Falling Skies season one left us with a weird cliffhanger — what the Hell is Tom doing on that spaceship, and how will he get off again? And in many ways, last night's episode provided us with the final resolution of that second question.
Was it satisfying? Maybe. It sort of makes sense, but I have a fewreservations. Spoilers ahead...
Tom's exciting adventure on an alien mothership raised a bunch of questions. What did the aliens do to Tom during those long stretches of time he can't account for? What made the big banana-headed alien think that Tom could convince anybody to go live in a Reservation? Have they ever seen the faces people make when Tom is talking? What were the aliens doing with all those other people, who got executed? Why was Tom spared when everyone else was executed? What was that bug doing in his eye? And most of all, who is the Skitter with one red eye, who's been tracking the Second Mass since Tom rejoined it, and appears to have control over Tom's son Ben?
Last night, we got answers to at least some of those questions, and they dovetail reasonably well with what we know already. We know that the Skitters were themselves harnessed in the past, meaning that they're slaves of the alien Overlords just as much as the harnessed human children. And we know that Red Eye was following the Second Mass but didn't seem interested in attacking it. Although it seemed as though he was planning on using them in some larger strategem — which still doesn't seem to be out of the question.
It turns out that Red Eye, and some of the other Skitters, have learned to resist the control of the harness, and fight back against their oppressors. But they've been crushed over and over again — until now, when they came to Earth as part of the invading forces and saw that the humans continue to fight back even when we've been pushed almost to extinction. And so Red Eye decided to try and join forces with us — particularly with Tom, who stood up to Banana Head and even tased him a little. Red Eye executed all those other humans, because otherwise the Overlords would be suspicious, but he let Tom go — and apparently those two Mechs that were there carrying out the executions don't keep a video record of the event or anything.
Red Eye planted a tracker on Tom, and retrieved it after Tom rejoined the Second Mass, and since then Red Eye's been following the gang around and spying on them — possibly writing his own fanfic about Lourdes and Jamil, and whether those crazy kids Hal and Maggie would ever get together. (Or maybe Red Eye writes Tom/Pope slash.) And then sometime between then and now, the Overlords found out that Red Eye was double-crossing them.
That's where the episode picks up — it's a ruined city, and a bunch of Skitters are standing on the tops of buildings and crying out, with their arms raised to the sky. Great way to remain inconspicuous, guys. And also on a tall building, yelling at the skies? Ben. The Overlords notice that there are some rebellious Skitters shouting from the rooftops, and decide to crush the rebellion. By the time the Second Mass shows up, there's just a pile of dead Skitters and some broken Mechs... plus Rick, the formerly harnessed kid who disappeared a while back. (And was presumed dead, I guess.)
They take Red Eye prisoner instead of killing him, and Red Eye will only talk to Tom alone — because he wants to win Tom over, and he doesn't realize that this will just isolate Tom further from the rest of his gang. Speaking ultra-creepily through Rick, Red Eye explains about how they're the Skitter Resistance. All aliens call Tom "Professor Mason," because they're polite. Although Red Eye doesn't explain just how big the Skitter Resistance is, and why they're so dependent on Red Eye, personally. Tom doesn't believe any of it, and actually quotes from history for the first time in a few episodes, to compare the Skitters to Nazis.
(I'd be less worried that the Skitters don't feel sufficiently bad about killing people, and more worried that this is a trap. Although, is the Second Mass a big enough threat to bother with trapping? I guess we'll find out, when they get to Charleston.)
In any case, everybody's suspicions about Ben have now been heightened, and Tom is looking kind of suspect once again, since he's the only one who got to hear the whole story about the Skitter Uprising. The aliens attack the Second Mass, and everybody escapes to a convenient hospital — where they repair the emergency generator and turn on the lights at night, just in case the Skitters need an easier target. Red Eye is injured, but apparently makes a getaway during all the confusion. And Weaver basically tells Tom that he needs to put a bullet into Ben's brain before Weaver has to do it himself... but luckily, Weaver's on a lot of drugs, so the conversation turns into "We respect each other a lot, man. Like, I really respect you. Dude, I respect you more. Nah, brah, I respect you the most. No way man, I super respect you a lot. Here, let me tuck you in." How does Tom deal with the not-so-veiled suggestion that Ben needs to be put down like a rabid dog? He sneaks into a vacant room with Anne so they can make out.
Meanwhile, in the episode's "B" plot, Hal and Maggie bond, and it's actually pretty sweet and feels like real teenagers who are hiding from killer robots. They talk a lot about Hal's first girlfriend Rita and her jazz pants, and how much mileage Hal put on his crappy car with the jazzy Rita. And then Maggie makes the mistake of mentioning Karen, Hal's girlfriend who was harnessed by the Skitters, and it's sort of a mood-killer. For a while. Until Hal finds some drugs, and then he's ready to make out with Maggie — but Maggie, who has holes in her skull and was possibly raped by Pope's gang, prefers to keep Hal as just her scouting partner who's got her back.
Some viewers probably got bored during the Hal-Maggie scenes, but I thought they were really neat — this is the kind of character development and emotion that I actually like to see, as opposed to last week's father-daughter stuff with Weaver which felt forced and a bit random. These are two characters we've been invested in since pretty much the start of the show, and they have a decent amount of chemistry together. And their scenes do feel really genuine and kind of sweet — I especially buy that Maggie wants someone who'll watch her back more than she wants a boyfriend.
In the end, Maggie gets injured and Hal risks his life to pull her to safety — and then she asks him to hold her hand and stay with her while she falls asleep.
All in all, this was another decent episode, in which the violence and explosions are just relentless enough that you believe these people are at war and not just camping. I think I like the "Skitter Uprising" subplot, although I'm leery of it turning into Battlestar Galactica season four, where the humans join forces with some of the Cylons and the show's previously lucid wartime scenario becomes muddied, to say the least. But there are all sorts of interesting ways this could play out — and the good news is, Falling Skies is still trying to be a good character-based show in which the harness is a central, versatile metaphor. That's something to be happy about.