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Review #3568: Falling Skies 2.3: “Compass”

Posted on the 27 June 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Bryan Oh
Directed by Michael Katleman

Well, my concerns that the 2nd Massachusetts was going to stay at the airport and the plot stagnating while at that location were short-lived. The first season had the survivors holed up in the school for some time and that’s really what happened to a large degree. Keeping the camp mobile is the best thing that can be done for this show, despite how expensive it must be to constantly change sets.

Review #3568: Falling Skies 2.3: “Compass”

The look of the series is still quite good, though. Some new developments from the outside world facilitate Captain Weaver’s decision to keep the camp moving in some direction. It’s a risk with the potential to backfire on them, but the camp’s morale could also use a boost. The threat to the camp is lessened by virtue of the skitters hanging back, possibly to observe what the 2nd Massachusetts is doing. They would be absent from the episode altogether if Ben and Jimmy spent all their time doing something besides hunting them, thus putting the entire camp at risk. Ben’s connection to the skitters needs to be explored more in-depth than it was here, though it looks like that’s one of the goals for the coming season.

Last episode established Ben’s all-consuming hatred of the skitters, and it continues here with the hunting of any skitter patrols that are following the camp. Ben seems to take a perverse sense of joy in killing the skitters and ingenuity in using the Berserkers’ flamethrowers to scorch a single patrol. This gets the attention of Red Eye and his group of skitters and mechs. Red Eye shows some human traits by going around to collect their own dead (much to the chagrin of Tom and the Berserkers) and both times he meets Ben, he uses the spikes on Ben’s back to stop and control him.

Ben doesn’t seem to be aware of what exactly is happening to him, though it’s obvious that Red Eye is at least curious as to what this new alien-human hybrid might represent. The lighting up of the spikes could be connected with the mysterious humming that Ben heard when he crossed the bridge last episode. Anyway, the second encounter with Red Eye leaves Jimmy impaled through the chest by a tree branch. This necessitates the next crisis in the camp, as Dr. Glass and the medical staff try everything they can to save Jimmy. It wasn’t meant to be, and Jimmy dies after a little bit of time.

This would be a bigger event if more of the main characters showed some emotion at Jimmy’s death. Captain Weaver was closer to Jimmy than everyone except maybe Ben and he maintains his stoic expression throughout even the funeral. It’s nice that the show demonstrates the dangerous world that the characters now live in, but the impact of Jimmy’s death is lessened both by the subdued reaction of everyone in the camp (a place where I would think death is something of an everyday occurrence) and his status as a secondary character. “Falling Skies” isn’t exactly subtle with their themes either, as evidenced by the plot’s insistence on coming back to Jimmy’s beloved compass to provide everyone with some sort of direction. It’s reflected in the newcomer that literally flies into the converted airport with some big news.

That newcomer, Avery Churchill, is understandably met with some suspicion. She comes from Charleston, South Carolina with news that there is a new government in place. Captain Weaver and the 2nd Massachusetts have been promised sanctuary and a place to consolidate their forces before and been burned by it. So the initial decision to continue on to the Catskills was something I agreed with. The writers take a narrative shortcut, though, once Jimmy dies in the camp under Dr. Glass’ care and all of a sudden, Captain Weaver decides to go along with the plan to move the camp to Charleston.

As with the season premiere and Tom’s three-month trek through a part of the country, the writers can’t seem to find the time to fit a larger story into the episode’s running time. I can understand that everyone in the camp regards Captain Weaver as their leader, but I don’t think everyone would just agree with the unilateral decision to go one direction based solely on the word of a stranger. It could definitely be a trap, and that would mean that the 2nd Massachusetts can’t trust anyone but themselves. It could mean that the aliens would have them trapped in both directions, from the front with the promise of all that Charleston would provide, and behind with Red Eye still surreptitiously following them. Though, heading to where civilization has pooled their resources could also present dramatic potential, as Weaver and Tom could clash with the goals of those leading the Charleston group.

It is a total mystery at this point, with the season still in setup mode. One of the characters who would have been the naysayer to the decision to head to Charleston would have been Pope, but he has so alienated people in the camp that he leaves with only one member of the Berserkers in the end. The whole subplot with Tom joining the Berserkers didn’t make much sense to me. Why would Tom voluntarily join a group where its leader is itching to put a bullet in his head? Tom doesn’t help the situation by barking orders over Pope’s objections, which leads to the two of them fighting in the open. Pope is one of the more interesting characters on the series and I don’t think he’ll be absent for all that long. His anti-groupthink mentality may get grating and repetitive at times, but there are also times when he seems like the lone voice of reason in this post-apocalyptic world everyone is trying to survive.

So the episode ends with a clear direction for the survivors, but there are little questions that still need to be answered. In particular, Ben being under the influence of Red Eye is, I think, the most pressing mystery. If one skitter can do that to Ben, can other skitters do the same? Pope was correct to worry about some of the camp members being under alien control, but Ben could turn out to be a bigger threat to them than Tom is. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

Score: 7/10


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