Hi Falling Skies fans!
So does anyone know the recipe for a good episode?
Well, TNT’s Falling Skies has got the formula down. Take a couple sweet little kids trying to help each other, a time bomb of a man goading a blossoming couple to get their secrets out in the open, a breathtaking double twist of an ending!
Oh and did I mention putting Weaver (Will Patton), and Tector (Ryan Robbins), in a truck and letting them verbally duke it out for an hour? Yeah, this week’s episode was a jaw-dropper for all the right reasons!
Before continuing my analysis of “Death March”, we include the promotional trailer for the next exciting episode of Falling Skies, “The Price of Greatness” and the last episode of 2nd Watch at the end of my review featuring host Wil Wheaton, Falling Skies writer Heather Regnier and actors Maxim Knight and Colin Cunningham.
All courtesy of TNT for your enjoyment. Thanks TNT!
You know my rule if you have not seen the episode: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
The episode primarily takes place in darkness, foreshadowing the ending but also providing a great setting for the oncoming revelations. We open to the convoy buzzing along, Tom Mason, (Noah Wyle), staring painfully out of the window, remembering his goodbye to Ben Mason, (Connor Jessup), who has left to join the Skitter rebellion.
In this post-apocalyptic world, the fabric that makes up men and women is sewn and shattered, old ideas often suppressed to make way for the new ones borne of the need for survival. Ben, as a harnessed man, has a unique perspective of seeing both sides of the coin, and will no doubt be an asset to whichever side he serves on.
He is a fragile and dangerous character both emotionally and physically, but he is admirable in his mindset and strength.
I am certain we will see Ben Mason again – and not just because he is a main character in the series, but because he is the type of character that will simply not go until it is his choice to do so.
Tom Mason may be seen as a naive optimist, but in truth what else can you be with a nine year old and a following of about 300 people? Even though he is ripped apart at the seams with the voluntary departure of his possibly most fragile son, he still grips on to hope – hope that Ben will return, hope that Charleston is real, hope that the humans will kick the Skitters off of their planet.
Tom Mason, despite his rocky history, is still almost an unabashed optimist in this episodes. Is he rosy-eyed, does he know something we do not, or is he simply holding firm to giving hope to those around him even when he knows the outcome is too bleak to make any promises?
In another part of the convoy, Weaver and Tector are stuck in close quarters in a cab. Tector’s clearly having some problems staying awake but is too stubborn to stop driving. Right in the beginning of this scene, we can already see Weaver’s brain at work, and Tector is already letting his guard down.
Weaver had selected Tector to be his driver, and Weaver rarely does anything without thinking the matter through or at least having a very good, deliberate reason. This comes through clearly when Tector confesses to not really knowing who he is himself, and invites theories. The stage is set for the psychological evaluations to begin.
The curtain is also ready to rise on Maggie, (Sarah Sanguin Carter), and Hal, (Drew Roy). They are already in enough danger as it is, running advance scout for the convoy and toting the unpredictable John Pope, (Colin Cunningham), who comments that ‘beer duty’ is taking a toll on him!
Pope makes his presence known in a variety of ways, the latest of which scares the heck out of both of them in a very well played sequence of scenes by Colin Cunningham, Drew Roy and Sarah Sanguin Carter!
Hal comments that he will help Maggie kill Pope, and Maggie contradicts him, stating that he “doesn’t have enough dark in his soul.” Hal is understandably perplexed at this somewhat spiritual statement, but most us at home are going: “WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO HER?!” (or at least – I was).
Sure, Maggie was a member of Pope’s Gang and has had a LOT of terrible things happen to her, (not the least of which is abuse by Pope’s deceased brother), but there is definitely more going on here than a reference to things past that we know about.
We continue, episode-wise, in a circle, jumping from vehicle to vehicle catching bits of the various conversations going on. Tom is still trying to convince Anne Glass, (Moon Bloodgood), that they will make it to Charleston.
Segue back with Weaver and Tector, the pressure is on as Weaver slowly deduces that Tector is not, in fact, the good ol’ country boy he seeks so hard to be, but rather he is a soldier under cover from….something we do not know yet.
Tector reluctantly admits to being a soldier but demands to know why it is important. Weaver comments that he does not trust Tector which, given Tector’s past, (especially with the stunt he pulled with Matt Mason [Maxim Knight] a few episodes back), is certainly reason enough to stop keeping secrets.
Tector starts to defend himself, but a loud smash gets both of their attention – and to our horror we realize that Tector has hit a child in the road, (or perhaps the child hit him).
The fun is not over yet – the child is not only harnessed, but well on her way to transforming. She is a beautiful, young little thing named Jenny, (Olivia Steele-Falconer), and despite Weaver’s understandable mistrust, they decide to bring her along with them. She is constantly begging for her brother, Tyler, which begs the question: who – or what – is Tyler? An inevitable confrontation is on the way.
Until then, however, the episode takes a sweet side-trip.
Matt Mason, with all the kindness of a child growing up in a dangerous world, takes a liking to the changing Jenny, offering her food and giggling with her about burping, something she has not done in a long time. It is a breath of fresh air and a relief to see that Matt finally has someone his own age to talk to, even if that someone is a harnessed child.
Matt wastes no time with the girl; after a short time he eagerly tells her about Charleston and reveals his journal, something deeply personal. Jenny is sympathetic to him and perhaps hopeful that she can come along with them to Charleston, but her transformation into a Skitter has already affected her mind. She speaks of humans as a race apart from her, and instead of using the words ‘harness’ and ‘Skitter’, she says ‘joined’ and ‘Guardian’.
