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.
Falling Skies has been on the move this year. Last season, except for the movement out of Boston in the pilot episode, the 2nd Mass essentially stayed headquartered at the high school, defending against attack. They knew they had to move, but when?
The second season has answered that. With a couple weeks to go, the 2nd Mass has moved from Boston to Charleston, and has had episodes set at an abandoned airbase, another southern city, and an abandoned hospital, not to mention the first in the Boston suburbs. So much movement has allowed for a lot of energy and not a lot of rest for the weary or the viewer. It has also led to a lot of eye opening discovery of new survivors and subversives.
It was only right that as the 2nd Mass heads towards the climax of its second season, it would ratchet down the action and allow for both a breather and some personal discovery.
A couple of notes: First of all, this episode didn’t not have an appearance by the character who has become the center point for the story, Ben (Connor Jessup). Other than the recap at the top of the show, Ben is somewhere out there, doing what he needs to do. He is of course referenced in the show numerous times, but his absence allows the show runner and writers to look at the other characters more closely, to allow for us to learn who they were and are, and maybe might be.
This also didn’t feature an abundance of action. You had a few “what’s that up ahead” trick moments but there was no real confrontations, no physicality. The skitters are afoot, but the 2nd Mass is learning more about themselves.
The family unit was front and center in the show last week, both from the humans and the skitters. In particular, we are learning much more about how Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) is dealing with his sons now. We know that they were a great loving family back before the invasion , but of course, that dynamic was affected by the loss of wife and mother. (Still curious to hear more about her.)
Now, Tom Mason is not only struggling with learning how to command as well as teach, he also has to learn how to relate to his family that is growing up quickly and in ways that he never imagined. Tom has never seemed to doubt Hal (Drew Roy) and his ability to be on the front lines. Because of his time with the aliens, Tom has struggled to come to terms with Ben, to realize that Ben may actually now have a great purpose to fulfill.
The family relationship that is most hard to reconcile is between Tom and Matt (Maxim Knight). My favorite little scene in last weeks episode was when Matt wrote out his last will and testament and gave it to his father. Tom was of course taken aback, and later mentioned to Anne that he is moved by his “9 year old son” writing out his will. A very telling moment, one that shows that Tom is having the most problems relating to Matt growing up. Maybe it is that Matt is the youngest and therefore Tom can’t get out of protector mode. Maybe Tom has already seen his other sons grow into men and doesn’t want Matt to do the same.
He has already begrudgingly witnessed Matt taken up offensive positions and even firearms in the battle. He has seen Matt struggle with both Ben’s current condition as well as worries about how his father’s time with the aliens might have affected him. Last season, we saw Matt fascinated by Pope. This year, his desire to be included has even put him in danger by aligning with the Berserkers for some “fun and games” as well as winding up almost harnessed himself.
Now, in this episode, we see that Matt’s emotions and reasoning becomes a focal point to a story line that is sure to move beyond the few minutes given in DEATH MARCH. As the 2nd Mass moves south, they find Jenny, a harnessed girl lying in the road. They take her aboard the medical bus to receive attention. There she begins to befriend Matt, who seems to view her with both some pity for her condition but also as a clue or connection to where Ben might be. They are about the same age and might be friends in better times.
Jenny also gives us some insight into the skitters “lifestyle”. It is not unlike a family unit, to the point where Jenny actually mentions how much she missed them. She calls the harnessed kids “siblings” and the skitters are “guardians”, both familial terms that humans use. Jenny may not actually see herself as human anymore. Jenny is also wondering where her brother “Tyler” is.
The major element of these scenes is that Matt slowly lets down his guard with Jenny and begins to share with her. Much like Karen was able to gain Hal’s sympathy when she returned, you have to wonder if this is simply two children who are sharing a problem or if something more is up. Matt begins to share what is in his journal with Jenny, with Jenny even writing in the journal.
Suddenly, “Tyler” shows up outside the bus. We do not get a clear view of Tyler, but it is obvious that his transformation is farther along. Jenny says that she must leave and go with her brother. In the rush out, she pushes Matt and Dr. Glass out of the way. Matt is injured and when he comes to , he asks about his journal. He also seems to now have renewed worries about who Ben now identifies with: his family or the skitters.
Most of the rest of the episode focuses on two “pairings”. Hal is driving Maggie (Sarah Carter), with Pope (Colin Cunningham) in the back, while Weaver (Will Patton) has chosen Tector (Ryan Robbins) as his driver. This leads to character discoveries that allow us to understand them better.
Maggie has always seemed to keep an arms length away from Hal when it came to her past. Egged on by Pope, Maggie reveals that her life had gone downhill after her cancer battle. A life of drugs and petty crime to support her drug habit led to a prison sentence and a child born in prison. The child was taken away from her. Nothing is said about who the father might be or where the child was places, but Hal seems to simply listen and not explore these question.
In the meantime, we begin to learn more about Tector and about why Weaver keeps going back to him. It seems that Tector harbors bad memories of losses while he was in command in Afghanistan. Weaver gets him to open up with some classic prodding to get Tector angry enough to tell the full truth, not allowing him to pick and choose. As the episode progresses, we see Tector go from reluctant grunt to essentially Weaver’s right hand man. Respect between the two grows and is exemplified by Tector’s salute when he addresses Weaver to come rally the 2nd Mass as they approach Charleston.
And Charleston itself holds two surprises. One, it really isn’t there anymore, at least not the physical southern city. Second, Charleston seems to exist on the perimeters now, possibly in tunnels and other military bunkers that surround the city, essentially a Charleston 2.0. The biggest surprise is finding Col. Porter, alive and well and in command. He briefly fills Weaver in what has been happening, about how a new government has been formed. And he set the stage for the climax of Season Two.
As usual, Falling Skies has taken itself to a new level, adding in new colors, questions, and doubts. The biggest is exactly who Porter may be now. Is he simply in command or is there something more to him that we do not yet know? What of the new “government” and it’s leaders? We are led to believe that it is democratically elected, but without meeting the leader yet, we do not know. It is logical to expect the this new government and the 2nd Mass will be like “oil and water”, but how? Will Tom be called upon as essentially an opposition candidate if there is conflict between factions?
Where are the aliens in all of this? Who is now in charge of them, and does Karen hold even more danger than we thought? What of things that were introduced this season but have not been explored more, like the parasite than came out of Tom and the little Skitter Mini-me’s from the hospital? Where is Redeye?
And if Charleston exists, who else is out there and how organized are they? The 2nd Mass travelled a great distance and only found a group of alien resistance. That is a long way to not find anyone else. Are there others scattered about, or are there very few? And what of governments that are started in the absence of a US government. Does the US even technically exist anymore, just as the rules of law and order may have radically changed?
How did Charleston get destroyed yet so many people seem to be rebuilding a society?
And what about Ben?