Falling Skies: Sanctuary, Part 2

Tom: "Rest easy, Mike. We'll take it from here."

The theme of this episode had to be sacrifice. A lot of things happened in this episode, and it was an improvement over the solid first part. We got an escape, a painful death, and some really great character moments. The writers finally seem to have discovered that individual episodes must have their own narrative. The simple addition of basic structure really brings this second part up to be the best of the series so far.

The episode started with the 2nd Mass. kids playing with smiles on their faces with absolutely no idea that the security they felt was totally false. This additional layer of menace really sold the betrayal of Clayton's group in the first part. The next moment we find out that Pope suffered torture to protect the children of the 2nd Mass., although he says his motives are due to the fact that he has no tolerance for collaborators. Then later in the episode he did the right thing by saving Hal's life, and buying the kids enough time so that Tom could make his move, even though he had no real reason to do so. He sacrificed his freedom to fight the good fight.

I loved that Tom played the ambush card. It was such a nice turnaround that I actually didn't see it coming. The ever growing darkness of this show has created enough weight that I could've believed they would keep them in captivity for a little while. That being said, was it a mistake to kill Clayton so soon? He was a solid villain, who wasn't quite black and white in his motives. Still, I think Tom killing him was one of the best moments in the episode, and reinforced what we knew -- that Tom would do anything for his children. He didn't hesitate at all when Clayton turned the gun on Hal. It was a shocking and deliberate moment. It said to me that Tom really isn't a civilian anymore -- he's a soldier, a commander.

The focus was initially on Clayton and his second in command who had a daughter named Tessa. It's unfortunate that all of them, including Tessa, were complicit in the whole situation. Then the focus shifted to Hal, Mike, and Lourdes, and things started to move quickly. Hal made some really good choices, from trusting Lourdes and going to Mike, to finding shelter for the kids when they were about to fall out. He showed good leadership, and was willing to die for them. He also chose to trust Ben, which was ultimately the right move. Ben may be different, but he's trying to stay human. He's obviously fighting whatever is going on inside of him. Unlike Rick, who revealed that he identifies as something apart from human.

The escape from the Sanctuary was really well done. Hal confronting Tessa, and Mike searching out the truth were both good scenes. Clayton's speech about losing the 7th, and the slow deal they made with the Skitters sounded almost understandable. Yet it was so broken, and so wrong that I didn't buy for a moment that Mike would go along with it. When he led the escape, I could almost feel him dying before it happened. But Mike's sacrifice was absolutely relevant. Not only did he give Hal the chance to lead the kids to safety, but the way Clayton killed him in cold-blood when he could've easily taken him prisoner, solidified him as a monster. Wartime or not, there was no excuse for Clayton to execute a former colleague like that.

Margaret and Sarah's childbirth may have felt a little irrelevant, but it symbolized that life keeps going. The children were gone, and with them the hope for the future; yet with the birth of Sarah's daughter Charlotte, that hope was at least partially rekindled. So when the entire 2nd Mass showed up at the Sanctuary it was as though that little bit of hope rekindled by Charlotte's birth was stoked into a fire of a real future. The fact that it was because of the actions of a formally harnessed kid shouldn't be overlooked. I love that there are some real layers of meaning being put into characters' actions, even the actions of the Skitters. A nameless alien menace is such an easy villain. You don't have to explain motivations, because how could we truly know the motivations of an alien mind? But they are adding nuance to the Skitters' purpose here, which is why this show is starting to really work.

Bits:

Heartwarming Scene: The soccer game qualifies as the heartwarming scene of the episode. But it wasn't nearly as sappy as previous episodes. If they have to put one of these in each episode, let them stay like this one.

Unexpected Death: Mike. I was starting to really like this character, and his sacrifice made up for any past mistakes he might've made. Normally I would invoke TV rule #10: (Josie's Law: If you don't see the body, don't believe anyone is dead.) But my addendum to that rule is, if they have a funeral for the character, they're generally really dead. I also thought his final words kind of defined what we knew about him: "They harnessed my son! I know what they're doing to these children. Maybe I can't stop but, but I sure as hell won't be a part of it."

Margaret continues to refuse to make permanent connections with the group, even though she is obviously being pulled in.

Using Sarah's pregnancy as a timetable, the invasion happened 7 1/2 months ago.

The information about the 3rd Mass. was a lie after all.

Clayton yelled as he was gearing up to chase after the kids to keep the little ones alive. Evil.

I liked that Tom was suspicious of Clayton almost immediately. It was also in character that Weaver didn't accept it right away. But I thought it was great that Weaver also got suspicious when enough time passed. He really is a good leader.

But what really makes me like Weaver is the little things he keeps doing for people. The way he volunteered to help Dr. Glass with the breech birth was such a lovely little moment. He talked about his two daughters and his wife for the first time. But he didn't say what happened to them.

I started like Lourdes in this episode as well. She might've been a bit jealous of Tessa, but she was the one that figured out things were wrong. She also took the role of second in charge well, caring for the kids almost like a surrogate parent.

The small moments in the empty house were ever so slightly creepy. The abandoned birthday party had a touch of realism that made the whole situation feel unstable, as though something was going to attack them at any point.

Tom covered for Pope when he got shot. It might've been good strategy, but he didn't have to do that. Also I think that Tom was also saying thank you when he threw Pope back in the kitchen.

Margaret took Hal's hand at the funeral.

Quotes:

Pope: "Why is it I always get the seat next to the crying baby?"
Margaret: "Show's over, creep."

Dr. Glass: "Weaver did most of the work. After that, it was just your average childbirth in a high school chem lab."

Pope: "I smell asparagus. Which means you're boiling it. Which means you're ruining it."
Clayton: "We'll pass that along to the chef."

Tom to Ben: "Told you to send the cavalry, not come with them."

Tom: "Next time I'll trust my instincts."

This was a very good episode. It fulfilled the promise set up by the first part, and really nailed the structure issues that have plagued the series so far. All the scenes were strong, and the characters acted in some unexpected ways, but ways that were true to them instead of frustratingly inconsistent. This was another great step in the right direction. Let's hope they can keep it up for the rest of the season.

3 1/2 out of 4 Pieces of boiled asparagus.

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

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

I thought this was an excellent episode, too. Mike's death got to me. And the ambush set-up was excellent.

Terrific review, J.D.