Falling Skies carried on with its usual uneven pattern of forced sentimentality and expert suspense with this week's game-changing episode, the first of a two-parter. This hour was all setup for what's to come next week, but 'Sanctuary, Part 1' still proved to be one of the most interesting and intriguing episodes of the season.
While I'm still not really attached to any of the show's central characters, and it still feels like the 2nd Mass is too far away from the scary alien threat supposedly standing on every street corner, there was a lot I liked about this episode. First off, it seems like our group of unwashed soldiers and civilians are finally gonna get the hell out of that safe and sound middle school and head out into that nasty, Skitter-ridden shell of a planet. It feels like I've been waiting for the group to leave their squeaky clean sanctuary forever. Finally, with the Skitters apparently planning an attack, the group readied to venture out of the brightly lit halls and classrooms ... and maybe, just maybe, they'll run into trouble on the road. Wouldn't that be exciting? It sure would be more exciting than watching people poke a captured Skitter in the face for an hour, at least.
The episode kicked off with Anne getting a bloody lip thanks to a desperate family who decided to steal the group's meds and make a run for it. The troubled family's fears ricocheted across the entire camp as news came that the children were going to be evacuated, with the adults set to follow some time later after the 3rd Mass had arrived. The evacuation plan and the news of reinforcements coming from the 3rd Mass came courtesy of a new character, Terry, from the wiped out 7th Mass.
The entire kids-only evacuation ordeal felt tired and contrived. Even when the characters kept explaining why the kids had to leave first, it still made no sense to send them out marching on dangerous ground with only a few soldiers as protection. If everyone – the kids and the adults and the 3rd Mass – were all headed in the same direction, then why wouldn't they just all leave together? The 3rd Mass could catch up within a day or two. Well, I suppose we got our answer with that disturbing final scene. It looks like some, or at least one, of the humans has made a deal with the Skitters – trading kids for protection. That's not going to end well. At all.
I'm a little torn about this development. While the idea of a human vs. human storyline set against the backdrop of a deadly alien invasion is definitely intriguing, I was hoping to see more "Us vs. them" action as the season progressed. It feels like there's so much more we have to learn about the Skitters, like where they came from, and why they love to cuddle up with human children. It's a little disappointing to think that we've hit a detour here, with the whole betrayal plotline set to eat up valuable time that we could be spending uncovering the many mysteries of the Skitters. Still, I have no doubt next week's episode will deliver some fine suspense as Tom and crew figure out what's going on at the farm.
One of the most memorable scenes of the night was between Ben and Matt. No, I'm not talking about the superhuman push-up thing, although that was a little strange, I'm talking about how Ben told Matt that he felt comfortable with the Skitters. They cared for him and they tended to his every need by instinct, and now he misses that. Here's hoping that the Terry's betrayal plotline will lead us right into the heart of the Skitter kiddie farm next week. I'm dying to find out what's going in with the Skitters and the kids. Why do they seem to care about them and protect them? And why did they murder a few of them in front of Hal and then let him go a few episodes back?
And speaking of suspense, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen while Jimmy was running from the mech and trying desperately to fight off that sneaky Skitter in the hallway. So far, the show has delivered some great edge-of-your-seat moments with almost every episode, and this week was no exception. I also liked seeing Jimmy start to become attached to Captain Weaver, who saved Jimmy's life by blowing the Skitter's head clean off (gross but kinda awesome!). Our man Weaver lost his kids during the attack, and it'll be nice to see him drop his gruff exterior to form a new father-son type relationship with Jimmy down the line.
Oh, and what a pleasant surprise to see John Pope's face pop up in the final scene. I really missed that merry prankster. I can't wait to see him escape next week.
OK ... so maybe I am starting to care about these characters after all.