In the final moments of ‘Homecoming,’ the progression of Falling Skies season 2 appeared to be headed in a split direction. At least the thought of Ben (Connor Jessup) heading toward the Red-Eye rebellion with Karen (Jessy Schram) in tow – while the rest of the 2nd Mass divided itself either searching for them or moving toward whatever lay ahead in Charleston – was a real possibility. Falling Skies, however, saw things going a little differently.

Once the fleeing teens have made their way into the woods beyond the hospital, de-harnessed Karen reveals herself almost immediately, tempting Ben with the promise of having a permanent slug for a backpack once more. This would seem like any other double-cross, but the presence of an overlord immediately raises the stakes – though to what level isn’t entirely known until Tom (Noah Wyle) stumbles upon the good fortune of having the giant Abe Sapien in his sights. The rescue party may have seemed as though it arrived too quickly and conveniently, but with the promise of a rare advantage falling into the hands of the survivors, it’s just as quickly overlooked.

With the overlord in custody, the 2nd Mass soon finds they surrounded by an army of mechs, but with quite the ace up their sleeve. What unfolds in the rest of ‘Molon Labe’ is a tense game of chess with both opponents attempting to outwit (or outgun) one another, and it works to be one of the best episodes Falling Skies has managed in season 2. Of course, when the episode’s title makes reference to King Leonidas’ response to the request he and his men lay down their weapons, it’s clear that Falling Skies is gearing up to do what it does best: put down the sometimes ham-fisted human drama and start shooting some aliens.

As depictions of physical conflict are the show’s strong suit, the episode splits up main characters into bite-sized segments of eventual peril. In one direction, we have Tom, who is willing to play fast and loose with his captured foe – perhaps bolstered by his belief that the skitter rebellion has now been confirmed. Instead of summarily executing the towering son of a gun, Tom works to leverage the group’s prisoner against an increasingly frightening Karen, serving as messenger for the aliens desperate to get the overlord back.

Meanwhile, searching for a way out, Hal (Drew Roy) – officially single, now that Karen has taken a shine to a decidedly taller fellow – and Maggie (Sarah Carter) share a brief, tender moment before inadvertently stumbling upon yet another alien menace in the form of hundreds of spider-like creatures that consume metal as freely as they do human flesh. This new threat adequately plays spoiler to the indefinite siege of the hospital, and also puts Anne, Lourdes and Matt in the aforementioned peril.

The three stumble upon a grievously injured Jamil (Brandon Jay McLaren), who after saying some quick last words to Lourdes, coughs up a cluster of the spider-creatures while his eyes roll into the back of his head. If you thought Matt covered in the exploding gore of a skitter head was testing the limits of cable television imagery, the death of Falling Skies‘ resident Colson Whitehead look-alike may just trump that.

With lives being lost, and the safety of the entire 2nd Mass in serious jeopardy, the group goes into full survival mode – wherein the audience may actually believe that resistance isn’t nearly as futile as it so often looks. Matt selflessly jumps into a ventilation shaft unarmed to fetch rescuers for Anne and Lourdes, while Anne fashions a flamethrower to burn up a few of the nasty crawlers. Offering additional assistance is the shotgun-wielding Pope (Colin Cunningham) who manages to put aside his squabble with Tom long enough to play soldier and help save Anne and Lourdes. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Boon (Billy Wickman), who winds up captured by Karen’s group and offered up as an example of the pending punishment for further disobedience.

Playing the group’s only card, Tom questions the overlord, but is met with more riddles, and half-answered questions about the true nature of the alien invasion. As a display of his power, the overlord seizes control of Ben, causing him to convulse in pain. The scene appears to play out like it always will when the 2nd Mass has an alien prisoner: someone will be threatened and a move will be made to jeopardize the entire group. Instead, we are treated to not only the site of Tom discharging a round into the overlord’s neck, but also a jubilant feeling of pride in a character that has occasionally made poor decisions when it comes to putting his children over the group. The bleeding overlord soon becomes the 2nd Mass’ golden ticket, after Tom explains to a somewhat panicked Karen the terms of the group’s exit.

As the unit rolls toward Charleston, Tom has a heart-to-heart with Ben, knowing his son is not entirely his any longer, and that his destiny lies elsewhere. Most of the time, scenes like this play out poorly on Falling Skies, but given the tension and payoff of the episode as a whole, the goodbye works to cap off the episode on an emotional high note.

It’s clear that at this point – for both the sake of the story and the audience – Ben needs to go. The season has played his “I’m a freak and a danger to everyone here” routine to its fullest extent, and, once free of it, the storyline can progress properly on the divergent paths. Still, it will be interesting to see if Falling Skies stays in touch with Ben, or if it completely abandons the character until he is inevitably brought back at the most convenient time, like Pope.

Falling Skies will be back on August 5 @9pm with ‘Death March’ on TNT. Check out a preview for the episode below: