The tease of Charleston has been the major goal for the second season of Falling Skies. Here, ‘Death March’ manages to push the survivors past the promise of something more than survival – it pushes them into believing there is hope for the future; but, in typical Falling Skies fashion, it takes its sweet time in getting there. The episode is another in a series of bridges that helps to transition the narrative toward the eventual endgame. Unlike the breathing room provided in episodes like ‘Compass‘ or ‘Love and Other Acts of Courage,’ however, ‘Death March’ flows in the direction the series has naturally progressed this entire season – nicely setting up the final two episodes.
The 2nd Mass is finally closing in on their objective, and considering the casualties they’ve suffered this season, the final stretch into Charleston is one intended to be fraught with tension. However, as all the characters are placed in a situation that’s not unlike a class field-trip, it’s hard to feel as though anything is more pressing for them than simply getting off the road. The promise of Charleston isn’t merely about finding more survivors, or a concentrated force capable of repelling the alien invaders; it’s about alleviating the weariness of those in search of anything more permanent than a two-week stay in an abandoned hospital. The fractured group is still dealing with its losses. Some, like Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) have taken to lashing out at their friends in their grief, while others, like Tector (Ryan Robbins), find themselves wanting to move on past Charelston.
That leaves Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) in a peculiar position when it comes to his youngest boy, Matt (Maxim Knight), who has taken to writing out his will and peppering his father with seemingly endless questions and hypotheticals regarding Ben’s (Connor Jessup) state of mind, and the likelihood that they will ever see him again. As much as Tom functions as a second in command, prepared to have an answer with a plausible outcome, Matt’s questions require Tom to rely more on faith than he would probably like. Meanwhile, Tom is also dealing with the fact that his eldest son, Hal (Drew Roy), is currently on a scouting mission with Maggie (Sarah Carter) and Pope (Colin Cunningham), further splintering the Mason unit prior to the 2nd Mass’ arrival in Charleston.
Tom’s preoccupation with his children is briefly lifted after the convoy strikes a harnessed girl named Jenny. The girl has clearly been harnessed for some time, as she is well into the transformation stage (made evident by the somewhat questionable prosthetics the actress wears), which makes her even more of a potential threat to the 2nd Mass. Still, in his desire to better understand the changes in Ben, Matt does his best to befriend Jenny, and accept her point of view. Jenny is part of a family unit run by a “guardian,” who she believes truly loves and wants to protect her. As such, Jenny’s “brother” Tyler is in search of her, occasionally attaching himself to the side of the bus in an attempt to rescue his sibling.
The stage of Jenny’s progression, and her loyalty to the so-called guardian provides a glimpse at the true and lasting ramifications of the alien invasion. These children have not simply been enslaved against their will, they have been so indelibly altered at the core of their being that even the one’s saved from transformation are but a shadow of their former self. Should the human race successfully triumph over their invaders, what will become of those who are no longer entirely human?
Any question of the future is short-lived, as Jenny’s previously non-functioning harness begins to glow once more, and she answers the call of Tyler by fleeing the bus and knocking Matt unconscious. Unfortunately, Falling Skies hasn’t the time to delve further into the question of what the aftermath of the war will be, since humanity is largely still on the losing side of the equation. Though no one thinks to ponder the role of this new subspecies much further than a cursory question, there are also surprisingly no questions about just how much information Matt may have unwittingly given away to a still-harnessed girl. Chances are, this will be addressed later on, but given the experience of the group, one would think they’d realize the possibility of having been infiltrated more readily.
Elsewhere, having been forced to stop and repair their vehicle, Maggie is left alone with Pope, and he unleashes his full cynical fury upon her. After Hal returns and the trio are once again on the road, Maggie feels compelled to tell Hal about her troubled past – which includes: drug addiction, theft and the birth of a son while she was incarcerated. Naturally, this serves to complicate her budding relationship with Hal, but it also further complicates the history Maggie has with Pope. It is clear that in his pressing her, she once supplied this information to him – or he acquired it by another means – so his reason for bringing it up now may prove to be a question more interesting than any posed by her confession.
Complicated relationships are put on hold, however, as the convoy reaches Charleston only to discover that the city is in ruins, and even if the 2nd Mass wanted to investigate, the bridge allowing them entrance has been destroyed. Facing this loss, Weaver (Will Patton) is somewhat despondent, but he rights himself after being given a pep talk by Tector about the survivors’ need for a leader like him. Weaver’s response is to push on, continue to fight and to not allow this set back to break them.
Before they can regroup and head out, Col. Porter (Dale Dye) and a few well-armed men pop out of some bushes and let the 2nd Mass know that Charleston is in fact what they had been told, and the city is serving as the new capital of the United States. Along with Porter and his men, Hal’s company also emerges, having apparently run into Porter earlier.
It’s a brief moment of exhilaration and relief for the survivors, but with only two episodes remaining in season 2, that happiness will likely be jeopardized very soon.
Falling Skies continues next Sunday with ‘The Price of Greatness’ @9pm on TNT. Check out a preview below: