Hal Mason: Poster Child for Bad Siblings?

Contributing Author, and my faithful travel companion, Lauren returns from a long hiatus with a scathing, and in my opinion, accurate view on Hal Mason. Without further ado, let’s read!

Shallow Hal

I am not letting myself be excited for Season 3 just yet. I worry the more hopeful I am that they will bring Dai back; the more likely he is good and dead. I worry they will forget the Skitter rebellion in favor of the new alien race when I am still irritated that we lost Red Eye and the Overlord, our central hero and villain, in the same fight. But, though my greatest worry is the possibility of the spotlight being shifted from Ben to Hal (spikes are so last season, eye bugs are the new “it” affliction), I do believe the new alien parasite is the single greatest thing to ever happen to the character of Hal, and that it is desperately needed.

We have had articles decrying Hal and defending him. I have not been entirely unfond of him because without Hal, Ben really wouldn’t have much of anyone to talk to. A comment by our Bloggy Leader during an airing of “Molon Labe,” though, once changed my perspective on his character, and I am no longer as forgiving of him.

The conflict between Hal and Ben had been building all season and the confrontation when Ben would face Hal after their rooftop altercation in “Homecoming” would surely be worth watching. Hal was spitting feathers after Ben forced him to his knees in the Season 2 premiere, and this time he’d been left in an unconscious heap. The fight was on. But then…nothing. Ben came back and all was forgiven. It was all Karen’s fault so everybody forget it. Struggling to explain the inconsistency, I posed that it was perhaps a classic bro’s before ho’s moment. Respected Falling Skies scholar Greg poignantly illustrated the absurdity of this attitude in the Mason brothers with a short narrative:

Ben: What’s a ho? I’m in the middle of fighting aliens.

Hal: There are ho’s!? Where!? I have to have them before Ben…

While the inconsistency is still only adequately explained by the writers having no screen time in the action-packed “Molon Labe” to devote to a confrontation (must save time for kissing scenes after all), this astute statement in fact sums up the fundamental problem with the character of Hal: His only motivations are to score chicks and to be a douche to Ben, and I am bored with watching both.

In Season 1, Hal is a fine character. He cares passionately and recklessly about rescuing Ben, has a realistic father-son dynamic with Tom, interacts with many other characters, and is simply not uninteresting. He has motivations and accomplishes things, and while he flirts with more girls than are present in all of Season 2, they are not the majority of what his character does. Season 2 Hal is not the same character. Hal steps into Tom’s role as head Mason with the insufferableness of someone who considers himself perfect from hair to toe, and though I appreciate the effort the writers put forth to help a dry, mid-twenties actor realistically portray a teenager, he loses any semblance of believability as teen, no matter how many times he says “aiight.” While we can entertain the idea that he is the battle-hardened victim of a childhood lost, he is pretty simply a douche, and mainly to Ben.

Hal’s initial conflict with Ben is understandable. He is struggling to be effective in his new leadership role in the 2nd Mass, and Ben is dangerously stepping out of line, not only out of a disinterest in taking orders, but specifically a disinterest in taking orders from his brother. Of course, Season 2 Ben never catches a break, and Hal never misses an opportunity to rub it in his face.

The physical altercation in “Shall We Gather at the River” is often viewed as either a defining moment for a newly transformed Ben or as an unforgivably mean moment for poor Hal. It really is a perfect summary of who their characters are all season. Hal’s determination to effect Tom’s legacy means Ben is wrong to teach Matt to shoot a gun, but he is sure to assert that Ben is particularly an unfit instructor because he is a father-shooter, a low blow when Ben is visibly wracked with guilt knowing he is the reason Tom is still comatose in the med bus. Hal turns his back to any reasoning that Matt is a sitting duck in a warzone in which kids his age are the exact target of the enemy, so Ben reminds him of Karen. This is a low blow in itself, but only because Hal looks like a bad boyfriend in front of Maggie, which he is, having replaced and forgotten about Karen at the first possible moment. Not to have his name besmirched by the truth in front of his lady, Hal throws the first punch. Ben grabs Hal’s wrists and steadily forces him to the ground. Not a reckless act of violence, but a controlled shutting down of meathead behavior that Ben has tolerated for years and that he now has the power to stop. Hal can’t let it go, however, and at every difficult moment for Ben, Hal is there to be a jerk about it.

“Compass” contains my top sweetly sad moment of Season 2, in which Ben taps Jimmy’s compass against his head as he sits alone in the mess hall, staring at nothing and worrying over whether his friend will live. Of course Hal punctuates it with his peevish remarks about how reckless Ben is, as if he isn’t shouldering more blame than he should already. Hal also informs Tom that now is not the time to coddle Ben–he needs to live with what he did–but the very next episode, Hal gives Ben grief about acting withdrawn.

A helpful moment with Hal Mason: You need to get over this “looking sad” thing, Ben. It’s a real drag. Jimmy’s death was so two weeks ago. I know he was your only friend and that I made sure to let you know your screw ups were the direct cause of his death, but that was constructive criticism that you should have channeled into being a better soldier. Everyone else has gotten over it, so you should too.

Later at the harnessing facility, Ben suddenly loses control, uncharacteristically and inexplicably unloading his firearm into the harness tank. Hal, after just having seen Ben’s spikes glow for the first time and therefore realizing there are bigger things going on than he can know, nonetheless breaks the stunned silence with mockery to which Ben does not react as he is still currently checked out in a state of panic. Ben is clearly not okay, so Hal does the brotherly thing and privately confronts him about his glowing spikes. When Ben is not forthcoming, Hal sarcastically asks if his plan is to lie about it and hope it goes away on its own of getting worse. Why yes, that is exactly his only hope and his deepest, darkest fear all summed up into one easy-for-you-to-say bit of snark. Of course Ben is terrified that his condition is getting worse and that he doesn’t even know what is happening, and there is obviously no one that can fix it or even begin to understand his problem, if someone in the 2nd Mass doesn’t freak out and kill him first.

But all Hal’s “tryna do is help,” so surely if he taunts and nags Ben enough, Ben will quit it with all the Skitter stuff and become a proper human again.

The rest of what Hal accomplishes as a character is limited to drawn out, uneventful segments of flirting with Maggie, with whom he has zero chemistry and could not even legally hook up. One could perhaps at least paint Hal as the Mason family voice of reason (like a highly unentertaining Pope) since Ben does cause many problems and keeps many secrets, but Hal pretends to be so perfect while doing nothing as a soldier but messing around with Maggie. Perhaps this is a highly realistic portrayal of a brotherly relationship. His confrontations with Ben added interest in the beginning, and it was a refreshingly realistic idea that Hal perhaps somewhat idolized the idea of poor, lost Ben when he was with the Skitters, then easily fell back into old squabbles when he realized the kid he heroically rescued is still just Ben. But I am tired of the fighting and nagging, and it is always Hal heaping it onto Ben who either stays silent or at most asks him to back off. Ben, after all, has much bigger problems to deal with that Hal would ever understand…until now.

Whatever Hal’s eye parasite is up to, it is exactly what his character needs. It will give him something new to do, alter his personality, cast doubt upon his motivations, everything. If he becomes a double agent (as I predict, evil smiles do not occur without reason) there will finally be depth to his horribly shallow character. Maggie will probably be the first to realize something is wrong, and their relationship will transform from an unworkable will they/won’t they to a much more interesting should I kill him/can I save him. Maybe evil Hal will join evil Karen and we will have another awkward love triangle. There might be another great opportunity for Ben to use his Skitter strength against Hal. Weaver and Pope will join Greg in calling for Hal’s death. Even if Hal is not evil, perhaps just the unwitting Mars Rover of Charleston transmitting information to the enemy, Hal will no longer be a perfect human, inviolate amidst the alien invasion. If he is ever freed from its presence, he will have newfound empathy for Ben and Tom and others like them. Or it will somehow kill him. Any which way, it is nigh inconceivable that Hal will ever be the same mean, vain, boring character again. The Hal we know and loathe is deader than Dai (though I hold out hope that he is still quite alive).

Lauren is a Contributing Author here at THE Falling Skies Blog, she (legally) dispenses drugs by day, heaps praise on Ben with me by night, and I forgive her for mentioning Justin Bieber in her Twitter handle.

She can and should be followed on Twitter, @Biebfan87

Keep the Resistance Strong!

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~ by The Falling Skies Blog on October 25, 2012.

12 Responses to “Hal Mason: Poster Child for Bad Siblings?”

  1. Good sum-up and I agree.

    I do think he loves Ben quite a bit, but Hal is kind of a douche. They’ve set him up as a jock and a bully, at least toward Ben. I think our favorite razorback is really the only member of the Mason family who’s got his head on straight and in the game. Daddy Tom is too busy giggling with his replacement wife, Hal is too busy giggling with Maggie, and Matt is nine.

    Hal might as well be labeled “Squealing Fangirl Fodder” in season 2. As you pointed out, he was a better character in the first season but has almost completely decomposed in this past season. His moments of true leadership and family were overshadowed by the Hal/Maggie snickerfest.

    I think the character is a victim of the obsession the writers seem to have had with catering to the “shippers” and soap opera fans. The entire show suffered for it, but Hal’s character really took the biggest hit.

  2. I disagree. I find Hal to be a very relatable, beaten down teenage boy, and I think Ben was the douche this season. He was a complete ass in that episode when they found Karen in the dirt! Especially towards Hal, I don’t know why your blaming that poor kid for everything. Sure, Hal isn’t perfect, not at all, but that’s what makes his character interesting and relatable. Here’s why Hal acted like he did towards Ben:
    A) He loves him, very much, and was just desperately trying to keep him in line,
    B) He argued with him because he’s an older brother, that’s what older brothers do.
    Okay, so maybe he could have made a less bossy approach to all that, but don’t throw all Ben’s faults onto him. Just because he had a leech on his spine, doesn’t mean he has an excuse to act like he does. And don’t get me wrong, I actually don’t dislike Ben, but I was extremely disappointed in his character this last season. They portrayed Hal pretty well, but they turned Ben into an emo, ‘blame it on the world,’ rebel. I do have sympathy for Ben and his problems, and I do wish that Hal would show a little more understanding, but they still shouldn’t have written him up like that.
    And about the ‘Hal is a terrible boyfriend thing,’ hell no. He understands what Ben can’t, and that is you have to move on, and you you have to move on almost immediately. It took a lot of effort, and he had to go through a lot of guilt, but he managed to part way shake the Karen incident off. As you can plainly see, he didn’t just ditch her immediately for Maggie, he still loved her. But he excepted that she wasn’t coming back, and that was that.
    Hal is a strong character, and he is very believable. But your right in the sense that the parasite will make for a very interesting twist in Hal’s self. He will have a new layer of understanding and sympathy for Ben and the harnessed kids, if he gets the thing out,(which I’m praying to God he will.) And he will be a much darker person, even with the parasite out of his brain. There’s no way you can go through something like that and not have changed. You remember that episode, when Maggie and Hal were in the truck and Maggie asked him what was the darkest thing he had ever done? And Hal couldn’t answer? That was a hint of what was to come, and their relationship will most certainly be greatly effected by Hal’s little bug problem. I can’t wait to see what comes of Hal, and Ben I suppose, in the third season.

    • I agree that Ben was quite a dick in Homecoming. Even though he was right about Karen, he should have known that his approach was wrong when Hal so clearly had the wool over his eyes. Calling Karen a “thing” not to be trusted was only going to make Hal more defensive and closed to the truth. Ben needed to be more sensitive, just like Hal needed to be in every other episode. It would seem quite suspicious to Hal that Ben would be warning everyone to stay away from Karen, volunteer to guard her himself, and then get caught macking on her, but Ben and Karen had never even met before, so that is some highly paranoid and jealous thinking to suspect it was his plan all along. Ben barely even knew they were bringing Karen in when he first said not to let her stay. He very obviously could sense what was going on.
      Ben was more of an “emo douche” (to use an imdb poster’s language) in the beginning of the season, but his attitude evolved as he got more involved in the Skitter rebellion and had somewhere to channel all his frustration and fear. That’s when his reckless behavior stopped and he became more mature and stoic. So if he had 3 or 4 episodes of being difficult, well, there’s no way you can go through something like he did and not be changed. And he’s still going through it, becoming less human each day.
      And I don’t think Hal is a bad boyfriend just for forgetting Karen. His general attitude toward women is bad, though quite realistic for someone his age. Like when Maggie told him her secret and he basically declared that she was revirginized in his mind because he didn’t know that other Maggie. He should have said that he accepted her for exactly who she was, mistakes and all. Not that he was willing to pretend her mistakes never happened so all’s cool. But what do expect when you pair an adult woman with real world experiences with a sheltered teen?
      I know I’m picking on Hal. I do not think he’s the antichrist, and I would not have him taken off the show if I had the chance. But with the impending release of the iHal3, I feel like now is a good time to air my grievances with the current version.

