After last weeks transition episode, designed to get the 2nd Mass on the move towards a new destination, it was obvious that the journey had to be more than a nomadic pilgrimage. If survivors exist all the way down in Charleston, then you have to assume that others will be encountered along the way.
The 2nd Mass has been on the move since the last episode and seems to have settled in a suburban area, judging by the opening scene. It may even be just past the Mason Dixon line, since Diego mentions that he is from Pennsylvania, and probably would have headed south, not north.
Matt (Maxim Knight), on a Razor scooter, is off on his own and is soon surrounded by Skitters. Looking cornered, the tension is suddenly broken by the “TIC TIC BOOM” of the big gun as wielded by the bad boys of the currently rudderless BESERKERS, Tector (Ryan Robbins) and Boon (Billy Wickman). It turns out that Matt, who is now covered in Skitter blood, is the chase rabbit in a real life shoot ‘em up video games.
With a cry of “That was awesome”, Matt, or “M & M” as Boon has nicknamed him, has found the excitement that the others have denied him because he is too young and little. He is running with the bad boys because no one will let him run with the good guys. This story will resonate throughout the episode in numerous ways, including Matt, as well as Tector, who also finds his remorse for the incident leads to his desire to be with the good guys as well.
It is also a great way to set up the theme of the show, and that is the refocus on youth and youth rebellion in all ages. Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) dresses down Boon and Tector, but for now at least, the only one truly affected by Tom’s lecture seems to be Tector, who begs Tom for a chance at redemption. This is tough to achieve because of Tector’s past history with The Beserkers as well as Tom’s massive distrust of him influencing Matt.
The familial aspect of the show is on full throttle during this episode. Besides the true family of the Masons as well as the broken family collective of the Beserkers, Ben and Hal discover a group of teens and kids who have banded together, almost LORD OF THE FLIES style, for survival. In that group, it turns out that Weaver’s lost daughter (Lacy Mailey) is among them.
We heard about how Weaver’s family went missing during a Skitter attack back in Season One. Now, after Weaver (Will Patton) is mourning the loss of Jimmy, his surrogate son, his daughter has returned. She is accompanied by Diego (Hector Bucio) who is the defacto leader of the band of kids. The news that his wife died of a heart attack brings a sad closure to that part of his past.
Of course, knowing so many kids are involved in the storyline, it is natural that the Skitters and the harnessing process would be back in the story line as well. In a truly horrific and tense sequence, the 2nd Mass heads off to an abandoned sugar factory when the rest of the new kids have been abducted by the Skitters. Unfortunately, Matt once again let his rebellious streak lead him into danger as he has now been captured.
Inside the factory, the aliens have set up a harnessing assembly line anchored by an “aquarium” filled with live organisms that become the Skitters. Much like slugs found in a swamp, these creatures are slimy. A track has been set up to allow the creatures to slide down onto the back and spinal columns of the restrained children. Each child who is about to be harnessed is almost perversly petted and comforted by a Skitter as the slug attaches itself at both the brain stem and the base of the spinal column. While the attachment process shows that the children suffer great pain, the sudden sedateness once the slug harness has attached itself shows that some sort of chemical is dulling their nerve reactions.
Then comes Matt. His rebellion has led him to be next in line to be harnessed. In essence, this may have been his fear all along. He lost his mother, he lost Ben, he lost Dad, and now he is all alone and about to be lost himself, just as he was at the beginning of the episode when being chased by Skitters, except this time he has brought no back up protection.
At this point, the 2nd Mass enters to save the kids. They affect the resuce, including Matt and Weaver’s daughter. Ben (Connor Jessup) has insisted in coming to the battle, but is suddenly mesmerized by the aquarium holding the slugs. He approaches it and puts his hand up against the glass. A slug glides over through the water and seemingly returns the gesture, and in doing so, communicates something to Ben, whose spikes again start to glow. Ben grows docile for a few seconds, then seems to recoil and blasts the glass on the tank. This allows the slugs to escape and try to attack, even injuring Weaver on the leg.
Ben’s reactions up until now have been puzzling, but the slug, which seems to only have one purpose in alien life and very little reasoning, chooses to approach Ben’s outstretched hand almost like a religious disciple. It is as if he is paying homage. Does this start to hint at what Ben means to the Skitters and Overlords? Could he be their “chosen one”? It is obvious that he is important to them in some way.
Hal (Drew Roy) saw the spikes glow and knows that more has been going on with Ben than he has told them. That could account for some of Ben’s animosity towards Hal. Ben refuses to talk with Hal about it, telling him that he will not admit to it nor let the camp know. He simply tells Hal that if he wants to help, he needs to back off.
As Weaver is recuperating, he finds out that his daughter has left with Diego, but has left a bittersweet note behind. It is obvious that Weaver knew this would happen but is grateful to at least know that she is still alive, and despite his gruffness, he seems to accept Diego as her protector. Another nice story advance is seeing Tector, who up to this point has been one of the bad boys, finally knowing that he and Boon are being accepted when Tom tells them they are back in the 2nd Mass’s trust. In essence, Tector (and Boon) have grown up, just as Matt has.
History is not absent in this episode, and the subtle ways that the producers work it in is really fun sometimes. At one point, in a scene with Hal and Diego, a quote from Gen. Robert E. Lee is on a wall in the background: “It is good that war is horrible, or we might grow to like it.”. In a less subtle scene, a billboard shows up for the US Army.
The show saves my favorite scene for last. You know how I truly love this show not for the bombast and action, but for the humanness of the story and the characters. At one point, while tension goes on around the camp, a simple game of street soccer breaks out in the background. Later, in a montage showing the 2nd Mass bedding down for the night, a soft guitar strums out a beautiful version of Debussey’s CLAIR DE LUNE. This may be one of the most calming and beautiful pieces of music, and it works whether fully orchestrated or on a simple guitar. As the music plays, you see mostly wordless resolutions to the days events, including some love triangles than may be popping up.
The final resolution brings the story full circle. Matt has been through rebellion hell, and has spent the last few episodes in quiet fear of his father mixed with a desire to not be a little kid anymore. The final scene shows Matt crawling into bed to the safety of his father’s arms. He has realized where his safety, his love, and his desires rest, and that is with his father, his true protector.
It is in the safe arms of family that the 2nd Mass will survive.
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