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FALLING SKIES Gives us the Stinkeye

Episodes 201 “Worlds Apart” & 202 “Shall We Gather at the River”

The 2nd Massachusetts is still trying to figure out the best way to beat back an alien invasion, all the while dealing with the loss of its second in command and moral compass, Professor Tom Mason.

A lot has changed in the three months between seasons one and two. The main one being that the 2nd Mass is mobile again. Following the Battle of Boston (of which we saw very little), there was a Battle of Fitchburg (which can be found in the Dark Horse mini-series), and that’s where the group got hammered.

There’s a lot going on in these two episodes, starting with an ambush going wrong on several levels. The Skitters are adapting to the humans’ latest battle techniques, and in the aftermath of an ambush led by Hal and Pope, Ben takes a shot at a Skitter and ends up hitting … Tom?

The story of how Tom made his way back to Boston from the alien ship is handled well, told in flashbacks as he’s on the surgery table in the medical bus while Dr. Glass struggles to stay objective and save his life.

And it’s a bit of creative two-stepping to get around the whole “We didn’t know what we were doing” finale. Having Tom walk aboard the ship could have been a fatal mistake for the show, but they’ve turned it into a positive. The aliens have taken several resistance leaders, offering them a truce if they accept living in concentration camps. Otherwise, all bets are off.

Tom and the other resistance fighters get released with the expectation that they’ll take the alien proposal back to their leaders. Except they never get a chance to leave, as a Skitter-directed Mech shoots them all down – except for Tom.

This scene does several things: 1. introduces the Skitter that I’m calling “Stinkeye” because of his obvious deformity; 2. shows that there are other fighting groups besides the 2nd Mass still out there; 3. raises the question of whether Stinkeye is following orders or acting on his own. He’s clearly got something personal going on with Tom, even though there’s no clue what that is yet.

Tom figures out he’s in Michigan, so it’s anyone’s guess where the other fighters are based. They could be from anywhere in the country, which plays into the notion that there’s still an active resistance while still isolating the 2nd Mass.

At this point, Tom realizes that there’s no going back. There’s no negotiating with these invaders. It’s us or them. That sentiment drove Weaver last season, and it looks like it will drive a lot of the action this time around as well.

Ben teaches Matt how to shoot.

Ben has the same feeling about it, drawing on his hatred of the Skitters and what they’ve done to him. But his “enhancements” make him a super-soldier of sorts, able to tolerate cold and withstand physical strain. But it comes at a price.

After Tom’s return and recovery from being shot by his son, the 2nd Mass figures it has to cross the river to get out from under the sweeps by Skitter patrols. But the only remaining bridge has to be rebuilt a bit, and on the other side: a Skitter control tower.

So while Lourdes’ new boyfriend figures out how to re-build the bridge, a small team goes to take out the tower. Dai gets to shoot a bazooka! Lots of fireworks and pyrotechnics in these two episodes, and as Wil Wheaton noted in the “2nd Watch” segment, the CG effects are blending well with the practical effects pretty well – better than last season, I’ll say.

Especially in the creepiest scene in the two hours. After Tom and Weaver have a discussion about how Tom wouldn’t even trust Tom at this point, the older Mason takes his son aside and instructs him to do whatver it takes to stop any kind of betrayal. Tom isn’t sure of himself, and wants a failsafe. When Hal balks, Tom gets agitated, and that disrupts the Ceti Eel inside Tom’s eye.

Yeah. Remember Star Trek II, when Captain Terrell decided to fight back? Something like that.

Only the eel is pointy, and sticking out of Tom’s eye, and has to be pulled. Without anesthesia.

Between the editing, the CG work, and the performances by Moon Bloodgood and Noah Wyle, this scene is going to be one of the top ten for the show. The hero screams and thrashes on the table. The hero’s girlfriend has to yank the evil machine from hero’s eyeball.

This eel is apparently some kind of parasite/probe(?) of some sort. And after escaping from the specimin jar (and crawling all over Lourdes – making you absolutely sure she was in for it) it makes its way out of the 2nd Mass camp to ol’ Stinkeye.

It’s a stong opening volley for a show that had many fans wondering whether or not it was going to go over a cliff. The writing is solid, without too many over-the-top Hallmark moments that drew criticism last year. And the added dynamic of distrust and angst among the Masons will play out on the larger canvas of the 2nd Mass trying to figure out if they can still trust Tom.

The addition of Jamil as a romantic interest for Lourdes is a welcome move, as the whole “mooning after Hal” thing was a bit dopey, and really short-changed Seychelle Gabriel as a performer. She gets more to do this season, it seems, and the relationship will help ground the character a little more.

We’ll see more from Pope and his Berserkers as well, including “Sanctuary” alum Ryan Robbins as Tector. What do they do? Look at them as the “Dirty Dozen” of the group, with former cop Anthony along to keep an eye on Pope while they make mayhem.

Ben’s arc will be interesting to watch, now that we see his approach to everything is fed by his hatred of the Skitters, where Tom’s actions are defined by his love for his family and friends. Expect that “dark side/light side” dichotomy to play into the season finale, I’m sure.

[Official Show Site at TNT]   [“Falling Skies” on Twitter]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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