Episode Title: "The Armory"
Writer: Graham Yost
Director: Greg Beeman
Previously on "Falling Skies"
Six months ago, an alien invasion wiped out most of Earth's major cities and armies. The survivors have regrouped as poorly armed and barely trained militias attempting only to survive. Former history professor Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) has found himself drafted into a leadership position as the second in command of the 2ND Mass. Tom fights alongside his oldest son, Hal (Drew Roy) and he remains desperate to protect his youngest son, Matt (Maxim Knight). During the initial days of the invasion, Tom's wife was killed by the aliens and his other son, Ben (Connor Jessup) disappeared.
While on a scouting trip for food, Hal saw Ben being marched with other captive children, as the aliens controlled them with harnesses on their backs. After Tom and Hal completed their mission to bring back the badly needed food, they informed their commanding officer, Weaver (Will Patton) that they intend to rescue Ben, by themselves if necessary. Although Weaver seemed as if he would prevent them from leaving, he told them to complete a mission to a nearby armory before giving them permission to go after Ben.
Days later, Tom and his team stake out the armory at night, where a single alien mech is patrolling. They send a dog out to test the mech's response time, but 13 year old soldier, Jimmy Boland (Dylan Authors) steps into the mech's line of fire to save the dog. The rest of the team is able to divert the mech away from Jimmy and the dog, but the mission is scuttled in the process. Returning to the current 2ND Mass encampment, Tom reports to Weaver that the mission failed and he reluctantly adds that Jimmy was the soldier who didn't follow his orders and stay back.
At the same time, Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) confronts Weaver about the disparity of the housing situation between the soldiers and the civilians. While the soldiers are sleeping comfortably in abandoned houses, the civilians are camped out in a field behind the houses. Weaver coldly dismisses her concerns for the people and it's clear that he doesn't see them as anything other than a liability. Weaver also insists that Tom try again to gain access to the armory or he won't sanction their mission to find Ben. But this time, Tom asks Jimmy to sit out the mission and remain behind.
Tom, Hal, Karen (Jessy Schram), Dai (Peter Shinkoda), Anthony (Mpho Koahu) and one other soldier return to the armory and sneak inside. But almost immediately, the soldier is struck by multiple arrows and fatally wounded. In the ensuing firefight, Tom and his group end up surrounded by John Pope (Collin Cunningham) and his gang, but Pope's brother was hit in the leg and he's bleeding out. Pope escorts his new prisoners away from the armory just as a mech bursts in looking for them. Pope brings Tom and his team to an abandoned school theater, where he listens to Tom's claims that they're just a small band of survivors.
But then Pope drops the bombshell and reveals that he knows that they're from Weaver's group and he frees Hal with a message: he'll trade the lives of everyone of his prisoners in exchange for food and a vehicle mounted machine gun. Hal is escorted out of the theater at gun point by a woman named Margaret (Sarah Sanguin Carter). Meanwhile, Tom stalls for time by bonding with Pope over a beer and he learns that his captor is much more intelligent than he appears. Pope also seems quite skilled at killing aliens and he declares that the invasion was the best thing that ever happened to him.
Pope even realizes that Tom was attempting to steal the sidearm of his unconscious brother before preventing Tom from actually going through with it. Back at the camp. Hal delivers the message, but Weaver refuses to negotiate with Pope and he begins to break camp. Mike (Martin Roach) allows Hal to escape Pope's custody and try and help his father. Anne also comes with Hal to treat Pope's wounded brother. With Anne and Hal in tow, Margaret brings them back the theater and Anne actually saves Pope's brother. But that doesn't stop Pope from taking most of his men out to confront Weaver directly.
In the theater, Pope's brother begins harassing Karen, leading Margaret to kill him and the other remaining gang member. She explains to Tom and the rest that both men raped her when Pope's group first picked her up and she says that they deserved to die. Meanwhile, Pope gets the better of Weaver and convinces him to part with food and some of his weapons, even as Weaver promises to get Pope back for this. Pope even lights flares to attract the alien scout ships within minutes, forcing Weaver to move out with his people. Tom and his team eventually arrive and pin down Pope in a firefight.
Tom offers Pope the chance to join with them, but he refuses. However, Pope narrowly avoids an alien airstrike that takes out his remaining men, leaving him facing down a gun from Weaver himself. Taken into custody, Pope is almost relieved to be free of a leader's responsibilities. And despite the failure of the mission, Weaver gives Tom the go ahead to find Ben.
It's kind of disingenuous for TNT to air the first two episodes back-to-back as if they were parts one and two of a single story. Even watching them separately, they seem to differ greatly in tone and execution. But both episodes are strong examples of the series and TNT may have made the right decision to open with these, given the high ratings for the premiere.
Honestly, this episode was better than the pilot. "The Armory" wasn't an effects heavy hour and the aliens barely played into it. But it did introduce us to John Pope, an incredibly compelling rogue alien killer whose delight in the invasion is kind of fascinating. It was also written by "Justified" creator Graham Yost, who gave it some extremely sharp dialog throughout. And not only was the dialog extremely quotable, it also did a lot to reveal more about the characters.
For example, take Weaver's line to Anne from early in the episode: "A few years from now, when the Skitters have been wiped out, or sent back to the undoubtedly hideous planet that they call home, the concerns of the citizens will be addressed." On its own, that line would have still been memorable. But the contempt coming from Weaver as he says it really demonstrated his lack of compassion. That's why Tom is ultimately the better leader. Weaver may a consummate military tactician, but he doesn't have any personal attachment to the people he's supposed to protect.
There was also a really funny exchange between Hal and Mike, as Mike adamantly rejected Hal's suggestion that he hit Mike to make his escape look good. In almost every situation that someone allows the hero to escape and asks them to "make it look good," the hero almost always does it with a simple punch. Mike's solution actually seemed like a more practical way to go about it, even though Weaver wouldn't have believed him one way or another.
Getting back to John Pope, his one-on-one scenes with Tom were dynamic. I'm actually glad that Pope wasn't killed off in this episode, as he seems like an invaluable character to have around. This is a guy who by his very nature invites conflict with the people who aren't on the same page with him. And that's something "Falling Skies" needs. It offers a different viewpoint than Tom's, Anne's or Weaver's.
I can't say that Pope isn't crazy, but given the state of the world, he might be the sanest of all of them. I'm curious as to what role Pope will play going forward into the season, but it's clear that he's here for the long haul. And I'm eager to see him take on a Skitter as he described in this episode.
This episode has actually gotten a negative response from some fans who claim that there was too much talking and too little action. But personally, if the dialog was this good in every episode then I wouldn't care if we ever saw the aliens again.
The first two episodes of "Falling Skies" have set the bar pretty high. I hope the rest of the season can live up to this. However, I wouldn't be surprised if it gets a second season order by the end of the week.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.