Friday, August 5, 2011

Review: Falling Skies "Sanctuary Part 1 and 2"

Non Spoiler Review:
Falling Skies delivers a two part episode dealing threats closer to home for those who have survived the invasion. The 2nd Massachusetts gets a visit from a survivor from another militia, who advises of an imminent sweep by the Scitters to get rid of the resistance. With the suggestion that they should send the children ahead to a potential safe haven, Tom, Anne and the rest are forced to come to terms with separating their group. Meanwhile, Ben is back, and just totally awesome, which doesn't sit well with his older brother. Are the unharnessed kids secret spies?

Sanctuary managed to avoid all the annoying sappiness of past weeks in favor of some genuine emotion resulting from the storyline. Anne and Weaver (and yes, even Lourdes!) continue to evolve in leaps and bounds, and the sense of ominous desperation really permeated the entire two-parter. The audience can certainly feel that things are not right from the start, until the reveal at the end of the first half. It all works quite well and comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Spoilers Now!
Anne is seeing to a young boy, Eli, while his parents watch. Suddenly the father pulls a gun and demands she give them all the antibiotics so they'll have something to trade when they go off on their own. They believe it's too dangerous after what happened with the Scitter. Anne fights back, but gets hit, and the family takes off.

Weaver's in hot pursuit, though, and has them pinned down with gunfire. That's when Clayton, another soldier, arrives and disarms the father, takes the antibiotics back, then lets the family run off. Weaver is happy to have them gone.

Clayton was with the 7th Massachusetts and served with both Weaver and Mike in the past. He's one of scant survivors after the aliens took them out. A few fighters and civilians are held up in a farm for the time being. He reports that Porter thinks the Scitters are sweeping through to get slave labour for their construction projects. The 3rd Massachusetts is to rendezvous with them and then move on together, but it will be about 72 hours, a long time to wait.

Clayton says Porter has suggested they move all the young people on ahead to ensure their safety, but that doesn't go over well with the parents at all. Weaver assures Tom he's not dragging kids away yet, but if an attack is imminent they will have to consider it. So he puts Tom in charge of arranging it with the civilians. Meanwhile, the camp is barricaded in case of an attack.

Maggie notices Anne is feeling edgy, and suggests she learn to protect herself, so gives her a gun to practice with. She applauds her for fighting back, and Anne gets some lessons on how to shoot.

Ben is feeling great. In fact, he's fitter than ever consider he was a big math nerd before the invasion, and adjusting much better than Rick. Matt wants to know what it was like being harnessed, and Ben says it felt like everything he could ever want was given before he asked for it. He felt like they were family, not monsters. Hal doesn't like the sound of that and consults with Anne. Ben's acting like a different kid. She later asks Tom how he seems, but he's really just happy to have all his sons back.

Jimmy asks Weaver to be put back into rotation (after his screw up). Weaver agrees to have him go on watch with Parker that night.

The civilians are getting up in arms at the suggestion to send the kids away. Tom has to smooth things over yet again. Added to that, Ben's having some problems fitting in given many of the civilians don't want a razorback in their midst, feeling the Scitters are attacking because of them. Hal steps in to defend his brother.

Jimmy and Parker are on watch when a Mech shows up and blows the hell out of the bus they're in. Parker's killed, but Jimmy manages to make a break for it into the school, only to run into a Scitter. He's rescued at the last minute by Weaver. There are no other patrol ships spotted, so Weaver and Tom agree that it's time to follow Clayton's plan.

Ben has a chat with his father to convince him that sending them away is the most logical move, citing the exodus of British children during WWII as an example. Tom is leery of his motives, and needs to hear that Ben is happy to be back. Ben assures him he is.

So Tom tells the civilians he's sending his own kids ahead with Clayton and they should reunite with them in a day or two. Clayton will take the kids on foot in a small force, under the Scitter's radar. Mike will accompany them, along with two other men. Hal still isn't sure he can trust his brother, so asks Tom if he can go, too. He confesses that the morning their mother went missing, he and Ben got into a big fight.

Jimmy thanks Weaver for giving him another chance and they share a father/son moment, and Clayton heads off with the group, leaving Tom the map to the safe haven. They arrive at the peaceful farm, which seems like a paradise to what they've been used to.

Meanwhile, Clayton goes to a room and visits Eli (!) who wants to see his parents. So he takes him into the woods where a young girl is waiting. She says she'll take him on to his mom and dad, but Eli gets nervous. She leads him off anyway, but he pulls away, only to be stunned by a Scitter weapon. The alien comes out, and the harnessed girl addresses Clayton about their deal, asking how many he got. Enough, he says, and he's ordered to bring more children in a few days. The Scitter carries off Eli.

Clayton returns to the barn, where he thanks his captive for the helpful intel about the school and all the kids there. It was a good idea to keep him alive. It's Pope!

