Falling Skies has shown tons of potential, and some fascinating story threads, ever since the post-apocalyptic alien occupation show started. But last night's intense "Sanctuary Part 1" was the first time this show really felt like it delivered.

All of a sudden, this feels more like a real knife's-edge show about humans on the edge of extinction, with aliens pushing us to the limit and hard choices at every turn. Falling Skies skipped the schmaltz and instead delivered some good solid drama. Spoilers ahead...

There were a lot of nice character moments in last night's episode, and some of them were even heart-warming. But they were all in the service of the story, and none of them felt as fake and cloying as this show has gotten at times. I also really liked the way the different storylines in the episode were interwoven, including:

1) A family who decide that they've had enough of the precarious existence with the 2nd. Mass, so they attempt to steal a bunch of drugs from Anne so they can have something to trade with after they run away. Anne fights back, but they actually get thwarted by a group of fighters from the 2nd. Mass, with the help of their pal Terry Clinton from the now-nonexistent 7th. Mass. And at the very end of the episode, we see the son of that family again — and it appears things haven't gone so well for them after they ran away.

2) As a result of getting beaten up by the father of the deserter family, Anne is traumatized — but she also is learning that she has to fight back. After she killed a Skitter pretty much with her bare hands last week, this feels like a logical development. And she has some great interactions with Maggie, who tells her that if you just lie there and take it, "it can be really hard to come back from." So Maggie gives Anne some quick-and-dirty marksmanship lessons, as seen in the nice clip above.

3) Terry Clinton from the 7th. Mass claims that the Skitters wiped out his entire group, and now he has new orders for the 2nd. Mass to rendezvous with the 3rd. Mass, and then the combined forces will regroup. But first, Terry needs to take the kids to safety ahead of the adults, in case the Skitters and Mechs attack the 2nd. Mass the way they did the 7th. It sounds plausible enough, and it's one of those debates where there's not really a right side or a wrong side. (At least, not unless you know the truth about Terry.) Already frayed tempers start rising more among the civilians of the 2nd. Mass, who don't want to send their kids away.

4) Jimmy, a barely pubescent resistance fighter, begs to be put back on sentry duty — and then kinda-sorta blows it when a Skitter and a Mech attack. He does show a lot of courage, though. Just like Anne, he's doing the best he can.

In the end, Dan gives in and decides to send all of the kids away with good ol' Terry, to the farm, where they'll be Absolutely Totally Safe and nothing bad will ever happen to them ever. And we discover what everybody watching at home has suspected the entire time — Terry is a collaborator, who's handing over kids to the Skitters. Who are using a creepy-ass little girl to communicate with people and lure children to them. Urk.

There was a lot of nice drama in this episode, including the interplay between the Mason children, and the bit where the newly un-harnessed Ben fakes out Matt by pretending that touching his harness is causing him to have some weird spasm. And I really liked the fact that Hal and Ben couldn't stand each other before, and they still kind of can't stand each other. (And Ben does seem a bit creepily perfect and well-adjusted, like he's jacked up on Ritalin or something.) I also really liked the scenes between Anne and Maggie.

And the fact that some of the civilians among the 2nd Massachusetts are not happy with having "razorback" children living among them, coupled with the continuing hints that the children formed some kind of major emotional bond with the Skitters and are actually not right, make for a fascinating situation. The guy who freaks out about Ben and the other alien-implanted children living in his midst? He might actually be right. Ben might still be working with the Skitters. Of course, as the episode's ending proves, you don't have to have worn a harness to be a pawn of the Skitters.

Good stuff. Let's hope the show continues to build on this newfound strength.