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FALLING SKIES 2.09 ‘The Price of Greatness’

The 2ND Mass learns that life in Charleston isn't what they hoped for as Tom challenges the leadership of his mentor.

Episode Title: "The Price of Greatness"

Writer: Mark Verheiden
 
Director: Adam Kane

Previously on "Falling Skies":

Episode 2.08 "Death March"

Story:

Much to the amazement of the 2ND Mass, Colonel Porter (Dale Dye) leads them into an underground mall that serves as the home for the survivors of Charleston. As Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and the rest take in the sight, several hundred people applaud them for their efforts. As the 2ND Mass settles in for a hot meal, Captain Weaver (Will Patton) runs into his daughter, Jeanne (Laci J. Mailey), who hints that something happened to her boyfriend, Diego and their friends. But Jeannie doesn't immediately open up about the subject. At the same time, John Pope (Colin Cunningham) assures his Berserkers that they won't be staying long.

As he shares a meal with Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), Tom is approached by Arthur Manchester (Terry O'Quinn), Tom's former instructor and mentor at Boston college. Arthur explains that he's in charge of the provisional government or at least the "majority leader" rather than taking the title of President. Meanwhile, Weaver and Tector (Ryan Robbins) are escorted to General Bressler (Matt Frewer), the man in charge of Charleston's military forces. Weaver is not only surprised when Tector introduces himself to Bressler with his real name and Marine rank, but also when Porter is dismissed when he tries to back Weaver up and form a plan to strike back at the aliens.

In private, Bressler explains that Arthur has a stranglehold on power and the loyalty of his followers, who don't want to engage the aliens any more. Before they can discuss it further, Hal Mason (Drew Roy) calls Weaver over to a near riot as the 2ND Mass rebels against being forcibly disarmed and separated. Although Porter promises to back Weaver up if he decides not to go along with Charleston's rules, both Weaver and Tom come to the conclusion that they can't simply think about the 2ND Mass alone… now that they are part of a community again. So, the 2ND Mass complies and gives up their arms.

The next morning, Tom and Anne wake up together and find that Tom has been invited to see Arthur in private. Once reunited with his former student, Arthur excitedly lays out his plans for creating a new American government with Tom by his side. He asks for Tom's support in an upcoming vote on his leadership, which Tom agrees to provide. However, Tom gets a decidedly frosty reaction when he tells Arthur about the skitter rebellion and suggests that they should join forces against the Overlords. Arthur urges Tom not to bring it up again or else it might incite panic. Later, Weaver finds Jeannie again and she tells him about how she and Diego were separated.

Jeannie also tells her father that she traveled to Charleston alone, but she couldn't convince Arthur to send out a patrol to find her friends. She states her intention to speak out against Arthur at the gathering the next day and Weaver promises to support her. In the medical area, Anne and Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) are briefly happy about their new facilities until one of the current doctors rudely tries to force his duties onto Anne. Later, Tom and Anne both note that the people of Charleston act like the aliens have already left Earth. Down below, Pope, Lyle (Brad Kelly) and Crazy Lee (Luciana Carro) begin casing the weapons stash; which doesn't go unnoticed by Maggie (Sarah Sanguin Carter). So, Maggie swipes a gun for later use.

In their quarters, Tom finds Anne patching up his youngest son, Matt (Maxim Knight); who admits that he started a fight with a kid who claimed that Tom and the 2ND Mass were alien collaborators and cowards. Late at night, Pope and his Berserkers begin carrying out their plan to rob the armory when Maggie confronts them with a gun to make sure they don't ruin things for the 2ND Mass. In turn, Maggie is held at gunpoint by Tector and several of Bressler's men. Tector even shoots Lyle when he charges him before Pope, Maggie and the Berserkers are all disarmed and led away. 

The next day, Tom tells Arthur to release Maggie, since she only tried to stop the robbery. Tom even argues that the Berserkers should be kept around because they are useful fighters. However, Arthur doesn't grant any clemency because he doesn't want to look weak before the vote. Hal visits Maggie in the holding cells, but she tries to break off their relationship because she wasn't happy with his non response to her criminal past. At the meeting, Jeannie respectfully speaks out against Arthur, earning scattered applause. Arthur then introduces Tom as the hero of the 2ND Mass, expecting a rousing message of support.

