There are homecomings and then there are homecomings. THE WALTONS waited for their father one nasty Christmas day and experienced doubts, concerns, and worries as to what had and would happen to the family. In the past weeks FALLING SKIES episode, also titled THE HOMECOMING, it may involve a very different family in the 2nd Mass but it still involves the same issues, and more.
A few small scenes of relative tranquility are used to set the audience up for what is essentially a psychological story filled with doubts and trust issues. In the opening, we see Tom Mason (Noah Wylie) and Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood)in a scene that suggests they have spent the night together. What is nice about this scene is that, while it shows them in a happy moment, they both still remember their past lives. Tom even talks about his melancholy for the mundane home life he shared with his wife and boys before the invasions.
This brief respite is interrupted when Capt. Weaver (Will Patton) is felled by a mysterious life threatening illness from the bite from the slug at the harness factory. Weaver has kept the bite progression from Tom. Adding to the problems, Weaver has been draining the fuel supplies to run the hospital generators without letting Tom know and now they have to scavenge for fuel to get to Charleston.
Oh, did I mention that Weaver is now desperately ill and there may be only enough fuel to power the hospital for 12 more hours. Of course, one little thing that I noticed is that there seem to be a lot of lights on in the daytime. How about a little conservation?
So, the issue of trust is suggested by the fact that Weaver chose to hide his illness from Tom. The obvious question is whether Weaver did it to spare Tom worry or because Weaver does not yet trust Tom since he has returned from captivity and may be afraid to relinquish command. In any case, the illness proves to be tough to deal with and requires a complicated setup to extract, warm, and replace Weaver’s blood. Of course, this means Macguyver, er, I mean, Jamil (Brandon Jay) needs to figure out a way to do this with the very limited resources that they have.
In the midst of all of this, Hal (Drew Roy) and Maggie (Sarah Carter) wind up on patrol. Maggie is becoming Hal’s “Jiminy Cricket”, trying to warn him away from impulses, as well as being realistic about their own relationship. While out, they come across a pit where they discover the discarded bodies of harnessed kids. In keeping with my feeling of how important our own past history is to the Falling Skies story, that scene caused me to flashback to scenes of the concentration camp pits in World War II.
A major discovery is the barely alive Karen (Jessy Schram) now de-harnessed and seemingly left for dead. Hal sees her and picks her up to carry back to the hospital. Again, looking back to the previous Vermont slaughter when Tom Mason was the only one left alive after being released by the aliens, you begin to wonder why Karen is still breathing when the rest are all dead.
Karen’s return also causes Ben (Connor Jessup) to insist that she cannot stay, that she is a danger to the 2nd Mass. His stance is very complicated, since it raises a number of questions and issues. The main one is the personal one. We know that Hal and Ben have been at odds for a while, so will Hall see this as another move by Ben to go against him? In addition, by Ben speaking out about the danger Karen poses by being there, he is also exposing more of his knowledge of and connection to the aliens. This has always been a problem for Ben, as his history has bred distrust among the 2nd Mass. You also have the question of whether Ben fears for the safety of his father, since he had the previous encounter with Karen in the alien ship.
Tom decides to allow Karen to stay, but orders her to be locked in the psychiatric ward with a guard. Here again, trust becomes a factor. Tom grants Hal’s desire to care for Karen but heeds Ben’s warnings by securing her. In the meantime, the chill factor between Ben and Hal reaches a new low. This chill soon shows again as Karen awakes seemingly disoriented with Hal and Anne at her bedside. This is also where the issue of trust soon turns to questions of bias and manipulation. Tom, Maggie and Ben line up on the side of very skeptical caution, possibly because these three have their own trust issues. Tom and Ben because of their alien encounters and Maggie because of her previous allegiance to Pope. Anne is sympathetic but Hal has always been in love with Karen and his emotions cloud his logic.
Ben convinces Tom to let him watch over Karen. His insistence of the danger Karen poses to everyone strikes Hal as odd, since Ben never knew Karen. Ben may not know Karen, but he definitely doesn’t trust her. However, unlike every other pairing, we now have two like individuals, two who have been harnessed. The question is if they are both have the same increased strength and intensity. That is soon answered.
As Ben is guarding Karen, he starts to let down his defenses. Karen starts by slowly revealing that she too hears alien static and has increased strength. She almost seems to be probing Ben to test exactly what she is up against. Around Ben, Karen quickly drops the apprehensiveness and starts to bond with Ben. Karen manages to get him to enter the room and as they approach each other, their spikes start to glow and they embrace. While it seems to shock Ben, it also seems to be out of his control. At that point, Hal enters, and as if on cue, Karen passes out. Hal accuses Ben of doing something to Karen, which causes Ben to run and Karen to convince Hal that Ben tried to hurt her.
As Weaver is getting what is hoped to be a life saving blood transfusion, Pope (Colin Cunningham) informs Tom that Karen was there when he was ambushed and injured. Karen’s story is now very suspect. At this point, the hospital generators die and Jamil has to figure a way to get the blood machine working again before Weaver dies.
Maggie has been the most skeptical of all and feels that the danger posed is to Ben, not Karen, even though Hal believes that Ben is trying to harm Karen. When Maggie goes to confront Karen, Karen is able to turn the confrontation into a display of manipulation, as she knocks out Maggie and then sets it up to look like Maggie tried to harm her. Karen has convinced Ben that he is not wanted nor trusted by the 2nd Mass and Ben decides to take Karen away to the rebel skitter resistance. After a final rooftop confrontation with Hal, where Ben whispers “Sorry” to Hal before knocking him out, Ben and Karen disappear into the darkness.
This episodes issue of trust runs deep and confusing. Ben’s warnings that the 2nd Mass is not safe with Karen there brings into question whether Ben feels any danger to himself. Knowing that Ben had told Matt (Maxim Knight) last week that he would be going away for a while, you start to wonder if he meant on a pilgrimage or if he was sensing the future and knew that he would need to lead Karen away for some reason.
Karen has managed to affect the trust between Hal and Ben, between Hal and Maggie, and now between Ben and everyone else. Since Ben was so steadfast about getting Karen away from the 2nd Mass, and was essentially rebuffed in his warning, is he now taking matters into his own hands? Was Karen’s “Mata Hari” routine sniffed out by Ben and did Ben play along to try to protect the 2nd Mass?
This also begs the question of whether Ben and Karen share the same abilities. So far, we’ve seen Karen be as strong and as intuitive as Ben. Knowing that her hearing is elevated, can she be able to sense out relationships that she doesn’t previously know in order to set up a master chess game of 2nd Mass members?
Knowing that Ben sensed danger, and knowing that Karen has already revealed herself to others, you begin to wonder who is in control of their final escape into darkness. Is Karen making Ben lead her to the Skitter resistance or is Ben leading the 2nd Mass out of immediate danger by leading Karen away? Since no one trusts Ben to tell him where the 2nd Mass is traveling to, is he consciously putting himself in danger to keep the 2nd Mass destination out of the aliens sight?
In the end, you have a transitional episode where most of the action is all drama based, and you have no appearances by the aliens, Skitters, or Mechs. This is SciFi stripped of most of the visual elements. The 2nd Mass is facing danger to be sure, but for this episode, the biggest danger is Karen playing all of them against each other. She has reinforced doubt of Ben in much of the 2nd Mass and may have accomplished the mission to find out about the resistance. It all comes down to what Ben really knows and senses and what seems to be Ben Vs. Karen’s alien puppeteer.
And where Ben’s true strength lies. Is he stronger than manipulation by Karen, or is he more controllable than ever?