Falling Skies was originally sold as a gritty war drama, created by the writer of Saving Private Ryan. And since then it's been about twenty different things. But now, I guess we're getting to see what happens when the humans have lost the war against the aliens. Spoilers ahead...
This was the Falling Skies second season opener in a row to jump forward a few months, and present us with a brand new status quo. Last year, it was seven months later and suddenly the humans were allied with the Volm and making huge progress against the Espheni invaders. This time around, it's four months later and the humans are all in Espheni prison camps, except for a lucky few.
The Espheni have abandoned pretty much all the tactics that distinguished their invasion in previous seasons — no more eyebugs, no more harnesses, and the mechs and Skitters seem to be mostly sidelined. Instead, the Espheni have become Nazis, with prison camps and reeducation camps — the comparison isn't blatant enough, so Matt "Mad Dog" Mason has to bring it up explicitly.
Last night's episode sees the debut of new showrunners, Eick and Jericho's Carol Barbee, along with all-new writers. This isn't the first time BSG veterans have worked on Falling Skies — in season one, the showrunner was BSG writer Mark Verheiden. But last night's episode reminded me a lot of the BSG storyline where the Cylons occupied New Caprica and put all the humans into a ghetto.
Let's break it down:
The world is a ghetto
Basically, the first scary reveal of last night's episode is that the Espheni have gotten hold of Tholian technology, which allows them to create impenetrable diamond-shaped fences, which can't be broached even by throwing electricity at them.
Basically, the humans are all trapped inside a big "ghetto," where the Espheni have their new flying Skitters drop food every now and then. And sometimes, the flying Skitters grab people and pull them up into their motherships. Hal and Tector have become best buds inside the camp, but Pope (who used to be willing to do any crazy thing to fight the Skitters) won't let them borrow his generator, because he's too busy watching Gilligan's Island.
Why are the Espheni keeping all the humans alive, after trying so hard to wipe everyone out? How did they round up the surviving humans so easily? We don't know, but there are apparently "ghettos" all over the world, and we meet one guy named Dingaan Botha who's escaped from a few of the ghettos before.
But Tom has goggles!
Also inside the Charleston ghetto, Tom Mason and Dan Weaver are locked in "solitary confinement" with a hole in the wall so they can communicate. You think that Tom is just scrawling patriotic speeches on the wall so he can remember he's a history teacher — but actually, he's secretly sneaking out of his cell through a hidden exit, and making a detailed map of the ghetto so he can plot a big break-out.
Whenever Tom goes out of his cell, he wears a head-scarf and goggles, so nobody will realize he can leave his cell at will — and this has made him a legendary resistance leader, with his picture painted on the walls and stuff.
Dan Weaver almost throws away his life on a pointless assault on a Skitter, because the Skitters took Jeannie up to the Mothership. (I would say it's Jeannie's fault for trying to be a double-agent and infiltrate Liber8. The Skitters will never let her roam free after that.) But Tom convinces Dan that they're actually going to be doing something big soon, and he needs Dan alive. Oh, and Dan still has a heart condition, and is kind of loopy.
It's Cochise, the Volm leader who used to be the humans' main ally. He tells Tom that the Volm have mostly left Earth because the Espheni threatened the Volm's young, who were supposed to be safe on a hidden planet somewhere. The Volm left a handful of scout units on Earth, and they're not supposed to engage the enemy.
But then at the end of the episode, we learn that Cochise is actually working for the Espheni overlord now — I guess — and they order him to hand over the secret resistance leader with the goggles. (Who they don't realize is Tom.) What exactly has Tom done in his goggle-disguise to attract so much attention? Not clear, but if he's not handed over, the Espheni will wipe out the whole ghetto.
Update: Commenter Stankykang says that's not Cochise working for the Espheni. It's actually some other alien. Sorry about that!
And the Espheni have set up fancy schools.
Like I said, no more harnesses — instead, "Mad Dog" Matt Mason is being indoctrinated in a Nazi reeducation school, where everybody wears crisp beige uniforms and learns to praise their Espheni liberators. They have to parrot the stock lines about how the Espheni saved humanity and how we're part of a galactic utopia, before they get their gruel. But "Mad Dog" Matt Mason is secretly being sneaky and having subversive meetings in his room.
Anne is leading the Second Mass now!
The remains of the Second Mass is still at large, and trying to organize a mission to rescue the others. They're being led by Anne Glass, who seems unhealthily fixated on just rescuing her daughter Lexi, to the point where you start to wonder why Anthony and the other soldiers are following her orders, since Lexi's not their daughter. Anne doesn't want anybody to sleep until she gets her daughter back, which sounds like a terrible Beastie Boys song. They find out that a truck is coming past, driven by a human collaborator, and they lay an ambush — which doesn't work until Anne throws some guy's shirt, on fire, at the truck. Luckily, she doesn't light the whole truck on fire after all, because it's full of captured children. Why are the Espheni using trucks when they have tons of spaceships? (And where does anybody get gasoline at this point?) Forget it, Jake. It's Falling Skies.
Oh, and when Anne sleeps, she has a dream about her daughter — which isn't a dream, it's her daughter telepathically reaching out to her, using light beams and stuff.
Ben Mason is living in a gilded cage
Ben Mason wakes up after a few months in a coma, and finds that he's living in a perfect idyllic commune. Along with Maggie and Lourdes, who tell him that everybody has given up weapons and violence, and they're living in peace and tranquility there. Maggie has been pissed off and violent her whole life, but now she's ready to just give in and live in her incredibly unlikely haven. But Ben Mason is confused and not entirely on board with this turn of events.
Ben finds out that it's all thanks to Lexi, who's suddenly A) a grown-up and B) blonde. She's some kind of half-alien, half-human chimera, who has psychic powers and predicts the Espheni attack before it happens. She also knows when a Mech is going to attack, and knows it'll be struck by lightning before it can do any damage. And there are lots of vague statements about how Lexi is going to be the key to ending the war or saving everybody, with her incredibly creepy serenity.