Falling Skies: Compass

Posted on June 25, 2012

Two things we said in last week’s review:

  1. They need to get rid of Psawyer, because it’s ridiculous that they would keep someone like that around.
  2. It looked like the Spielberg Schmaltz had been considerably toned down by the time they handed the machine gun to a kid – and he used it.

Well, it’s nice to know we’re picking up on the major points. Psawyer got run out of town on a (bloody) rail and one of the kids got impaled on a tree and died. Alrighty, then. Looks like E.T. will not be phoning home in this one any time soon, to our delight.

Of course the Pope (Psawyer) issue isn’t quite resolved. We would have rather seen Tom beat him to death (and we’re totally not kidding about that), but it would have been too problematic going forward and besides, we don’t like it when Tom lapses into standard heroic territory, as he did here; a history professor beating a biker to within an inch of his life for not properly respecting a dead kid’s belongings. We realize that, dramatically speaking, any group of people needs someone willing to be an asshole just to shake things up and challenge preconceptions. Pope serves a purpose, but the writing for this character has almost always failed him. Perfect example: Practically everything Pope had to say about not trusting Tom after his alien abduction was a good point and should have been considered worthy of exploration. Instead, that was shelved so that he could be an outrageous dick over a dead kid’s compass, giving Tom every permission in the world to draw blood and kick him out. This is why the character never worked for us; not because he was a dick to people, but that he’s a dick about petty, stupid shit so that it’s easy to hate him and when he’s dick about really important things, no one listens to him. Granted, you could make the argument that the reason why he’s such a dick about petty things is because no one listens to him about the important things, but you’d never find any indication of that in the writing. He’s just a dick, full stop. And in a show that’s doing a very good job of shading its characters and making them more nuanced than their earlier depictions indicated, Pope’s increasingly silly and dangerous behavior was beginning to stand out more and more – and not in a good way.

But this new status quo works for us, to our surprise.  Even though we think the character has been mishandled from the ground up, we kind of like the idea that Pope is still out there, separate from the group. Of course they’re going to regret not killing him when they had the chance and of course his warnings about Tom’s danger to the group will be proven right. Maybe that’s why the writers felt they couldn’t just kill the guy off. In order for his warnings to pay off, he’s going to have to be around in order to say “See? I told you!” Really, the only thing about Pope’s departure that really bothered us was the guy who decided to leave with him, whose name is completely unknown to us but who keeps popping up in scenes with something to say (they really need to do a better job of establishing and repeating character names). His reasons for going didn’t seem to make much sense to us. If he needs to “keep an eye” on Pope to protect the group, then it means he’s too dangerous to be left alive, doesn’t it?

So now, in an incredibly unlikely series of events, Tom is in charge of The Berserkers, it seems. We sincerely hope his first order of business is to abolish the utterly cringe-worthy ’80s-movie name of the group and get them all to stop dressing like they’re in a Mad Max cosplay. We’re being a little bitchy, but honestly, we have no real complaints about the episode. All of that Pope/Berserker stuff looks like the last vestiges of Season 1 being dealt with before the story moves on.

The real story revolves around two things: Ben is obviously a far greater danger to the group than Tom is (at this point, it seems), and it appears his spikes are allowing Red-Eye to control him, communicate with him, and/or get information from him. And for once, the writing actually supports a character withholding important information. Without the setup of Jimmy’s death, one might be forgiven for shrieking at Ben for not telling anyone what’s going on with him. But because he’s consumed with guilt over his responsibility for that death and because it seems more than likely that he just led the aliens to the provisional government in South Carolina, it makes sense that someone like him – traumatized, guilt-ridden, not entirely sure he’s still human, and very, very young – that he would keep that info to himself.

As for the Flying Churchill and her supposed Continental Congress, we don’t quite know what to believe about that but it all sounds more than a little shady to us. For one, there’s her name, which seems designed to create connections and inferences in anyone who hears it. Think about it: if you’re a small militia fighting an impossible war against an implacable enemy and barely surviving, wouldn’t you thrill to the idea of Churchill literally dropping out of the sky to give you hope and good news? And didn’t it seem like she was deliberately seeking out alpha males and getting into their heads a little bit? Maybe we’re wrong and everything about South Carolina will turn out to be true, but there was definitely something off about her.

