In 2×04, “Young Bloods”, we get a clear look at what are likely to be the major themes of the season: hope, free will, and the child/adult dichotomy, all of which relate to each other. They touched on it in the premiere when talking about how they need to prepare the kids for “the world they live in,” which means learning to shoot and fight, but they are also children whose only job should be to kick around a soccer ball. The kids, while being symbolic to the adults of hope for the future, are both struggling to assert their independence/free will while also trying to define their relationship with their parents. Plus, there’s both Tom and Ben struggling with not knowing if they have free will because of their alien experiences, and now another symbol of hope with Charleston.
I honestly am surprised this show is getting all complicated and theme-y. From here on out I’ll try not to mention it so as to not be redundant , but I keep being surprised at how much better this show is compared to last season. They are also nailing the details, like the art direction, and the directing has been top-notch.*
The opening sequence of this fourth episode is a perfect example of that. The tone is so bleak and surreal, with Matt scootering around an abandoned neighborhood (complete with a tuned-over tricycle and a water-damaged photo album) that it feels like a nightmare, especially when he gets cornered by two Skitters. Just when you think they’re going to cut to someone waking up… BOOM. Skitter Headshot! And another! Two Berserkers on the roof take ‘em out. Little Matt, aka ‘M&M’, covered in a mess of Skitter blood looks shell-shocked for a second before affirming, “That. Was. Awesome.”
I concur, M&M.
Unfortunately, Tom does not think that was awesome. He approved Matt for a scouting mission and is pissed at the two Berserkers that used him as bait, and Matt gets mad at his dad for embarrassing him in front of his new friends, and for continuing to treat him like a little kid (which he is, but he’s also learning to fight, so …).
While Matt actually becomes useful in combat, Hal and Ben fail; while they scout out a factory that the aliens are using, their motorcycles get stolen right out from under them. Fucking geniuses. Ben uses his alien super-hearing to figure out what direction they went (but he didn’t hear them sneak up to steal the bikes?) and they get the drop on a community theater cast of Oliver! a rag-tag gang of children, who Hal invites back to the 2nd Mass to come get some supplies. They agree, and when the group gets back to camp, surprise! The girlfriend of the baby!gang’s leader, Diego, is Jeanne, aka Weaver’s younger daughter.
Jeanne and Weaver reconnect and reminisce about how Weaver was kind of a shitty father back in the day, but Jeanne’s reconciled. When all the kids head back to the gang’s hideout, it’s trashed; the Skitters came and took the rest of the kids to the factory Hal and Matt scouted earlier, which is being used as a harness facility. Diego acts like the dumb teenager he is, charges his whole group in (including Matt, because Tom was such a mean dad about him in life threatening situations) with no plan and duh, they all get captured. The 2nd Mass goes in to rescue them; Maggie finds most of the group in a holding cell, but Matt, Jeanne and another kid named Johnny have already been taken and strapped face-down for harnessing.
Red Shirt Johnny is harnessed (a harness wormy goes from swimming around in a tank of glowing orange goo and down a shoot onto the kid’s back) and it’s really gross. I don’t want to talk about it. Weaver, Tom, Hal and the rest of the team arrive just in time to pull the harness off Ben’s back, right before it implanted itself into his spine. While they free the kids, Ben gets alien dazed and puts his hand up against the harness tank; Hal’s the only one who sees Ben’s spines glow blue before Ben shoots the hell out of the tank. One of the worms gets on Weaver’s leg; they get it off but it means that we get to see Weaver high on pain pills! It’s great.
Hal confronts Ben about his glowing spikes, and we find out that Ben is aware of it, but is hoping that if he ignores it, it will go away. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll happen. Ben wants to keep it a secret, since no one will understand “glowing spikes” and half the camp thinks he killed Jimmy; he doesn’t want to sign his own death warrant. I feel like he could at least talk to Tom about it, since they’re pretty much both dealing with the same issues (of possibly being under alien influence).
High!Weaver and Jeanne have another heart-to-heart, and he gives her his compass. The rest of the baby!gang thinks they have a better chance of surviving without joining the resistance, but Jeanne gives Weaver the impression that she’s staying with him. However, once he passes out, she peaces out, leaving him a goodbye note, absolving him of his anger issues but explain that she has her own life now and that her group needs her the way the 2nd Mass needs Weaver.
Jeanne’s letter is read in voiceover in a beautiful ending montage, featuring an acoustic guitar rendition of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque: clair de lune (you’ll know it when you hear it). Jeanne, in tears, leaves; Weavers breaks down crying and curls up into a ball; Lourdes and Jamil hold hands, hoping for Charleston; Ben sits alone in the dark, and Matt goes to curl up and fall asleep in his dad’s arms. I have something in my eye, shut up.
Random Other Things
- I mentioned at the start the art direction in this episode, which was awesome. Look at these creepy posters in the cold open.
Moreover, there was the big painted mural on the side of the building where the 2nd Mass was camping that featured Robert E. Lee and a quote of his: “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” I don’t know what that means exactly, but it sounds deep and important, doesn’t it?
- Tom brought Dr. Anne a chocolate moon pie and they made out in the med van until Fucking Lourdes cockblocked them. I don’t blame Dr. Anne; in her shoes I’d probably put out for a moon pie too, especially with a cold RC Cola (if you get this reference, you are cool).
- Fucking Lourdes finds out that her aunt and uncle in Mexico are probably dead, even though she was hoping that they might be alive.
- Another art direction choice that ups the creepy factor: in the harness factory holding room, there was a massive pile of abandoned children’s shoes. Shudder.
- Hal actually made a good point about Ben’s terrible combat choice of shooting the tank (and letting all the harness worms loose) rather than just tossing a grenade. I appreciate when dumb choices are called out.
- How fucked up is Weaver going to be after losing a surrogate son and then a biological daughter right in a row?
There were a couple of good quotes this episode:
- Tom: “Good news.” Anne: “Aliens left.” Tom: “Who told you? I wanted to be the first. I thought you’d be so impressed.”
- Tom: “You could’ve gotten yourself killed in the process [of killing two Skitters]. It wasn’t smart.” Matt: “Well, neither was getting onto an alien spaceship, Dad.”
- “I like to say: Vengeance is mine, say’th the Hal.”
*I didn’t get a chance to mention it in the post for 2×02 “Shall We Gather at the River,” but that episode had a beautiful 2 minute long un-cut steadi-cam shot that tracked all the way through the 2nd Mass. group as they were preparing to cross the bridge. Okay, film nerd stuff done.
Alright! Take a breath! With that, we are all caught up, which means that the next Falling Skies recap won’t be until next Monday. That gives you a chance to go watch Season 1 and the first four episodes of Season 2 and come chat about it all (and it gives me a chance to watch something other than this show. Woo!).
Do you think this show’s improved since last season, or have I been Skitter brain-washed into thinking so? Do you miss Pope yet? Will Matt go right back to being annoying again? Is Hal going to tattle on Ben? Was it totally emotionally manipulative to use “Clair de lune” to make my cold Skitter heart melt? (A: yes)