The 2nd Massachusetts has arrived in Charleston, land of milk and honey (and all being gathered in one place for a nice big attack – yes I still question the wisdom of this) and Colonel Porter congratulates them on how long they’ve lasted out there, his own unit having been largely wiped out.
The New Charleston is an underground mall, a construction that survived the destruction of the city. They walk down into a food court where people are eating (meals that are far better than what the 2nd Massachusetts has been eating) and they all stand to give them a standing ovation for what they did out in the field. Captain Weaver gets to reunite with his daughter. And Pope is already plotting with the berserkers to leave.
Matt is happy to be where there are other kids and even a school (and if you think a kid missing school is unbelievable, try to grasp that Ann and Tom, after weeks of rations and privations, are tucking into a salad. Yes, salad. Who, after weeks of unappetising rations, craves lettuce?) and Tom gets to reunite with an old professor – Arthur Manchester. He’s the majority leader of the new congress and presumptive president
Weaver goes to see Charleston’s General. With the intelligence Weaver has from the field, he offers to use his people to scout. But the General doesn’t want to know and doesn’t need scouts - he dismisses Colonel Porter when he protests.
It turns out that Manchester, as the civilian leader, refuses to provoke the aliens. It’s believe that the aliens have no reason to hit Charleston again since they think it’s pacified, and it’s best to hide and “rebuild” rather than pick fights. It’s apparent that the General isn’t Manchester’s best friend.
But there’s a ruckus since the Charleston folks want to disarm the 2nd Massachusetts and spread them out around the place. Tom and Ann aren’t happy but Colonel Porter talks Weaver around, having them disarm and spread to where they’re assigned.
The next day it’s all domestic with Ann and Tom going to their various assignments – with Tom reporting to Manchester who has statesmen dreams of putting together a new government for a post-invasion world (ink on paper after the aliens aren’t about, methinks). But there’s a confidence vote for his government coming up and he wants Tom to speak for him (how can he speak for him? He has no idea what the government is doing!) Tom takes the chance to tell him about Red Eye and the rebel Skitters – which Manchester greets by saying they can stand back and let them kill each other. He’s adamantly against any kind of alliance, or poking his head out of the hole, and won’t do anything to threaten the city – which he links to the vote.
Weaver catches up with his daughter to find out what happened to Diego and the other kids. A Skitter patrol found them and they scattered – they could still be out there but Manchester wouldn’t consider sending a patrol. She’s going to speak up at the next meeting.
Ann finds Lourdes at the med centre – and an arrogant heart specialist who tries to fob her off with all the work since she’s a paediatrician. Ann, combat medic of the 2nd Massachusetts, isn’t taking that lying down.
In the lunch room they find the spread is not usually so opulent and also that there’s an increasing sense of unease. The private quarters they got to welcome them are not the norm, most people living in dormitories and dissent seems to be punished, with people afraid to speak their own mind. Both Ann and Tom are disturbed by how casual everyone is – they’re pretending the aliens aren’t even there. Matt is having trouble at school, fighting because kids are saying the 2nd Massachusetts made a deal with the aliens rather than fight and are now stealing
On the military side, Tector fits right in, but the Berserkers are already chafing at the more formal military (and frustrated that Charleston has some major firepower they’re not using). Hal isn’t happy with drills rather than fighting, though Weaver’s trying to groom him for leadership - and Maggie’s hiding a gun. Which she uses to try and stop Pope, Crazy Lee and Lyle (the Berserkers) from trying to run with guns – except the Charleston military also arrives, shoots Lyle and puts all 4 of them in lock up.
Tom takes it to Manchester – saying they can’t afford to lose men and there’s plenty of ways to punish them without locking them up. But Manchester is having a leadership crisis, he can’t afford to look weak with the General chafing with his army to actually fight the Skitters. He wants to build his little city state and just pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
It’s not time for public meeting democracy hour, part of the no confidence vote. Weaver’s daughter speaks up against Manchester who goes on to introduce Tom, to many applause. He congratulates them for what they achieved, but doesn’t support Manchester. He’s spent so much time with the resistance that he thinks the settled, staid Charleston has lost its aim. He quotes Manchester’s own book on the American Revolutionary War about how freedom would only come when they’d won the war. That they can’t hide and hope the aliens go away.
It’s at this point they get a message – a de-harnessed boy has arrived looking for Tom Mason. It isn’t Ben, it’s a messenger from the rebellion that has apparently grown hugely and there’s a development. Red-Eye wants to talk to Tom.
The General (Bressler) and Weaver agree to Tom going – but Manchester demands he be locked up and the whole city hunker down, play dead and hope the aliens leave them alone. When he and Tom are alone he asks when Bressler got to Tom. He doesn’t understand why Tom spoke against him since he would have given him a place in the new government – and he can’t capitulate without giving Bressler an opening. He’s playing politics.
Manchester begins plotting, has Pope brought to his quarters and offers him a deal – he dishes dirt on Tom Mason and Pope goes free. Pope responds by calling Manchester a 2 bit tin pot dictator. My gods, for 5 seconds I almost, almost, didn’t want to kill Pope.
Hal and Dai organises a prison break – filling in Maggie about the Skitter rebellion meeting and taking her and the unharnessed boy (they left Crazy Lee behind – what, why?!) with them. They meet up with Weaver and Tom, helped by Potter. But they are caught before they can leave and Bressler has them arrested.
The entire 2nd Massachusetts is separated from the rest of Charleston and put into custody in a “state of emergency” against “dissidents”. He wants them all tried for treason.
Bressler finally loses it over this – and launches a coup, arresting Manchester and putting the compound under martial law. Which even Pope doesn’t think is a good idea.
Hal and Maggie have more of their emotion drama and I just don’t get this. I don’t think Hal’s “I have to think about this” answer was the best one – but nor do I understand the answer Maggie expected “you’re the worst person in the world for having a kid in prison” as being any better. If you do have such a harmful, ridiculously disproportionate, cruel response taking a minute to get your head out of your arse isn’t a bad idea.
I think Charleston is even whiter than the 2nd Massachusetts, if that were possible. And I notice we’ve lost Diego along the way.
It’s interesting the dynamic they’re playing in Charleston. It’s like a milder form of the Governor in the Walking Dead comics. In any dystopia, there will be those who seek power and a large number of people who support them because they seek safety and stability (that’s true of the real world, let alone dystopias) and this is an interesting twist on that usual pattern. The civilian government muzzling the army (that, for once, isn’t taking over) and playing political games with people’s lives so Manchester can stay in his ivory tower. Though it’s a twist, I am also glad that the idea of a coup isn’t seen as a positive development.