It is fascinating to see the kind of effect the Skitters have on children, and even though Matt is frightened for his brother and slightly repulsed by Jenny’s esteem of the Skitters, he still tries to convince her to come. Jenny replies: “Maybe.”
There is more backstage activity on the Maggie-Hal drama unfolding when the radiator overheats in their truck and Pope convinced them to detour to a river to collect water. While Hal goes to collect, Pope informs Maggie that she cannot lead him on for long. Given the history between Maggie and Pope, it is clear that through the animosity there is still a level of respect.
Pope’s ability to get someone thinking about their words and the possible outcomes of their lives works on the lovely blonde woman, and by the time they are on the road again her dark eyes are wide and nervous. Hal, no fool, picks up on this, and pushes her for information.
In the end, John Pope wins – Maggie reveals the sordid contents of her life before the invasion, and Hal is sufficiently horrified. There are many questions that come from this – a couple of which are solved by the end of the episode and a couple of which still remain.
Hal does at least forgive or understand Maggie by the end as he repeats something she said in a hopeful manner, tossing her a smile. Will this come back to become a problem later? It is possible but given Hal’s attitude I would currently say unlikely. Hal is strong and solid man in the face of overwhelming odds.
Now, why did Pope push Maggie to tell him? What good could come of his meddling in others’ affairs? Is it a need for power with him – he controlled her to do something potentially destructive to a personal relationship? Could it be that he cares for her, or for Hal, and actually wants the two of them to be happy, (given Pope’s attitude, unlikely, but it should be considered).
Or is it more of a grander scale – Pope knows that in this world there is little time for secrets and lies, (unless they are used to further his own means and ends)? Either way, the mystery that is John Pope just added a new level. I am eager to learn more about him.
The convoy, lacking their advance scout, takes a rest as they come to a fork in the road.
Tector is under a considerable amount of stress now, his buoyant attitude crushed by the weight of memories of his life as a soldier. He is cold, distant, formal, and not really willing to discuss anything.
We can see now that something horrible has happened to him, something that he has spent a very long time trying to hide or run away from, and Weaver is coaxing it out into the open, bit by bit.
The scenes are breathtaking, with Weaver’s piercing eyes and Tector’s agitated avoidances. As the rest comes to a close, Weaver chooses route 52 to lead to Charleston, saying excitedly that he can smell the sea.
Then, Tyler arrives.
He is much further gone than Jenny, and wastes no time attacking the bus in an attempt to get to her. Matt, horrified, tries to restrain Jenny, but she throws him off and runs. It is now clear that Jenny may have been tempted by Matt’s offer, but she cannot or will not refuse the call of the Skitters, (or her harness).
This does not bode well for the remaining children who are still harnessed, and Matt is heartbroken as she leaves. Tom tries to console him, and Matt asks to be left alone with his journal, presumably to grieve. We, however, are left with a far more unsettling sensation in the pits of our stomachs. Matt told Jenny about Charleston. Now, Jenny is returning to the Skitters. Uh-oh.
Dawn brings everything to light finally between Tector and Weaver. With the calm, careful needling, Tector finally reveals that he got a number of men killed in one of his tours in Afghanistan. He also blames himself for the death of Boon.
At first, Weaver shockingly agrees, screaming at him. Tortured and agonized, Tector breaks, screaming back that it wasn’t his fault. Weaver, taking advantage of the breakdown, consoles him, pointing out that it was ‘the enemy’s’ fault. He is quietly reshaping Tector – and healing him.
The episode is not over – and in fact, the worst is yet to come.
As dawn rises, the landscape around them is revealed. Tector, looking ahead, slams on the breaks and stares in complete horror at the sight ahead of him. Everyone slowly gets out of their cars, and walks forward, onto a bridge over a river. The bridge is massively destroyed, sheared off – but they can still see past it into the ruins of a city by the sea.
The horror is unimaginable and the terrible effect on moral hits home as their pipe dream fades. The hope sprung so many episodes ago and the source of Tom Mason’s optimism is nothing more than a ruined city, supposedly picked clean and abandoned long ago. Tom breaks down in a tender moment with Anne.
No one knows what to do or where to turn – and almost magically, it is Tector who rallies first, saluting Weaver and informing him that the 2nd Mass needs him now as he undergoes his own personal torment.
Weaver steps up with Tector’s support, and announces that they will simply make their own paradise on Earth, displaying a charisma and hope that I personally have not seen in a military commander on TV in a long time, (I will not name characters but I am sure you might think of one?)
The 2nd Mass, beaten and broken, join together and prepare to step into the unknown – and then three members of the first Continental Army come walking out of the brush, among them our season one hero, Colonel Jim Porter (Dale Dye)!
As it turns out, the Genii of our neighboring Pegasus Galaxy (Stargate Atlantis) have the right idea. Porter reveals that Charleston is a ruse to the Skitters – the ruins are as real. The “real” Resistance city is underground. There are strawberries, and refugees, and military power all holed up secretly in subterranean tunnels.
One final surprise comes when the Army reveals to have ‘captured’ Hal, Maggie, and Pope – all alive, and all are happy to be reunited, (well, happy being relative in John Pope’s case of course!). With reborn hope, the 2nd Mass goes to Charleston!
In this episode we did not see as much of our favorite Skitter fighters, Anthony (Mpho Koaho), Dai (Peter Shinkoda) and Crazy Lee (Luciana Carro) except in brief passing or group shots. But the adventure in Charleston, and battle with the evil Overlords is still to come!
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