Falling Skies: Shall We Gather at the River

Pope: "Hey, Cap. I heard they pulled a circuit board out of Tom's head."

The theme of this episode was trust. Can we trust our friends, family, allies and most importantly, ourselves? Tom's struggle with his own mind and his doubts about his sanity and trustworthiness were the stand out sections of the episode. At the same time the B-story about the bridge was fully paid off with that awesome chase at the end. Much like the first episode this season, it had a different pace and tone. Each character had a chance to have a moment to shine or work through some issues, or reveal something new about themselves.

Ben's issues were in the forefront. It's pretty plain that he's messed up, which is expressed rather literally with the changes he's going through physically. He's practically a superhero, which is ironic because as a kid he was a geek. If he could see himself from an external point of view, he might not hate himself so much. That hate is his defining characteristic, but when he tried to sell that new self image to Tom, he was told that it isn't the cure-all he thought it was. It might seem slightly hokey to think that love can pull you through better than hate, but Tom was right. Ben can't keep going like this or he's going to implode.

It was really interesting that they reversed the standard dynamic with Tom's situation. Normally with these kind of plots, when the hero returns they are treated as an outsider and instantly mistrusted. Here he was being embraced almost without question, and he had to be the one that pulled the brakes and told them he might be a threat. Weaver had to be forced to put Tom in restraints. I can see both sides. The 2nd Mass. really needs Tom back. They lost over a hundred in Fitchburg, and they keep losing more people by the day. They are literally on the run, and are barely holding together. Tom is a stabilizing influence, and a capable leader.

At the same time, Tom isn't wrong to feel paranoid about what might have happened aboard the Skitter ship. Which brings me to Red Eye, and the wicked gross flying bug thing that they found in Tom's eye. They really are making Red Eye seem like a bit of a mastermind. Maybe it's free of the harness control and acting on its own. Or maybe there is a greater plan for Tom that has yet to be revealed. In which case, Tom's right and he should be separated from the group.

Pope might have acted rashly, but he can hardly be blamed. He has been vocal about his feelings from the beginning, and makes no excuses for his actions. It was telling that he did try to apologize about blowing up Tom. He's come a long way from the guy we first met. Weaver surprised me a little when he actively tried to get Tom to resume his duties. He was willing to risk the safety of the militia because he needs Tom's help. That's also a pretty big 180 from the way he treated Tom at the beginning of the series.

I like the new character Jamil. He seems capable and has a good sense of humor. Plus I like the actor, so that helps. Involving him with Lourdes instantly brings him into the core group of characters, especially since her role as primary medic is growing to be an important one. Hal and Margaret had some fun flirty moments, but it was nice to see that she's still an active member of the group and won't be sidelined as just a girlfriend. Hal did seem rather capable as a leader, too, but Weaver's right that he's still basically a kid.

The river crossing and patching up the bridge made a nice plot structure to hang the character scenes on. It created a task that needed to be completed, and resulted in a satisfying firefight at the end. I never once thought that Tom was dead, but it was still effective. I also thought that the Skitter mini-tower was cool. It gave the scouts (Dai, Ben, Hal, and Margaret) something tangible to do instead of just zipping around on bikes. I guess the two-parter ended with a bang. It also ended with Ben not shooting Tom this time.

Bits:

That one long shot that started with Pope's gang and ended with the bug escaping from the jar was really cool. I'm also really glad they didn't go with the obvious thing and have the bug go into Lourdes.

Ryan Robbins got a line this time. He's one of Pope's Berserkers. And apparently, he doesn't bathe.

The new Mech metal rounds work pretty darn well, since they took down two Skitter Ships.

Pope hitting on Lourdes was fun, especially when she poured alcohol on his wound.

Rick was mentioned; apparently, he vanished. Scott is confirmed to be dead. Anne pins photos of all the patients she's lost on a board in the Med-bus.

The scaly skin on Ben's back is spreading.

The jamming signal Scott figured out in the finale has already been countered by the Skitters.

The Skitter ships are unmanned drones that have some kind of organic technology powering them.

Matt charging the advancing Skitters with a machine gun to save his father was interesting. He even managed to take one Skitter out.

Quotes:

Ben: "Hold onto your hate and they can never change you."

Hal: "It's the world we live in, not the world we want."

Jimmy: "Wait, you might need this."
Ben: "Weaver's compass?"
Jimmy: "Yeah, just don't make me come after it. That water's freezing."

This wasn't exactly the second part of a two-parter, but it did feel like a cap to the premiere. All the plots from the first episode were advanced, and we learned just a little bit more about the Skitters and their technology. What a great start to the season. I really hope they can keep it going.

4 out of 4 Boxes of TNT.

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

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I was impressed with this one, too. It really is like they seriously addressed all of the complaints by the viewers and turned it up to eleven.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you guys are reviewing this show, because I thought it was a lot better, too. Great review!

Jess Lynde said...

This was a strong episode, too. I thought they went a bit too cheesy and on the nose with some of the dialogue --- I really wish Tom had stopped with "it wasn't hate that kept me going these last few months" and just left the "it was love" as obvious subtext instead of making it text, and your pull quote from Anne had me rolling my eyes --- but they kept up the dark tone and went for some seriously freaky stuff with that eye "parasite." Ack!

Great action sequence on the bridge! I never once thought Tom was dead either, but Hal's distress and subsequent relief still got to me.

Yea, Ryan Robbins! I'm hoping he gets more to do, because he's great. Of course, his character seems a bit skeevy. I think the woman he was talking to was the actress who played Kat on BSG, so maybe we'll get more of her, too.

And speaking of skeevy ... I'm a bit conflicted on Jamil. I kind of like the character, but I'm weirded out a bit by his relationship with Lourdes because of his role on The Killing (back when I watched that show). Their age difference seems mildly inappropriate. I know she was a med student and isn't jailbait, but the actress looks younger so it feels a bit skeevy to me. Hopefully, I'll get over it.

Thanks again for covering this one, J.D. I'm looking forward to discussing it this summer!

tucsonbarbara said...

Great review!! The show is definitely better so far this year.

The woman Tector (Ryan Robbins) was talking to, Crazy Lee, was played by Luciana Carro, who played Kat on BSC. Good call, Jess.