It's hard to not to snicker when the characters on any show not set in Westeros utter the slightest word regarding the inevitable approach of winter. In Falling Skies, though, the writers' use of the pending weather change to drive the characters into the main story for season 2 is as good a reason as any to fear a few falling flakes. Besides, Game of Thrones doesn't wholly own the season of winter, does it?
After the season 2 premiere did such a solid job of getting the ball rolling, 'Compass' is one of those episodes burdened with the unfortunate task of slowing things down so that the pieces can be properly aligned and ready to go when the larger story really kicks off. Of course, that means the 2nd Mass eventually running to a (supposedly) larger, more organized unit that, unlike the now 176 survivors led by Captain Weaver (Will Patton), is certain of the direction in which it is headed.
That direction is very clear, and it's one regarded by Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) as the right way to go. Understandably, Weaver is concerned about his crew, and considering the losses the 2nd Mass has suffered recently, it's no wonder his mind is occupied with the preservation of life, and not continuing to engage the invading aliens in conflict. Weaver uses winter as an excuse, feeling it would be better waited out in the relative seclusion of the Catskills – where his troops might be able to rest, recuperate and live to fight another day. Like Tom says, though, "…if we're resting, we're not resisting." Yes, it's hokey dialogue (and not the last to be showcased in 'Compass'), but it does get the point across in an episode whose sole job is to get the audience prepared for the rest of the season.
One of the key points is that after leaving the relative safety of the school they occupied during season 1, the 2nd Mass now has to stay mobile if they want to stay alive. That is made clear time and again, and has served (so far) to make the danger of season 2 feel more much more palpable and real than it was in season 1. But, as hinted by the title of the episode, Weaver is going need some help in deciding which direction is best for his band of survivors.
The scruffy, ponytailed captain isn't the only one in the group who may have lost his sense of direction, however. In fact, the episode hints somewhat that everyone in the 2nd Mass is a little lost in the woods at the moment. Whether it's the confusion brought on by a thirst for vengeance and the blindness that accompanies hate – as is the case with Ben (Connor Jessup) – or the hopelessness of grief that has Anne (Moon Bloodgood) counting the days on the calendar, there is a feeling that, in all the fighting, many have begun to walk aimlessly. And so, because it has Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot in its DNA, Falling Skies decides the best way to get everyone as close to the same page as possible is to remove a well-liked, but slightly unnecessary character.
Jimmy (Dylan Authors) always served as a tool to help ground Weaver without giving him too much to be concerned about. Weaver can't rightly be using one of the three Mason boys to replace his lost child, but he also can't be seen palling around with some kid, so the orphaned Jimmy, who comes and goes as he pleases, was really the best way to showcase Weaver's humanity.
Considering Ben's bloodlust is largely responsible for Jimmy being impaled on a tree – by Red Eye, no less – it's expected that his response to the boy's passing would be as emotional, if not more so than Weaver's. Instead, Weaver reserves his emotions for a charming, if inelegant eulogy, while Ben responds by acting like a self-destructive, cagey weirdo; thereby ensuring the rest of the group will continue to think of him as such.
If the response to Jimmy's death felt off, then Tom's decision to join the Berserkers after Pope (Colin Cunningham) dragged him into the woods and accused him of being an alien stooge was off the charts bizarre. Maybe it was all deliberately related to the episode's core theme, or simply an easier way to justify Tom and Pope eventually duking it out, but it all came off a little clunky.
The fallout of the Tom/Pope brawl is even more problematic, as it places Falling Skies back into the familiar territory of a show without one of its biggest agitators and fascinating presences. Perhaps due to the Berserkers staying behind, Pope's solo adventures will be short lived. On the other hand, since Anthony (Mpho Koaho) decides to travel with him (mostly to ensure Pope doesn't return seeking vengeance for his bruised ego and face), it would suggest Pope's time away from the 2nd Mass may be an adventure all it's own – which could either be compelling or detrimental to the rest of the season's story arc.
And it looks like that arc revolves around a Continental Congress that's been set up in Charleston. The group learns this information from a pilot, Avery Churchill (Camille Sullivan), who lands her tiny airplane smack dab in the middle of their not terribly inconspicuous camp. As far as information, Avery seems short on precise details, but she has plenty of kind words for Weaver and Tom, as well as the promise of hot water for the rest of the survivors. Weaver is naturally justified in his skepticism, but after weighing the option of waiting out the winter alone, or giving his people a fighting chance in Charleston, he chooses the latter.
Hopefully, the time 'Compass' took to set up the direction of the next few episodes will be utilized to the fullest extent, so that Falling Skies doesn't have to stop to check it's bearings like this too often.
Falling Skies returns next Sunday @9pm with 'Young Bloods' on TNT. Check out a preview below:
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