One Pill Makes You Larger…Strange Brew Review

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I’ll probably have my own thoughts on last night’s twisty episode coming up this week. But for now we have our new resident reviewer extraordinaire Contributing Author Beth here to talk about her take on STRANGE BREW! I will say that while it was a good episode, I wasn’t as in love with it as Beth was. Though we got two great Ben moments which I enjoyed the novelty of the dream life wore off kind of quickly for me.

Onto Beth’s take!

“Strange Brew” was written by Robert Rodat and John Wirth and directed by David Solomon. I do not know any of these men, but I have a very clear picture in my mind of what they must look like: 8 feet tall with chiseled features, rippling muscles, and incredibly broad shoulders. These men ride to work on giant white steeds, armor gleaming in the sunlight, swords unsheathed, galloping in to do battle for us fans.

Yes, the episode was THAT good.

I loved “Strange Brew” so much that I wanted to run right to my computer the minute it was over and write this, but I decided to give it some time to percolate instead. Not a great idea, because I was up for hours thinking about it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this was the best episode of Falling Skies in all three seasons. This—THIS, people– is the Falling Skies that got me addicted: the perfect mixture of action, suspense, special effects, emotion, and slick writing that pulled me in and stayed with me after the last scene.

I’ve been hoping for a flashback to pre-invasion Mason life since the first episode, and this was just as good. The relationship between Tom and Rebecca was so natural and beautiful, obviously based on trust and comfort. Notice how Rebecca wasn’t jealous or worried in the least about this Anne woman (whoever she is)? That’s a longtime, stable relationship and my heart breaks for Tom’s loss even more now. That, friends, is real love. Contrast that with the cheap, shallow, convenience-based soap opera between Tom and Anne and there’s no comparison. After seeing what Tom and Rebecca had together there is no way I’ll ever buy Tom and Anne as a legitimate couple. It also makes me wonder whether Tom ever will, either, but more on that later.

The really fascinating and clever part of “Strange Brew” is how Tom’s mind used familiar people in his life. To some extent Karen was manipulating things, but Tom’s mind was far stronger than she anticipated and I think we got a hugely valuable glimpse into Tom’s real, deep-down feelings for some of the other characters. It’s not surprising that Weaver was the monkey wrench in Karen’s scheme–he and Tom have long been each other’s voices of reason and sounding boards—but the unexpected use of Pope as Tom’s anchor was fresh and insightful. Professor Pope did what Pope does best: poke at Tom’s sore points until he faces reality. It tells us that even though Tom and Pope are polar opposites who would rather kick each other in the jimmy than not, Tom still recognizes Pope’s intelligence and fundamental loyalty.

I also think that deep down Ben is the son that Tom identifies most with and Hal least. Of course, if asked, any parent of multiple children will deny that they have a favorite, but it’s natural to gravitate toward the child most like you. Ben was the academic, the geek, the sensitive one like Tom. Hal was the jock, the popular kid, and the one who clearly bullied Ben a little. As a kid bullied by his father himself, Tom would naturally protect Ben most. We saw a bit of that in the second season where Hal berated Tom for always following after Ben, bailing him out and cleaning up after him. Tom maybe saw himself in Ben and instinctively protected him more. Ben was the one who, in Tom’s mind, took the initiative to come to his father’s office to find out what was wrong.

Because I can’t let an article pass without sneering at Anne, let’s do that now. If we saw Tom’s trust of Pope, Weaver, Ben, and Rebecca, I believe we also saw his buried discomfort with Anne. His subconscious not only failed to recognize her (when it did recognize all of the other 2nd Mass people he met after the invasion) but supplied another man (hi, Dai!!!) as her husband. Throughout the episode Tom’s mind cast Anne as a threatening figure, unseen and stalking Tom with calls, notes, and the champagne while Rebecca was his sanity and support. Going from Rebecca to Anne is something like going from a juicy filet mignon to a soy burger: one is genuine while the other is just a poor, ersatz substitute. I’d like to see Tom come to that realization and the fallout from that, but I doubt if we will this season, if at all. One note about Moon Bloodgood: Great balls of fire, but she was great as EvilAnne! I may loathe the character, but the actress herself has chops.

This brings me to “dead” Dr. Chewtoy and the spawn. I don’t have any hope that they’re really dead; I mean, why would Karen keep the corpses? Hmm…maybe she has a collection. Maybe she also has Walt Disney and Lenin stashed away somewhere and brings them out for Overlord dinner parties or something. More likely, they’re in some kind of suspended animation and will be back to annoy us next season. If you did kill them, Karen, I love you. I take back everything I’ve ever said about you, your perfectly dyed hair during the apocalypse, and the fact that you haven’t changed your clothes in almost three years. But that’s too much to hope for; I think they’re being saved for Karen to use as a bargaining chip later to make Tom choose between them and the rest of the 2nd Mass. Still, dead bad characters was a very cool image that made me tent my porky little fingers and mutter, “Excellent” like Monty Burns.

Meanwhile in Charleston, stuff blowed up reeeal good. I’m loving the fact that Weaver and Pope are joined in their distrust for Marina to the point where they’re cutting her out of anything important and going rogue. The Weaver of the first season would never have done that. Tom has had an influence on him big time. I still question whether Lourdes is the only mole and what exactly Marina is up to. On one hand, she seems too obvious to be a plant. On the other, hiding in plain sight is a good tactic. I’m waiting for her to rip off her jacket to reveal a “Team Overlord” tee shirt.

The final scene with Tom wandering through their house was an emotional atom bomb. When he lay down on the bed and cried he seemed to be giving up and waiting to die when his mind once again went back to the one person who could get him moving again. Rebecca and Tom finally had the chance to say their goodbyes and it was beautiful, tasteful, and well-acted. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried with Tom.

Wow. What a crowning jewel of an episode. Bitchy Beth the Infernal Snarkmeister can’t find a single thing to pick apart. I’m honestly still blown away by the smart writing and emotional impact. Here’s hoping this episode gets a ton of positive reviews on a ton of sites so that the powers that be will give us more THIS.

 BethTX is  a Contributing Author here on the Falling Skies Blog, just as sarcastic as me (not an easy accomplishment), and likes nerd Ben ALMOST as much I did.

 

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~ by The Falling Skies Blog on July 22, 2013.

3 Responses to “One Pill Makes You Larger…Strange Brew Review”

  1. Greg, I’m interested to hear your take on this. I’m reading fan reviews across the web and it seems the episode fell flat for a lot of people.

    • That’s interesting because the general feeling I got from Twitter was that most people enjoyed it a lot more than I did.

      • The Wall Street Journal site is the most brutal. Just about everyone on there is ripping it to shreds. I’m usually the turd in the punchbowl, but I ranked this the number one episode ever. My second favorite is all of season one :-)

        Part of the problem is the 10-episode season. I’m confused as to why the network doesn’t pony up more money for a 16 episode season like Walking Dead gets.

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