If you gave up on TNT's Falling Skies after the first few episodes, now's a great time to give it another chance. The just-concluded "Sanctuary" two-parter was genuinely intense and awesome. And this Sunday's new episode has answers, action and weirdness.
The above clip contains the moment when we finally found ourselves on the edge of our seats watching Falling Skies. Hal makes a tough decision, and it's not immediately clear whether he's just made a horrendous mistake or not. This is the moment we were hooked, once and for all, on Falling Skies.
We never got around to recapping last Sunday's episode of Falling Skies, so here's a combination of a recap of last Sunday's episode — plus a spoiler-free preview of this Sunday's new episode.
The clip above is one of the all-time great fake-outs — I really thought, watching it the first time, that Hal was making a colossal error sending Ben on his own, to fetch help for the straggling kids. Ben, after all, has been acting like a bit of an affectless weirdo ever since they rescued him from the Skitters and took off his harness. And it seems for a while as though this whole two-parter is leading up to Ben selling out his old human family in favor of his new Skitter family.
But the show surprises us, having Ben actually come through, and the story becomes much more interesting as a result.
We get a take of two escapees: Ben and Rick. Ben seems to have made the adjustment back to humanity, even though he's much more physically fit than he was before and he's "a different kid," as Hal puts it. He seems to remember his old life, and he seems grateful to his family for rescuing him. Rick meanwhile... he asks Hal "How can you eat their food?" at one point. He seems to have nothing but hostility for his dad, and after his dad dies, he barely seems to care. It's just another example of humans killing each other, proving that the aliens are superior.
Maybe because he was so horribly ill with cystic fibrosis before the aliens came, Rick seems to have embraced his new alien life to a much greater extent than Ben has — and this makes it twice as tragic that poor Mike sacrifices his life to save a son who barely even cares.
And in case it wasn't already obvious, the harnessed kids are not just a slave labor force. There is clearly something else going on — it was already telegraphed in earlier episodes, with the Skitter watching over the harnessed kids like a mother, and the telepathy, and the weird symbiosis with the harness. But now it's clearer than ever, that the aliens' plans for the harnessed children are a lot more complicated than just conscripted labor.
Meanwhile, we get more of a sense of what happens when people believe the aliens have already won — Clayton and his insane bargain with the Skitters is just one way that defeatism can turn you into a monster. If you believe the battle is already lost, then you just do whatever you have to, to survive. Including collaborating, handing over children, or whatever.
Even the childbirth subplot in last week's episode was kind of sweet, because we got to see another side of Captain "Saul Tigh wannabe" Weaver. And even the Christian girl's nails-on-chalkboard piano playing and singing weren't too bad, since they happened during scenes that were otherwise gripping and fascinating.
So we've already been lucky enough to see the next episode of Falling Skies, and it's way more action-packed and nuts than the last few. Everything starts racing forward — the Resistance starts actually, well, resisting. As the trailers for the episode have already given away, the fighters get some weapons upgrades and start learning a lot more about the aliens. (Warning: the promo at left is ultra-spoilery.) We start getting to the bottom of the mystery about the harnessed kids, and we discover a major new fact about the alien invaders.
Most of all, Sunday's episode ("What Hides Beneath") is a fantastic continuation of all the themes the show has been bringing up lately. We delve a lot more into the difference between Ben and Rick, the two formerly harnessed kids, and the mystery of Rick gets a lot more complicated. We continue to discover more sides to Captain Weaver. And our survivors continue to struggle with the sinking suspicion that the war is already lost, and the only thing that remains is to survive, by any means necessary.
Sunday's episode, added to the "Sanctuary" two-parter, helps to build up the sense that the producers of this show have really thought through a complicated alien civilization, with more than just a "we've come to take your water" motivation going on. And the relationships among the Mason family, as well as among the larger community of survivors, continue to get more complicated as well — especially as we start to figure out what Ben's lingering harness traces might mean for him.
All in all, Falling Skies is getting stronger as the season goes on, and it's a long way from the show about a history professor who sits around quoting history while people have heart-warming scenes and stagey action around him. As the show's first season winds down, it's developing into a strong, thought-provoking science fiction show.