A friend of mine on Twitter, @SpikeEskin, reminded me of my passion for the show FALLING SKIES.
@adimike55 hahaha, all good. I don’t watch very many TV shows, but I admire your passion.
— Spike Eskin (@SpikeEskin) June 18, 2012
Spike knows passion. He may be the most passionate and knowledgeable fan of Philadelphia Sixers basketball since they arrived in Philly from Syracuse.
And yes, he is right. I have a passion for creativity and entertainment that surprises me without tricking me, that thrills me without cheap shocks, and that allows me to enjoy it on more than one level.
My previous post talks about my thoughts after Season One in anticipation of Season Two of FALLING SKIES. Last night, on TNT (They Know Drama), Season Two began.
One quick note before I continue on: I won’t be writing true recaps of each episode, for two simple reasons. One, there are plenty of full recaps available all over the internet to choose from, and two, I won’t describe the show any better than actually watching it yourself. What I will do is mention what stands out for me and why, question things I am not sure about, and hopefully get you talking with me and with others to stir discussion and yes, passion for FALLING SKIES.
Last night, Season Two began with a two-part episode: WORLDS APART and SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER. The second episode title intrigues me because it is the second time in the series that Captain Weaver (Will Patton) has had to confront a river. In the first season, we see him in a private emotional moment reacting to a recording of Jimmy Cliff’s MANY RIVERS TO CROSS and now, he has one more seemingly impossible river to cross to allow the 2nd Mass to keep moving forward.
The main purpose of the night was to find a way that was believable to bring Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) back into the fold of the 2nd Mass. At the end of last season, Tom chose to enter the spaceship in exchange for the continued freedom of his son Ben (Connor Jessup).
Season Two takes place three months later. The 2nd Mass has decided to take the fight to the enemy and you see a group of them deep in a street battle with Skitters and Mechs. Pope’s crew of “Berserkers” is joined by the oldest Mason brothers. Hal has assumed the “dad” role in the family, but Ben is still the haunted and now full-of-hate center. His hate, or fear, causes him to get so aggressive that he doesn’t realize that his dad has now returned and is behind the Skitter who he just shot. Tom is caught in the fire and collapses. In effect, the Masons prodigal son has inadvertently injured his father.
Where has Tom been? Tom was on a couple of journeys. In the beginning, he spent three months on the spaceship. While we only see a short period of time on the ship, a few of the shots are reminiscent of films like FIRE IN THE SKY. We are not shown what was done to Tom aboard the ship, but as the show progresses, we get clues and start to draw conclusions.
Because we are not quite sure what the run of time is aboard the spaceship, Tom’s audience with one of the Overlords is not clear as to whether that takes place early or late in his captivity. The only familiar face is Karen (Jessy Schram), Hal Mason’s (Drew Roy) ex-girlfriend and now a harnessed slave. She seems to have a special job with the aliens, in that we’ve already seen her in other emissary roles, such as checking in with the Crazy Tea Lady in Season One.
The question would be, why Karen? Does she possess something special? It is obvious that Ben Mason does, but what about Karen? Do they use her because of her history with the Masons, making it a psychological and emotional hammer? Is this really Karen at all? Does she exist in there? The overlords use her as their “communicator” with Tom during the “negotiation” scene. Does she even know what she is doing?
True to form, the negotiation scene is rife with historical references and arguments. The decision to give the humans “sanctuary” in special areas is compared by the aliens to similar efforts during past wars by Americans and other nationalities. Again, I love the show because the fantastic sci-fi is rooted in history and humanity.
Also true to form, Tom doesn’t back down. We later see Tom released in a field with a number of other humans, supposedly for freedom, but actually as a massacre. All are gunned down by a Mech except one…Tom. He is deliberately spared. Sending him back to tell of the horror of this day is very effective propaganda and intimidation.
Tom manages to make his way back to the scene of the street battle with the help of a tough survivor of a young girl. Her mother has just been killed, so she and Tom share a similar loss. She then rides off to the mountains, but my guess is that she will be important at some point. Too much time is spent with her.
Ben is both shocked to see his father and distraught over shooting him. There is an uneasiness in the relationship between Ben and Tom in these episodes. It feels to me like Ben is still suppressing things about his captivity, his purpose, and what is happening with him. After all, Ben is almost superhuman now, he has more stamina and strength than ever before, but he is also much more guarded and almost blank. It is like he fears people knowing more than he wants them to.
Since Tom seems to be the only adult to actually return from captivity, he is the only adult who may be able to read deeper into Ben. Does Ben fear what Tom may know or does Ben fear what Tom may become? Later in the episode, Ben explains that his newly acquired hate is what keeps him free of the Skitters control. This hate is actually unrelenting. It is not overt, but it is dismissive blankness and rejection of authority that he doesn’t believe in. Ben shares tender moments with a frustrated Matt (Maxim Knight) but violently rejects Hal’s words that while Dad is gone, Hal is dad.
Ben is not disobedient. He dutifully carries out his orders, but he bristles at Hal’s authority. He is seen during both episodes carrying out his missions with great effectiveness. However, there are times when you can see that he is still haunted and/or connected in some way to the aliens. As Ben does reconnaissance in the woods to find an alien base, he comes across a crashed alien ship that must be transmitting back to the base, since Ben can still sense those frequencies in a very painful way. He brings the info back, but I can’t help but think that he saw something that he kept to himself.
In the meantime, the 2nd Mass is on the move. They are now an army in motion, clearing the path and trying to find safe ground to plan the next battle. They are pursued by the aliens, so there is only one way to move, and that is forward. Some of the dynamics have changed in the 2nd Mass. Captain Weaver is now solely in charge, since others in command were lost in earlier battles. His mission is no longer stagnant but now must be constantly planned at short notice. Because all modern forms of communications are out, this is where the show begins to resemble a classic war strategy film, albeit with a fantastic enemy. His relationship with Tom has moved from some stubborn resistance and dismissal to one of dependency and respect. He now realizes that Tom is a formidable ally and planner for the batter.
Anthony (Mpho Kaoho) has been made the “wrangler” of John Pope (Colin Cunningham) and his band of mercenaries. This allows a new dynamic for both characters, as Pope tries to rebel only to meet a strong force charged with keeping him in line and keeping the refugees safe, Anthony. Dai (Peter Shinkoda) gets to handle the big guns and proves to be a very effective shot when big firepower is needed.
Back with Tom Mason, he is brought to the spartan medical bus, where Dr. Anne Glass, with help from Lourdes (Seychelle Gabrielle), works feverishly to save Tom. It is during these periods that flashbacks are used to tell of Tom’s experiences aboard the ship. It takes some time for Tom to begin to recover. By the end of the 1st episode, he seems to be getting better.
However, Tom is still unsure about what he is now and how he has been affected by the aliens. This fear is expressed to his son Hal as a plea to not let him hurt anybody. Of course, Matt overhears and becomes fearful of his dad. Matt has lost his mother, lost and found Ben, and now fears that he may lose his Dad, or already has. A family trying desperately to stay together has to face down their personal fears as well as the fear of the enemy.
During his talk with Hal, Tom suddenly starts bleeding out of his left eye. Earlier, the first shot that we have of Tom on the spaceship is his left eye opening suddenly in horror while he is in some sort of restraining module. As they rush to Dr. Glass to find out what is happening, they see some sort of worm/parasite in his eyeball, one that is very resistant to the light they are shining in. In a very difficult scene, they manage to pull the worm out of Tom’s eyeball. It immediately shells itself in a seamless metallic ball. Later, while the group moves forward, the parasite manages to escape the jar and fly away.
This mothlike parasite may hold a big clue and purpose in the future. One of the improved skitters introduced has one “red eye” and one black, void like eye. It makes an appearance again with that skitter at the end of the episode.
Tom has voiced his fear that he does not know how he will act or react and convinces Weaver to put him in restraints. These restraints only reinforce the fear felt by Matt that his father is now dangerous or under alien influence.
