Hal Mason: A Different Approach

In the riveting continuation of Guest-Writer-A-Con, Lourdes apologist extraordinaire Justin Mathai returns and sets his sights on Hal Mason. Now, as you know, we here at the blog are firmly in favor of less Hal. But Justin endeavors to change all that! Spoiler Alert: It didn’t work on me, but it might just work on you!

Hal Mason: Grown Up Too Fast or Still Just a Kid? 

Okay, so anyone who knows me or has had the misfortune of interacting with me for more than a few minutes generally knows I’m an optimistic person who enjoys seeing the bright side of things. They’ll also note I’m generally quite lenient. Most articles on this blog contain a sarcastic, at times cynical sense of humor that I quite enjoy, but at the same time find necessary to rebut (there’s a fight-starter). Last time I was featured here, I was defending Lourdes from the ruthless attacks of the internet as a whole. Today, I’ve decided to defend another character that seems to draw much ire: Hal. I can almost hear the groans as everyone goes ‘No! Not him again!” Well at the risk of losing all of your respect and any credibility I have left, I am going for it!

 Before I begin, let’s get a bit of perspective. Hal’s character is a seventeen-year-old male going to high school, living in the suburbs, and from a family of three boys, him being the oldest. Me? I’m nearly seventeen (give me three months and I will be), male, going to high school, I live in the suburbs, and I’m the oldest of—you guessed it—three boys. Sound like an awful coincidence? Well now you know why I can relate to the character. Everything I just told you is true. Now my personal take on Hal is that, yes, he has grown up much quicker than most seventeen year olds, but at the same time one must remember that this is an alien war. It’s kind of hard not to grow up quick when there are alien asses to kick and every second could be your last.

The way I like to think of it (and I know many of you will cry foul at this) is that he has become battle-hardened thanks to everything going on around him. This has sort of forced him to start thinking and acting more like a man and less like a boy. Let’s take a look at our present world and draw some examples. In a lot of third-world countries, boys Hal’s age and indeed younger are forced to work to support their families. Granted, it’s not as extreme as fighting aliens but these boys develop a mindset more akin to that of a patriarch: ‘I’m working to help my family.’ Substitute ‘working’ for ‘fighting’ and ‘help’ for ‘save’ and we have a basic overview of how Hal’s mind likely works. When thrust into a situation where we have to step up, we tend to also grow up.

At the same time, we do get glimpses of him that remind us how young he truly is. Hal’s impulsiveness, for example, serves as a stark reminder that while he may be mature, he’s still a teenager and he’s still susceptible to doing reckless things without considering the consequences. He was so overjoyed at finding Karen that he neglected to consider what the harnessing may have done to her, or the fact that she may have been an elaborate trap. In season 1, he threw on a dead harness, pretended to be brainwashed, and then entered an alien nest to retrieve his little brother without even second-guessing himself. Think back to your teenage years (or think back to the past few months if you are still a teenager) and try to recall any time when you actually thought things through from beginning to end. For most of us, the answer is: there weren’t any. So criticize him all you want for not being ‘teenager’ enough but leaping before looking is the first indicator that he’s still a kid under all the dirt and flirtatious comments.

Speaking of flirtatious comments… It’s no secret that most folks on this blog have an intense, burning hatred for Hal and Maggie’s developing relationship onscreen. Justifications range from ‘she’s too old for him’ to ‘what the hell, man? This is no time to be discussing skitter-reproduction, it’s a war!’ I just re-watched Love and Other Acts of Courage thanks to the magic of cable so I have a bit to say about this. First off, gentleman, which one of you wouldn’t have pursued an older woman if she showed interest in you during high school? The fact is, most of us would, and then witnessed a meteoric rise in coolness factor for it. Why are we hissing and booing when we should be giving the kid props?

Joking aside, Maggie is (according to my generally reliable online research) twenty-one years old. That’s a four year age gap which, if we consider it, really isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. So there’s your ‘too old for him’ theory. The bigger question people seem to have here is this one: is there time for love in this invasion? I could write an entire article on that alone but I won’t. Here’s the gist: if there’s no time for love then what is there to live for, exactly? (Go ahead, call me a hippie.) I know we tend to be bitter and cynical about these things, especially when played up for fanservice on a television show, but let’s be honest here: everyone needs a reason to fight. Hal’s got family, sure, but the way I see it, Maggie is that added motivation. If you notice, each time they’re thrown into a close-call situation, they seem to get a bit closer. It’s only natural. If the human element of this show garners so much acclaim, why doesn’t the human element of love?

My last little argument as to why I’m pro-Hal is a bit off-base. I’m sure many of you know and love Kid Carnival’s blog as much as I do. So, Kid, please forgive me if I pick at your article a bit. (The article is entitled “Hal Mason: What’s My Age Again” and I do recommend reading it, he raises some excellent points). Kid mentions in his third paragraph that one scene where Hal’s got Maggie awkwardly pressed up against him as they cower from mechs in a little teal hatchback. At the risk of incurring the wrath of all of you, I’m going to pick apart this scene a bit more.

Let’s start with Hal’s recollection of his first car, which he describes as “a Civic with 212,000 miles on it.” I think that’s pretty ‘teen’ of him. What guy wouldn’t brag about his first car, even if it is a Civic with 212,000 miles? (For those unsure of why that came up in the first place, the car they were hiding in was teal Honda Civic hatchback). The whole scene may have seemed a bit unnecessary but I chalk it up to nervous banter. In any event, Hal proceeds to discuss his ‘adventures’ in the back seat of said Civic with 212,000 miles. We are forced to assume this meant some rather steamy moments behind those tinted windows. (If the car’s a rockin’, don’t come knockin’!) Again, that’s pretty ‘teen’ of him. I find it difficult to believe that most adults would do something like that at all and then discuss (brag?) about it later.

The thing Kid brings up in his article is the fact that Hal’s ‘adventures’ were with a girl named Rita who was a jazz dancer. Okay, yeah, that’s a bit odd but hear me out, I’ve given this a lot of thought. First of all, we need to paint an idealistic picture of Rita (or Rrrita, as Maggie would say). The name suggests a Latina as Rita has gone out of fashion for most other cultures. So let’s picture a Latina (insert your own stock image of ‘Latina’ here because there are too many highly attractive ones to pick from). Contemporary jazz dance, at least from the video examples I’ve watched on YouTube, is a showy style of dance that can include a lot of rolling on the ground, swinging hips, and other generally seductive maneuvers. Add to that the ‘jazz pants’ which are really tight-fitting pants, and I think it’s clear why Hal would at least consider going after her.

With that tangent said, I’m coming full circle now. Hal is a character with a lot of different facets. Season 1 showed him more impulsive and reckless, more ‘teen’ like, and as time goes on his seems to think and act more like a young man than a teenager. It’s realistic because he had to grow up fast. If he didn’t, he’d be dead and there’d be no story to tell (and a lot of you would probably be quite happy). At the same time, it’s not like the writers completely neglected to write in moments where he reverts to the knee-jerk, seventeen year old response. Maybe it’s a bit of dialogue between him and Maggie or him and his family (calling Ben a ‘tool’ comes to mind). Perhaps it’s rushing recklessly into a situation, such as rescuing Karen and trusting her blindly. Whatever it is, Hal is a well-written character, robbed of his youth and thrust into a less than ideal circumstance but making it work. I may not be in a similar circumstance but I can understand his behavior in most situations. So, all ye readers and show-watchers who are clamoring for the writers to either kill Hal off or stick him on a bus (not a med bus), just consider that maybe he isn’t as misguided as you originally thought and maybe, just maybe, there’s still a semblance of youth in him.

More of Justin’s stuff can be found at: http://justinmathai.wordpress.com/ and he can be followed on twitter at @JustoMathai

Keep the Resistance Strong!


~ by The Falling Skies Blog on August 1, 2012.

5 Responses to “Hal Mason: A Different Approach”

  1. To answer the question: Neither I nor any of my male friends would have “gone for it” if an older women had hit on us in our teenage years. We would have found it desperate (“can’t score a guy of her own age, tries to impress kids”) and weird. Teenage GIRLS go for slightly older guys because it makes them “cool”. Most teenage BOYS are more in the “LOL cougar!” camp.
    I also stick with to my statement that the jazz chick story makes Hal seem artificial. Let’s say Rita is in fact a hot latina dancer… I still don’t see how a teenage boy would even know about her. Teenage boys are not exactly the target demographic of anything involving “jazz dance” and most will probably find it rather “gay” to watch dance tournaments. (Yes, I know, not all dancers are gay and not all gays like dancing and all that, pardon the pun, jazz; just saying that teenage boys use the word in a negative sense.) So either Hal was damn strange for his age and had an interest in niches his peers would laugh at or the story is still way off.
    Since I interpret the relationship between Ben and Hal as “bookworm and sports jock” and Hal never mentions anything else about having interests other teenagers don’t share or would make fun of… I’m going with the latter.

    • Point taken. Again, I’m just defending here. Not sure where you were in high school but I know ’round these parts there’s a bit of respect if a guy can get in with a girl slightly older than him. I may not be the best person to consult on the matter: my mother is four years older than my dad so maybe I’m a bit skewed in that sense but i don’t think four years is a sizeable age gap. As for the jazz dancing thing, well I knew nothing about it either until I watched a few YouTube videos and I agree that it would be considered… ‘odd’ (I don’t like using the other word) but if you actually watch the things some of these girls do as they dance it is more than just a bit suggestive. Think of the flexibility… Thanks for commenting though because I love hearing your perspective. Makes me think a bit, it’s good fun!

  2. Good article, and from a younger person’s perspective. Soemtimes when we get older we actually do forget what it’s like to think as a teenager!

    I like Hal well enough. He’s not my favorite character (that would be Ben, followed by Tom), but he’s a stand-up guy. What he loses in cheese points he makes up for in loyalty to Ben. He walked into the Skitters nest to take his brother back, and even stood by the little bonehead after the Karen fiasco and when Ben was keeping secrets about his glowing spikes. I melted a little when Ben was trying to explain that Hal shouldn’t have come after him and Hal just said, “You’re my brother.”

    I’m a real no-romance kid of person in general, but I’m a firm believer in the romance ban when it comes to dangerous situations like the apocalypse. I can’t see any rational explanation; it’s put there to make little girls and fat housewives squeal. Of course, if it keeps ratings up I’m okay as long as it doesn’t get shoved down my throat or become the plot o’ the season like on The Walking Dead.

  3. I can compare FS and TWD. I did, as a matter of fact. Any two things can be compared. I’ve detailed why Ben is my favorite character in a few other articles.

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