The season two premiere of USA’s Falling Water catches us up with our trio of dreamers -- Tess, Burton, and Taka -- while boasting bloody murder, the so-called Shadowman, and scheming Russians to spare. Catch up on all that and more below with this recap of the season’s aptly titled inaugural installment, “Shadowman.”
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
Tess has built a reclusive, off-the-grid life for herself and James
The end of Falling Water season one saw Tess, who went for years with no one believing she had a son, finally reunite with James. He was missing all those years because he happens to be a being of god-like power within the dreaming world, and everyone from tech moguls to religious cults were willing to put millions of dollars and lives on the line to harness his abilities.
Now with the cult (which was run by her mother) meeting its demise last season and the malicious techy Bill Boerg nowhere to be found, Tess has run away to a small, one-horse town in New Hampshire, where she’s a waitress at a diner living hand-to-mouth with James, who’s now seven years old. She doesn’t have a personal bank account (her sister Sabine, who’s still dating Taka, visits her and loans her an envelope of cash) and she only uses burner phones so her location can (hopefully) not be traced. She also has a boyfriend named Jeremy, who’s rather dashing and all-American -- Maine born and raised. But she still keeps him at arms length, telling him she hightailed it from the city after a messy divorce and leaving the rest of her biographical details unsaid. Besides that, she seems safe.
But there are odd occurrences popping up in her day-to-day that make it seem as if her safety is once again at risk. For one, there’s Mark Johnson, a doe-eyed local in her new town who’s taken a liking to Tess, the beautiful girl who dropped in out of nowhere. But his crush slowly develops through this episode into full-on stalking; he insists that she serve him at the diner, and at one point follows Tess to her car and -- in the guise of friendliness -- forces her driver’s seat door open to continue chatting. While it at first appears as if he doesn’t have the marbles to actually be of malice, we’ll have to wait and see how Mark progresses down the line; he may have a streak of violence. The real threat, however, comes from the titular Shadowman, who we first meet through ominous drawings that James mindlessly sketches at the kitchen table.
He’s a dark, silhouetted male figure wearing a trench coat and a bowler cap; his face is shrouded in blackness. “I saw him in my dreams,” James says when Tess asks him about the drawings. “He scares me. He doesn’t know I see him, but he’s very angry, and wants to do bad things. To everyone.”
Later, Tess has a nightmare that someone has broken into the garage next door and when she goes to investigate, a flock of black clouds breaks through the window and swarms her. Waking in a sweat and heading downstairs to check the garage in reality, she finds wet, black footprints across the garage floor. Could they belong to the Shadowman?
Taka is also faced with the Shadowman’s wrath
When we first meet Taka this season, he’s shifted positions at the precinct to homicidal detective, where he’s joined by his new partner, Alex Simms, who claims to have seen it all in her years on the force. That’s why she’s utterly nonplussed at the bloody sight of a woman who’s been killed in her sleep by her husband by way of a golf club to the head. Her blood splatters the walls. But Taka is taken aback by the circumstances surrounding the case, and it’s not just because it’s his first on the job.
The murderous husband, Mr. Morrison, immediately confesses his guilt but is bewildered himself as to how or why he did it. It’s then that the matter of his dreams arise: the night that he killed his wife, he was having nightmares -- ones that, as he later details in the interrogation room, see his wife serving him their pet cat covered in maggots for dinner, or that see her sleeping with the mailman in their bed.
Mr. Morrison had recently retired, and he had a vacation planned for he and his wife; why would he kill her? What’s his motive? Alex chalks it up to retirement making men do weird things, but based on the dreams, Taka knows it’s something more. (Alex, it should be said, thinks Taka’s line of questioning in regards to the dreams is ridiculous and she threatens ending their partnership if his “intuition bullshit” is to continue.)
Taka later meets with Burton to work out together at the boxing gym, and with some goading from his friend, he knows what he has to do: He must infiltrate Mr. Morrison’s dreams and see what’s giving him his nightmares and if it’s related to his wife’s death. “I hate it when you make sense,” Taka says. But sitting outside Mr. Morrison’s cell, he dives in.
