Falling Skies season 2 episode 3 review: Compass
Falling Skies delivers a solid third episode of its second season. Read Ron's review here...
This review contains spoilers.
The cold opening to this week's Falling Skies has a little hunting party going on. Jimmy (the kid from the first season who became kind of a tough guy) and Ben (the kid with the alien spine spikes who we all know and love) are out on a hunting trip. Apparently, they do this all the time to keep the scouts at bay. Also, apparently this doesn't always go well. After a close call on one trip, the second of the episode ends pretty badly. Two skitters are killed by incendiary shotgun rounds; unfortunately, there are three skitters in the party. Jimmy finds himself impaled on a tree by an angry Redeye, and Ben... well, Ben's neck spikes light up with a pretty blue glow and he drops helplessly to his knees.
That's... that's probably not good news. Not only is Tom suspected of having an alien parasite, now Ben might be back into the thrall of his alien overlords. Things just haven't been going well for the Mason family. Now Jimmy's injured, and everyone blames Weird Ben.
Tom's reintegration into the group hasn't been easy, either. Tom's gotten into some scraps with Pope and his Berzerkers (apparently, Pope starts his own gang wherever he goes, and this one's full of rough-neck good guys). However, he's got a solution: Tom volunteers to serve with Pope. That won't create any more tension, especially after Tom shows up Pope on the battlefield and further disobeys orders.
Oh yeah, there's also the little gift from above: a woman named Avery Churchill drops out of the sky and tells the 2nd Mass commanding officers about the reformed Continental Congress of the United States. Several thousand civilians in Charleston, South Carolina, have restarted the government, are forming an army, and have hot showers. If it sounds too good to be true, that's because it very well might be. Still, false hope is better than no hope, right? Either way, if one person can find your camp from a low-flying balsa wood and fiberglass airplane, anyone could.
I really enjoyed how Falling Skies has chosen to revisit some threads from the first season. For example, the tension between Pope and Mason. Mason captured Pope in the first season; Pope had to prove himself to the 2nd Mass. Now, after the 3-month trip back from Wisconson, Pope's the one who has become invaluable to the group while Mason has to prove himself. They're still not getting along, but the situation has been completely reversed from how it was before. That's a nice touch, and it's nice to see that their dislike hasn't cooled due to their shared near-death experiences.
I appreciate a lot of the actors on the show, but none more than Will Patton. He did some great things this episode, particularly a moment where Weaver is trying to comfort Ben about what happened to Jimmy. Weaver's trying to be supportive, but it's pretty clear from his face and body language that this is way out of his comfort range. It's a brilliant bit of well-meaning awkwardness, and a great nod to how difficulty a man like Weaver would find comforting someone else.
The direction this episode, particularly the cinematography and camera movements, ended up being one of the highest of the high points. The first two episodes featured a great sweeping long shot of the camp getting ready to move, and this week had another great long take. Tom and Anne were walking through the camp, discussing events, and all around them, the 2nd Mass was doing its daily thing. The camp at the airport was a very well decorated set, and the camera movements, the blocking, the framing of the shot was brilliant (and kudos to the actors for being able to deliver a heavy speaking scene on the move and in a single seamless take). Another high point: the big camera pan of the assembled 2nd Mass brought together for Jimmy's funeral. (Apparently, Spielberg didn't think the crowd was big enough at Jimmy's funeral, so he had the show add extras digitally after the fact; another fun fact brought to you by the Falling Skies watch-along app!).
The show's general plot seems to be moving in the right direction: the 2nd Mass works great when they're on the run, and the road movie skeleton will allow the group to have a lot of adventures without seeming forced. They have a direction, thanks to Charleston, and that gives them a focus. I've got my doubts about separating Anthony and Pope from the group, but if they stick close to the column, that should keep them present enough to reunite them when needed. The script, from Bryan Oh was a bit clunky at times (and veered into slightly hokey territory), but it definitely wasn't as bad as some of the show's episodes in the first season. It seemed more of a set-up show than an hour designed to progress the plot forward, and that's okay. I like where they seem to be headed.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan enjoys the addition of other shape-shifters to the Teen Wolf universe, but I hope they refuse to admit vampires into this world. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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