Falling Skies: Acts of Courage, Acts of Mystery, Acts of Humanity

Ever since Ben (Connor Jessup) has returned from alien captivity, it is obvious that something had changed about him. Forget about the unexplained increases in strength and agility, the deeper and more intense focus, or his distancing from his brother Hal (Drew Roy). Ben has come back different in ways far beyond that and ways that we still do not know.

When Ben and Ricky (Daniyah Isreal) were together last season, the seeds of some of the answers were there in their scenes together. While Ricky was dealing with his feeling of alienation from his father, Ben was dealing with the fear of rejection from the rest of the 2nd Mass. Ben heard the whispers and knew the thoughts running through their heads. He was a skitter captive who was not free of his captors, even though he is back with his family. We’ve seen him withdraw from everyone except Matt (Maxim Knight).

However, as Season Two progresses, and especially with last weeks episode, we start to see that even Ben may not be quite sure of his place. The show opens with a new revelation: Ben can communicate with the Skitters and seems to have bonded with REDEYE, the chief Skitter henchman. From two separate rooftops, Redeye and Ben do a call and response that looks like a mix of religious worship and a cry for help. In this case, it is a mournful cry.

It seems that even the aliens have dissenters and rebels within their midst. Redeye is leading an insurrection that involves both Skitters and human allies. A battle in the city attracts the attention of the 2nd Mass, who find a massacre in an abandoned trucking yard. A massacre of skitter on skitter. At first, Tom (Noah Wyle), Weaver (Will Patton), and Hal seem to be confused about what the scene in front of them is caused by. Even the Mechs that they found destroyed confuse them because their armor has been pierced clean through. As we saw in the first season, it took a bullet made of Mech metal to pierce their shell. So, is that what brought these Mechs down?

While this is going on, there is also increasing concern about Ben. He is absent from camp, and his actions of late make the rest of the 2nd Mass increasingly worried about where this loose cannon is. In checking the destruction in the trucking yard, Hal thinks he spots Ben’s glowing harness spikes lying prone on the ground. It turns out to be Rick, instead. Rick disappeared in THE BATTLE OF FITCHBURG, which took place between televised seasons in the pages of the Dark Horse graphic novel.

Rick has allied himself with the Skitter “Freedom Fighters” which seem to be led by Redeye. Rick leads the group to where the Ben is protecting Redeye. Ben appeals to Weaver, Tom, and Hal to listen, not to act harshly. While still skeptical of the story, they take Redeye back to camp for interrogation.

There is one part here that does not ring true. Except for a couple of brief scenes in Season One, the civilians have been quiet and docile. Frankly, I would have thought that the pitchforks and torches would have come out as this Frankenstein monster of a Skitter was driven into the camp in the back of an open jeep. Instead, they begin to gather around, like they are looking at a dead buck strapped to the vehicle. The calmness of the camp just seems a little odd based on the tenseness of their pilgrimage south.

Ben and Tom try to work out their own problems. Tom is still skeptical that Redeye is telling a true story. Tom questions Ben about how long the communications have been going on, and Ben says that it is since Jimmy was killed. Ben is angered that his secret of the glowing spikes has been told by Hal. You begin to see Ben battling the fear of rejection by his father and family as well as the fear of being an untrusted outcast among the rest of the 2nd Mass. Ben’s final imploring of “believe me” is a simple but compelling desire. In addition, the knowledge that we still do not know how Tom’s imprisonment on the alien ship has affected him. Many doubts about himself are mirrored in his questions to Ben.

Ben implores his father to listen, to talk with Redeye alone . Acting as his voice box, Redeye uses Rick to communicate his pleas and tell the story of how Skitters are in the same boat as the humans. They were once harnessed and turned into subservient subjects of the Overlords. Redeye relates why Tom and Ben are so important to them, but also insists that they must fight as one. He warns that a death squad is on the way to camp and that the weapons the 2nd Mass use are not adequate. In what couple pique Tom’s history knowledge, Redeye also warns that the 2Nd Mass does not understand the strategy the Overlords are using.

The trust factor is fragile and not all are ready to accept that Redeye is actually a potential ally. After all, this is the same Redeye who we saw prodding and poking Tom while on the spaceship, who killed dozens of humans who thought they were being set free while sparing Tom, who seemed to be in charge when Jimmy was impaled on the tree branch. His communications with Ben up this point have been shot from a power perspective, in an intimidating fashion.

