Having said goodbye to Ben in the previous episode, “Death March” picks up with Tom and the 2nd Mass pushing forwards to Charleston. One of the disappointing aspects of the Falling Skies brand of post-apocalyptic serial has been the distinct lack of movement between locations. It’s something that really contributed to Carnivale‘s narrative and visual storytelling, so it was pleasing to spend time ‘shaking dust’ with the 2nd Mass.
But was it time well spent?
The episode focused on a handful of storylines within the journey to Charleston, including Maggie revealing her ‘big bad’ secrets to Hal, Tector’s backstory revelations, and the brief arrival of Harness Girl.
I’ll start out by saying that I have big problems with the whole Charleston storyline. The way it was introduced now seems even more clunky because of the group’s distinct lack of balanced reasoning as to what awaits them in the promised land, let alone whether it even exists. Sure, Weaver previously voiced his concerns about having been ‘promised paradise before’, but since then only a sarcastic Pope has expressed the kind of caution I’d expect.
I like the fact that the group has some sense of purpose, and having hope is of course never a bad thing, even if it manifests into blind hope. But it hasn’t been conveyed in a way that makes me buy into their journey. There are supposedly over 100 people in this group, yet it seems like they’ve put very little thought into their deus ex machina. As a result, the plot device of getting the group from A to B is all too apparent.
Speaking of A and B, the Weaver/Tector pairing seemed rather awkward, I don’t particularly recall them having too many conversations before now. Still, Tector’s been one of the more successful new arrivals, so on one level it was pleasing to see his character come to the fore as we learned about his scarred military past and the impact of losing Boon (RIP). However, I thought DOCTOR Weaver’s sudden interest came off rather forced. Perhaps he needs a new Jimmy?
The Maggie, Hal and Pope thread was also a mixed bag. On the plus side, we learned more about Maggie’s troubled past and how she has found hope even in difficult times (Karen be damned). However, the episode struggled to juggle emotionality with plot. It’s difficult to overlook the contrivance of stopping for water on the instruction of Pope, of all people. Of course, it was purely to facilitate the later ‘plot twist’, as well as giving Pope some alone time with Maggie so that he could press all of her buttons at the same time.
It was disappointing to see Maggie (one gun this time, though she’ll always be Two Guns to me) rise to the bait, though I guess it helps illustrate that she’s still very vulnerable, which can make for interesting storytelling. My main problem was the way in which her ‘big bad’ secret was built up only to disappoint when she confessed to Hal that she’s served time in a correctional facility and is a mother. Hal’s reaction was also a little disappointing from a character point of view. It’s fair that he’d have a reaction to the news, though given the circumstances of the world and his obvious feelings for Maggie, it would have been nice of him to not make his discomfort so obvious. At the same time, at least Maggie knows where she stands with Hal (who isn’t exactly a closed book), and in fairness to him he seemed to make amends later.
But the episode loses serious points in the execution of the Harness Girl storyline which just wasn’t allowed room to breathe. Again, there are aspects to be appreciated, like the thematic parallels between her condition and that of Ben’s and the way the group has essentially ostracised him, and I guess it gave us a bit more insight into the advanced effects of the harness. But it seemed repetitive (ANOTHER potential enemy agent, REALLY guys!?), highlighted the fact that Weaver is a terrible leader, while her mostly-off-screen brother could have been executed more effectively.
The episode culminates with Weaver contradicting his earlier Tector pep talk by feeling sorry for himself after their Charleston disappointment — and I get the circular idea with Tec paying it back, but it just seemed like another fickle Weaver moment. Thankfully, his gunshot-inspired speech alerted the nearby Colonel
Strawberry Porter who has never been more alive.
While the ‘twist’ was disappointing as it undercut Weaver’s otherwise inspiring speech, it was an important development that the show desperately needed. Charleston wasn’t a bust after all, in fact it’s the strawberry capital of the United States of America. But they were just in Charleston and nothing was there? As Porter notes: “looks can be deceiving”. Anyone who’s seen the sneak peek for the next episode will have an idea of where this new bedrock is located, and it’s not a far leap, especially if you’re a V fan.
NOTES OF RESISTANCE
- I could have done without the flashback to Tom saying goodbye to Ben, but it served the purpose of connecting his present state of mind with recent events. It’s also interesting to see the show’s continued revision of its zero flashback policty. I just think flashbacks are best served to deliver new information, but there you go.
- Pope has kids, how about that. Are they alive? Is he the father of Maggie’s child?
- It’s good to see that Laurdes didn’t forget about Jamil overnight. She’s actually been one of the better characters this season.
- We should also RIP that guy who died in this episode, though I don’t think the rest of the 2nd Mass care.
- Did Tector really not see the decimated bridge from a distance? One of many slam the breaks moments in this episode.
- For a moment there, Tom really had some problems: Ben missing, Hal AWOL, and his 9-year old just made out his will. Yikes. Still, at least everyone has forgotten that he had an alien implant in his eye not so long ago. Lord Tom gets a pass where others don’t.
- Nice line from Anne: “We’re all just a heartbeat away from death, we always have been”. I wish I felt that was true as it would increase the stakes, but I appreciate the sentiment.
- I think Dai had about three words in this episode, which is an improvement on recent times, it has to be said.
- Pope’s reaction to Porter’s patrol (“Come and get it”) was a bit strange.
I struggled with this episode and my faith in the show isn’t as strong as I’d like it to be. That said, the latest development, as awkwardly as it was delivered, is a necessary and promising move. I just hope Weaver shares those strawberries!
7/10 Seriable Stars