Episode Title: "Grace"
Writer: Melinda Hsu Taylor
Director: Fred Toye
Previously on "Falling Skies"
On a mission to recover his son Ben (Connor Jessup), Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) was briefly knocked out thanks to the rash actions of his teammate, Mike (Martin Roach); who saw the chance to recover his own harnessed son, Rick (Daniyah Ysrayl). In the process, Tom's oldest son, Hal (Drew Roy) and Karen (Jessy Schram) were left behind at the mercy of the alien mechs. When Tom awoke, he angrily chastised Mike and Dai (Peter Shinkoda) for leaving his son behind and he went back for him alone. Along the way, Tom was attacked by an alien Skitter and narrowly subdued the creature by shooting two of its legs off and beating it unconscious.
Back at the 2ND Mass camp, John Pope (Collin Cunningham) was able to regain a measure of freedom by volunteering to cook for the civilians. Shortly thereafter, Tom showed up with the unconscious Skitter and went back out for Hal and Karen. When Hal woke up, he witnessed Ben and another captive child dragging Karen away. He was also forced to watch as the Skitters executed a row of captive children after Rick's escape. Back at the camp, Dr. Harris (Steven Weber) successfully removed the harness from Rick during surgery, but a connection between Rick and the captive Skitter was suggested.
When Tom finally reunited with Hal, he learned about the fate of Karen and the rest of the kids. As he dragged Hal back to camp, Tom promised him that they would rescue all of the children in their next attempt.
At the former high school turned 2ND Mass camp, Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) and Dr. Harris are assigned to study the captive Skitter and attempt to communicate with it… although Harris seems more interested in killing and dissect it. Meanwhile, Tom is summoned to see his commanding officer, Weaver (Will Patton) and he is told to raid a motorcycle shop they learned about from Pope. Of course, Tom isn't happy that this latest mission will also keep him from immediately going after Ben. And to make matters worse, Weaver insists that Tom bring Pope along with his team to bring back the bikes.
To keep Tom's youngest son, Matt (Maxim Knight) busy, Anne's Uncle Scott (Bruce Grey) gives him some busy work while he attempts to build some radios. Meanwhile, the Skitter's clicks and vocalizations seem to show up as static on the radios before anyone makes the connection. Anne actually attempts to reach the Skitter through photos of Earth and stars, but Harris terrorizes it with the dead body of one of its own. On the road, Pope effortlessly antagonizes his new teammates until they come across a small nest of Skitters sleeping under a bridge. Although Pope wants to murder them on sight, Tom insists that they not engage the enemy without reason.
Back at the high school, a young woman named Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) strikes up a conversation about faith with Weaver, but her words seem to fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Tom, Pope and the rest arrive at the bike shop and begin scavenging for gas and usable vehicles. At the camp, Mike's son Rick wakes up at last but he doesn't recognize his father. Incensed, Mike shoves a riffle in the Skitter's mouth and actually knocks it out. Sometime later, the Skitter reaches out to Rick and influences him to put on the harness again. Just as Anne and Harris realize the connection between the Skitter and the radio static, they arrive in time to stop Rick from freeing the Skitter.
The Skitter then speaks through Rick and tells them to release him or kill him. Mike once again acts rashly by tearing the harness from Rick's back once more. At the motorcycle shop, Pope gets the drop on Dai and escapes on a bike. He then immediately returns to the bridge and kills all of the Skitters there. This leads to an almost immediate response by the Skitters in the area who surround the bike shop with harnessed kids wielding shotguns and other weapons. Unwilling to fire on children, Tom's team falls back and Dai is hit in the leg. To escape, the team causes a distraction and they race by the confused kids and kill the Skitter controlling them as they ride by.
At the high school, Weaver tells Tom that their next move will be to get the drugs needed to ween the kids off of the harness safety. And although Pope abandoned the 2ND Mass, he left behind some freshly baked bread in his kitchen. As the camp gathers for supper, Lourdes leads Tom's table in saying grace, which Weaver quietly recites with them from another table.
I'm sure that there are some members of the audience who might object to Lourdes' constant references to God and her faith, And to be fair, it is kind of all that she talks about. She really does need to develop some personality traits that don't just revolve around her faith.
That said, the closing scene is actually moving as these lost and broken people cling to one of the few things that they still have. This is a Steven Spielberg produced show, so it was never going to be a completely bleak. But aside from the Hallmark Hall of Fame moment at the end of the pilot episode, there haven't been many cheesy, hopeful moments. The group prayer at the end here was a much more subdued showing of the human spirit than Matt's impromptu skate-off.
"Falling Skies" may be Noah Wyle's show, but Collin Cunningham just keeps running away with every scene as John Pope. I was kind of disappointed that Pope broke free so easily from the 2ND Mass, because he's by far the most interesting character on the show. I'm sure he'll reappear down the line, but it's hard to see how the writers will reintegrate him into the 2ND Mass after he abandoned them like that. I also got the impression that Pope was far more interested in killing the Skitters under the bridge than just getting away.
I don't feel any sympathy for the captive alien Skitter, but Steven Webber's Dr. Harris is getting really creepy during his scenes. Rick's inability to recognize his father and his eagerness to put on the harness again was also chilling. If that's going to be the reaction of every child freed from the harness, the 2ND Mass is going to have some hard times ahead. This was also the first time that the aliens have spoken (via proxy) in the entire series. So we now know that they can understand the humans and they're fully aware of what they're doing to the planet. We just don't know why they're doing it. As one of the characters mentioned in the last episode, it seems kind of wasteful to travel across the universe just to enslave kids to scrounge for scrape metal.
There has to be a larger reason behind the Skitters' actions that we just haven't seen yet.
On that note, if the aliens are going to use children as their ground soldiers going forward, that has a lot of dramatic potential. It's an interesting escalation of the conflict and it suggests that the aliens know that the humans are going to be less likely to engage children in a fight. Except for Pope… we can't put anything past him.
Of the summer TV series currently running, "Falling Skies" has been one of the most consistently entertaining shows. It just needs to keep its momentum going through the middle of the season before delivering some payoff at the end.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.