His presence and plea now opens a major set of questions. Was he discovered by the Overlords and is he now on the run? Did he sneak away on his own? What size is/was this resistance? We know that Ben and Rick are aware of it, does it include other humans? Are the dead bodies of the Skitters and Mechs the entire resistance or just a faction?

You also start to see a hierarchy develop at to the harnessed kids as well. Ben seems to hold a very powerful position among the humans who have encountered Skitters. He is important to their mission, and seems to be logistically and physically involved. Rick seems to be more of a soldier, a way to communicate a message. Karen (Jessy Schramm), who was last seen on the ship, may be the same, but she seems to have a bigger mission or role.

The ability of the Skitters to use frequencies to voice the thoughts of their captors also brings up the question if they also can “read the minds” of their captors. Is it a one way transmission or are these waves able to be intercepted. We saw some attempts to do that in Season One, but none this year.

Since Redeye could use Rick, and probably Karen to speak a message, was she also able to discern his plans to rebel? Karen has been gone since the beginning of the season, but she is sure to return later, adding one more element of trustworthiness, or lack of same.

As the interrogation is continuing, Hal and Maggie (Sarah Carter) have been finding their way back to camp. They have been hiding in the back of a car while the Mechs were patrolling, and that time spent together seemed to advance the romance angle for the two of them. Maggie pulls back, though, and ends the moment. However, as they finally escape the Mechs and continue back, Maggie is injured.

As they make their way back to camp, the aliens follow and the 2nd Mass needs to scramble. The impending attack triggers the boiling point. Weaver believes that Redeye has brought the ambush to them and wants the Skitter killed. This causes Boon (Billy Wickman) to go trigger happy and fire at the Skitter, who manages an escape. We see Ricky take a bullet for Redeye and once again, a secondary character has a huge emotional impact on the viewer.

Ricky has been one of my favorite characters because he has such a haunting, tortured backstory, living a sickly childhood that seemed to distance him from almost everyone including his father, who died in the Season One episode “Sanctuary”. At the funeral, he was coldly unemotional and unmoved. For the entirety of the first season, it seemed that Rick almost felt held captive by the 2nd Mass, and longed for return to the Skitters. In the final first season episode, Rick is rejected by Karen to return to the ship and totally falls apart, like a man without a country or a friend.

What was demanded of Rick’s role was beautifully played by Daniyah Israel. At times, all he had to work with was his face, and at times, nothing more than his eyes. He effectively used such limited situations to powerfully communicate his emotions. Even as he leads the 2nd Mass to where Ben and Redeye are hiding, he seems not to realize how much love actually exists for him in that group. There is a sadness that he was found seemingly by chance, that people were looking for Ben.

Even as he hosted the words of Redeye, I felt that Ricky felt that he was simply perceived as a necessity but desired to show his ability. After all, even as he spoke Redeye’s words, Tom and others looked past him and to Redeye. In his choice to take the bullet to protect Redeye, you almost get the feeling that it is Rick seizing the moment and showing his heart and his desire. He chooses death as a noble way to show his devotion and cement his legacy as well. Rick is one who gave his all for what he believed and what he believed was necessary for triumph. In addition, the last person that Ben felt was trusting in him is now gone. Daniyah gave an amazing performance, and remains one of my favorites on the show.

There were other human moments that come into play, mostly built around love connections. Will they/ won’t they questions surround Tom and Anne (Moon Bloodgood) (they do…kiss) and Hal and Maggie (they almost do). Maggie is taken to an abandoned hospital that was discovered earlier in the episode. Maggie still questions what Hal has saved her and what the relationship actually may be. In a moment better than a kiss, Maggie asks Hal to stay by her bedside until she is able to fall asleep. Love and comfort for the two is found in this scene.

Weaver himself is in a hospital bed and summons Tom to talk with him. This has always been a tense relationship, and Weaver pulls no punches. There is back and forth about their own relationship, and Weaver tells Tom of his concerns about Ben remaining with the 2nd Mass. Weaver doesn’t need to worry, it seems, at least for now.

In a final, quiet scene, Ben tells Matt (Maxim Knight), who now seems to be the only person Ben feels he can confide in, that he will be going away for a while. He is very vague about why or where, but it is obvious that Matt has dual emotions: one is a feeling of satisfaction that Ben is confiding in him, but the other is the fear of where Ben is going and what he will be when he comes back. Even we aren’t sure if Ben is talking about 40 days in exile, in another city or somewhere in space.

Again, plenty of action in the show, but as you can see, the emotions of all involved are ruling every action. Falling Skies once again shows that great Sci Fi is built upon the human element.

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