At its core, Falling Skies is a family series, both in terms of its target audience and what it’s about. Nearly every week’s crisis is in some way explicitly informed by how some decision Tom Mason makes will affect his sons. This week amps that up a bit more as we learn more about what Weaver was like as a dad while Tom and his youngest son Matt come into conflict for the first time in the series.
Without giving too much away from this week’s episode, we meet someone from Weaver’s past and it’s no surprise to see that as much of a hardass as he can be with the Second Mass, he apparently carried a little bit of a control streak in his home life. But what’s interesting to note is that Weaver isn’t quite that person anymore—fighting alongside Tom Mason and commanding a civilian army has softened the old soldier. That actually makes a scene mid-episode where he blows up at a younger character ring slightly false: this isn’t the Weaver we’ve been seeing over the last few episodes and not really even at the end of the last season.
Still, it’s rewarding to see another dimension to the character since his flirtation with suicide last season in “What Hides Beneath.”
Less successful is the Tom-Matt storyline, with the youngest Mason bristling at not be allowed to be a fighter in the Second Mass. There’s a little bit of hay made about Matt resenting Tom for disappearing for three months (something that came up in the season premiere briefly in the form of fear and distrust). Here, it just feels like Matt is being a horrible little kid (ultimately placing him in peril in the back half of the episode).
The series is strongest when it indulges in its all-too-brief horror elements, this time in the form of a Skitter factory where children are harnessed. While the actual layout of the environment gives you a sense of the show’s low-ish production budget, the first sight of a nascent harness creature, fresh out of the vat, is something to see. It’s gross, and unpleasant, and clearly terrible for the character it’s happening to, and this is when the show is absolutely at its best.
Falling Skies wants to creep us out in the middle of a close-knit war story and I wish it would indulge in this impulse a bit more. The Skitters can be strange, gross, and (again) scary. More than the family angst from this week’s episode, I’ll remember the harness process and a kid getting spikes in their back (particularly the way the veins in his face pulsed as the harness finally connected). More of this, Falling Skies, and you’ll easily keep me as a viewer.
Falling Skies airs Sunday nights at 9 ET on TNT.