Weaver is getting their own camp ready to move, but Sarah is about ready to deliver. Maggie assures him they'll make sure she keeps up. Tom wants to go find Clayton given the escorts haven't come back and the Scitters haven't attacked yet. Weaver reluctantly lets him go, but wants him back.

At the sanctuary, everyone has settled in to the relaxed atmosphere and the kids are enjoying a game of soccer. Hal is being hit on by one of the girls, but her dad tells her not to like him too much. Jimmy isn't impressed with Ben being super-athlete and doesn't trust him.

Clayton takes their fighter escorts to the main road (to shoot them, as we later learn!). He and his cohort, flirty girl's dad, go to see Pope again, who thinks they're crazy to deal with the Scitters. Clayton tells him it's just about surviving. Pope had broken into their supply shed, which had led to his capture (and stabbed the guy's brother). When Clayton leaves, Pope manages to overpower the guy and gets away, but finds the two escorts Clayton shot.

Clayton plans to make the next kid exchange the following day. They all sit down to dinner, which is made awkward by Rick refusing to eat and insults Ben for eating their food. Ben walks off. Mike berates his son.

Lourdes helps flirty girl with the dishes, but finds a bag with Eli's name tag on it. She tells Mike and Hal. Mike tries not to make a big deal out of it, but Hal notices there are a lot of people guarding the barn and house, but not the sky or the road. Mike used to fight with Clayton, so he's not convinced.

He goes to the barn himself and has a look around, finding a whole bunch of clothes and belongings, including Eli's jacket. Clayton pulls his gun on him, explaining that when the 7th Mass went down, the Skitters tore them to pieces. A young girl with them fell behind and was harnessed, and the Scitters stayed away for a week. She showed up with a message, saying all they wanted were the kids. The Scitters have quotas too, so they made an arrangement to supply kids in return for immunity for his men and their families. The 3rd Mass' rendezvous and Porter's orders were all a lie to get them. He asks Mike to think it over.

Mike goes back and tells Hal everything and gets everyone together to make a break for it. They get pinned down outside the farm and Mike sends Rick away and sacrifices himself to give them a head start.

Tom returns to tell Weaver Clayton's map isn't right. They found no sign of the sanctuary. Weaver is reluctant to think about disobeying orders, but Tom tells him it smells like a set up and goes off in search.

Hal, Lourdes and the kids arrive in a town and set up in a house. They need to warn Tom, but Ben suggests he's the only one fit enough who can make the trek in enough time to get help. Hal pauses, but lets his brother go.

Sarah has a breached pregnancy, which alarms Anne given she's not a surgeon. But guess what? Weaver had his own, so knows all about home delivering breached babies. The two of them manage to deliver a healthy kid.

Ben is able to avoid Clayton's party and runs into his father on the road. He tells him when Hal and the kids are holed up, and then goes on back to camp to warn Weaver.

By the time Tom gets to the house, Clayton's men have arrived and have Hal and the kids pinned down inside. Pope fires on them from the woods, but Clayton's men manage to shoot him in the leg. That's when Tom shows up, asks why Pope is there, and then tells him to stand down while he goes to talk to Clayton. He tells them Pope is dead and orders the kids to come out to avoid bloodshed.

Everyone surrenders, so Tom and the kids are led back to the farm—where Weaver has already arrived, thanks to Ben saving the day. They secure Clayton and his men after shooting a couple. But Clayton is too much of a double-crosser, pulls another gun, and gets shot by Tom.

As for the collaborating civilians, Weaver takes their weapons but won't have them in the 2nd Mass. He sends them away and threatens to kill them if he finds they've been dealing with the Scitters. Jimmy makes nice with Ben now that he's the hero. Weaver thinks they have a few days given Clayton told the Scitters he'd secured their kids.

At Mike's funeral, Ricky seems aloof to the whole thing and doesn't understand how people can kill one another. It's in their nature—they being humans. Ben should understand that.

The Verdict:
The mystery surrounding the harnesses continues to hang in the background. Compare Rick's morose and near despair at being separated from the others to Ben's sudden maturity—Is he secretly trying to get them all back to the Scitters? It's really hard to tell, but it created some good tension wondering if Ben would run off and abandon them. Luckily he managed to save the day, but I'm sure that's not the end of the story.

The new reality of the collapse of civilization really made its appearance this week with the infighting among the survivors, the collaborators and the sense that everyone could easily betray one another in the right set of circumstances. Clayton came off as pretty slimy from the start, though. And it was poetic justice to know that Eli's dad came to a bad end after roughing up Anne.

Lourdes scored some major points by finding Eli's backpack and not talking about her religion at all. Even Pope's return brought a little bit of redemption for his character. Weaver and Jimmy's interesting relationship also felt quite genuine, with further insight into Weaver's family background. Both Tom and Weaver have evolved their leadership styles, realizing that there's a time and place for strict adherence to orders, and sometimes it has to be made up as they go along.

It looks like leaving Acton is a no-brainer for next episode. It's still a bit confusing why the Scitters just don't launch aerial assaults against the resistance, considering they're hanging around in the open all day. 

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