If there's one thing you can count on with Falling Skies it's how consistent the program can be. After packing a one-two punch last week with 'On Thin Ice' and 'Collateral Damage,' which started season 3 off with a great deal of action and spectacle, the show takes a step back to try its hand at the more personal (and sometimes less successful) mode of storytelling. And, right on cue, the show kills off a minor, but familiar character, to lend some gravitas to the proceedings and segue into the next phase of the season.
This time, instead of a plucky young kid who has found himself to be the surrogate child for the one Weaver thought he'd lost, the death comes at the expense of one of Pope's Berserkers. After a human sniper's shot at Crazy Lee (Luciana Carro), results in her head being impaled on a bit of rebar, the show once more turns into an examination of the fragile nature of life and expressions of humanity in times of great conflict.
Occasionally, this can mean Falling Skies will fall back on bromides about togetherness, the meaning of community and how one loss affects the entirety of what's left of the human race, but through some quality performances by Carro and Colin Cunningham (Pope), the episode doesn't turn into a complete rehash of the emotions that were unleashed upon Jimmy's death at the same point last season.
Besides, Crazy Lee's slow death is used rather well to illustrate just how perilous a position the human race is in. As Weaver's daughter Jeanne bluntly points out, humanity is essentially living on borrowed time, and while there's hope in the alliance with the Vohm, and the advancements the human's have made against the Espheni, there's still the threat of a massive invasion force headed toward Charleston, preparing to deliver the deathblow to humankind. And like President Tom Mason's address to the surviving citizens, as they commemorate those who've lost their lives with the unveiling of the Liberty Tree, the message here is far from subtle. But, then again, Falling Skies isn't that kind of show; it's a program that knows its voice and is confident in it – even if it's sometimes cheesy – and that, somehow, accounts for much of this program's appeal.
While Crazy Lee's demise affords the episode its emotional foundation, her would-be killer grants 'Badlands' much of its momentum, by introducing the plot twist that President Benjamin Hathaway (who was president prior to the alien invasion) is still alive, raising questions about Tom's presidency, but, more importantly, it begs the question: just how many outside of Charleston know of the skitter rebellion and the existence of the Vohm?
Unfortunately, that seems like a development to be saved for future episodes, as 'Badlands' wants to delve further into the mystery of Tom and Anne's baby, and why the little critter is so intent on freaking her mother out and generally causing everyone to doubt Anne's mental stability. This means there's more unnerving talking baby scenes, but it also demonstrates how the episode significantly expands the season's subplots, leaving one to wonder if they'll be successfully rolled back into the season's overall storyline.
Unlike strange infant behavior, Hal's plotline certainly has the potential to be impactful with the rest of the season. Right now, it consists mainly of Maggie telling Hal she's not going to give up on him – which echoes a lot of what we saw between the two last season. Hopefully, this will begin to yield some solid examples of what the young couple's relationship means to them on a more personal level, rather than have it be yet another illustration of faith during a time of great adversity. It's certainly a nice sentiment, but it does demonstrate how the series sometimes struggles to find the right balance between telling stories on the individual level and stories regarding the collective whole.
Thankfully, just before things get overwhelmingly maudlin, 'Badlands' ends with what may be the beginning of the Espheni invasion – which should offer much more in terms of a propulsive plot for the next episode, and possibly episodes to come.
Falling Skies continues next Sunday with 'At All Costs' @10pm on TNT. Check out a preview below: