Striking the right balance between characterization and the progression of plot can sometimes be a tricky endeavor. So when Falling Skies sets out to develop the notion of a skitter rebellion headed up by Red-Eye, there needs to be a certain amount of leeway with some of the characters. This is handled easily enough with unreliable characters like Ben (Connor Jessup), whose motivations can be chalked up to moody teenager just as easily as they can be attributed to the spikes sticking out of his spine.
However, when it comes time to indicate that a character with a more nuanced arc like Captain Weaver (Will Patton) would willingly allow his beloved 2nd Mass to nearly strand themselves in an untested environment, that only serves to damage the character’s credibility. Weaver’s actions – or inaction – could certainly be linked to the harness bite on his leg, but then that would have to implicate Anne (Moon Bloodgood) in the potentially dangerous situation, as well. With Tom (Noah Wyle) enjoying so much time with her, nobody wants that, so the show decides to up the ante by bringing a handful of departed characters back and throw everyone off the scent of skepticism.
‘Homecoming’ picks up two weeks after the end of ‘Love and Other Acts of Courage,’ revealing the 2nd Mass to have remained holed up in the hospital for a little rest and recuperation. While there, though, the group has managed to exhaust nearly all of its resources, making the journey to Charleston exponentially harder than it ever needed to be. Even though the hospital’s generators are shut down to conserve fuel, it’s good to know the Falling Skies random character generator seems to still be up and running.
With Weaver’s condition rapidly deteriorating, Tom finds himself in charge of the 2nd Mass, realizing he was apparently the only one who didn’t know the group had run disastrously low on fuel and food – not to mention the existence of a puss-filled slug bite on Weaver’s leg, causing him to convulse and slip out of consciousness. Thanks to the rapid succession of bad news, Tom’s first act as commanding officer is to prep the group for travel, only to have them sit tight and wait for an experimental treatment to either revive Weaver or kill him.
Sorting out the various problems that come with leadership – including calling his new lover by his dead wife’s name – Tom is subsequently hit with an additional surprise: Hal (Drew Roy) and Maggie (Sarah Carter) have recovered Hal’s former love interest, Karen (Jessy Schram), de-harnessed in the woods, not too far from where the 2nd Mass is stationed.
Naturally, with certain feelings growing between Hal and Maggie, the return of Karen at first appears to be a spoiler in that regard. But considering the response to Karen’s abduction was wildly overshadowed by the quest to find Ben, Hal’s reaction to finding Karen comes off as a tad stilted. The only connection the audience has to Karen is through Hal, and he only half-mourned her loss while reminiscing about old girlfriends in the backseat of a car with the new object of his affection. As such, Karen operates merely as a plot device that may or may not have some legitimate character arc of her own as the series progresses.
That arc ties directly into the one Ben is currently set to embark upon. As any super-powered teen is wont to do, Ben is feeling the call of rebellion – or in his case, Red-Eye. But first, he’s around to put on his best Taylor Lautner impression, telling everyone how wrong they are to allow Karen to stay, and stiffly proclaiming any and all of his pending actions justified. Surprisingly, though, when Karen and Ben share a moment of super-power appreciation, it’s the most charming Ben has been all season, even if the two are essentially pulled together by alien harness technology. So, in that aspect, perhaps Karen’s reintroduction is a step in the right direction.
While Hal and Ben squabble over the course of action regarding Karen, Maggie decides to approach her with all the subtlety of a John Woo film. Despite Maggie’s double-barreled insistence that she head for the door, Karen simply overpowers her aggressor and tosses Maggie like a rag doll against the wall – aggravating the wounds she suffered at the end of last episode. Karen manages to convince Ben that the situation is turned around, and effectively becomes the excuse Ben was looking for to leave the 2nd Mass and head out to join the rebellion. After subduing Hal, Ben and Karen leap from the top of the hospital and run off into the dark.
Adding more confusion to the mix is the return of John Pope (Colin Cunningham) and Anthony (Mpho Koaho). Pope conveniently regains consciousness after Ben and Karen make their break, and quickly corroborates the rumor of the skitter rebellion. The only catch is that Pope became privy to this information by a still harnessed, and apparently frightening Karen who was searching for Ben on orders from the overlords.
Whatever designs Red-Eye has for Ben and the rebellion apparently has the overlords worried enough to attempt to infiltrate the 2nd Mass and recover Ben alive (rather than eliminate him outright). Additionally, Karen’s deception, coupled with Ben abandoning the other survivors, likely means future denunciation by the group of any formerly harnessed kids.
With the 2nd Mass now stuck between a skitter rebellion and the promise of Charleston, hopefully there’ll be no more lazy, two-week layovers for the rest of the season.
Falling Skies continues next Sunday with ‘Molon Labe’ @9pm on TNT. Check out a preview of the episode below: