Falling Skies: 203 “Compass” Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
During the dying moments of the last episode, a certain red-eyed Skitter – who appears to have been stalking the 2nd Mass for some time now – was waiting to collect the little piece of alien tech that had previously taken up residence in Tom’s eye. While this episode did nothing to explain what all that was for, or if removing the device had thoroughly cleansed Tom of any alien detail, it did further explore many other elements that all added up to what, I feel, has been the best episode of the series, so far.
The opening scene has Ben and Jimmy supposedly on patrol, what we find out later is that they’re actually using this time to hunt the aliens, without Weaver’s consent. As it looks like Jimmy has successfully picked one off with his sniper, it lunges, and this provokes Ben in to killing it with his knife. He seems to enjoy killing them this way, as we’ve rarely seen him use his gun on them when given the opportunity. This time, as the Skitter’s body falls to the ground, there is a definite malicious satisfaction in Ben’s eyes, a small indication that he is slowly becoming consumed by this obsessive hatred of his.
While this scene played out, it occurred to me that Ben’s determination to kill as many Skitters as possible might just cause trouble for anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire. That turned out to be the case and, rather sadly, it was Jimmy that paid the price for Ben’s obsession. After fairly easily dispatching a couple of wandering Skitters, they hit trouble when they came up against the aforementioned red-eyed Skitter. Ben once again attempted a close-up kill, but was cast aside and Jimmy was helpless to defend himself when the Skitter threw him in to a nearby tree, and impaled him on one of the branches.
There’s no doubt that his death hit Weaver the hardest; they’d both lost their families, and had formed a sort of father son relationship since the invasion. However, it definitely seems to have had a profound effect on Ben also, who, it must not be forgotten, nearly killed his own father two episodes ago. This was made apparent in a fairly heartbreaking scene where he apologises to Weaver for what happened, returns the compass that Weaver had entrusted to Jimmy, before bursting in to tears. I praised Falling Skies for the frankly disturbing scenes in the last episode, and, once again, it goes in a similar direction with the very nature of Jimmy’s death, bearing in mind that he is just a child.
Sad though Jimmy’s death was, it wasn’t the most shocking aspect of the episode. As Ben tried to attack the Skitter after witnessing Jimmy’s demise, it raised its hand and Ben was stopped dead in his tracks, in a sort of trance. His spikes glowed and the Skitter appeared to be collecting information from him. There’s no way of telling exactly what it was doing though, but we do know they communicate through radio waves, and that Ben is uniquely able to do the same, so it’s just as possible that it was giving Ben some instructions that may well be stored in his subconscious. He is now a definite danger to the 2nd Mass with his reckless behaviour, his ongoing transformation and secret meetings with a certain Skitter. So it will be interesting to see how he is dealt with in the end, and whether his descent in to darkness can be halted in any way.
The Skitter itself has now appeared in every episode, and its purpose and motivation is still a mystery. It let Tom go for some unknown reason, has been following the 2nd Mass for some time and seems to have lo-jacked both father and son in differing ways. It’s not clear if any of its actions are due to a personal vendetta of some kind, or whether it’s on a mission from its superiors. Either way, it’s one of the most intriguing aspects of this series and I can’t wait to see what it does next.
Over the series so far, we’ve learnt that these invaders are not just your run-of-the-mill aliens, and that’s hinted at once again. After Ben and Jimmy’s battle with the group of Skitters, the Berserkers, now with Tom in tow, go to inspect the scene. Sure enough, another group of Skitters and Mechs return, but not to attack the 2nd Mass, no, they come to collect their dead. We know that the Skitters were once humans that had been harnessed, so is it possible that they’ve retained some humanity for their brethren? Also notable here, is that Pope’s gang disobey his order to fire on the aliens, and, instead, take heed of Tom’s more compassionate request to actually hold fire. There’s some obvious doubt present among the group, which isn’t surprising, considering the loose-cannon nature of Pope.
At the halfway point of the episode, a woman named Avery Churchill arrives at the hangar the 2nd Mass is residing in, by plane. Which is a tiny bit convenient, considering the location. She informs them of a mission that she is on to direct any survivors she finds to Charleston, where a makeshift government is trying as best it can to rebuild a unified central command. She’s very convincing, but it all seems a little too perfect to me (hot water, electricity etc.). She has no actual proof to back up what she’s saying, and Weaver is justifiably sceptical of her offer. Jimmy’s death convinces him that it might be the best place to go for his people, but I have my suspicions that there will be some serious trouble for the resistance when they arrive. Hell, Charleston could even be the “neutral zone” that the “Skinnie”, talking through Karen, insisted Tom would lead his people to in the first episode. What awaits them there, if that is the case, could have catastrophic ramifications for the entire group.
Best Scene – Tom and Pope’s Fight
It’s been a long time coming, and it didn’t disappoint. Near the beginning of the episode, Pope and his gang kidnapped Tom and gave him the ultimatum of; leave, or die. Luckily for Tom, Ben and Jimmy saved him. However, after spotting the deceased Jimmy’s compass around Pope’s neck, and having his son called a “half-breed”, Tom loses it. Predictably, the fight swings Pope’s way initially, before Tom grabs the upper hand, or more literally; Pope’s leg, pulls him down, then proceeds to pummel him in the face repeatedly. If he hadn’t been lifted away, there’s a strong indication that he would have kept on until he killed him. Pope departs from the 2nd Mass as a result of Weavers decision to absolve Tom of any wrongdoing, and Anthony is the only one who accompanies him, citing the reason as ensuring Pope doesn’t double back and cause trouble for the rest of them. There’s no doubt Pope will be back though, as he said to Tom: “You should have killed me while you had the chance”.
Verdict – 10/10 (Perfect)
This is the episode I’ve been waiting for; I honestly can’t find a fault with it. There was a certain poignance from start to finish, with it focussed more on the characters than the action. There were a multitude of emotional scenes, but, unlike most of the time, they felt purposeful and never lingered too long. I’ve been critical of the emotional centric storytelling in the past, but in this instance it worked, and really drove the episode to success.