For those of you who haven't seen Christopher Nolan's Inception, a totem is a thing that you construct. You don't let anyone touch it because only you should know the balance and the weight. Ariadne's was a chess piece, Cobb's was a spinning top, and Arthur's was a weighted dice. The purpose of the totem was to implant this idea (when you saw it in action): your world is not real.
In the Falling Skies episode entitled "Strange Brew", Tom Mason is once again the guest of the alien overlords (having been caught in last week's episode during the last five seconds). Now to be fair, Tom has been a house guest of the alien overlords before. Last time they talked with him and ended up planting a bug or something inside him. So this time around, it had to be different, right? Plus the stakes are much higher due to interference from another alien race called the Volm.
|Karen is like the Darth Vader of this show.|
Part of the fun of an Inception-style plot is figuring out if the reality you are being shown is real or not. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious. For example, Tom Mason shot Karen in the head. This led me to say "There's no way they'd off Karen that easily. She's like the Darth Vader of this show and for them to just shoot her and be done...not buying it." And sure enough, it turned out to be a dream.
I'm really not sure if the whole "Inception" thing really worked out well for Falling Skies. It made for some awesome flashbacks and for us as an audience to become emotionally connected to Tom's first wife, but it also distanced us from Tom's second wife and his baby daughter in a weird way. We also saw Anne Glass and his daughter Alexi murdered off camera by the alien overlords. In fact, we didn't even get a good look at them at all. This makes me think that Tom is just in another dream. But is he? Because it sure as heck seems that (at the end of the episode) he's not really dreaming. I mean he got away from the alien overlords by simply jumping off a balcony. They didn't even chase him down. Who does that?
If this is really how they are going to play things, i.e. off Anne and Alexi like they were nothing and then just let Tom get away by jumping off a balcony, I'm very disappointed. There are only two episodes left in Falling Skies this season, and I'm hoping to get some clarity on the things we saw in "Strange Brew" that left me full of questions. That's the danger, I think, whenever someone wants to channel Christopher Nolan and the Inception plot. To clarify further, the idea of layering dreams on top of each other can be aggravating to the audience if not anchored and explained well. Hence, Falling Skies should have used totems.
Either that, or they should never have tried to duplicate Inception in a forty minute episode. It just doesn't work.