Still, it’s nice that the group – and by extension, the show – has somewhere to go now. One of the absolute worst things about The Walking Dead is that no one ever seems to have a plan that consists of more than “Let’s try and survive the next hour.” With the introduction of an actual government and decent-sized population somewhere far away, the 2nd Mass has a short-term goal (to get there) along with their long-term one (to beat the aliens for good). That’s about as perfect a setup for a season 2 as we could ask for. We might quibble on a few minor details (Anne’s story this episode was remarkably undeveloped), but Falling Skies is still firing on all cylinders


[Photo Credit: James Dittiger/TNT]

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  • Lord, I hope you are right about Pope and The Berserkers (that sounds like a crappy band). I couldn’t believe they came up with such an utterly cheesy name for that little ragtag group, but Pope is an utterly cheesy character so I guess it fits. And they look like Mad Max meets street dance battlers. I expect them to start popping and locking at any moment.

    I just watched that Wil Wheaton second watch thingy, that was a waste of time. It’s just a Falling Skies lovefest… I don’t know why I was expecting anything different, it’s a promotional thing. Silly me. Oh and Pope will be back, eventually. I hope they work the bugs out of the character, but I suspect the actor has a lot to do with how bad the character is. He looks like the kind of guy who wears a speedo and a big gold necklace to the beach.

    Ben is definitely the best thing about the show now. The kid playing him is doing a great job.

    (the guy who left with Pope is Anthony)

    • FWIW – Colin Cunningham (Pope) has a long history acting in Canada, both as a series regular and guest, and he’s been very good in everything else I’ve seen. His ‘bad guys’ tend to be far more realistic and morally ambiguous. 

      This hyper-asshole type of character is new, which makes me think it’s the people behind the scenes who are flailing about with Pope, not him. I’m hoping this time-out for Pope will give the writers a chance to reboot the character because Cunningham deserves better.

      •  Well, that’s good to know. I’ll try to keep an open mind about him when he’s back on the show. Maybe the new writers can rehabilitate the character a bit. I hope they forget about all that over the top villain stuff, and just let him be more realistic.

  • MilaXX

    I was really hoping Pope was gone for good, but once the guy said he would go with to keep an eye on him, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Still I’m much more invested in the show this season. Bringing in new writers was definitely a step in the right direction because they do appear to be tightening up the script.

  • Jangle57

    In Tom’s flashbacks as to what happened to him on the alien ship, the head alien indicated they wanted all the remaining humans to go to one location and live there in a sort of internment camp.  I was wondering if Churchill was actually a plant by the aliens as a way to get all the humans to that location which happens to be in Charleston, SC?

    •  I wondered about that too!

    • Theresa Hale

      My husband said the same thing, so now I’m torn between TLo’s speculation that RedEye was reading Ben’s mind and Charleston will be dust when they arrive, or if it’s the camp already.

      •  Notice they never showed the back of her neck?  She wore a bulky hoodie the whole time. 

  • May buddha bless y’all for standing by this show. Your karma will be abundant.

  • Elizabeth Schlesinger

    A note on the berserkers – the name comes from Norse warriors who wound themselves into a fury (possibly drug induced) before battle.  Many of the legends describe them as men who kill indiscriminately and plunder.  In modern context, “berserkers” fight without regard for their own life.  

    Does it sound dumb? Yes.  In the context of a show about a history professor though, it’s not as much of a stretch as it might seem.

  • jennygirl73

    Much, much better than last season for sure!  All the trite family crap is toned down, no prayer break outs by the young religious EMT, and they have a place to go to.  I think Charleston is a ruse, maybe one of those survivor reservations.  Too good to be true, and the aliens haven’t found it and destroyed it?  but, it’s worth a shot and at least they will be down south.

    As for Pope, we need a bad ass character, but someone with more of a story than this…or more personality than just being a dick. You’re both right as usual.  Every body can’t be goody goody.  Curious to know about Red Eye Skitter and what his deal is.  I’m hoping he wants to kill his bosses too and just live peacefully with us humans.  Remember last season when they talk about the Skitters seemed to be taken too or something like that?  Ben’s changing into one so it stands to reason they weren’t always skitters.

  • annieanne

    You may be right about Churchill but the show needs an organized population and military to survive. They started season 1 with 300 fighters and they’ve only got 176 left. Without reinforcements and a realistic offensive military strategy the aliens have already won and season 3 is a mop-up operation.

  • Trisha26

    Although the entire “fight with Pope” ordeal was ludicrous (as you pointed out, TLo), Tom finally reacted when Pope threatened or insulted Ben, it wasn’t about the compass. Or it could have been to some degree, but Tom’s main motivation, I believe, was the love he has for his child, a child he probably doesn’t trust either but can’t abandon. This season is already much better than season 1.