Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Falling Skies, Season 2, Episode 3: Compass

We begin with Jimmy and Ben out patrolling together. I get that they’re building the friendship between these 2 after their rocky beginning, but does anyone else feel that sending out 2 teenagers on their own is really the most sensible choice? Really? There follows with Jimmy sniping that nasty critter and then Ben finishing it off with a knife. I think we’re supposed to look at Ben’s enjoyment of killing it as vaguely disturbing – personally I’m of the opinion that if you have creepy aliens trying to wipe out or enslave humanity then your joy in killing them is quite quite justified.

At the camp we have some more homey scenes particularly with Tom and Ann (are they still trying to convince me these 2 make a good couple? Because I’m not seeing it) and discussing their situation – in a Hanger for some time. Ann doesn’t like it because it’s cold and everyone’s packed in – and people are getting restless, they want to move on.

Thankfully there doesn’t need to be any need to convince Weaver – since there’s alien patrols being all nuisancy again – so they have to move. Weaver says north to the Catskills where they can hold up all winter (because, y’know, mountains are really where you want to hide in cold weather, but hey, shelter) but Tom is worried that means hunkering down and not fighting – which will be seen as surrender.

Wandering off, Tom goes to investigate a noise he heard and is kidnapped by Pope (who is STILL not dead, for crying out loud?!) and his gang. Pope still doesn’t trust him from his time spent with the aliens and wants him to walk away from the camp – or be shot. Thankfully Ben and Jimmy are passing on their way back from patrol and make the gang drop their guns with some sniping and a knife to Pope’s throat (y’know, Ben, you hand could slip juuuuust an inch or 2?)

There follows yet another meeting about what to do with Pope (kill him) and his gang. We establish that Anthony knew nothing about it but also that there are many people with doubts about Tom and his little alien holiday – but the risk is justified by need for fighters which, alas, is also why they’re not going to get rid of Pope (aaargh, how can this man still be regarded as an asset?! Really?). the solution? To put Tom in with Pope’s deserters! Yeaaaah, I kid you not. Why not just put a sign on Tom’s back “please frag me” and be done with it?

Back to where there’s some basic sense, oh wait, sense not found. Back to the 2 teenagers out on patrol on their own again, Jimmy and Ben are hunting Skitters. Things go well with 2 dying to nice dragonsbreath rounds, but for some reason Ben decides to wrestle number 3, with the red eye – as does Jimmy when he runs to rescue him when it doesn’t go to plan. Jimmy ends up bouncing off a tree and Ben is frozen – with his spikes glowing blue. He collapses and the Skitter flees – but Jimmy has been impaled on a tree branch.

Back to camp for some emergency first aid. Turns out Jimmy and Ben have been out hunting Skitters as extra-curricular activity because Ben just loathes the so much he wants them all dead (understandable). Weaver regrets his decision to send them out on patrol alone (a bad idea? No, really?) and Tom has some wailing about kids growing up too fast. This could have been interesting to analyse but we’re moving on to sending out the berserkers to see if they’ve been compromised. Yes, that means sending out Tom.

Surprisingly, when on patrol, Pope’s team doesn’t kill Tom. No, it defers to him, even when Pope is arguing they do something else. Yes the team that was happy to kidnap Tom now takes his orders. Pope is, of course, too violent and mindless to make good decisions and it’s only Tom’s intervention that stops them all being Meched into a gooey gooey paste. Point to Tom.

Hal is not happy with Ben – but it’s brushed off again. I dislike how Hal’s legitimate criticism of Ben’s screw ups is presented more as sibling rivalry rather than the very reasoned and reasonable criticism they are. Ben stalks off, not telling anyone where he’s gone and no-one can find him

Thankfully we’re spared more angst by a plane – an actual human plane – arriving. The pilot, Avery Churchill, has been looking for them. She’s from Charleston, North Carolina, where there is a new Constitutional Congress, a new government has been elected. She wants all the militias across the US to centralise in Charleston and she intends to go on and fly over to Europe where they are in contact with other resistance movements.

