Falling Skies: Compass

Tom: "I'm just a history professor."
Avery: "And I was a manager at the Carpet Corral. But look at me now. I'm Paul Revere in a prop plane."

I was seriously conflicted about this episode after I watched it. It pulled me in two different directions. I couldn't quite figure out why I felt that way, until I saw it again.

But the two central plots were more parallel than I originally thought. The concept of moving towards hope (going to Charleston) instead of retreating into the cold (going into the Catskills), alongside the loss of the future (Jimmy's death) created a strange kind of balance. Do we have to abandon a bit of our future, for a chance at a brighter one?

Jimmy dying was unexpected, but fit perfectly into the story being told. Why did they kill him? Was it to shock us, to tell us that no one is safe? Perhaps, but I think that maybe they want us to know that the game has changed. Most of the time children are considered non-combatants and their deaths are used as motivation for a hero or strictly as an act of horrible circumstance or violence. This time Jimmy was a victim of being an overzealous soldier. For pushing the boundaries of safety to fight back, and claim a little vengeance. It is a heartbreaking, but painful touch of realism.

I loved the way they handled the tragedy of his death. Tom and Weaver both losing it in that Captain's tent was so perfect. They've both grown to respect each other, and in that moment it was really clear. Weaver's reactions were as a leader, but also as a surrogate father. You could feel his pain, and the struggle he had with trying to be strong for the people he leads, while silently grieving for someone he truly cared about. That struggle was most evident in that final scene with Ben, when his voice broke talking about the compass he almost gave his daughter, and instead gave to Jimmy.

Ben also went through quite a bit in this episode. He must be at the point of breaking, consumed by guilt over the role he played in Jimmy's death. But he is also hiding some serious stuff. The fact that Red Eye, with just a wave of his Skitter claw, can control him completely is way creepy. Speaking of creepy, I wasn't sure how I felt about Avery Churchill. She seems good, noble, and on the level. But her story sounded just a little too clean, a little too good to be true. What is actually in Charleston? Is it the new Continental Congress? Or is it the Skitter sanctuary that the Master Alien alluded to in the first episode of the season?

The last plot was the culmination of Pope's ever growing mistrust of Tom's mysterious return. It still kills me that Tom usually agrees with the point that they don't know what might have happened to him. Yet this time he gave a rather good argument for his reinstatement. The 2nd Mass. started with 300 people, they're down to 176. Over half their fighters are gone. Tom is simply too valuable not to utilize, even if it is a risk to trust him with the security of the community. Yet it was really fun to see Tom and Pope go at it in a knockdown, drag-out fight. They really didn't pull punches, crashing through balcony rails and into car windshields. However, it was a little strange that Tom wailed on Pope so heavily. I wonder if maybe he is more traumatized than he lets on, or something really is wrong with him.

Bits:

Deaths: Jimmy. I covered most of my thoughts about his death already, but I wanted to include Weaver's eulogy because I really liked it.

Weaver: "How do you measure somebody, how do you define their worth? A year ago Jimmy was just a boy, just a little boy. And then that all changed. The world fell apart, and he had to step up, he had to leave that little boy behind, he had to become a soldier, he had to learn how to fight. And he did. And he is now defined by those of us who owe him our lives. He's measured by his bravery. This day came too soon, he died too young. But he died a hero, to me. And I'm proud to have served with him. Jimmy, we'll remember. May the next world be kinder to Jimmy than this world ever was."

Dragon's breath rounds. Wanna bet those will be important later on in the season.

Tom initially came to Pope's defense, and even joined the Berserkers. But Pope's blatant theft of Jimmy's compass sent him over the edge.

I liked that they gave Jimmy three action scenes at the beginning of the episode, although on second viewing there were some serious hints about his impending death.

So they have officially named the Skitter Craft (my name for the Skitter planes). They call them Beamer Patrols.

Poor Anne. She might have gotten a nice kiss from Tom, but losing a patient on her son's birthday (I'm assuming Sammy is her son) had to be rough.

In the end, they head to Charleston. Avery managed to convince Weaver that it was a good idea for his people. I imagine having electricity and running hot water again would entice almost anyone. But I hope they don't just march into Charleston blind.

