We’re past the halfway point of the season and it’s time to assess; especially since this episode provided a perfect example of what’s working and what’s not.
Anne and Tom? Totally working. In fact, it’s such a refreshingly low-key and grown-up relationship that it might be the very best part of the show; one of the parts we can’t get enough of. Not that we want to see this become a romance-heavy adventure show a la Lost. Then again, the characters as they’re currently written would make impossible candidates for a Jack and Kate-style romance. They are, as we said, grownups, with all that that entails, including a long history prior to hooking up with each other and a world-weariness that makes sense, given everything they’ve gone through. This is life during wartime and if that means sometimes a dead-spouse’s name pops up in the middle of an argument, so be it. There’s too much at stake and they’re too exhausted to make an issue of such a human thing. When they’re romantic and flirtatious with each other, it’s in a knowing, amused way, and when they’re angry with each other, they tend to let it roll off their back and move on. It may be one of the healthiest relationships on TV right now. That kind of partnership can be sexy as hell.
Ben and his glowing spikes? Mostly working. With this episode we’ve headed into the area that we spent all season praising the writers for avoiding: Stupid Teenage Boy Tricks. It doesn’t bother us so much because at least Ben’s actions have gotten a lot of setup. To be perfectly honest, we have no idea who to believe or root for right now. We’d say that’s a good thing. Mostly. But it sort of leads into our first big complaint.
Plotting and pacing? Not quite working. It took us a minute or two to realize that some time had passed since they set up camp in the hospital and we spent at least the first half hour wondering what happened with the whole skitter rebellion sub-plot. In addition, Weaver “suddenly” falls ill. Yes, we knew about his bite, and yes, a couple of weeks have passed in between episodes, but it still felt like it came out of nowhere. It doesn’t feel like there’s too much going on. It just feels like they’re doling out story time to each subplot in a somewhat arbitrary and occasionally confusing manner.
And yes, it must be said: They’ve fallen into the trap of characters doing stupid things or withholding important information for no reason. Weaver’s pretty no-nonsense and does everything for the good of the Second Mass, so why would he keep his accelerating sickness a secret from anyone? He had to know that Tom’s one fault as a commander is his sentimentalism, which means he’d put the whole group at risk just to save him. It would have made more sense if he’d left some sort of instructions or planned for this in some way, but withholding that info and avoiding a plan of action for dealing with it strikes us as very un-Weaver-like. We do like the issue of fuel and how using it to save Weaver means they don’t have enough to make the trip to Charleston. That’s likely to become more and more of an issue as they juggle the struggle of simply living with the struggle to get the hell out of there.
As for Ben, this is where the story needed to go. It’s not quite how we wanted to see it play out, though. That he’s acting stupid is a bit of a disappointment (because really, you’d have to be blind and deaf not to see what a manipulator Karen is), but we suppose it can all be written off as spike-related. That doesn’t quite explain why Hal’s being such a dick, but we can even go so far as to write that off to stress, exhaustion, and a whole bunch of shit that no sane person could handle well. After all, the show does an unusually good job of depicting the exhaustion and despair that comes with this life. It all just felt a little … rushed somehow. But this is quibbling, we suppose. We’re still totally invested in the story and genuinely like most of the characters. Except Pope, who just had to show his face again. Ugh.
But like we said, we really don’t know what to believe any more. Prior to this episode we were feeling more than a bit manipulated, what with the whole “Churchill dropping out of the sky” and “perfectly stocked and immaculately clean hospital springing up out of nowhere” things. From the minute the aliens let Tom leave their ship, it’s felt to us like everything since then has been part of a larger plan that our characters can’t see. Are the skitters rebelling against their overlords? Is Charleston really the nirvana it sounds like? Is Ben to be trusted? Is Karen? (Hint: Not really.) It’s good that we’re so confused, but we think we’re ready for an episode where things are laid out a little more clearly.
[Photo Credit: James Dittiger/TNT]