The bridge that they need to cross has its own problems. Having been cut in two by an attacking fighter ship, the 2nd Mass must find a way to quickly rebuild it, or remain trapped between the river and the aliens advancing from the rear. This leads to the introduction of a new character, played by Brandon Jay McLaren. “Jamil” is kind of the McGuyver of the 2nd Mass. Since real supplies are few and far between, he is the go to guy to be creative and solve logistic and material problems.
In this case, he needs to figure out a way to mask the heat given off by the vehicles long enough to evade the aliens, who seem to focus in on the engines warmth to identify their targets. In addition, he needs to rebuild the destroyed section of the bridge to allow the heavy equipment and vehicles, including the medical bus, to cross the bridge and then to detonate the bridge so that the aliens cannot follow, putting some much needed distance between them.
The final plan involves an attack on the “airport/transmitter” in the forest to knock out its ability to control the fighter ships. Dai, with Hal and Ben, pull this off perfectly, allowing the 2nd Mass to move across the bridge. Anthony and Pope have laid back to try to hold of the Skitters advance, but they finally have to sound the alarm at the bridge.
The skitters attack from the rear. Tom, who has been on the medical bus, convinces Matt to cut him loose from the restraints. He immediately runs to the big gun to provide cover for those racing across the bridge. When a skitter threatens him, it is Matt who shows up, guns a-blazing thanks to some earlier training by Ben and kills the Skitter that threatened his father.
The mad scramble to get across the bridge continues. Weaver and Jamil countdown to the blast to warn Tom to hurry but Pope pushes the button prematurely and Tom falls into the river. Later, Tom is found after a long swim in the river, a very cold river. Earlier, during his expedition, Ben showed his stamina in a long swim across the river. Now, Tom has done the same. Is there now a similarity there?
The episode ends with the parasite returning and inserting itself into the left eye of the redeye skitter who is standing in the brush off to the side.
So, a few questions/guesses. Is the parasite the first entry point for harnessing someone? Is it simply a parasite, is it able to collect DNA and information from its host and deliver it to another host? Is it an optic system that allows the skitter to now follow Tom and the 2nd Mass? In any case, the prominence of it at the end of the episode signals importance.
Questions remain about how Tom has been affected, and whether Ben knows more than he is letting on about what Tom might have experienced.
In a strong father/son scene, Ben explains to Tom that “hate” is what protects him from the aliens. He seems to be advising Tom to do the same thing, to protect himself from Ben’s fate. Tom, on the other hand, does not accept that premise and realizes how hate destroys the person as much as the enemy. Does Ben accept or is he simply respecting his father by listening. Ben has shown the progress of the spikes in his back as a warning for Tom, something he has not shown to anybody else.
New dynamics and the introduction of new supporting characters allow new storylines among the cast. As some point, how will these inpact the 2nd Mass?
And what of the aliens? They seem to know our history, though they may not yet know how to comprehend the nuances yet. They seem to know how to manipulate human emotions. They also seem to hold the Mason family in special regard. What do they desire from Ben and what can Tom give them that they need. Is Ben a ticking time bomb, is Tom the same? Are Ben and Tom wanted for the same reasons? Even more important, where are they from? Are they from another world, or could they even be from our own?
How does this affect the family dynamics? We’ve already seen Ben reject Hal as a surrogate Dad and Tom’s return has not seemed to heal that. Matt seems to be clinging to Ben, and Matt is dealing with feelings of wanting to help while being told “Go away kid”. The moment when Tom acknowledges what Matt has done with the skitter with a knowing look that Matt is no longer a child is subtle yet striking,
Obviously, the 2nd Mass will be on the move for the rest of the season, to both survive and to see who else has survived. While the survival of the 2nd Mass is essential, the survival of family and friends is the core of the story.
I’ve tried not to guess too much because this show has some amazing creative talent. The touch of executive producer Steven Spielberg can be felt more strongly in this season. Director Greg Beeman is a master of creating a compellingly real world that the aliens threaten. Showrunner Remi Aubuchon has been tasked with taking the first season and expanding it believably, while solving the puzzle of where do we go once Tom was taken on the alien ship. All of them are more than capable to thrill me with this story.
But I can always nudge them in my genius direction for storyline.