The 2nd Mass drives.
Let "Death March" forever be referred to as the episode of Falling Skies that had us asking "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" until our teeth fell out. Tonight's hour was an homage to the great American pastime that doesn't involve apples, steroids, or slaughtering indigenous people. I'm talking ROAD TRIPS, people, and "Death March" saw the 2nd Mass caravanming south toward the safety of Charleston, proving that aliens may take away our technology, our weakest family members, and our will to maintain basic hygiene, but they can never take away the American desire to pack the station wagon and cross state lines.
As is the case with all road trips, "Death March" was all about getting to know the person or persons you're traveling with. Character development (and what Falling Skies passes for character development) was the star of this very different episode. It was a noble effort on the show's part, as 99.99999 percent of the episode took place inside or near vehicles that were driving at night, forcing the show about an alien invasion to let its characters actually talk to each other. It was Falling Skies stripped down to its non-alien basics, the characters left alone with their thoughts, the road before them, and zero real threat. It was the EXACT opposite of two weeks ago's "Molon Rabe," a dangerous close-quartered blast-a-thon.
Yes, it was an episode filled with chats. And what did we learn from those chats? Not the most necessary information, but at least we saw some weird human moments from characters who haven't seemed very human for one and a half seasons. Let's summarize the four that stood out.
Maggie and Hal talk while driving.
Maggie: Our favorite Maggie has been hiding a lot from everyone, including us. How dare she! After Pope guilted her into telling Hal the truth, she 'fessed up and spilled it: She became a junkie whore after her head tumor surgery, and got thrown in the clink for thievery, where she had a bastard child. I'm not saying that a jail birth is typical, but Pope made her past seem like a bigger deal than that. I was half expecting her to say something about being pregnant with an alien baby or revealing that she and Pope got married after too much Jaegermeister. But no, she was just your average drug-shooting teenager. We all know like dozens of people like that.
Lourdes: The cute nurse was a mess and became obsessed with Jamil's tools. Pretty typical behavior for someone who just finished watching space spiders crawl out of her boyfriend's mouth. But later, she suddenly decided everything was okay and I'm sure she'll be all smiles from here on out. Maybe she snorted some pills from the medical stash or something, because that turnaround happened quickly. In order for this story to work, Lourdes is going to have to show lots of lingering effects from the traumatic experience. What are the chances Falling Skies does that? I'm saying 50/50. They could just as easily drop the issue and pretend Jamil never existed.
Matt: Tom's youngest started off the hour writing HIS WILL. He's seven years away from his first chest hair, yet he's already planning for his death. That's what growing up in this world does to a kid. He's also having the most believable reaction of any of the Masons to the Ben situation, a combination of fear and confusion.
Tector: We also learned that Tector, the sniper who goes to the same barber as Bryce Harper, is former military, and Captain Weaver poked and prodded him until he admitted it. Later, Tector saluted Weaver and it was very cheesy. But can someone explain to me why Weaver grilled Tector the way he did? And why he told Tector he murdered his own men when it was clearly a sore spot to Tector and then said, "LOL JK just wanted to see you cry?" I mean seriously, what a jerk. I did not understand Weaver in that scene one bit. Did an alien prankster skin Weaver and assume his identity just to act weird?
Weaver and Tector talk while driving.
One of the highlights of the trip was the group coming upon a young girl named Jenny who was slowly turning into alien broccoli (did you see her hands? Grossssss, but awesome touch!). Obviously Matt and Jenny became quick friends because cute kids are impulsively attracted to each other in anything that even has the faintest stink of Spielberg to it. They were starting to bond over being stupid kids, but Jenny had also been brainwashed by the aliens through her harness. She eventually left to be with her brother, who was even more alien broccoli than she was, before really bringing anything important to the table. Maybe we'll see them again, maybe we won't. Maybe they'll be riding on a motorcycle with that girl who drove Tom to meet up with the 2nd Mass.
Of course all this driving and talking was supposed to lead up to arriving at Charleston, and when the 2nd Mass got there, it was a smoldering ruin. This pissed me off to no end and I cried. (It did allow Weaver to give a pretty mediocre halftime speech, though.) But haha fooled me because it turned out everything was just another edition of Punk'd: Falling Skies Edition, and Weaver's old military friends popped out of the woods to say that the real Charleston was actually hidden and the new capital of the United States has strawberries! Next week, we're finally arriving in Charleston! Finally!
We regularly complain about the characters of Falling Skies not making any progress, and then "Death March" comes along and gives us an hour's worth of character development. But it did so in the most boring of ways: through scene after scene of people talking in cars at night. On the plus side it gave the characters nothing to do BUT talk, which meant there were no real stories to bungle—and for that we're all grateful. I'm just not sure Tector's background as a member of the military was the character story we were dying to hear when we still know so little about Anne, Weaver, Pope, Tom, and ESPECIALLY DAI. Though "Death March" was a sign that Falling Skies is maturing, ever so slightly, under no circumstance will it be rewatchable or make any sort of "Essential Episodes of Falling Skies" list.
The 2nd Mass continues to drive.
– No Ben. Did you miss him? I kinda did.
– More awesome dialogue from Anne: "We’re all just a heartbeat away from death. We always have been, we always will be. That's not a reason to lose hope. We're not dead yet." Someone needs to build a website called "Dialogue from Falling Skies's Dr. Anne or Coldplay lyrics?" (Dot com.)
– I'm guessing there are going to be a lot of people who HATED this episode. But with that said, I thought everyone would hate "Homecoming." Please do me a favor and let me know what you thought of "Death March" in the comments below, because I'm honestly curious.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom