Weaver: "I don't know what to say."
Tector: "I respectfully suggest that you make something up ... sir."
In practically every television show with a serial format, the episode before the final two is when a big change happens, or there is a big revelation, or they do a frustratingly repetitive clip show. This episode didn't break that mold, although it wasn't exactly what I thought it would be. So the theme this time was rather transparently, secrets... how ironic. What I find interesting is that we got what was essentially an entire episode of exposition, and yet it seemed like there was some significant progress in the overall story. I guess it was a bit of an emotional state of the show, where everyone lays out their issues so that we know explicitly where they are in their heads.
We got basically four plot threads, interwoven with the journey towards Charleston as an obvious metaphor for transition. Of the four pairs of couples, I liked the stuff with Weaver and Tector the most. Tector has been growing as a character, in both depth and importance. What seemed like a painfully one-note character with flatulence and hygiene issues has become a lot more complex. He was a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marines, which in and of itself is impressive, but he also did tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. His secret, and why he pretends to be a moron, is that he doesn't trust himself with command after losing three men in an ambush situation in Afghanistan.
I can't blame him for having doubts, but someone with that much experience would be so critical in this kind of world. That doubt and self recrimination came to a head when Weaver pretended to blame him for the deaths of Boone and the men he lost. The scene was really well done, and it was capped nicely with Weaver admitting that he not only had doubts about his leadership, but almost fled from the 2nd Mass after Fitchburg. It set up that final scene between the two, where Tector gave Weaver just the right push to move past the fact that Charleston was a bust.
I was bit surprised that Charleston was revealed to be completely destroyed, but at the same time it fit perfectly with the build up to their arrival. This group had pinned all their hopes and dreams on the faintest possibility that there was an end to their journey. When it didn't happen, when all those hopes were dashed completely, it felt like a perfect final note to that particular plot thread. They were ready to give up on the idea that there was an easy end, they were about to push forward and find a new definition of home for themselves. And then Porter showed up out of nowhere, and suddenly Charleston became real.
Tom's scenes were all about this hope, his whole world was being held up by this notion of a place to rebuild. To finally restart a life with Anne, Matt, and Hal. To create a home for Ben to return to. When that possibility was pulled out from under him, the look on his face was absolute disbelief and devastation. It was like the final straw, and if things didn't turn around I'm not sure he would've been able to fully recover. I bet he would've gotten angrier and angrier, as was evidenced by his continual frustration and outbursts over relatively unimportant things throughout the episode. But what if Charleston is just another kind of horrible, a new hell with undiscovered monsters hidden within the guise of civilization?
Pope kept trying to get Maggie to admit to her dark past. Not that it was the worst past imaginable. It was dark for sure, but mostly it sounded like she got lost, and didn't know how to climb her way out. Hal represents her salvation, and she's still not sure she's worth it. But underlying Pope's insistence that neither of them were right for Charleston, was something that seemed more to the point: the idea that humans can be monsters too. It's a theme they keep repeating, that the aliens might have come to enslave and murder the world, but they weren't the first ones to do it. Is Charleston not going to be what it seems to be?
Which brings me to the most obvious manifestation of that concept, which was Jenny and her brother Tyler. We first met Jenny in the two-part episode "Sanctuary", and her transformation has progressed a little since then. Her hands have become malformed, and the scales on her face have advanced as well. I got the impression that Tyler was already fully transformed, since we only got vague impressions of him through obscured glass. Were they on the level? It seemed a bit too convenient that they were out in the wild alone. But what purpose would it serve to infiltrate the 2nd Mass now? Karen and the Fish-head must've overheard that they were headed to Charleston several times during the hospital siege.
Who was Anne's dehydrated patient, did he even have a name? Was he injured during the hospital siege?
Lourdes was acting a little insane, and I wanted to thwack her for freaking out. But she did just lose someone she loved, and it was a nice touch that she was protective of Jamil's tools. That's something the show is good about, the continuity of dead characters. They're brought up in conversation as important, remembered, and mourned. Jamil, Uncle Scott, Jimmy, Boone... and that's just this season.
I loved Pope in the back of the truck throwing jabs at the couple (Hal and Maggie), it was some nice comic relief.
What's with the 2nd Mass taking in the enemy with open arms? Jenny could've easily been a plant to gain information or push the group into an ambush. Sometimes the military tactics shown by Weaver make absolutely no sense.
The makeup on Jenny was really effective, especially the scales on her face and her ridiculously torn up hair.
For a moment I was worried that Maggie, Hal, and Pope had run into a Skitter ambush. Maggie and Pope are still my favorite characters, and Hal has grown on me quite a bit.
Porter was completely unexpected, I honestly didn't think we'd ever see him again. But it makes sense that he'd be in the 1st Continental Army.
Weaver had another great motivational speech. If the world recovers, he should make that into a second career.
Pope: "People like us, Maggie, we don't belong in a place like Charleston. Clips our wings."
Maggie: "Is that a pitch? Look, I don't know what you're plotting. But I'd rather swallow glass than be a part of it."
Tom: "I was so sure that Charleston was real. I wanted it to be true, for you, for Ben, for everyone. For me. Just to have a chance to re-build our lives. Just make some sense of everything that's happened. To Ben. And there's nothing. There's nothing."
Maggie: "You disgust me."
Pope: "Well, there was a time when you felt differently."
Maggie: "No, there was a time when I lied about it."
Pope: "At least you're consistent."
Tom: "I don't know where Hal is, and I don't think I'm ever going to see Ben again. And my nine year old just made out his will."
Anne: "We're all just a heartbeat away from death. We always have been. We always will be. That's not a reason to lose hope. We're not dead yet."
So this was the final push to Charleston. Not quite as epic as Weaver made it out to be. But it did wrap up some of the emotional plot threads from the season so far, and gave us a hint to what we should pay attention to for the last two. From this point on our group is no longer fighting alone, for good or ill. It's telling that the episode ended with smiles, it makes me wonder how long those smiles will last. This kind of feels like the calm before the storm. What form will that storm take when it finally hits?
2 1/2 out of 4 Cans of beer used as breadcrumbs for the 2nd Mass to follow.
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.