Instead, Tom takes the spotlight to argue that they can not give up the fight against the aliens and he even uses Arthur's own words against him. Before Tom can finish his speech, he is told that a deharnessed boy has been found outside; and he claims to have a message for Tom. The boy turns out to be a kid named, Marshall (Cainan Wiebe); who says that the Red Eyed skitter wants to meet and share some recent intelligence. However, Arthur instantly vetoes the meeting and angrily berates Tom for not revealing that his own son, Ben Mason (Connor Jessup) was part of the skitter rebellion. Arthur also takes Tom's speech as a personal betrayal before accusing him of colluding with Bressler to undermine him.

Arthur meets with Pope in hopes of getting dirt on Tom. But Pope refuses on the grounds that if anyone will tear down Tom Mason, it's going to be him. Meanwhile, Hal and other members of the 2ND Mass break Maggie and Marshall out of the holding cells. Hal also tells Maggie that he doesn't care about her bad girl past. Weaver, Tom and Porter are all in on the plot to meet with the rebel skitters, but Bressler and his men quickly surround and arrest them. Faced with a crisis of conscience, Tector insists that he be detained alongside his comrades in the 2ND Mass. Bressler also seems conflicted, but unwilling to move against Arthur.

Every member of the 2ND Mass is forcibly rounded up, including Anne, Lourdes and Matt as Arthur clings to his power. However, Tom and Weaver are shocked when Bressler and his men free them from custody and lock Arthur up before seizing control of Charleston and declaring martial law. Bressler says that Tom can make his meeting with the rebel skitters if he signs up immediately. Pope laughs and taunts Tom and Weaver for leading them into a military coup.

Breakdown:

For about the first half hour of this week's "Falling Skies," I thought that Terry O'Quinn's Arthur Manchester was going to be a much needed adversary who could be sympathetic despite having a grey morality. But soon enough, Arthur slipped into a cartoonish and one dimensional characterization that was only salvaged by O'Quinn's performance. It's not perfect by any means, but O'Quinn almost manages to make it work.

On the opposite side of the coin, Tom Mason seemed to get the best scripted moments and Noah Wyle made the most of them, as always. Tom's speech to the Charleston crowd was well scripted and Wyle delivered his lines with conviction. Moon Bloodgood also got a rare chance to show a tougher side of her character when the heart doctor tried to dump his young patients on Anne. That's the Anne I want to see more of and I still enjoy seeing Tom and Anne together as a couple.

Less convincing as a couple are Hal and Maggie, who had some painfully written exchanges about last week's revelations regarding her past. Maggie's history worked best when the details were nebulous and undefined. Now that we know her secrets, they don't seem to be worth dwelling on. Hopefully they won't come up again. "Falling Skies" also fell back onto its greatest weakness: writing for children. Maybe Maxim Knight gets more than his share of criticism, but almost all of Matt's scenes this year have been excruciatingly bad. I am truly mystified by the way that the writers of this show don't realize that it just doesn't work when they put any focus on Matt. 

Thank god for John Pope. It could be argued that Pope is a little one dimensional himself, but Colin Cunningham is just so much fun in the role that it's hard to hold it against him. I loved the way that Pope made sure to get more wine while refusing Arthur's attempt to get the dirt on Tom. Pope can be really funny without making his scenes feel like a farce. If there's anyone on this show who is safe besides Tom Mason, it has to be John Pope. He brings too much life to the show and it would be a massive mistake to ever write him out or kill him off before the series is over.

It was good to see Laci J. Mailey back as Weaver's daughter, Jeanne; especially as her previous exit from the series wasn't very satisfying. Jeannie should either stay with her father or be written out entirely. Bringing her back only to let her leave again is going to lose its effectiveness pretty quickly. Among the new additions to the cast this week, Matt Frewer showed a lot of promise as Bressler. Given that O'Quinn has a new ABC series coming up this fall, it seems likely that Frewer has a bigger chance of sticking around as Bressler. And Frewer seems to be well suited for the role, at least in his first appearance.

I was almost ready to dismiss the ending of this episode as a Deus Ex Machina for the relatively easy way that Tom, Weaver and the rest of the 2ND Mass were freed by Bressler. But in retrospect, the writer did seed Bressler's conflict with Arthur throughout the episode, so he earned that turn. For the penultimate episode of the season, "The Price of Greatness" didn't exactly have the biggest cliffhanger. But at least the setup is intriguing.