Here's where we start to hope. Here's where we begin fervently, passionately hoping that two outstanding back-to-back episodes of Falling Skies make a trend, possibly the shape of things to come. I say this fully aware that the episode prior to these two was flawed and even irritating. But Molon Labe was excellent television; it was exciting, it was (as I so often say about Falling Skies) surprising, it was absolutely ruthless in its adherence to the realities of the world it is building, and it was full of promise for future episodes. If this show keeps fulfilling its potential, then I will feel genuinely rewarded for slogging through a very uneven first season and several episodes in Season 2 that were almost-but-not-quite, in terms of what excellent televised science fiction could be.

nullMolon Labe cranked the stakes up high. Last week, I noted that we had an excellent episode with no alien creatures at all. This week, there were aliens everywhere, including some sort of creature we've never seen before: a creepy-crawly, gut-wrenching (literally) metal-boring arachnid that may just give me nightmares. We saw other aliens in brand-new contexts as well. We got a clearer look at an Overlord, one of the ten-foot tall "grays" that are running the show, and we see how the other creatures—including Karen, a harnessed human—protect and serve them. And, almost as disturbing as the new spidery things, we saw Karen actually holding one of the giant slug creatures that becomes a harness; a symbiotic alien that merges with and overtakes human teens.

In addition to learning about HORRIBLE SPIDER THINGS and giant slugs, we also learned that the skitter rebellion hinted at in the last episode is real. Skitters are the creepy eight-legged lizardlike foot soldiers of the alien invasion. We recently encountered a skitter ("Redeye") who claimed that some skitters have formed a rebellion against the Overlords, and they wanted to join forces with the human resistance. Naturally, the humans couldn't know whom to trust. Redeye escaped.

Now we know that the Overlord in this episode fears the rebellion, and last week's elaborate ruse to kidnap Ben—our hero's formerly-harnessed middle son—was only done in order to gather information about the uprising, which corroborates Redeye's claims. 

Military stakes were high as well. Molon Labe (or Molon Lave) is an Ancient Greek phrase meaning "Come and take them." It was famously used by King Leonidas I of Sparta during the Battle of Thermopylae. He defiantly refused to surrender his army's weapons, although vastly outnumbered. This battle entered popular culture through the film 300.

Our hero, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), was a history professor before the invasion, and Falling Skies has struggled to present that effectively. At worst, his history leads to a lot of lecture-hall-style speeches about military history and the Meaning Of It All. At best, Mason’s references contextualize the invasion with a deft hand. To me, this falls on the better side; we have a pervasive sense of history surrounding us. Ben mentions Revolutionary War soldiers in an argument with Tom. This makes sense, given their relationship; surely the historian lectured his kids at home, back in the day, and it strengthens the atmosphere of history without shoving it down our throats. (Their arguments this episode had the feeling of a real family’s arguments, and they were quite moving.)

Another such example is Anne describing Jamil as a "Trojan Horse" in the scene below. I warn you, it's a scary scene that will probably give you the creeps, but it's great.

This week we say goodbye to two regular characters, recurring guest stars throughout the season: Jamil (Brandon Jay McLaren), and Boon (Billy Wickman). Jamil was last week's super-mechanic and Lourdes's love interest: Two very strong reasons for thinking he'd stick around. (He was also played by an excellent character actor with real screen presence who previously appeared as the teacher on The Killing). Boon was recently seen getting his ass handed to him by Tom Mason for letting Tom's youngest son, Matt, serve as skitter bait. If you'd flat-out asked me who the writers would kill, I might have allowed Boon as a reasonable choice, but Jamil? No way. He was gradually worming his way into an important and visible spot, there was that romance, he's a bit of eye candy, and he was becoming vital to maintaining vehicles and other machines.

This is smart writing. Even minor characters, if they're important to us, if we know who they are, are shocking to lose, and they let us know this war is very real. A death like Jamil's matters much more than that of a character we didn't know—which is who writers kill off when they're afraid of alienating their audience.

And what a death! What a disturbing, horrifying, my-skin-is-crawling death! Watch it in the video above (if you're not squeamish, that is).

Last season, Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) was super-religious and featured in some heavy-handed sequences about faith in the face of devastation. I can imagine the collective television audience tearing out its hair in frustration. Surely even deeply religious people don't want such simplified pablum! This season, we've had one scene of prayer and that's about it. Lourdes has mostly been in the background as Anne's assistant, with some sweet touches of her burgeoning romance with Jamil. Now, with Jamil dead, we see her lose her faith, all at once. This resolves a question: Is Gabriel a bad actress, or was her material last year badly written? I now feel confident that the answer is "bad actress." The wave of bitterness might have seemed compelling in more skilled hands, but not from her. It's a shame to have a weak actress in the middle of things, because otherwise this cast is strong. I love a lot of the small character roles, and knowing that any of them are expendable gives small scenes a "life is precious" quality; I find myself really appreciating these characters.

The writing this week avoided a number of obvious pitfalls. The first was the "helpless people trapped in the basement" scenario. Recall: Tom goes around back to see if the battle out front is a diversion. It is, and he lights oxygen on fire to defeat a mech (mechanized servant of the aliens). The resultant fireball and explosion traps Anne, Lourdes, and Matt in the basement, unbeknownst to Tom.

Now, a number of clichés were just waiting to come to life at this moment. I expected characters to try to outrun a fireball. They didn't. I expected that much of the episode would revolve around a rescue attempt. Perhaps one of the trapped people would be injured, or in desperate straits, or become a pivotal pawn in the battle occurring outside. Mostly, I expected these three to be helpless. After all, they fit the expected trope: Anne is the hero's love interest, Lourdes is a young woman who had just been in a scene that reminded the audience of her young romance, and Matt is a little boy—the hero's little boy. Brilliantly, thrillingly, none of the action played as expected. None of these people were helpless, Anne and Matt were particularly heroic, and it was Lourdes’s male love interest who ended up helpless (and gruesomely dead), not sweet young Lourdes herself.

Tom had another encounter with another chatty alien. Yep. That gets old. This time, the same Overlord who tortured and interrogated him between Seasons 1 and 2 was his prisoner. The Overlord said a few predictable things about humans and their silly ol' sentiment and their screwed-up planet—things that sounded like they'd been written by Gene Roddenberry. But this time, the encounter was much shorter on words and much longer on action, with a tormented and manipulated Ben present to make sure it wasn't a gabfest. One Roddenberry-style sentence wrapped that part of it up, and then we were back to interesting and unpredictable content.

Now Karen is still out there with a wounded Overlord, Ben has run to join the skitter rebellion, and the surviving Second Massachusetts is on the road to Charleston, where a group of survivors may (or may not) have formed a rudimentary government and restored some modicum of civilization. Anything could happen. Anything.

Deborah Lipp is the co-owner of Basket of Kisses, whose motto is "smart discussion about smart television." She is the author of six books, including "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book."



"Our best chance of survival is his survival."


"Our best chance of survival is his survival."

If you're not watching this show yet, now's the time to start. Sure, it's "low-brow" (whatever that means) and you have to be on board for genre fiction and alien creatures to enjoy it, but with that caveat, this is juicy fiction that at times is more than that. What does low-brow mean, anyway? I tend to object to the often artificial divide between that which is fun and that which is meaningful. Falling Skies endeavors to be both.

It didn't occur to me until I sat down to write this recap that Homecoming featured not one single alien; no skitters, no mechs, no Overlords.* This episode was a wonderful exercise in what a science fiction television show can do, and doesn't have to do, and the ways in which it can thwart convention. The unseen presence of the aliens was everywhere of course, from the way they invade people's bodies (a motif this week) to their violence, to the threat of their possible appearance at any moment. Naturally, the arduous post-apocalyptic circumstances in which our heroes of the Second Mass live are a direct result of the alien invasion, but it's wonderful to know we can have a great episode without ever seeing a creepy, horrifying skitter.

*Newbie catch-up: Skitters are lizard/arachnid aliens who serve as foot soldiers in the invasion of Earth. Mechs are their deadly mechanical servants. Overlords are Roswell-style "grays" about whom we know very little, except that they're in charge.

Not that there weren’t creepy or horrifying parts. The scene when Maggie and Hal come across a pile of leaves that turns out to be a barely-concealed burial ground for de-harnessed teens (hang in there, I explain harnesses below)  absolutely fit the bill. It was strange stuff for sure, right out of a horror movie, but it also had an odd, alien shape to it. The burial space was subtly reminiscent of the pod shape we've such teens sleep in, in past episodes. The woodsy setting with fall leaves covering bluish bodies lent an eerie naturalism to the scene, and then, of course, there was the jump moment, where Karen predictably awakens.

This show has suffered from too many coincidences, as I've pointed out in past recaps. How pleasing, then, to find the script this week specifically addresses the point: Karen, Hal's girlfriend prior to being captured, cannot possibly be so close to their location by coincidence. The Second Mass is about six hundred miles from where they were when Karen was captured. She didn't just happen to show up, near death and in need of rescue, only a mile or so from the unit's current location. She must have been planted somehow, and is therefore threatening.

Karen's presence takes a surprising turn, as Ben finds himself drawn to another formerly-harnessed teen. I have written in the past that Ben's superpowers (the video clip below spells them out pretty nicely) give us hints about what the skitters themselves must be like.* Instead, the superpowers are going to take these kids on a very different journey, as we see in the episode's final moments, and I can't guess what comes next.

*More catch-up: Human children are captured and "harnessed" by the aliens; they have bio-mechanical harnesses attached to them that control them and start making them alien. Skitters were, themselves, once harnessed prisoners on invaded worlds. Ben and Karen are formerly-harnessed but retain a mysterious connection to their former masters.

The clip above does a great job of spelling out what makes these "razorback" kids odd, special, and different (Ben says "razorback" is a nasty nickname given to him because of the spikes remaining in his spine after the harness was removed). They have a connection to the aliens which they can’t understand or control, and now for the first time, we see they also have a connection to each other. We don't know who to trust, and frankly, neither do they.

This show’s writers know how to keep their audience on its toes. There were predictable moments, sure, but the ambiguity keeps things interesting. Especially now that we suspect there are more than two sides: a skitter revealed last week that there is an uprising brewing, skitter versus Overlord. Is it true? Can the skitter be trusted? Again, we don't know.

The episode was so well balanced that I hesitate to call the Weaver story the "B" story, the conventional term for a secondary story in a television episode. In this case, I'm not sure which story is A and which is B.

The Captain Weaver story—in which the commanding officer of the Second Mass collapsed and nearly died when an entirely new and different form of the aliens invaded his body—was foreshadowed, but again, I was completely surprised by the direction it took. He was injured two episodes ago, and we saw last week that there was some problem with the wound site. I thought this would lead into a crisis because of the lack of medical supplies, perhaps another daring raid on a pharmacy with skitters laying in wait. Instead, the writers took us someplace we've never been before, and taught us things about the aliens we couldn't have guessed. Of course, in pop culture, a mechanic can rig up anything, just as a scientist knows all sciences equally well (the "Reed Richards effect," if you're familiar with The Fantastic Four), but the miraculous invention of a blood pump and the generator going out at just the moment when it was complete were the only trite moments in an excellent hour of television.

With all of this—A/B stories taking compelling twists and turns, fuel shortages, weird disease, and the anti-climactic and still-uninteresting return of Pope—there was yet time for good interpersonal and character development. Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) are going in a good direction. The show opens with a sweetly romantic scene (Tom does a pretty good Weaver imitation), and they fight like grown-ups who know how to fight.

At one point, Tom shouts, "Rebecca stop!"

Yep, Tom has a dead wife and called Anne by her name. It was bound to happen, not in the TV-cliché way, but in the inevitable-in-a-relationship way. It was handled deftly, and the scene had a grounded, human feeling to it.

In fact, almost all of the dialogue scenes had that same quality to them. Ben had a self-effacing ability to stand up for himself, identifying his freak nature as an advantage and arguing his case as if he was just a teen talking about his grades or after-school sports, that is amazing. Hal and Maggie steered away from any number of pitfalls as they nogitated their way arounbd a non-relationship. This episode was written by Ben Oh, who also did the excellent Compass. He knows how people talk to each other, and that's a lovely skill.

This week, even the music wasn't overplayed, which made the dialogue scenes that much more enjoyable.

Thematically, the episode addressed homecoming mostly in its absence. While it's true that both Pope and Karen—characters from past episodes—returned to the Second Massachusetts this week, I think the core of this episode was in the dialogue between Anne and Tom: That was what we had then, this is what we have now. It's good, or it can be, but it's not home, not really. It was especially telling that Tom, in talking about the past, doesn't at first mention people (too painful) or things; he doesn't mention plumbing or cell phones or fresh food. He cites "crisp New England air." Above and beyond the world that was destroyed, Tom is homesick.

As are they all.

Deborah Lipp is the co-owner of Basket of Kisses, whose motto is "smart discussion about smart television." She is the author of six books, including "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book."



Hey everyone, Rick's back!

nullI've mentioned Rick in a previous recap. In Season 1, he was one of the harnessed kids* who was rescued, along with Tom's son Ben. Rick left the Second Massachusetts, preferring to rejoin the skitters.

*Quick update for newbies: The alien "skitters" capture children and put biomechanical harnesses on them. The harnesses enslave the kids, and seem to eventually turn them into skitters. Ew, gross.

I liked Rick. He had a smoldering intensity that was creepy and stood out among some too-soft characters last season. But I honestly never expected to see him again. I was wrong. Watch:

This scene introduces an unforeseen plot element that will become vitally important (aliens attacking aliens!). But not only that, it brings back the glowing spikes that have been haunting us for three episodes now—if you've been reading my column, you know that glowing spikes has become something of a catch phrase for me—and the appearance of the spikes causes us to think Ben is in mortal danger. Then, surprise! It's Rick! Injured, mysterious, utterly untrustworthy, yet still a vulnerable child. That's a lot of wallop in one reveal, so I have to say "well done."

Falling Skies opened strong this season, but this episode, the verbosely-titled Love and Other Acts of Courage, is the weakest so far. One problem: no strong action. The clip above gives us Tom and his crew heroically checking out a battlefield after a battle is over. There's one scene of hiding from mechs (the huge, incredibly deadly mechanical drones that serve the skitters), two scenes of running away, and two scenes showing drawn guns but no battle. By my math, that's no action, although some of the tension was (as usual) very well-played. Maybe I'm just susceptible to tension, but this show always manages to get me.

The episode succeeded in delivering the creepy, although, after last week's hideous reveal of how harnesses are attached to children, nothing is going to measure up any time soon. But if something could measure up, the opening sequence, where the skitter affectionately known as Red Eye seems to pray or call to the skies, and then Ben does the same in an evil-sounding skitter voice? Well, that will do nicely.

It was so disturbing that I honestly assumed it was a dream sequence. Silly me.

And on the list of creepy things, was there blood in a mech head in that battle sequence? It's in the video above, check me on this—is that blood in the hole blown through a mech brain? Are they biomechanical too? Creeeeepy.

Say what you will about this show (and there's plenty of room for criticism), it goes there. It kills characters you thought were safe; it uproots, rearranges, and endangers its characters; and it pulls the rug of the plot out from under you. This is a dangerous war with serious consequences. I never could have guessed that a skitter rebellion would be introduced, or that Red Eye would propose an alliance. Do I think it's real? I have no idea. But I love the insanity of using this as a story element, and that our friends in the Second Massachusetts have no way of knowing who or what to trust, and that all of this is being played for the highest possible stakes.

Hey everyone, Rick's dead!

Just like that, another serious and important death, right on the heels of his restoration to the group. In some ways, this is an easy death for the writers to deliver; Rick wasn't back long enough for us to get attached, yet this was a child, killed by friendly fire, who embodied the distrust that people feel towards  Ben, and it reminds us again of what is at stake. Watching Rick get killed reminds us of how very precarious Ben's life is right now.

The clever reader may have noticed I said this was a weak episode and then proceeded to praise it. That's unfair of me.

What Love and Other Acts of Courage lacked in strong action sequences it made up for in long, long talks about serious, serious things. Talks. About things.

In fact, the core of this episode was a long, long talk between our hero, Tom Mason, and Red Eye, using Rick as his voice.* The problem with this scene (series of scenes, actually, intercutting with other scenes) was that Red Eye had nothing much to say. Tom kept asking for evidence, and Red Eye kept talking about non-evidence. He kept delivering back-story, and pleading his case, and being all serious. The whole thing honestly felt very 1950s, very Alien Invasion B Movie, as the serious-minded alien appealed to an intelligence absent in humans. Think Klaatu Barada Niktu, and all that. It was a strange tone to take in the middle of a very battered war zone, and Tom was completely right to distrust it. When Tom demanded proof, Red Eye should just have said, "I have no proof! Only time-filling exposition!" But that didn't happen, and Tom, the former history professor, even managed to revert to lecturing about history, something he'd mercifully done little of earlier this season.

*Skitters seem to communicate entirely by radio waves; they vocalize only a little. They sometimes use harnessed humans to speak for them, since the harness allows the humans to understand the radio waves. Or something. Even though the harness was removed from Ben and from Rick, it continues to affect them.

Other conversational scenes went a bit better. Hal and Maggie's burgeoning romance? Not bad. I'm not a fan of Drew Roy as Tom's oldest son, Hal, but Sarah Carter as Maggie is quite interesting to watch, and I love her gravelly voice.

There was one really good fight between Ben and Tom, with some actual father-son yelling. If you're going to do family drama in a science fiction show, you have to make it believable. I believed that little shouting match.

The episode ends with Ben telling his little brother, Matt, that he's leaving. Ridiculously, he asks Matt to keep this information a secret, but I suppose all he really wants is a few hours lead time.

I'm hoping that next week we'll get a lot more action, and I'm sure we'll get more surprises. We are informed, this episode, that the travelers are in Richmond, about two weeks from their goal of Charleston. A lot can happen in two weeks, so stay tuned.

Deborah Lipp is the co-owner of Basket of Kisses, whose motto is "smart discussion about smart television." She is the author of six books, including "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book."




This week's Falling Skies gave us some very earned emotional release. Like almost every episode, the action sequences were kick-ass, but the heart of the episode this week was in its emotional moments. While some of the set-up leading into the key dramatic sequences was schmaltzy, and some dialogue was schmaltzy, I do feel that, if you've been following the series, then the emotion will feel earned and you will have come away feeling the dignity and pathos of these characters.

nullYoung Bloods again proves that Season 2 is a vast improvement over Season 1 of this show. Season 1 faltered mostly in the stupidity area: Characters not taking the war seriously. There was too much sloppiness, as if we were watching an ordinary drama and not a life-and-death invasion scenario. Season 2 is far more serious. There have been some of the same problems this year (leaving the jar with the alien parasite inside it unguarded last week), but the overall effect now has much more gravity. In addition, this week's episode relied too much on sentiment in spots, yet it's definitely improved in that area as well.

What I wish most of all is that the show would trust itself. Guys, you don't have to underline every touching moment with piano music! You don't have set up scenes about the tragedy of disconnection. There's so much terrific drama developing organically that overplayed scenes like Lourdes' discovery that her family's small village has been destroyed, and then playing that emotion a second time for her Love Interest's benefit (and the audience's, just in case we hadn't figured it out), is almost cruel to the audience. (Love Interest's name is Jamil, by the way.) It's so unnecessary; we got it. I like this show a lot; it's got a strong cast and premise, creepy aliens, and is frequently fresh and surprising; for these reasons I recommend it to anyone who asks. But that's like; what I love on TV is a show that trusts its audience to come along for the ride, to understand the nuance, to hear things the first time they're said. Falling Skies hasn't risen to that level yet.

The episode opened with a thrilling action sequence (watch it below). I was fairly sure early on that curly-head Matt was purposely acting as bait, but that didn't take the excitement away. At its best, this show has a killer combination of creepy (the skitter's long fingers coming around the corner), high-octane (the shoot-out), and appealing characters (Matt saying it was "awesome" to get splattered with alien blood). See for yourself:

Last week I called for some hardcore passion between Tom and Anne, consistent with the intensity of the situation they're in. In emergencies and tragedies, people jump into sex and passion to reaffirm their own aliveness. The kissing was a nice start, but they were both a little too coy about the whole thing for my tastes. The scene did remind me, though, that Noah Wyle is a fine actor. His years on ER as John Carter were peppered with dozens of seductions—he was quite the ladies' man, was Dr. Carter. Here we can see why—in the way he tilts his head in towards her, creating intimacy just by angling his body, there's a sweet sexiness that establishes real chemistry.

Anyway, on with our show. Ben has super-hearing, another ability derived from having been harnessed. Man, oh man, are we going to learn that the aliens are from Krypton? Ben's new abilities risk becoming too much of a deux ex machina, but they also inform us who and what the skitters are. It's a fine line the writers must walk. We don't want Ben solving every problem for everyone, but his skitter-acquired abilities are a way of letting us know how well the alien creatures hear, swim, climb, and so on. Fortunately, Ben's angst is becoming more interesting, his isolation more justifiable, and his desire to fit in entirely forgivable. Even if that does mean glowing spikes get a pass for another week.

The theme of this episode was childhood and growing up. Some of it was done with great subtlety. For example, in the love scene, Anne's joy was eloquent when she was given a chocolate treat by Tom—her childhood favorite. Simply by receiving this gift we experienced nostalgia for a lost world, and vivid memory, and visceral pleasure, all rolled into one. Having the scene end with a passionate kiss reminds us that childhood really must end.

At the other extreme was Weaver's relationship with his daughter Jeannie. While their interplay was touching at times and also well-acted, most of it was so heavy-handed, I could almost feel it hitting me over the head. Their reunion was lovely, but their arguments rang false, and her accusations about the divorce were utterly out of place. Hey, Jeannie, you’re in the middle of an alien invasion. Forget about your divorce trauma. The reunion and her eventual departure rang absolutely true by themselves—of course a teenage girl goes with her boyfriend, not her daddy—and didn't need that overblown educational message about anger and communication. In fact, these moments were ones I was thinking of at the beginning when I said the emotional release was earned, so why clutter them up?

Most of the rest of the thematic elements fell between the extremes of delicately subtle and overblown: Tom's struggle to allow his youngest, Matt, some freedom and some danger was very real, and in parts very nicely played, and yet, again, the piano music! That whole subplot could have been done with much more restraint, because, again, with good actors, exciting action sequences, and high stakes, Why add sentiment, when it's already so intense?

Why do groups of kids always band together in warehouses and decorate with old couches? I feel like I've seen that visual a hundred times. I'm reminded of the Miri episode of the original Star Trek, of any number of vampire dens on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of the episode Vatos of The Walking Dead: Isn't there a way of showing a group banded together like that without resorting to visual cliché?

Later in the episode, everything that happened in the skitter harnessing center was insanely good. The kids face down on the table, the discovery that the harnesses are actually giant, terrifying slugs, the aquarium, the raw fear, and then that battle. Damn that was good television. one thing this show does very well is balancing surprise, effective pacing, and an ongoing education of viewers about its world. This week’s we’ve learned how the harnesses operate: They're giant slugs, kept in aquariums, attached to children like some kind of symbiot. Yuk. .

Jamil ends by saying "Hope's all we got." Too on the nose, but it brings the theme back around; youth and family matter because they're the future, and our heroes are going to have to fight to even perceive there's a future. That's why they're going to Charleston, and that's why giving these characters a quest and a goal—even if Charleston turns out to be a tragic mistake—is the right decision for the show, and for its characters.

Deborah Lipp is the co-owner of Basket of Kisses, whose motto is "smart discussion about smart television." She is the author of six books, including "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book."




"He is now defined by those of us who owe him our lives."

nullTom Mason, we are reminded again this episode, is a history professor. Over the course of the first season of Falling Skies, he had plenty of opportunity to let us know that, often by using overblown language to teach us all the Important Lessons of the moment. So, it is a great pleasure to note that the best line of Compass was, without a doubt, Tom Mason, History Professor, saying, “God, you’re an asshole, Pope.” BWAHAHA! That’s a laugh out loud line and it typifies the improvements of the second season.

As I said last week, this show will live or die not on the coolness of the skitters (which, by the way, are cool—last week we didn’t see them walking around much and I forgot how cool they are—skittering around on crazy reptilian spider legs) but on how high the stakes are in the post-invasion world. If we are shown a world that’s basically just like our lives, recognizable but in tents and with aliens, then the stakes are ridiculously low. If, on the other hand, it’s really an alien invasion, and humanity is really blown into a state of desperation and deprivation, fighting for survival, then this is a gripping drama in which the moment-by-moment tension of simply surviving alters every relationship, every decision, and every individual. That kind of drama requires consequences.

So, rest in peace, Jimmy.

I’m sad to see the kid go, but we all saw that he was impaled. After Carl’s miraculous recovery on The Walking Dead and Darren’s up-and-about less than a week following a paralyzing injury on The Killing, I think if Jimmy had been back on patrol two weeks after impalement, my television would have had a paralyzing injury of its own, dealt by me, and that can be pricey.

