Risk Assessment
S2 episode 9 Aired on March 3, 2018

With Tom Dolan’s Shadowman closing in on Taka, Tess, Burton, Alex, and the ones they love (Alex’s girlfriend, Christy, begins this episode in the hospital after Dolan forced her to cut herself and throw her body through a glass coffee table in her sleep), time is of the essence to bring justice to Sabine and the rest of his and Taylor Bennett’s victims. But as is often the case with Falling Water, it isn’t quite that straightforward nor simple. Catch our recap of season two episode nine, “Risk Assessment,” below. 

Tom is finally caught and arrested by Taka and Alex

Our two favorite homicide detectives haven’t been doing much sleeping since Shadowman came into the picture, and with good reason. Now they can (at least temporarily) rest easy with Tom behind bars. It begins with Taka infiltrating Emily’s dream. As Tom’s daughter, she’s the most likely candidate to bring them to Tom. And better yet, when they do connect in the real world, that would be cause for Tom’s arrest due to the restraining order Emily’s mother instated.

Within Emily’s dream, Taka interrogates her about her father’s whereabouts, but she doesn’t know anything. He goes on to show her the violent murders he’s committed through others, and effectively terrifies Emily to the point where she runs away—but in real life, she runs away, too. She sleepwalks her way straight into oncoming traffic, and if Alex wasn’t with Taka patrolling her Bronx home, they’d all be in trouble.

The next morning, Alex is shaken by Taka’s newfound abilities to control or incite action from people from within their dreams, but Taka brushes her concerns aside to focus on the real-world plan: To shake Emily up enough to get her to call her dad and meet up somewhere. (He also shuts Burton down when he expresses similar worries: “Look, if Dolan took everything from you, you’d be doing all of this and more.” Sure enough, though, it works, and Tom and his daughter are meeting in a Manhattan cafe some days after. That alone is grounds to make an arrest, and Taka swoops in. But before he comes into view and sends Tom bolting out of the cafe, Emily confronts Tom about her nightmare: “You looked different. You’re tall and skinny, and your face is all stretched and broken. But it’s you, isn’t it?” she asks. “I’m so sorry peanut, I never wanted you to see me like that,” Tom responds, crying. “You have to believe me. Everything I ever did, I did for you.”

Before they can have full closure though, Emily sees Taka coming up to the cafe and tells Tom to run. Taka and Alex catch him on foot and make the arrest for breaking his restraining order and for resisting arrest; it’s a temporary fix for their greater issues, but the fact that they have him behind bars, even temporarily, is a major victory. Alex wants to “kill him” and “destroy him,” saying that he shouldn’t be allowed to walk free, but Taka’s convinced that they’ll get something on him that puts him away forever. “He should hope so,” Alex says, threateningly. Later, she visits Christy in the hospital and tells her about the Shadowman’s dreaming abilities, which leaves Christy even more distraught and helpless in her hospital bed. “I’m going to make him pay for this, I swear to you I will,” Alex says.

Despite being on Taylor Bennett’s hit list, Woody weasels his way into gaining her trust and striking a deal

You read that right: Even after she sent the Shadowman to take Woody out, Taylor Bennett is persuaded to work with him once again—for a price. Woody approaches Taylor and with data gathered from Bill Boerg’s dröm technology, tells her that he can help her broker a deal to the highest bidder for the most powerful dreamer he’s ever seen: Dreamer 126 (whom she doesn’t know is actually Tess). Taylor lights up with excitement at the prospect, knowing just how much money some would spend to harness the sort of power reflected in Bill’s data. Woody also tells Taylor that he’s working with Burton and Taka with plans to deceive and undermine them. (But it later becomes clear that he told her those details to gain her trust, but that he’s actually with the good guys—for now.)

While she clearly doesn’t trust Woody implicitly (she hires an escort to follow him, but he soon catches on and sets her in her place), Taylor follows the smell of money into brokering a meeting between herself, Woody, and a representative of one Dr. Stan Ginsburg, who we later learn is a legendary dream research pioneer—but more on that in a bit. The representative on his behalf, it turns out, is Jeremy from Maine. Is Dr. Ginsburg the same person who was trying to acquire Tess before? At this meeting in a public square in Manhattan, Burton and Tess are also on-hand, watching from afar and ready to follow and track Jeremy. When Woody sends Jeremy away demanding more money (to Taylor’s reluctance), Burton takes a gadget from his Russian pal Dimitri and follows Jeremy down the sidewalk, wirelessly tapping into his phone and, eventually, gaining the access to track all of Jeremy’s texts, calls, and location. That information comes in handy when later that night, Burton and Tess follow him to his hotel ...