      • I do agree with some of your points. I think that Hal could have definitley taken a better approach in accepting Maggie’s past, but at least he tried. Actually, looking back on our argument, I think we’ve sort of reached a middle ground. We both agree that the characters in question, Ben and Hal, did not really behave as they should have this season. The only real difference is that I side more with Hal, and you with Ben. Lol, I’m not usually a sucker for Hal’s kind of character, I actually normally despise them, but Falling Skies cast some sort of spell over me. I quite literally cannot hate any of the characters, not even the number one worst villain, Karen. Or that whiny Lourdes, I don’t like them, but I can’t seem to hate them. Damn you Stephen Spielberg. But anyway, I certainly can’t wait for the release of iHal3, I do think it will result in an improvement from both Hal and Ben, unless Ben decides to be a jerk and is all angry with him. I certainly hope not, because I’d kick his ass straight back to some harnessing facility.

  3. That certainly is a different take on the character and the situation but I have to completely disagree with most of it.

    You make it sound as if Hal has nothing better to do than ‘get with’ girls like some sort of professional gigolo and beating up (Physically and Mentally) on Ben.

    He forgave Ben so quickly about the fight in Homecoming because he knows Ben only did it because he was manipulated by Karen – Brothers do have the ability to fight over the littlest of things and make up just as quickly.

    The tension between them is really not that strange, it’s just the usual sibling rivalry amplified by the fact that they’re living and fighting in a post apocalyptic world: That would put strain on everyone’s relationships and ability to relate to each other.

    As for Hal taking Offence to Ben teaching Matt to use a gun, it isn’t black & white. Both Hal and Ben had valid points – Yes Matt does need to learn to fight BUT Ben has shown a perpencity to uncontrolled and dangerous behavior (Case and point the raids he went on with Jimmy.) If Ben were allowed to “train” Matt unsupervised there is the possibility Ben would put him in a situation that he clearly isn’t ready to be in.

    As for Hal becoming like Tom in Tom’s absence and the impact of that on Hal’s relationship with his siblings how else should he have acted? Someone had to take Tom’s place in the 2nd Mass’ command structure and Hal is the most logical choice.

    Ben is powerful but again if he doesn’t follow the chain of command and accept that Hal is acting as his commander and not his annoying big brother Ben could put them all in jeopardy.

    As for Hal and his eye bug pushing Ben and the spikes aside I don’t think you have to worry. It’ll add an extra dimension to the show and perhaps increase the importance of Ben and the spikes. Only time will tell but I am excited for the possibilities.

    I do agree with you about Dai though, his death (even though it happened as I feared it one day would) was senseless and pointless and what was even worse was that the death of a major character and the departure of one of the main cast was treated so poorly on screen and off screen: Weaver’s reference to Dai’s death was cold and heartless and there was practically no mention of it by Greg Beeman or anyone else involved with the show. And sadly I have accepted that Dai will not be back 😦

    To sum up while the article is interesting and I can see where you’re coming from I think you were way too hard on Hal. He was after all a 16 year old boy thrift head long into an impossible situation and he’s doing a damn fine job (Not perfect but not as bad as you seem to make out either.)

  4. Hal: Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?

  5. We couldn’t disagree more on the Hal issue Matt and Tick.

    I think Hal is a one dimensional stock character who had potential in the first season, but was thrown in for eye candy and soap opera sound bites in S2.

