By John Keegan and Henry Tran
There is a reason why I prefer shows that take chances. It's not exactly that I'm going to see something different, but it's more an indication that the writers have free reign over what the characters are doing and the choices they make. They should not be afraid to take chances with their story. This relates to "Falling Skies", particularly this episode, because I've noticed that I can pretty much predict exactly where everything is going to go. What everyone is going to do.
The 2nd Massachusetts is supposed to keep themselves mobile and heading towards Charleston, but they've stopped and regrouped inside a hospital that happens to have exactly what they need to heal their wounds. Hal and Maggie continue their ongoing flirtation, and go through the usual paces, separate briefly, then get back together. Tom once again makes decisions based solely on the welfare of one of his sons in favor of the good of the group. It's a reversion back to the Tom that occupied much of the series to date and undoes all of the progress the character had since the season one finale. The one intriguing thing about the episode, that is Red Eye being the leader of some alien resistance against the overlords, was unfortunately hamstrung by attaching him to a returning character who was arguably unnecessary. If the series continues with episodes like this, I sense trouble coming.
The episode starts with the survivors arriving in Richmond, Virginia. They just happen to stumble right into the middle of a mysterious explosion in the middle of the city, an event that scouts investigate only to find Rick in the midst of the rubble. Let's just put aside the fact that Rick, someone who has been missing from the larger group since the end of last season, was in the right place at the right time for his friends to find him. If we are to believe what occurs in the episode, perhaps Red Eye had Rick all the while he was following the 2nd Mass. during their entire trek down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. No evidence of that was ever present during Red Eye's time in the series, but it would make the most logical sense.
I think that was left out to increase the impact of Red Eye's proposal to Tom and the rest of the 2nd Mass' command structure. If we are to believe what Red Eye says during this episode (and there is little to indicate that he's all too trustworthy), he's not a bad guy, but the leader of an alien resistance movement that has been trying to beat the alien overlords for a long time. While this could certainly change how everyone looks at combat situations between the humans and skitters from now on, there is again the issue of little evidence backing up any of Red Eye's claims. Also, why did he secretly follow the 2nd Mass. and why did he insert that little bug in Tom's eye? He could easily be lying entirely to the survivors. The only reason his guts aren't splattered against some wall is the fact that he uses both Rick and Ben as vocal proponents of his plan to align the human resistance with the rebel skitters. Rick is not trustworthy because the last time he was around, he led everyone into a trap. So why is Rick even here this time? He gets shot trying to defend Red Eye from a shotgun blast, and ends up dying because of that choice.
When Red Eye used Ben as a shield against getting shot, Tom immediately changes his mind and comes around to his way of thinking. I mean, I understand that he wants to protect his sons at all costs and doesn't want to lose Ben to the aliens again, but the show has played this card with this particular character one too many times. It gets stale and predictable.
Captain Weaver and Tom have a quiet conversation at the end of the episode about a time where Tom is going to have to make the "hard choice" and that would mean that he'd possibly have to let Ben go. It lines up with the secret that Ben tells Matt, but I have to wonder if the writers have the guts to make the hard choices along with Tom. Can they take that risk? This is a show about an apocalypse and that means that life is hard now. Death and hardship should be the norm. It just doesn't seem like it when the 2nd Massachusetts consistently runs into such good fortune. Perhaps the writers feel that going into dark territory would undermine the optimistic tone that the network and showrunners want to show.
That optimism is all too evident in the subplot with Hal and Maggie's nascent romance. While the two of them show a bunch of chemistry in all of their scenes together (to the point where I'm just waiting for them to get the sex over with and move on), it is a romance that strikes all of the usual beats. It's not anything we haven't seen before. They scout together as partners, then get caught in the middle of a mech patrol near a hospital where they continue to flirt in the backseat of a car. The flirting only goes so far before Maggie steps over the line by mentioning Hal's past relationship with Karen. It's good that the show doesn't forget its past, but Karen and Hal have been apart for so long that it really has no impact on what's happening between Maggie and Hal. It's furthered along by Maggie sharing the story of her three operations for brain tumors. Hal makes his move, kisses Maggie, and she pulls back. Shuts him out. She tells him that they should leave things as partners only, and that they always have each other's back.
So, of course, that is immediately put to the test when a mech attack injures Maggie and Hal has to come to her rescue. When she recovers from her wounds in a fully-stocked hospital, she softens. Why pull away in the first place? If anything, her miraculous recovery from the brain tumors should mean that she should embrace the good things left in her life. A romance and friendship in the midst of a post-apocalyptic world is hard to find. She stopped the romance at that point because the writers needed some kind of conflict there, but the ending of the subplot suggests that the writers backed off at the last moment. It undermines all of it, and makes me wonder if anything personal will have a lasting impact.
The hospital setting keeps in line with this mindset. It can't be mere good fortune that the survivors come upon the only hospital in the city that hasn't been raided and that has been abandoned without power, yet has all of the supplies that Dr. Glass could possibly need. It's a contrivance so that the writers can keep everyone on the show feeling safe and secure and fully healthy for the next crisis that comes their way. For a show that presents danger around every corner, the characters seem justified in feeling too good about their situation. The writers are playing it way too safe to me, and that seems to be keeping the show from running full steam ahead with its story.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision. Henry Tran is Critical Myth's reviewer for Falling Skies.