“Homecoming” was certainly one of the best episodes so far in this 2nd season of “Falling Skies.” For the first time in a while there were twists and turns from start to finish that created a fast-paced and exciting ride that kept viewers hooked the whole way through. The return of a character that had been mostly forgotten was a smart move by the writers that mixed things up and definitely added tension to a handful of other problems that the 2nd Mass was already dealing with. “Homecoming” was an example of what this show is capable of being and hopefully is a sign of more exciting episodes to come.
The opening scene shows Tom and Anne waking up together in one of the rooms at the hospital. As they talk about what Tom misses about pre-alien times, he accidentally mentions his dead wife, Rebecca. But Anne takes it well, insisting that there’s no need to apologize for bringing her up. Tom talks about Weaver lecturing him about being late and does a rather spot-on impression of Weaver’s raspy, old-man voice. I found this particularly amusing, since I like to do an impression myself while quoting things Weaver has said in past episodes (like “Alright, you’ve said yeh piece,” and “I shoulda been payin’ better attenshin!”). Tom says goodbye to Anne and heads off for Weaver’s briefing.
Weaver begins his lecture by scolding the soldiers of the 2nd Mass for growing lazy and slacking off during their stay at the hospital. But before he finishes reprimanding them all, Weaver is racked by a violent seizure that throws him into the wall and causes him to shake violently. When Tom and the others rush to his side, they notice that his skin has taken on an unhealthy red appearance. They grab Weaver and run him to the ICU where Anne awaits.
Anne reveals that Weaver’s condition is a result of his infected harness bite, which seems to be poisoning him as it festers. Tom is upset that Anne hasn’t told him about Weaver’s health issue before today’s fiasco, but she insists that Weaver forced her to keep it a secret. Now that Tom has assumed command of the 2nd Mass in Weaver’s absence, he orders them to prepare to disembark so that they can get Weaver to Charlestown before it’s too late.
Weaver’s sudden and violent seizure was a gripping way to begin the episode and set the pace for all the trouble to come. At the first sign of trouble—his shaking hand—it’s assumed that this is just more of his often-seen jitters problem (possibly a sign of early Parkinsons or a similar disease). But it quickly becomes clear that this is much more, especially when he is forcefully thrown against the wall, as if shoved by some invisible monster. It was also enjoyable to see the writers follow up on Weaver being bitten by that harness a few episodes ago, which was something the show could have easily brushed off and forgotten about. This tense Weaver scene was also a great lead-in to the equally shocking twist in the following scene with Maggie and Hal.
While Maggie and Hal walk through the woods together on patrol, they start discussing their relationship. Hal knows that Maggie likes him, but she’s still adamant about them not being together. Just as the audience begins to settle down from the previous Weaver scene and prepare for a calming romantic scene, Hal and Maggie find a body buried in a pile of leaves. They soon uncover a number of other bodies, all of which are children that have been de-harnessed. Finally, they come across the body of none other than Karen, who comes gasping back to life when Hal lifts her up off the ground.
Seeing Karen’s face when Hal turned her over was one of those, “Oh, damn!” moments, something that “Falling Skies” doesn’t usually have too much of. It seemed like the writers had basically written Karen’s character off, even with her brief appearance in the first episode of the season where she was on the alien ship with Tom. Fans of the show had probably wondered why Karen was being kept around, and why the actress that plays her was still showing up to interviews and Q&A sessions with the rest of the cast. But tonight it was all finally explained, as Karen returned in a big way that was undoubtedly going to shake things up with the 2nd Mass.
When Hal returns to the hospital carrying Karen in his arms, Ben warns against putting her in the ICU with the rest of the 2nd Mass’ patients. Tom heeds the warning and sends Karen to the psych ward, where she is put in a guarded room and attended to by Anne. It’s not long before Karen comes around, and she seems perfectly normal. Tom questions her about the other dead kids and why she’s been de-harnessed, but Karen can’t remember much and doesn’t know why she was de-harnessed beyond the fact that she must have “served her purpose” for the aliens. Ben still doesn’t trust Karen, despite Hal’s remarks about how Ben himself used to be harnessed and now he seems fine. Ben decides to stay with Karen to try and figure out what’s going on.
Meanwhile, Anne and Lourdes have come up with a plan to possibly save Weaver’s life. By extracting his blood and heating it up, they could kill whatever parasites are infecting his blood before proceeding to cool the blood and return it to his body. Tom gives Jamil, the 2nd Mass engineer/mechanic, the task of assembling a machine that could carry out this blood purification plan. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get crazier, a 2nd Mass scout arrives with another surprise.
