Film and TV

Falling Skies: "He Had No Sense of Direction."

Growing up in the '80s, immersed in doomsday entertainment like The Day After, The Road Warrior and, uh, Ghostbusters, I naturally spent an inordinate amount of time imagining what I'd do if forced to eke out an existence in the post-apocalypse. Would I roam the wasteland like Max Rockatansky? Get captured by intelligent apes? Or would I take the more likely route and just OD on booze and sleeping pills to spare myself the horror?

Falling Skies forces a revisiting of these questions, mostly because there seems to be a marked lack of bad guys (not counting the aliens, of course). Terry Clayton (last season's "Sanctuary") sort of counted, and Pope (Colin Cunningham) -- as we saw last night -- still has issues, man, but I guess I'm surprised that more villains haven't turned up.

Then again, who's going to mess with a heavily armed military unit? We did get to see an airplane, so that was nice.

On patrol, Ben (Connor Jessup) has made the questionable decision of bringing the World's Most Useless Boy, Jimmy Boland (Dylan Authors), on patrol. Jimmy then appears to scrag a skitter, or so he thinks, until Ben has to finish the job with his trusty knife. Better luck next time, Jimmy. Maybe if you were Jimmy Neutron.

Oh, and Matt (Maxim Knight) has taken to sleeping with his rifle. I wonder if he's named it "Charlene" yet.

Tom (Noah Wyle) and Anne (Moon Bloodgood) share *another* tender moment. I don't want to go all Janeane Garofalo here, but when are they just going to do it already?

Learning of "massive alien formations" in the Hudson Valley, Weaver (Will Patton) wants to hunker down in the Catskills for the winter, while Tom wants to continue fighting. Weaver is unconvinced, but Tom doesn't have much time to stew about it, because Pope and the Berserkers have organized a little prof-napping. He offers Tom a sweet deal: just walk away (call it a Lord Humungus special) and leave the 2nd Mass and his boys will be safe. And this is all without Pope knowing that the aliens shot everyone but Tom leaving the mothership.

Churchill brings news of a Continental Congress. In Charleston (Jefferson Davis would love to hear that). She's spreading the word in her wood and fiberglass plane (the better to escape alien detection) on her way to Europe to help organize resistance over there. Sounds good, but Weaver's not convinced. She has no real proof, after all, but Tom is ever hopeful (it doesn't hurt when she tells him they want him to come to Charleston to help rebuild).

Ben sits vigil with Jimmy. Tom tries to buck him up with talks of fatherly togetherness. All well and good, until Jimmy dies (wood through the bowels doesn't usually bode well). A centerpiece to this episode was his compass, which Weaver gave him after he got lost once, tying in with Churchill telling them pilots were sent to fly in all directions to seek survivors. Jimmy, unfortunately, no longer qualifies.

As Weaver is digging Jimmy's grave, Churchill strokes his ego by describing how much his people admire him. In one fell swoop, she's recognized what no one else has: For all his bluster, Weaver desperately needs validation. You can see it in his interaction with Tom. I just hope she's on their side, because as manipulative as she is, she'd make a hell of an adversary otherwise.

And doesn't he have the right idea? Her ego stroking of Tom and Weaver *should* send warning flags up. "We have electricity and hot water?" Great, where's your iPad/Handicam/smartphone with video evidence? Hell, a few Polaroids would suffice.

Pope steals Jimmy's compass, and Tom takes umbrage. "Extreme" umbrage, and Pope's only recourse to getting his ass handed to him is to go bitching to Weaver. Pope's constant "HE HAD A CHIP IN HIS HEAD" screeching would carry a lot more weight if it wasn't coming from a grave robber. Still, between Weaver's barely concealed affection for Tom and his easy manipulation by Churchill, it would make for a delicious turn of events if Tom truly was compromised.

Anyway, Weaver dismisses Pope, who realizes he no longer has the back of the rest of the Berserkers. Either Tom's fisticuffs were just that impressive, or Pope was somewhat lacking as a commander. Oh, my bad, Anthony decides to tag along, because he owes Pope, and also to keep tabs on him.

The episode ends with Jimmy's funeral, and I found myself asking if everybody really cared about the kid that much? Apparently not, because that's a really shallow grave. Come on, guys, there's 200 people in that unit; they couldn't find anyone capable of digging a hole more than two feet deep? Ben is still broken up, and gives Weaver his compass back before collapsing into alien-human hysterics (which look a lot like regular hysterics).

The 2nd Mass is now going to Charleston, thanks to attrition and the promise of a hot shower.

Red Eye catches up with Ben and makes his back spikes glow again, but again with no discernible effect. Maybe they're just so he can read at night?

Pope's dismissal will doubtless come back to bite the 2nd on the (m)ass, and while I enjoyed his character earlier on, it was becoming too one-note. More intriguing is the prospect of seeing what the convoy encounters on their way south, and if we have to wait 12 more episodes for Tom and Anne to kiss again.

Next week: Hell if I know. That stupid The Great Escape premiere bumped the previews.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar