NOTE: You can find a list of my previous FALLING SKIES and TV related blog posts here at the Falling Skies (and other TV talk). These are listed in reverse order.
The last episode of FALLING SKIES looked much farther back in history than what has occurred in North America. In reaching all the way back to ancient Greece, Falling Skies drew it’s inspiration from what has always been seen as another hopeless battle, THE BATTLE OF THERMOPYLAE. These words of defiance (translated as “Come And Get Them” ) spoken by King Leonidas as the Persian Army demanded surrender have parallels in American History, such as Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty or give me death” speech before the Virginia House in 1775 that allowed Virginia to join in the Revolutionary War. It is at its simplest a boast, and at its most complex, a way to unite different forces for a common good.
And in keeping with the Greek warfare theme: Beware the Trojan Horse.
As you follow FALLING SKIES, you see the issue of MOLON LABE has been ever present since the battle began. Whether through the need to unite soldiers, policemen, mercenaries, teachers, civilians and people far out of their comfort zone or the need to build a command structure that allows for an organized and effective response, the defiance in the face of the enemy rises above all else. The 2nd Mass united in a defiant scream.
Now, on the road to Charleston (and on the way to meet up with other survivors with unknown motives), the pushback from the aliens has advanced beyond what has been happening in the past. The defiance of a small group of 2nd Mass fighters could soon give way to a larger and more organized push back against the aliens. The aliens seen to know this. They seem well versed in our history, especially the psychological aspects. They themselves seem to understand our logic and emptions, and how to use them to manipulate us. The best example is how they used Karen (Jesse Schramm) when she was found by Hal (Drew Roy) and Maggie (Sarah Carter). Karen knew how to elect pity and sympathy from those she knew most susceptible to those emotions, and she knew how to manipulate and play those people off of the more skeptical ones.
As this episode opened, Ben (Connor Jessup) was lead right into a trap. Karen was able to convince him that they were meeting up with the alien resistance, but instead, the Overlord greeted then. As Karen attempted to reharness Ben, Tom (Noah Wyle) and the 2nd Mass were able to follow along and not only break up the reharnessing effort but also to capture the Overlord. They took the Overlord back and restrained him in the same room as karen had been kept. Karen escaped, and the normal course of thought would be that without the alien “general”, Karen would not know how to respond.
As this is taking place, the rest of the 2nd Mass was making preparations to make the journey to Charleston. Of course, having the Overlord around not only makes this more difficult but it also leads to a renewed skepticism and distrust in having the Overlord there, as well as having him so close to Ben. Some of the 2nd Mass thinks that the danger posed by Ben being around may be too great for the common good. Weaver even goes far enough to say to Tom that Ben is a detriment to their survival and must be sent away.
Add to this the danger that exists from the Overlord being held hostage and the rescue attempt by the aliens that soon ensues. This is where a major unresolved question comes up (for me at least). Since the band that tried to recapture Ben was led by the overlord, and he is now a captured general, who will now lead the aliens in their rescue attempt. That turns out to be Karen, who has essentially taken charge of the attack and negotiations. The question for me is whether she is acting on her own or is still being controlled by the overlord?
So far, when Ben has been in contact with the aliens, it is from very close proximity. If the overlords can control Karen from a distance, why not Ben? Who is truly in control and how much power does Karen actually have? Does the Karen that they knew even exist anymore?
This is seen in the first attempt to free the overlord. Karen and the mechs create a negotiation distraction in front of the hospital while Tom senses that this may be a smokescreen to cover a sneak attack from the rear. That proves to be the case and while Tom is able to fight that attack off, it causes a collapse in the basement that traps Anne (Moon Bloodgood), Lourdes (Seychelle Gabrielle) and Matt (MaxIm Knight) in the basement. As they try to find a way out, Jamil (Brando Jay) is able to make his way to them .
Jamil is incoherent and seems injured. A noise from a door attracts Matt’s attention, but Jamil tells him to leave it closed. At this point, Jamil starts to convulse and they discover that Jamil has become a host, a “Trojan horse” for the introduction of a new alien species, small spider like creatures that pour out from him and pursue the others. This is emotional not only for the viewer, who sees another character killed off, but also for the emotional pull that it puts on Lourdes, who sees the man she loves horribly destroyed.
The three take shelter by barricading themselves in a basement lab. They decide to send Matt through the air shaft to see if he can bring help back, while Anne and Lourdes design a way to use flammable oxygen tanks to essentially firefight their way out.
Now, the fate of a band of 2nd Mass’ers who were led by Boone becomes obvious. They went out to scout but were captured. Karen has raised a white flag and wants to talk with Weaver. When these talk do not produce the return of the overlord, Karen resorts to a type of “message” that is straight out of World War II. It turns out that Boone was captured and held by Karen. In a scene that looks like an East German prisoner exchanges, Boone is sent walking back towards the 2nd Mass, only to be gunned down in front of them. Karen and the aliens have delivered the message that this is war and compassion is the first casualty of war. Essentially another cold and calculated murder to prove power.
At this point, Tom goes to confront the overlord. As Karen did by playing possum as to her strength while being held captive, the overlord confronts Tom with his own show of power by breaking the shackles that were holding him at the beginning of the meeting. For some reason, Tom has brought Ben and the overlord has taken advantage of the situation to use Ben as his mouthpiece as well as to use Ben as a symbol of the overlords power.
It is a bit disconcerting to hear Ben speak the thoughts of the overlord in a cold, monotonal dispassionate voice. The overlord essentially tells Tom the old chestnut that they come in peace, but they come with a definite mission. The overlord says that the human race is not their concern but the dwindling resources of what they see as an out of control Planet Earth are. This almost seems like a much darker threat than the removal of Earth to make way for an intergalactic highway in THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. The overlord will explain nothing more about their mission but the ecological threat seems to resonate in the real world. Tom’s defiance, his MOLON LABE moment, brings a show of how much the aliens know how to attack the humans on an emotional plane. The overlord CAUSES Ben to collapse to the floor and convulse in agony. This continues inly until the overlord stops the control.
Tom responds by firing at the overlord and injures him. Karen is brought in to see what has happened to the now injured overlord. Karen appeals to Ben’s emotions, telling him she is glad that he is safe, but all that has happened was necessary to advance the cause. At this point, she notices how injured the overlord is and begins to attack Tom, but Ben restrains her. She is told that the only way for the overlord to survive Is for Karen and the aliens to allow the 2nd Mass to depart.
At this point, a crossroad is being realized. Tom now seems convinced that a rebellion exists and that Ben is necessary to that rebellion. He has also come to the realization that this rebellion can bring more danger to the 2nd Mass and while he does not like it one bit, he too realizes that Ben must go off on his own to continue the progress of the 2nd Mass resistance. In one of those great human scenes that make Falling Skies so much more than just shoot the aliens sci-fi, Tom and Ben have a very moving scene where Tom reluctantly says goodbye to Ben, allowing him to go off to do what he is destined to. In addition, he also allows Ben to grow up, reminiscing about his first emotional day at nursery school but accepting that he has grown up a Mason, and the Mason family will always find a way to be there for each other.
In the end, this episode begs the main question of who Karen truly is and how much power she can actually wield. We’ve already seen he as a master deceiver. What else is she capable of ? Charleston may hold that answer.