Falling Skies Season 1 ended with Tom Mason walking on board an alien mothership of his own free will, to the astonishment of Captain Weaver, as the 2nd Mass flees Boston. He thought he was sacrificing himself to save his son Ben, but it turned out to be a lie. The premiere episode of Season 2, “Worlds Apart,” throws us immediately into the action, three months later, opening with a skirmish between the remaining fighters from the 2nd Mass and Skitters and Mechs. As the aliens retreat, Hal orders his men, including his brother Ben, to fall back. But Ben can feel another Skitter lurking around and goes after it. He shoots the Skitter, but he also shoots a returned Tom. The boys help their wounded father back to the encampment, and Dr. Glass rushes him to surgery.
During Tom’s unconscious times, we experience some of his time on the spaceship and his journey to reunite with his sons and the 2nd Mass. On board the spaceship, Tom is tortured. Speaking through Karen, an alien Overlord offers Tom a deal — a “sanctuary” where the resistance fighters will be allowed to live their lives the way they want. It’s a solution from the history of the Earth. The aliens are just following human history with their solution. Tom points out that those moments were some of the worst of the Earth’s history. What does that make the aliens, who have killed billions? The Overlord replies “the ones who will decide if your world lives or dies”.
Tom refuses the offer, saying that their history has yet to be written, and attacks the alien, but is quickly subdued by the red-eyed Skitter (a Skitter featured in Season 1). Next time he’s aware, he’s being released from the ship. He wasn’t the only human captive on the ship. The aliens were holding representatives from each known resistance group. Each had refused the same offer of “sanctuary”. When the craft takes off, a Mech is revealed. Its obvious job is to execute them all as they flee. But it stops shooting and leaves, intentionally leaving Tom the only one alive.
Many members of the 2nd Mass, including Captain Weaver, are pleased at Tom’s return. But others aren’t sure of his loyalty and how the aliens may have influenced him, mainly Pope and his band, the Berserkers. In his view, a man who walks onto an alien mothership of his own free will and comes waltzing back three months later like nothing happened can’t be trusted. Even though the Captain wants to reinstate him as second in command, Tom doesn’t even trust himself. He has no knowledge of what the aliens might have done to him.
One moment in the episode I considered a great way to show how much things have changed is when Tom finds an abandoned car with a duffel full of money inside. Pleased with the find, Tom uses the money to build a fire that night. A storytelling element I liked is that things happened during the time Tom was on the spaceship. Time didn’t stand still for the 2nd Mass. Many references are made to battles in the past three months the 2nd Mass has fought with the aliens. The resistance group lost more than 100 of its 300 members. Since then, they’ve spent their time moving around, hiding from the aliens search for the rest, and trying to rebuild their supplies and morale.
Each episode centers on a “problem of the moment”, a simple dilemma the group must solve which is magnified by the battle with the aliens and crucial to their continued survival. In “Worlds Apart”, the aliens are targeting the vehicles, using infrared to track the engine heat. If the 2nd Mass can’t be mobile, they can’t hide from the alien enemy. A way must be found to “hide” the vehicles from the aliens. One of the elements I enjoy about Falling Skies is that the characters do find solutions to these dilemmas giving resolution and usually a sort of “happy ending” to each episode. It’s a standard storytelling structure, and can be predictable in the outcome, but it’s nice to have some victory moments mixed in with the heavy drama.
In episode 2, “Shall We Gather at the River”, the problem is the 2nd Mass must cross the only bridge left over a river to prevent being trapped by enemy forces. Tom continues to have flashbacks of his time with the aliens. There’s a segment with Tom and Dr. Glass where the only purpose is “let’s get Tom and new viewers up to speed on what basically happened in Season 1 and how it ended and this is what has happened in the three months since”. Ben tries to deal with the guilt over shooting his father. Captain Weaver is willing to trust Tom and wants to reinstate him to his former position as second in command. Tom discovers changes in the people of the group, mostly in his three sons whom he doesn’t fully know or understand anymore. Hal is developing into a respected leader, respected by all his men except his younger brother. The “improvements” the aliens made to Ben after his capture have enabled him to do certain physical activities at a superhuman level. Plus he can sense the Skitters. He’s conflicted between pride in his skills and his hatred for the aliens and what they did to him, turning him into a “freak”. Matt, the youngest, is being toughened by life in the 2nd Mass and longs to be one of the fighters, a life Tom never wanted for him.
Dr. Glass pulls a parasite-like creature from inside Tom’s eye. Tom is worried he might sabotage the efforts to cross the bridge and requests to be restrained. Because of his abilities, Ben is selected for a special scouting mission on the other side of the river. He finds a crashed drone, follows the path it was flying and discovers the location of an alien base. The alien “bug” that had been inside Tom has a few tricks. It escapes from the med bus and returns to its alien master, the red-eyed Skitter.
Hal and Maggie are tasked with taking out the control system for the alien drone ships, so the 2nd Mass can cross the bridge without being attacked. All is going well until the medical bus gets stuck on the wooden bridge. Our hero Tom must save the day, possibly at the expense of his own life, when Pope is the only one willing to blow the bridge before Tom is safely across. Just as the members of the group are beginning to lose hope that Tom survived the explosion, he walks out of the river.
Neither viewers nor the other characters know exactly what the aliens want to use Tom for, but his love for his family and the 2nd Mass still overrides anything else.