There is an unwritten rule in all post-apocalyptic media that whenever a civilization manages to scratch and claw its way back to something half-way resembling comfort, it will, without fail, be governed by an individual drunk on power and kept inebriated by the steady flow of his constituents’ fear that, no matter how totalitarian things may be, the alternative is far, far worse. As Falling Skies has teased the existence of a new United States government and a functioning city in Charleston, it didn’t waste any time in showing that small comfort comes at a hefty price.
With the heavy casualties suffered in the effort to reach Charleston, the 2nd Mass may have been better off keeping the place a fiction, rather than find out it’s at the mercy of Lost’s Terry O’Quinn. After the road trip from last week’s ‘Death March,’ the ramshackle army of the 2nd Mass is given a well-deserved hero’s welcome when they are brought into what makes up the city. Once inside, the fighters are treated to the first bit of fresh produce and other comforts they’ve seen in quite some time. Captain Weaver (Will Patton) is even given a nice surprise as it turns out his semi-estranged daughter Jeanne (Laci J. Malley) is now a resident, though her arrival was also fraught with loss as her boyfriend Diego went missing some time ago, leaving Jeanne desperate to search for him. But no one in Charleston is eager to leave the safety of the underground mall that houses the survivors and the country’s burgeoning government.
It turns out the occupants are using the devastation of the actual city as a camouflage and means by which they can hope to evade detection by the enemy. The plan is sound, but once Tom (Noah Wyle) gets a whiff that the new “majority leader,” his former mentor, Arthur Manchester (Terry O’Quinn) is just sitting on a sizeable army and cache of weapons, rather than engaging the enemy and continuing to fight, then things quickly become clear that Manchester has confused safety with victory.
Things continue to progress in a less than satisfactory manner when, under orders from Max Headroom General Bressler (Matt Frewer), the 2nd Mass is essentially disbanded and its parts spread across the whole of Charleston for better use. Anne (Moon Bloodgood) is forced to take orders from a pompous heart specialist who can’t wait to pass off the scrapes, bruises and runny noses he’s been dealing with and get back to…whatever it is he thinks he should be doing. Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) is optimistic, insisting once word gets out about Anne’s field experience, she’ll be running the place.
Soon, it becomes clear that the pompous heart specialist isn’t the only one lacking experience in the field. Weaver has a chat with Hal (Drew Roy) about his attitude, telling him he’ll likely be leading these men into battle, as Charleston’s regimen of actual soldiers has never fired at anything that wasn’t a paper target. Hal, like the good soldier he is, seems to be on board with this plan, but cooperation with the Charleston army isn’t really in the cards for Pope (Colin Cunningham) and his Berserkers. The mutinous crew decides to raid Charleston’s weapon room and head away from the pseudo-city in search of skitters to kill and fingers to make necklaces out of. The plan is stopped short by Maggie (Sarah Carter), but the confrontation only lasts long enough to attract the attention of Tector (Ryan Robbins) and others in the Charleston army, who in the attempt to detain the thieves, end up shooting one of them in the arm.
The situation concerning the 2nd Mass begins to escalate, quietly at first, but after Tom follows up Jeanne’s speech criticizing Manchester’s reluctance to engage the enemy with another, more rousing condemnation of his policy of inaction, the floodgates are set to open. Manchester uses the arrival of a deharnessed boy to his advantage, both as a means by which he can seek to discredit Tom, and instill more fear in the people of Charleston that the enemy threat is essentially knocking on their front door.
The initial worry for Tom (and the quality of the show) is that the deharnessed boy might be Ben (Connor Jessup), but he turns out to be a simple messenger with news from the rebellious skitter Red-Eye. Of course, Manchester won’t hear of such craziness like joining the skitter rebellion, preferring to let them kill each other, if he even believes in such an uprising at all. That kind of shortsighted thinking cost the 2nd Mass an opportunity to explore the veracity of Red-Eye’s claims, and it’s not one Tom or Weaver want to pass up again. As such, the plan quickly becomes to rally as many members of the 2nd Mass as they can and head out with the deharnessed boy to meet Red-Eye, and possibly, Ben.
Hal, smooth as ever, decides he’ll use this moment to try and woo Maggie after his response to last week’s revelations left her feeling cold. Unable to resist Hal’s Affleck-ian charms, Maggie joins the rest of the group – which apparently now includes Col. Porter (Dale Dye) – as they prepare to make their escape. Unfortunately, the group is cut off and detained by General Bressler and his men, though Tector manages to redeem himself slightly by respectfully declining to arrest his former group. Pleas are made to Bressler to shrug off Manchester’s orders, and join the effort by shooting beings of non-terrestrial origins, which the General seems interested in doing.
The good intentions of the 2nd Mass come back to haunt them, however, as Bressler apparently intends to set them free, but in doing so has detained Manchester and declared the military in charge of Charleston. As Pope points out, Tom’s efforts have landed everyone smack dab in the middle of a coup.
Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.