Tess and Burton follow Jeremy to Dr. Ginsburg—and get caught

Tess still doesn’t trust Woody (or Bill, for that matter), but she knows the only way to get the answers she needs and to bring down the people who need to be brought down is to accept their help and stick with Taka and Burton. That’s how she ends up in the public square that afternoon, and that’s how she ends up joining Burton in tracking Jeremy back to his hotel and infiltrating his dream.

When they first dive in, Jeremy is dreaming that he is in a cowboy bar and the star mechanical bull rider; the ladies are fawning over him when Dr. Ginsburg suddenly appears. The purpose of the meeting is for Jeremy to speak with him about upping their offer for Taylor and Woody’s mysterious Dreamer 126, but Ginsburg declines; he refuses to do business with Taylor.

“Losing Tess was a big blow,” Ginsburg says, disappointingly, but Jeremy maintains that she “isn’t the only one who could help us reach our goals.” What those goals are, however, is unclear. But Dr. Ginsburg simply says that Jeremy should forget about Bennett and her dreamer and instead focus on finding Tess, whom he believes is still in New York. He also warns Jeremy that he’d been followed into his dream, and then he disappears.

All action in the bar freezes as Jeremy tries to suss out who followed him, and Tess quickly wakes up to get herself out from being caught, but Burton stays back and Jeremy finds him easily enough. He instructs two cowboys to hold Burton tight while he breaks a bottle and gets ready to slice his throat, but Burton wakes up in the hotel bed next to Tess in the nick of time. They hold each other, panting.

“They’re still looking for me, apparently—Jeremy, and whoever this Dr. Ginsburg is.” She’s exhausted and exasperated. “I thought if we could take down Taylor Bennett then we’d finally be safe. But this web, it just keeps expanding. There’s always someone else.” Burton assures her that he’s not going to stop until she’s safe and he’s stopped every last one of those “bastards.” He says that “some things are worth fighting for,” then kisses her, impassioned. They spend the night together in their hotel bed. 

Tess knows the only chance of taking down Taylor and Ginsburg together is to offer herself as tribute

Back at Bill’s lab, Tess and Burton break the news that the counter offer is off the table and so is the deal because Dr. Ginsburg heard that Taylor is involved and he doesn’t trust her. But at least they know some of the players on the buyers’ side.

Bill is confounded by the existence of Dr. Ginsburg; he was a brilliant dream research pioneer who was going to help his sister, but then died by committing suicide 30 years ago. So either Burton and Tess just dreamed with a ghost, an imposter, or Dr. Ginsberg is alive and living in secret. They don’t know why someone would go to so much trouble to convince the world he’s dead, but they also don’t think that, if he is alive, he was in the U.S.; he had mentioned a time difference to Jeremy in the dream.

It’s clear that there’s only one thing that would persuade him to reconsider his deal with Taylor and put their master plan back on track. “We make him come to us,” Tess says. “The plan stays the same, we use Bennett to broker a deal with Ginsberg, and they both rot in prison for the rest of their lives…. We’re going to give the doctor exactly what he wants—me.”

Additional Takeaways

  • Even Bill has never seen a dreamer as strong as Tom Dolan before (except for maybe Tess, now). But never before has a dreamer been able to manipulate another person to commit murder, suicide, and worse. He’s dumbfounded. But in his genuine concern for all of their safety and personal stake in the situation, it seems he’s also slowly but surely gaining Tess’ trust again.
  • Woody reveals to Tess that he never saw his parents again after they left him at Aeskyton, which just about matches Tess’ story of being presumably orphaned and left in the care of Charlotte. Sharing unspoken secrets from their childhood in the cult is a brief reprieve from the growing dangers around them, and also allows Tess and Woody to feel each other out and perhaps learn to trust one another again. They’re in this together.