Falling Skies: 206 “Homecoming” Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
This was possibly the most pivotal episode of the series, so far. With key developments in areas that have lingered as minor themes for a few instalments now, and those developments culminating in to some seriously consequential events – it made for a thoroughly engrossing and satisfying story, and has started the build up to an almost sure-to-be-epic finale, at exactly the right time.
It seems the focus on Maggie and Hal last week was entirely necessary, as the return of a de-harnessed Karen (amongst a plethora of other similarly de-harnessed children) definitely saw further difficulties develop between the two, and has surely tested their bond to the fullest.
I have to say, right from the start, I didn’t trust her at all. This was mainly down to her being the only de-harnessed victim left alive, and her general persona being totally different to that of the first series, or even that of Ben and Rick’s – who both, unlike her, showed severe difficulties in dealing with the after effects of their respective time with the aliens. There didn’t seem to be much of an attempt to hide her true nature either, and I would hazard a guess that was completely deliberate.
There wasn’t really any sense in trying to mask her deception to the viewers, as we’ve already seen that the removal of a harness does not exonerate one from any alien influence. Also, given her higher status in comparison to Ben and Rick (she serves the Overlords instead of just the Skitters), it’s even more unlikely that she’d have been let loose without a tether.
I enjoyed all the elements of her part in the story, but, most of all, her interactions with Ben. Every scene between the two was bubbling with tension, and even with Ben’s initially untrusting attitude towards her, there was an underlying sense of relatability and understanding coming from his dialogue. So, while his change of heart may have been too abrupt and unexplained for some, there was a certain inevitability and believability to it, due to the similarity in their experiences and the inherent rash and unpredictable nature that’s at the heart of Ben’s character.
Karen’s arrival and interception, although a riveting part of the story, does throw up some awkward questions. She was dumped not far from the location the 2nd Mass is currently residing in; presumably, to ensure her being located by a patrol group. This is an indication that the aliens are fully aware of the group’s location, so why not just storm them, capture Ben themselves, and be done with it? The aliens have more than enough firepower and man(?)power to eradicate the resistance, should they take them by surprise, or at least on short notice – assuming patrolling groups would be aware of them approaching. It seems nonsensical that they would go to the effort of infiltrating the group just for one person, and leave the rest alone, who are obviously going to pursue once Ben’s absence becomes noticed.
I would hope that there is a reason for them leaving the resistance be, and not just a case of this issue in the plot being ignored or overlooked. My only guess would be that the aliens are trying to assure the groups arrival at Charleston – which I’m almost certain is the ‘neutral zone’ mentioned in the very first episode, during the conversations between Tom and Karen’s Overlord.
Another element from a previous episode that, in this instance, comes to its conclusion (hopefully) is the injury Weaver sustained at the hands of the harness creature. This is a cleverly and timely introduced plot element that allows for the distraction of Tom from the whole Karen situation, and gives full room for the development behind Ben’s departure with her to take place. While it was obvious Weaver wasn’t going to leave us in this episode, especially seeing as his part of the story was more of a B-plot, the completely believable medical explanation behind the saving of his life, makes this a satisfying element of the story.
This episode, unfortunately, does continue the trend of certain conveniences with both character and plot. The group’s lack of fuel for their vehicles, that Weaver was fully aware of before he became incapacitated, becomes even more desperate when Tom decides they need to move on to Charleston immediately. There’s a sense the fuel issue has been going on for a while, yet it never occurred to Weaver that widening the search for some might be a good idea. I’m sorry, but he’s supposed to be a great leader, yet Tom thinks of it the instant he becomes aware of the problem and it’s shown in the episode that Tom can’t quite cope with the leadership role that he’s temporarily forced in to. Lo and behold though, it produces the goods, just in the nick of time as well. It reeks of just being a ploy to instil some tension and excitement in the episode, which it has in abundance anyway, and instead only serves to weaken the otherwise solid plotting.
So, last but not least, Ben’s departure. It’s been hinted at as a possibility for a little while, and even confirmed by the character last week, but it appears his reasons were actually quite complicated. Rather than departing solely due to an awareness of the danger he poses to the 2nd Mass, it seems his main intentions are to find the Skitters rebelling against their leaders and, presumably, aid them in their conflict. Thanks to the canny Karen convincing him he’s not safe there, and leaving Maggie wounded as a result (poor girl, she’s had a rough time in the last couple of weeks), his leaving will surely be a big feature in the coming episodes. It’s great to see that the emotional departure and subsequent vacancy of his character, that I was expecting, isn’t set to be the case and he will still play an important part in the concluding chapter of this series.
Best Scene – The De-harnessed Graveyard
Boy, when ‘Falling Skies’ wants to be disturbing, it always hits the marks. There was something about the atmospheric cold, grey morning weather, and the perfectly aligned, face down rows of deceased, previously harnessed children, masked by the autumn leaves that just made this such an eerie, yet tranquil scene. It was also a realisation of the brutality these invaders are capable of from time to time, as it’s something that’s been scarcely seen in recent episodes.
Verdict – 8/10 (Very Good)
This episode presented a storyline that’s just full of tension, mystery, twists and turns. It delivered on the promise of certain themes and developments that have appeared over the course of the series. It concludes and continues just as many in a very satisfying way. It’s not perfect, and it’s definitely disappointing to see the series continually struggle to shake off the plot conveniences that have been present since the very beginning, but its problems didn’t ever plague or disrupt the most important and pivotal parts of the episode.