartic moment in finally admitting all of the blood on his hands to Rachael. So Neville could become the new head of the Monroe Republic, with less of a penchant for murdering his most successful officers in paranoid fits. What does that leave Jason with though? He colludes with his father to effect their escape but that could just be an act for their mural survival. Are we in for an epic father versus son struggle?
So the Tower inhabitants aren't zombies, or children of the corn, or even mind controlled automatons. Instead they're simply the remaining workers from before the blackout and their children. It's certainly a lucky thing that this place was also a VIP bunker (so noted by Rachel), as the amount of food on hand for them to sustain on is probably great. They've locked off level twelve and dwell on level eleven, never leaving to see the surface. Their entire existence is predicated on stopping whatever is on twelve from being accessed. To that end they are armed with with high tech, powerful weapons.
Exactly what kind of powerful weapons would you expect for underground bunker combat? Grenade Launchers! I can't have been the only one confused upon seeing them. They would do as much damage to the structure as to the intruders (and probably injure the wielders too). Though they resemble Milkor MGL grenade launches, these weapons are actually "coil guns" according to Aaron. Similar to the overpowered rail guns of Eraser, though lacking the absurd penetration capability, these firearms eschew gunpowder for some technobabble per Aaron's description. If this is true, why does each shot come with an accompanying cloud of combustible explosion? (easy answer: CGI is expensive!) If it's not true, why write that line of expositive dialogue for Aaron in the first place?
While we're discussing Aaron, his emotional plea to the Tower survivors was heart wrenching. Turning the power back on returns him to an authoritative societal position certainly, but that clearly matters far less to him then his ability in an electricity driven world to provide for and defend his wife. For a minute there, I truly thought he had won them over, convincing them to do the right thing. As always though, there was more knowledge which Rachel was not sharing. There's a slim chance that flipping "the switch" to restore power could have the adverse effect of "setting the world on fire" (there's no justice in this world if the similarly named Ink Spots tune isn't used in the finale).
So much happened in this week's episode that it's difficult to touch on every single bit. Despite the small complaints, this is a very enjoyable installment in the series. The stage is now set for what I imagine will be a absurdly unfair tease for next season. What do you think it will be?
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.