Falling Skies: The Armory

Pope: "What're my options?"
Tom: "Join or die."
Pope: "Just like the revolution huh?"
Tom: "Just like."

I think this episode felt different enough from the pilot that it didn't play as just a second part. Split up into four distinct parts, each had something important to impart about our characters and the world they live in. We learned a bit more about the interplay between the military and the civilians of the 2nd Mass, we were introduced to a new enemy, and we found out a bit more of how dire things really are.

The opening scenes and the lead up to the mission to the Armory were almost all character moments. We learned that Tom's team is a kind of forward scouting and retrieval squad. Besides his son Hal and forward scout Karen, we also have Dai (Peter Shinkoda) and Anthony (Mpho Koaho) who seem to be the primary heavy guns. They didn't have much screen time, but they do seem to be integral to Tom's team. We also have Jimmy, who we learn is only 13 years old and apparently good enough to earn Weaver's approval. During the first scene Jimmy makes a very human but dangerous mistake and is benched for the foreseeable future. He is replaced by Click (Brent Jones) who is immediately killed at the beginning of the Armory mission. It's another example of the high stakes that our characters are facing. But it brings up an interesting moral/fate dilemma. Would Jimmy have made the same mistake that Click did?

Regardless, the more important thing to come out of his death is the appearance of a gang of ex-criminals that fancy themselves alien hunters. They represent a very real danger that would be present in a fractured world like this one, although I think their appearance at this point in the season might have been a bit of a misstep. It was initially a bold choice to bring them in this early, but at the end of the episode the entire gang is removed as a threat, so any potential story value they had was lost. Bringing in another group of human bad guys anytime soon would feel like a cheap repetitive story crutch. Still I find it fascinating to see a group like this in post-apocalyptic stories.

Gangs made up of criminals, and those who lived on the fringes of society, would likely view the end of the world as an opportunity. Would they use that opportunity to break the bonds that held them down and rejoin whatever society is left and try for redemption? Or would they use it as an excuse to commit atrocities to their heart's content? One thing is certain, they would be a painful reminder of human weakness and maybe of the human monster. In a world that is defined by survival against monsters, it feels almost like a betrayal that humans would turn on our heroes as well. I think it's a wonderful way to broaden the world with more shades of grey in what should be a very black and white situation.

The gang we meet is led by a deceptively smart man named Pope (Colin Cunningham). Back before the invasion, he was always having trouble with the law. But once the aliens came, he was finally able to do what he claims to love most; hunting and killing. Thankfully he doesn't seem to be interested in attacking humans, which is a nice twist on this kind of character. Instead, his focus seems to be on survival,and improving his group's chance to kill Skitters. He even wore a necklace of Skitter fingers as trophies. Fortunately, or unfortunately, most of his crew perished. We only really had a chance to meet three of his gang, Cueball, Billy and Maggie (Sarah Carter).

I got the very clear impression that Billy and Cueball were the worst kind of human monster, the kind that preys on the weak. As a plot element, I thought that wounding Billy during the initial firefight between Pope's gang and Tom's team was a good hook. Especially when we found out how nasty he was. When Hal brought back Dr. Glass and she patched him up, I honestly thought he would be around for awhile. I wonder what pushed Maggie over the edge, or was she always going to betray them? Was it Billy forcing Karen to get up and twirl around so that he could leer at her? Or maybe it was the idea that Karen and Dr. Glass would have to go through what she did? Whatever it was, Maggie turning on her gang and killing Billy and Cueball was absolutely the best scene in the episode. I was expecting something to happen in that scene, but I was mildly taken by surprise by her actions.

Along with Pope's capture, Maggie switching sides and joining Tom's team was the highlight of the episode for me. Both of these characters brought something important to the table, and I look forward to seeing what role they'll play in future episodes. However, Pope's gang weren't the only characters that came to the forefront. The first that comes to mind is Mike (Martin Roach). We don't learn too terribly much about him, but he does seem to be more aligned with Tom than Weaver, and he also has a missing kid who is probably harnessed. His stand-out moment was a fun scene where he lets Hal escape when Weaver confines Hal during the hostage situation.

Then we have Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel). I think she is important as a character because she's seems to be the lone voice of religion. I was afraid that it was going to get a little preachy, but her scene with Hal and Karen was oddly cool. In the last episode she tried to flirt with Hal. This time she did it in front of Karen, and Karen didn't respond all that well. I liked that they addressed religion, and I'm also glad they didn't hit us over the head with it. Lastly, we have Uncle Scott (Bruce Gray) who is the teacher and perhaps the fix it guy. He was likeable and gave a nice speech to the kids. I'm not sure how I feel about the token older character, but at least he doesn't seem to dispense cheesy wisdom.

Bits:

Matt waking up in a normal room with a toy Alien head on one of the shelves. It was a reminder that not everything was destroyed by the Skitters.

We got a closer look at the laser targeting beam, the four reticules are blue until they lock and turn amber. As a visual cue, it drives up the tension as we see the lasers change color one by one.

In the opening scene I was more worried about the dog than the people.

Having a scene that establishes that there is still school was an unexpected touch of societal stability.

Weaver expressed respect for Jimmy twice, once to Tom and once to Jimmy. This was also a bit unexpected, since it appears as though Weaver doesn't consider the feelings of other people as one of his priorities.

Uncle Scott expressed an interesting conundrum. Most species fashion things after their own limitations and likenesses. The Skitters have six legs, but their Mechs walk on two. Why the disparity? Tom suggested it was because they were likely observing humans for a long time, and it was probably a way to instill fear.

Tom walks in on Hal and Karen about to get busy, but he doesn't give him a hard time about it. It demonstrates yet again that Tom considers Hal an adult.

Pope calls the aliens Cooties.

When Pope and Tom are alone during the hostage scene, Pope details several methods to kill Skitters. What made it cool was that Tom seemed to actually take in the information. But the entire scene was another really good character building moment.

The destroyed bridge that can be seen in the background when Maggie releases Hal was really striking.

I really liked the fact that Weaver kept his word to Tom and let him go after Ben. It proves that Weaver may have some faults, but really is trying to do what's best for the survival of his people.

Quotes:

Weaver: "Dr. Glass, a few years from now, when the Skitters have been wiped out or sent back to the undoubtedly hideous planet that they call home, the concerns of the civilians will be addressed. Until then, there's no time for this." (I think this quote really defines Weaver's point view.)

Tom: "Oh what I wouldn't give for an egg, and some bacon, hash browns."
Glass: "White or wheat?"
Tom: "English muffin, fork split with enough butter that would make a doctor such as yourself worry about my heart."

Karen: "Do you think the Skitters have a god?"

Mike: "It's a damn shame how you were able to overpower me and take my weapon."
Hal: "Should I hit you, make it look good?"
Mike: "No, no, you should not hit me."
(Mike's delivery of this line is why I liked this scene.)

I think this one was better than the pilot, but it didn't blow me away. It had some nice character building moments, and it featured the induction of a couple of really interesting characters that could bring some nice layers to the series.

3 out of 4 Skitter fingers strung up as a necklace.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I loved Sarah Carter in Smallville and I absolutely remembered her. I thought she was terrific in this episode. I was drawing a blank with Colin Cunningham, though, so thanks.

Jess Lynde said...

And now that they are on the scene, I can say that my other two favorite characters are Maggie and Pope. Although in Pope's case, I think I like the character in part because it is so much fun to see Major Davis in shady villain mode. :)