Falling Skies finally gives us what we've been dying for

Last night's episode of Falling Skies was way better than the melodramatic "Hal's got an eyebug" showdown the previous week, although it still wasn't a landmark in television history or anything. In particular, last night's episode gave us what we've wanted from this show for ages: some development of the themes of government and the individual.

If you're going to have a post-apocalyptic show about survivors trying to carry on — and especially if you're going to have a show like that set in a huge community like Charleston — you absolutely have to tell stories about government and what sort of system these people are fighting to reconstruct.

So yay for Falling Skies telling more stories about different people forming different social contracts. Last night, we had:

1) The main plot, in which the Mason clan meets another family, who are sort of their foils but also represent Rugged Individualism taken to its extreme. The Pickett gang live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and until now they've mostly stayed off the aliens' radar. But since they took in some unscrupulous survivors of the alien attack who tried to rob them and killed Mrs. Pickett, Wilson and the rest of the Picketts don't trust any outsiders and live by robbing travlers. (Note: I don't know if Mr. Pickett's name is Wilson. That's just the coolest name he could possibly have.) When Tom tells them about Charleston, the fabled "Shangri-La" where everybody looks after each other and they fight the aliens, Wilson won't listen and his intransigence winds up getting his brother shot. In the end, Tom manages to convince the Picketts that if they kill the Masons, they'll have lost their humanity — as if humanity requires a certain amount of care for fellow humans.

2) Miss Peralta decides to move Popetown to make room for more refugee settlements, and possibly eliminate a source of dissent as well. Pope fights back, stirring up civil unrest, and Dan Weaver seems torn between supporting his new boss and standing by Pope's right to do what he wants, within reason. Weaver actually quotes Tom Mason as saying that the community needs a disruptive element like Pope, who will do the unacceptable thing sometimes, and he also believes that the working people need a bar to blow off steam at. And this whole storyline kicks off with Pope discussing the "credits" he and his crew have earned from selling booze, noting that they're basically useless outside of Charleston — they're a convenient fiction, like all of Charleston's government. And then the actual real, legitimate President of the United States turns up, and Miss Peralta is briefly demoted until the POTUS predictably gets shot by the Mole. And around that same time, Dan Weaver decides that something bad is going to go down with the Volm, the humans' alien allies, and he wants Pope in his corner.

(Oh, and Pope has a really interesting scene with Maggie, where the show actually remembers that his gang basically raped and imprisoned her for months — and he tells her that she'll come crawling back to him when the shit hits the fan.)

3) The Volm finally explain about their superweapon, and it adds up to a whole lot of "trust us, we know what we're doing." In a nutshell, the Eshveni defense grid will have the side effect of irradiating the entire planet and killing all the humans and other organic life, except the "fishheads" and their harnessed workers. (Which makes you wonder twice as hard why they'd bother coming here, and why they wouldn't just nuke us from orbit in the first place. I guess they wanted harnessed slaves.) But the Volm superweapon will destroy the grid by overloading it — or else it'll supercharge it and cook the planet faster. One or the other.

All that, plus we finally find out who the Mole is — it's Lourdes! Kind of sad about this, since she's actually come a long way and become a way more likable character than she was in the first season. But the scene of her kneeling in front of a cross and a million candles with bugs crawling out of her eyes was kind of great. But really, why one Mole? Why not 100? Why not half the population of Charleston? Are those bugs expensive or something?

Anyway, this was not a perfect hour of television by any means, but it did ask some interesting questions about society and the individual, and those are the sort of questions I'd love to see this show ask more often.