Drama requires consequences, and Jimmy’s death gives many of the other things we’re seeing much more of a sense of foreboding. Red-eye skitter? Foreboding. Glowing spikes? Foreboding! (Watch the crazy action below, glowing spikes, impalement, fireballs, and all.)

Let’s talk about glowing spikes*, shall we? It’s utterly stupid that Pope should find Tom’s presence so threatening while he is comfortable with Ben going on patrol. Tom acts like himself, albeit with occasional mechanical parasites flying out of his eye, but Ben? Ben, like all the harnessed kids, was in absolute thrall to the aliens. Upon having the harness removed, both Ben and the other kid (Ricky) exhibited all kinds of wild physical abilities, including last week's long swim in icy water with no discomfort. Ricky went back to the aliens voluntarily, but Ben, changed so much he borders on superhero, is allowed to patrol with Jimmy while Tom, apparently unchanged, is not allowed to carry a gun. It makes no sense at all. We can assume that Pope’s distrust of Tom is a bullshit gloss on a long-standing enmity, but it still doesn’t explain why anyone trusts Ben.

Whose spikes glow. So far it’s happened twice. The first time, the only witness was Jimmy, who is now conveniently dead, and the second time, there were no witnesses at all. It seems like Red-eye is unique in some way among skitters (he’s also the current host for the creepy mechanical flying eye parasite—holy crap, I can’t believe I just typed that!). No other skitter was able to make anyone’s spikes glow.

*If you’re just catching up, when humans originally tried to remove harnesses from rescued kids, the kids invariably died. Doctors discovered that leaving the spikes from the harness attached to the host’s bodies allowed the kids a good chance of surviving the surgery.

My point is two-fold: One, leaving that kid running around with a gun is inconsistent and a little stupid. Two, glowing spikes are cool and scary, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Despite its intermittent cheesiness, Falling Skies has always tried to Mean Something, sometimes by being self-important, and other times by constructing some nice plot motifs and deploying them with a certain elegance. This show isn't Mad Men (duh), but it has moments where the thematic stuff really works, and this week’s episode delivers in that regard.

"Compass" as a title is simple and effective. Jimmy’s compass functions to define and connect several important plot moments; the fight between Tom and Pope, the moment of intimacy between Ben and Weaver, and Ben’s bedside vigil, for which it's a talismanic object. “Compass” also refers to Anne's keeping track of the calendar, refusing to let go of a world where the date matters; it's a compass that guides her. A compass, a way forward, an arrow pointing in the correct direction, is what everyone in the 2nd Massachusetts need (because no one has a sense of direction, and Weaver and Ben's joke about Jimmy had a larger point), A pilot can come along and point their compass to Charleston, but how can they know it’s the right way to go? (As Weaver alluded, they’ve already been  fooled.) Tom says holing up for the winter will make the aliens think they've surrendered, and that speaks to a broader sort of compass question: Hide and survive, or continue to fight back, depleted though they are?

Pope has been a problematic character since he was introduced. In Season 1 the writers went through all kinds of senseless plot machinations to justify keeping him around, so I guess now we're stuck with him. Having Tom join the Berserkers was both amusing and stupid, yet it worked. Having it all fall apart within minutes also worked. Having Pope take off with a covert guard really doesn't work, because we know some future last minute rescue will be the order of the day and then he'll be back again.

All right, let's spare a moment for the anemic Tom-Anne romance. One thing The Walking Dead has gotten right is that, when the world ends, people fuck like bunnies. I have no actual evidence of this, having grown up someplace where the world has yet to end, but I'm sure. When terrible things happen we reach for flesh, for pleasure, for some affirmation that we're still alive and can feel and be human. The sad little kisses they've shared, the sense that, if only they weren't both so grief stricken and tired and busy, there might be more, strikes me as utterly wrong-headed. They should be clinging passionately to each other and to the sense of aliveness they can provide for each other in the midst of so much death and fear. Come on, Tom and Anne, go for it. Your passion can only improve Falling Skies.

Deborah Lipp is the co-owner of Basket of Kisses, whose motto is "smart discussion about smart television." She is the author of six books, including "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book."