While searching for more fuel, a scout stumbled upon Anthony and a wounded Pope. Anthony tells Tom that he and Pope were attacked by a large force of mechs and skitters, and that they were running away when they got hit by mech fire. Pope went down, so Anthony picked him up and dragged him out of the battle. Anne evaluates Pope’s condition and tells Tom that he doesn’t have any lethal injuries.
The reappearance of Anthony and Pope was another surprise that came before we even had the time to catch our breath from the Karen debacle. Pope’s return, even in his weakened state, poses lots of questions and problems for the 2nd Mass. He could be staging an elaborate plan to ambush the group and take them down, making him just as much of a threat as Karen may be. If he and Anthony were attacked not far from the hospital, what does that mean about the proximity of the aliens to where the 2nd Mass is currently hiding out? How will Tom handle Pope’s reappearance? The writers’ deciding to bring Pope back into the picture while so much else is going on was a great play and helped make “Homecoming” such an action-packed episode.
As Ben spends some quality alone time with Karen, we finally get a better idea of what capabilities the de-harnessed kids have. Karen tells Ben about overhearing conversations about Weaver’s fragile condition and the lack of fuel, despite being confined to her room the whole time. Plus, she now has super-human strength, which she demonstrates by lifting her bed effortlessly with one hand. Things get even weirder when Karen and Ben get close and their spikes light up, which for some reason leads them to kiss.
This scene between Ben and Karen was just as enlightening as it was confusing. Finally it was made clear that de-harnessed kids exhibit enhanced abilities, which explained previous references to Ben’s heightened skills (like endurance and strength). Karen’s ability to eavesdrop on far away conversations was another revelation that could have serious repercussions. But in addition to giving us this new information, there was also the unexplained sudden connection between Karen and Ben and the whole scenario with them kissing each other. Obviously their mutual situation of being previously harnessed had something to do with it, but other than that, little was explained.
Right on cue, Hal arrives in time to see Karen and Ben kissing, and he storms into the room to break it up. After yelling at Ben, Hal confides in Maggie, who actually takes Ben’s side in all of this. Maggie seems positive that Karen is not the one who needs help, Ben is. She goes to pay Karen a visit and tells the guard that she’ll take over for him. Once the guard leaves, Maggie draws her pistols and aims them squarely at Karen. She tells Karen to get lost and leave the 2nd Mass alone. Karen doesn’t take too kindly to the threat. She flips over Maggie like a crazed Olympic gymnast before picking Maggie up and throwing her against the wall.
When Ben comes running, Karen plays the victim and he (idiotically) believes her and trusts her. Ben talks about going someplace with Karen where the 2nd Mass will leave them alone, then takes her to the roof. But before they can leave, Hal catches up to them and confronts them. Ben disarms Hal and puts him in a sleeper hold, knocking him out. With Hal out of the way, Ben and Karen jump off the roof (landing 2-3 floors below, unharmed) and run off into the woods.
Back in the ICU, Weaver’s blood-purification procedure turns out to be a success, and he soon regains consciousness. Just as Tom is sharing a laugh with Weaver and the rest of the crew, someone comes in to tell him that Pope is awake and going crazy. When Tom gets to him, Pope gives him the bad news: the aliens know where they are and they’re coming for Ben. Upon hearing this, Tom checks on Karen and finds a battered and bruised Maggie on the floor of her room. He then heads to the roof to find Hal in a similarly disposed state. As Tom tries to revive Hal on the roof, the last shot we see is Ben and Karen running through the woods as their spikes glow together.
The only problem with “Homecoming” was how easily Ben changed his mind. The entire time that he’s been de-harnessed and back with the 2nd Mass, he’s been hell-bent on killing aliens whenever he can get the chance. He’s always been going on and on about how angry he is at them and his little skitter-hunting disaster even got Jimmy killed. And yet, after one kiss with Karen, his mind seems completely changed. Though it wasn’t specifically said that Ben and Karen were headed back to the aliens, whatever they’re doing together seems to go against everything he’s said and done up to this point. It just seemed very out of character for him to change his tune that quickly.
All in all, “Homecoming” turned out to be an action-packed episode that kept bringing twist after twist and didn’t rest until the credits rolled. This is what we want out of our “Falling Skies” episodes! The return of Karen was surprising and exciting and gave the episode an additional layer of tension and suspense. Plus, the jeopardy of possibly losing Weaver created higher stakes that only got higher with the return of Pope and the bad news that he brought with him. Judging by the teaser for next week’s episode, we can expect more of the same in the upcoming episode. Now that “Falling Skies” has set the bar to where it needs to be, it has to continue bringing it’s A game and avoid regressing back to its weaker episodes.