Even though “Compass” featured some of the show’s most laughable moments yet, a new purpose for the 2nd Mass was established and finally gave “Falling Skies” some sense of direction—at least for now. Until this latest episode, our band of survivors have been doing just that, surviving. Though there’s been plenty of focus on the characters, little has really happened plot-wise, as the group simply moves from place to place trying not to get killed. But in “The Compass,” an outsider brings news that has the potential to make “Falling Skies” more interesting.
“The Compass” opens with the leaders of the 2nd Mass—Tom Mason and Captain Weaver —arguing about what the group of survivors should do next. Weaver wants them to head into the Catskill Mountains and hunker down for the winter, while Tom insists that such a move would be seen as a sign of defeat by the aliens. Unfortunately for Tom, Weaver is the captain and commander of the 2nd Mass, and he over-rules Tom’s warnings and plans to lead the band of survivors into the mountains.
As Tom leaves his meeting with Weaver, Pope and his Berserker group kidnap him and bring him into the woods. Pope tells Tom that, after finding out there was a parasite in Tom’s head, the people of the 2nd Mass don’t trust him. He gives Tom the option of leaving willingly, or being forced out. But before Pope can make a move, Ben and Jimmy (who were out on patrol nearby) swoop in and rescue Tom from the Berserkers.
This scene highlights one of the most laughable aspects of “Falling Skies.” Ben. A combination of poor writing and poor acting means that almost everything Ben says and does is just hard to take seriously. When he and Jimmy save Tom from the Berserkers, he warns Pope that Jimmy, “won’t miss next time!” The way he delivers the line and just the line itself was comical, in a scene that isn’t supposed to be funny at all. This kind of thing happens quite a bit in “Compass.”
After the kidnapping fiasco, Weaver wants to kick Pope out of the 2nd Mass. But Tom insists that Pope is still a valuable asset to them, and instead suggests that Weaver assign him to the Berserkers so that he can more easily keep an eye on Pope. Weaver agrees, and they tell Pope and his band of soldiers about the decision. The entire group shares a cliche communal laugh that comes across as fake and overacted.
Now, back to bashing Ben. If “Compass” made one thing clear, it was how annoying and stupid Ben can be. While out hunting skitters with Jimmy, Ben’s bloodlust for skitters makes him run out from under their cover and engage in physical combat with the aliens. His idiocy leads to Jimmy being impaled to a tree by a skitter stake through the gut. Ben is unable to help Jimmy at first because one of the skitters puts him in some kind of trance while the alien spines on his back light up with blue light. Eventually he recovers and helps Jimmy back to camp where Anne and Lourdes try to save his life.
When Weaver finds out that Ben and Jimmy weren’t patrolling but rather hunting skitters down and killing them, he freaks. In another bout of over-the-top and accidentally-humorous acting, Weaver mulls around his tent slamming his fists into things and punching his locker. He blames Ben’s poor decisions on himself because he was the one who put Ben on patrols in the first place.
As the 2nd Mass waits to hear about Jimmy’s condition, an old-school biplane flies in and lands at the abandoned airfield where they’ve set up camp. The pilot is Avery Churchill, a survivor from Charleston, South Carolina, who has been searching for any scattered resistance forces spread out across the U.S. Avery’s mission is to spread the word about the new capital that has been established in Charleston and encourage any militia she finds to head there to join forces with the 3,000 survivors already there. Tom is enthusiastic about heading for Charleston, but Weaver is skeptical and still thinks the Catskills is a better place for the 2nd Mass. Eventually, Weaver is convinced that Charleston is the best plan they’ve got and gives orders for the group to head that way.
Finally, the 2nd Mass has some kind of direction to head in! Recently “Falling Skies” had grown stale as the survivors of the 2nd Mass have just tried to stay alive. They haven’t been heading anywhere, they haven’t attempted to rebuild civilization, they haven’t really gone on the offense against the aliens – they’ve been simply moving from spot to spot, trying not to get killed. And though the show prides itself on being more about the characters then the aliens and action sequences, the characters haven’t been strong enough to support the entire show. Sure there have been romances blossoming, but every episode has started to feel the same: the 2nd mass finds a place to hide until the aliens find them, they fight their way out to another hiding spot, then the aliens find them again. Rinse and repeat.
So this new mission to get to Charleston could be a breath of fresh air for “Falling Skies.” Once they arrive in Charleston, there’s great potential to dig into what kind of government is set up there and what kind of state the country is in as a whole. Is the president alive? Did some section of the U.S. armed forces manage to survive? The answers to these questions could be exciting, and it will be intriguing to see what “the new capital” looks like.
But back to “Compass,” in which Tom and Pope get into a bloody fight over Jimmy’s compass (which Pope stole). The scuffle causes Pope to leave the 2nd Mass and take Anthony with him, who promises Tom and Weaver to keep an eye on Pope for them. Meanwhile, Jimmy doesn’t make it (aw, shucks) so the survivors gather around his grave for a funeral service.
After the funeral, Weaver lingers by Jimmy’s grave and encounters Ben. Ben gives Jimmy’s compass back to Weaver (it was his originally) and proceeds to cry like a little girl in yet another painful-to-watch Ben scene. Finally, the episode concludes with Ben hanging out alone in the woods and a skitter stopping by to mess with his glowing blue spines again, before taking off at the sound of Hal’s approaching motorcycle.
Besides the new possibilities of Charleston and the 2nd Mass heading for it, “Compass” had little to offer. The show lost one of it’s most amusing characters, Pope, as he left the 2nd Mass, but chances are he’ll be back sooner than later. Ben had one of his most annoying episodes yet, which means the story-line about his strange alien spines is likely to be painfully drawn out through this new season. And Jimmy the soldier-boy kicked the bucket after picking a fight with the wrong skitter.