    How about how irrational he acted when Karen kissed Ben? It was all “BEN IS TRYING TO MESS UP MY DREAM KAREN RETURN!”

    I also don’t think going on skitter hunts with Jimmy was necessarily a bad call. I loved Jimmy, and miss him dearly, but there are casualties in war. Who knows how many kids they saved from being harnessed by killing all those skitters?

    Tick: When you love someone, you don’t try to “keep them in line” you try to understand what they’re going through and what they’re dealing with. You don’t berate them.

    Everybody is entitled their own opinion, and that is my take on Hal.

    Glad you guys took the time to comment!

    • OF COURSE you try and ‘keep them in line!’ Hal loves Ben, and he was trying to make sure he didn’t go and get himself killed! And seriously, watch that episode with Karen again. Ben was being an ass and Hal was reacting as any other teenage boy would when he saw his kidnapped girlfriend and his little brother almost making out. And then he saws the glowing spikes, Karen pass out, and Ben run away. What was he supposed to think?! But I do agree that Hal should have tried and understood what Ben was going through, but no one is perfect, and the parasite will give him a whole new level of understanding. I look forward to their relationship next season. And as I mentioned before, Hal recognized his errors and apologized for them. HE made the first step in the apology, which I do think he should have, and then Ben accepted his apology. Though I do think Ben could have been a bit more apologetic towards Hal, because they were both at fault. Don’t paint Hal as the blackest thing on earth, and don’t turn Ben into a misunderstood angel. They were both at fault this season. But thanks a lot for writing this, it gives me something very interesting to argue about. XD

    • One Dimensional stock character WOW that really is harsh. Really can’t see where the hatred of Hal is coming from and that’s what the article and your comments seem to be suggesting – HAL BAD, BEN GOOD – That’s it no middle ground!

      What Tick said was right they both made mistakes in Season 2 but as I’ve said they’re not perfect they’re just two teenage boys who are dealing the best they can with a difficult situation.

      I can’t understand why you were so critical of Hal’s reaction to the Karen/Ben kiss thing – Any teenage boy who walked in on his ex girlfriend (Kidnapped or not) making out with his little brother is going to feel hurt and betrayed especially when he has unresolved feelings for said ex girlfriend. Yet you seem to be saying Hal should have seen what he seen then gone “My ex and my brother are possibly making out but who cares.” and go in as if nothing had happened.

      And as one dimensional as you make him out to be I think he was more than hurt at the scene, he was worried for Ben and also a bit for Karen because he knows who she WAS and how she ended up as she is now. Call it survivir’s guilt or whatever but that day Karen was taken will probably haunt him for years.

      A 1 dimensional character wouldn’t care about his brother or his girlfriend and Hal definietly does care.

      Your feeling for Hal emulate my feelings for Pope but that would probably require a whole blog post!

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion and that IS MINE.

      • It’s funny that this discussion of Hal is almost exactly mirroring the one being had on another forum about Lori Grimes from The Walking Dead. Hal is the new Lori!

        As i’ve bitched about before, I’m not planning to watch season 3, but I’m hoping for all the fans’ sake that the writers are done pandering to the fangirls and will get back to business.

  6. It’s not as black and white as Hal Bad, Ben Good. I have written several times that Ben’s character definitely has flaws. The difference is those flaws are born out in the character progression.

    I happen to think that Ben is a far more compelling, and more intriguing character.

    Hal has potential, as I have said I liked his character in S1. He had real motivations. In S2 he seems determined to chase skirt.

    I truly hope that in S3 the eye bug gives his character back some depth.

    I’m not sure how you got he was worried for Ben in that scene. Since he proceeded to berate Ben, then tell Maggie later that everything was Ben’s fault and he basically had to save Karen from Ben. I not saying he shouldn’t have reacted at all. But he should have come down on his brother’s side, not made the assumption that he was making the moves on Karen.

    Hal seems to be bound and determined to blame Ben for everything. I’m not one of the writers, I don’t know what they intended to get across. All I can go on is what I see and hear on the show.

    I don’t think Hal is the worst character ever. That award goes to Lourdes. Or possibly Anne Glass.

    And, if you want to write a blog post about Pope, feel free. I will definitely publish it 🙂

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