Margaret had single scene where if you look carefully you can see that she's crying a little over Jimmy's death. I guess they didn't feel that her and Jimmy's relationship was established enough for her to have more screen time.

Quotes:

Avery: "You wanna know what your people call you?"
Weaver: "What's that?"
Avery: "Their leader."

Weaver: "He was a good soldier, that boy, but he had no sense of direction. He had no sense of direction at all."

Tom: "And what, leave my boys in your care?"
Pope: "Your boys will be looked after as if they were my own. That's a promise. Even the spiky one. Unless of course he goes full Skitter, and then all bets are off."

Pope: "Mason, here, turns us over to the alien overlords. What then, sir?"
Weaver: "I think you'll have to get used to kissin' Skitter butt."

This was another really strong episode without a heartwarming moment to be seen. They really are going for broke with this darker tone. Killing a long-running secondary character like Jimmy is a bold move. It might be sad, but I can only hope this death serves a purpose in the greater story to come.

4 out of 4 Shotguns that shoot fiery death.

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

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I thought this one was excellent. Killing off a continuing character is an easy thing to screw up (and killing a child, on top of it) but they did it so well that the funeral made me cry.

Noah Wyle feels different this season. There's this undercurrent in his performance that makes it feel like he really *could* be possessed. It could go either way and I'd believe it.

Great review, J.D.

Anonymous said...

OK, that hurt. Poor Jimmy. Poor Ben. Poor Anne. Poor Weaver. That funeral speech was brutal, equally loving and pragmatic. And that "No sense of direction at all" line, delivered with so much sadness and love, just broke me. It can be a cheap move, killing off a beloved character, but I agree with Billie that it was well done.

Good point about Margaret's grief not getting much attention, considering the way she had taken Jimmy under her wing. It was a pretty packed episode, though, so I will give the writers the benefit of the doubt.

Zob- I think stealing the compass was just the last straw with Pope. He has been trouble from the beginning. On top of all his past transgressions, he did just try to kill Tom. Twice. I hope in the end, it somehow works out that Margaret gets to kill him for letting his men rape her.

I don't think it is strange at all that Tom went crazy on Pope, although I don't think all the anger is due to Pope's actions. I think he just reached his breaking point, and it just seems strange to us because he usually controls his emotions so well. Side note: not sure if it is just excellent makeup or if Noah Wyle has lost weight, but Tom looks completely, realistically, terrible.

As for Avery, I don't trust her at all! Her story sounds too good to be true, although I hope it is...these people really deserve a hot shower. My question is, how had she heard of Tom? I got the feeling it wasn't from anyone in the Second Mass. I smell Skitter.

Jess Lynde said...

Wow. Falling Skies finally managed to pull off an episode that really affected me. I'm so glad they held back on the melodramatic flourishes and just let the fallout from Jimmy's death play out in a relatively understated way. I actually started crying when Anne sadly told Tom she just didn't want anyone to die on Sammy's birthday (I, too, assume that was her son). And I just kept crying through the funeral and the Weaver/Ben scene at Jimmy's grave. Very, very affecting.

I loved that Pope's crew refused to go with him. It really underscored Avery's point about the 2nd Mass believing in Weaver as their leader and being willing to follow him into hell. Even those crazy Bezerkers recognize that they want to be with the 2nd Mass and not out there on their own.

Whether Avery is being straight or not (and there is good reason to be cautious), I like that they've set up a new goal and a way for the 2nd Mass to keep moving and stay in the fight. I think holing up in the Catskills for the winter would have sapped the show of some of its momentum.

Anonymous said...

I'm really glad they didn't go to the Catskills, too. Maybe it is just because I can't stand the cold, but the thought of watching them suffer through the winter in the mountains was horrible.

However, I am worried about Charleston! Even if Tom hadn't had that conversation with the alien about the reservation, which is what it seems like Charleston might be, it doesn't seem like good strategy to have such a centralized population from a guerrilla warfare point of view. Also, wasn't there something in the very first episode about how they had to keep splitting into smaller and smaller groups to avoid detection? Oh well, at least it will be warm.