Of course, the 2nd Massachusetts has been burned before by people saying they have orders from high command and is sceptical. She says she doesn’t care and plans to move on whether they join or not – but Weaver won’t let her leave until they do – because he can’t risk her passing on their location to the aliens.

Weaver and Tom discuss the option with lots of scepticism and hope. Especially as Avery goes on to describe the wonders in Charleston – electricity and hot water – to the gathered civilians. Weaver goes on with his plans for the Catskills, telling Jamil to find snow chains, while Tom and Ben have an angst moment. Avery also tries to do the big sell on Tom with all his experiences and again with Weaver since she knows the people respect her.

But in among all the hope, Jimmy has a turn for the worse and dies. Much grief and angst. And in the middle of that Pope and Tom have a set to as Pope resents Tom’s authority, claims senior commander status and is a complete arsehole over Jimmy’s death and Tom’s son. And he sees that Pope has taken Jimmy’s compass – the compass that Weaver gave him – and they fight. Tom wins and has to be pulled off Pope.

It goes to Weaver where everyone is completely unsympathetic towards Pope (who should be dead). And Pope mouths off again. Pope finally decides he’s leaving and taking his crew with him – Weaver’s happy to show him the door. But the berserkers? They’re not going anywhere (especially since Pope nearly got them killed). Pope pouts and leaves – and Anthony decides to go with him since Pope saved his life

Ann and Tom have a discussion over his fight, some more bonding – and they kiss again (no chemistry! None! No idea why). Ann is cut up because it’s her lost son’s birthday – and all she wanted was for no-one to die that day (now that was a powerful, emotional scene).

We have the funeral, Tom gives the compass to Ben, and Weaver makes a moving speech over Jimmy’s grave. Later, Weaver and Ben are by the grave and Ben breaks down and cries.

We leave with Weaver deciding to take them to Charleston – and they reflect that when he first took command the 2nd Massachusetts had 300 people – and now it’s down to 176. He also thinks that going to Charleston is the only realistic way they can get back into the war – which may stand as validation of what Tom was saying earlier

Just before they leave, Ben, alone is approached by a skitter that, again, freezes him using the blue glow of his spines. Hal arrives and the skitter runs – Ben tells him all is fine.

This episode seemed to open oddly with a lot of contrived conflict. Ann doesn’t like the Hanger because it’s cold and they’re packed in together – it’s a post apocalyptic world, when did she get so fussy? It’s dry and safe, this makes it considerably better than moving out into uncertainty – especially since that will mean all these people camping and moving with winter coming on.

Then there’s Weaver and Tom in conflict over moving – Tom thinking hunkering down for the winter would be surrender. He’s a military historian!  A huge part of their force are civilians and even if they weren’t it’s still not a great idea to pursue a war in winter, especially without the equipment! Unless all his people have suddenly turned into Finns it’s a bad bad bad idea. What are they going to do, be frostbitten at the aliens? Fear out blackened extremities that are falling off! Or die floundering in the snow while the aliens (heat sensors and all!) hunt them down with their mobility and air power?

It feels like the writers have decided that there must must be conflict within the camp (even though Weaver and Tom are getting along) so they’re making some that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In fact there are a lot of things that don’t make a lot of sense that have been introduced to create tension – not least of which is Tom’s little alien holiday in the first place – or the continued tolerance of Pope no matter what he pulls.

At last we got rid of Pope – I am so done with that character.  How many times does he have to be a liability before they finally cut him loose. But Anthony goes with him? Really? It seems Pope saving his life at the end of the last season was his big “racist redemption” moment, never mind Click who he killed. Gah. And, of course, that means one of the very rarely occurring POC on this show is going to disappear –and when (if) he comes back he’s going to drag Pope back as well.

I have to moan a bit about Ann and Tom as a couple. There is just no chemistry between them at all, I really don’t believe the relationship, they feel like good friends or even siblings. The problem is that means watching them kiss feels vaguely unpleasant.

Jimmy’s death – I did not expect that, I admit. Makes me wonder how much this show will be an “anyone can die” series – which a dystopian needs to be really. We returned to the loss of the series – and the pain that is involved.