One episode of Falling Skies' first season I liked a lot more than most people was "Sanctuary, Part 2," because it put a lot of focus on the kids. Remember, as is the case with every Steven Spielberg project, Falling Skies is really about the tykes, rugrats, and childrens because they're a direct line into themes of family. "Young Bloods" reminded us of that by not only giving Hal, Ben, Matty, and Lourdes (not Jimmy though, he's dead) plenty of story, but also adding a group of survivor kids to the mix.
And once I got over the ridiculousness of a band of children holing up in a warehouse during an alien invasion, a pretty decent episode of Falling Skies rose to the top. No one explained how the kids got there or why they said, "Adults get us killed," so I'll just assume they were all on a field trip when the aliens invaded or their local Chuck E. Cheese had a secret bomb shelter that kept them safe while their parents were plucked out of safety by aliens like in one of those claw games at the arcade. And we'll pretend that Hal and Ben's 2-on-15 assault on the Neverland kids wasn't as easy as it was.
The proliferation of kids to the series was a catalyst for bringing back themes of family, and there was a family theme for everyone! Weaver reunited with his daughter Jeanie, Tom had to deal with Matt's newfound bloodlust, and Lourdes received some bad news about her hometown. It wasn't anything groundbreaking and it was clumsy/sappy at times ("Miss you too, Papa Bear" *yak*), but it laid groundwork for a some character development by opening some old wounds and holding the scalpel pretty close to others.
But really, "Young Bloods" was anchored by three remarkable scenes. The opening sequence was a great example of how Falling Skies can sometimes leave its usually spotty writing behind and surrender to its technical gurus. Matty scootering through urban wastelands while being stalked by Skitters was very well done and suspenseful, and the BOOM headshots on the two Skitters (sniper rifle, close range) rank as number one and number two on the list of all-time Skitter deaths, passing Pope's gasoline grenade on the upside-down hanging Skitters from Season 1. And how great was Matt covered in alien guts saying "That. Was. AWESOME"? At first, I'm sure many of us thought Matt was pulling a Carl from The Walking Dead by wandering around by himself, but the later explanation that he was part of a mission sufficed, even if it was also a dumb idea.
The best scene of the episode, and one of the best scenes of the series so far, took place inside Harnesses R Us, the newly erected Skitter harness assembly line. If you didn't find that legitimately (and delightfully) terrifying, then you are a braver person than I. What can I say? I'm a sucker for watching kids suffer, and the one who got a new alien backpack gave a pretty convincing performance. The direction was pretty incredible. What happened to that harnessed kid, anyway? Did they save him? Does Falling Skies care? The show took advantage of lighting to provide some pretty great effects with the Skitter spine slugs, and seeing the whole process in detail is something that was long overdue. Ben breaking the slug tank was pretty great, and I probably would have done the same thing too. Extra points for copious amounts of foam and goo.
And you know what? I'm a huge fan of end of episode montages, even though they're cornier than a field in Iowa. Kudos to writer Heather V. Regnier for tying everything together through family and forgiveness at the end. Going through an alien invasion sucks, and traditional family structures have been blown up just like the Washington Monument and Big Ben. Now is the time for survivors to find new families or hang on to their old ones, and we saw a few instances of that at the end.
For some it was easy. Lourdes and Jamil connected in the wake of Lourdes learning her family was a pile of dust, and Jamil's sincere encouragement to her made me forget how much I disapproved of their relationship before (he's 31, she's 21 in real life). You win, Jamil! For others it was hard being on the losing end. Captain Weaver woke up to a note from Jeanie saying she wasn't sticking around, and his tears, manly "I lost my family AGAIN!" tears, put a lump in my throat. Totally feel for you, Weavy. Matt, however, is lucky enough to have a father who cares for him and he finally realized that after Tom peeled a worm off his back. I don't normally approve of grown men sleeping under the same blanket as a child, but it was sweet when Matt crawled under the covers with his dad.
Once again, the most interesting case was Ben. During the montage of connecting and disconnecting, there was one curious shot of Ben alone, completely family-less because he's stuck between two families. He's pushing the Masons away (and the rest of 2nd Mass) while remaining unable to deny some weird lingering draw to the aliens. His is by far the most interesting story in Season 2. Now it's time for the writers to push it forward.
"Young Bloods" was more of a standalone episode than one that tied into a season-long plot, but it did something that Falling Skies has had a really hard time doing since its beginning, and that's making me feel something for the characters. Plus those Skitters' heads exploded like a Locusts' when I train my sniper rifle on 'em in Gears of War. More caring and more headshots, and you'll be fine, Falling Skies.
– Margaret dual-wielding pistols made my pants tight. You will be mine, Margaret. Oh yes, you will. And stop the elementary school flirting with Hal. Are you going to put a spider in his hair next?
– Still waiting for Anne to be something more than a place where Tom stores his spit. Will it happen this season?
– What did everyone think of that guy's freestyling rap skills? He really took a page out of every white guy's attempt at rapping. Eminem and that guy from 3rd Bass excluded, obviously.
– Can someone explain the choice of music during the montage at the end? Spanish Finger-Picking Guitar Sonata No. 5?