The dream begins with Mr. Morrison proposing to his wife and the two committing themselves to one another for life. Cut to the next moment, though, and Mrs. Morrison has hung their two children up on a cross, to her husband’s distress. She says that they’re pigs that need to be punished, and the children’s heads turn to those of pigs. She then turns her abuses to him, saying that’s he’s worthless and will never amount to anything -- that he’s weak. And while she’s taking a whip to the pigs on the cross, Mr. Morrison takes a golf club and beats his wife down. “I don’t want to do this again!” he cries. And while Taka yells from behind him that he doesn’t have to, Mr. Morrison says that he can’t stop -- “He won’t let me.” Taka turns to see a shadowed figure watching the dream unfold. He wakes up with a start.
Taka turns his mother Kumiko for guidance
While the end of season one didn’t see Taka and his artist mother (who’s currently comatose in the hospital and recently diagnosed with cancer, but can connect with him in his dreams) end on the best of terms, Taka thinks that her expertise in the dream realm may help him determine how to handle the shadowed man that appears to have made Mr. Morrison kill his wife.
He meets Kumiko in a dream; they’re standing in an infinity room drenched in white with a single staircase, and his mother silently gestures to the staircase, telling him to venture up it. Walking up the stairs, Taka suddenly finds himself in a dark attic with holes in the floor and cockroaches crawling underfoot. Sitting over one of the holes is the Shadowman. Again, his face is shrouded, but his presence seems to suck all the life out of the room. Taka is terrified and awakens. Now in the real world, Taka is drawn back to the Morrison’s home, which has been closed off as a crime scene since the murder. Once inside, he finds a hidden staircase much like the one he saw in his dream, and it leads him up to the attic, where there is a single peephole in the floor looking straight down on the Morrisons’ blood-soaked bed. Certain that there must have been a man upstairs watching the murder as it took place, Taka calls in a forensics unit to investigate further.
Burton is apprehended by the Woman in Red
Burton’s arc through Falling Water’s first season hinged on his search for the woman he loved: the mysterious Woman in Red. But that arc ended with more questions than answers; was she a dream all along? Were they actually lovers, or are they bound to be enemies? If she does exist, who’s side is she on? We get a taste of what’s to come with her character by episode’s end -- but first, Burton begins this season by getting the FBI to shut down his old firm, Hull-Bedford, which was funding the search and bidding on the seizure of James, Tess’ son.
He learns with the FBI that they’re guilty of insider trading, possible tax evasions, and other crimes that temporarily put the higher-ups -- including Woody -- behind bars. Woody doesn’t go down without a fight, though; upon his arrest, he forces Burton into the dreamscape to warn him that he’s getting in over his head and that what he’s dealing with is more powerful than he can even comprehend. But Burton wants to see what else there is to this corruption: “The firm is just the first thread,” he says. “Tug a little, and more will be revealed.”
Before parting ways, Woody threatens the Woman in Red, who Burton is still seeing his dreams. “It would be a shame if something happened to that pretty little face of hers, don’t you think?” Still, Woody is escorted out and temporarily arrested. Burton later meets with the Hull-Bedford case’s lead agent, however, and learns that all of the prosecuted men will walk free and that this bust is just the first of many if he truly wants to take the firm down.
That inspires Burton’s next move: He breaks into the firm’s offices while everyone is detained and finds a hard drive within a hidden safe. Calling up a Russian hacker named Dmitri, he hands him the hard drive along with a wad of cash and tells him to see what’s inside. Soon enough, Dmitri calls him. He’s cracked it, but is perplexed by its contents, particularly one video file that he sends Burton way to look into.
Opening the file, he sees that it’s a live stream of Burton’s glass window office from the office just across the way in another building. Before he can investigate further from his vantage point, the lights go out in the room. Burton is left with no choice: He bolts over to the building across the street and slowly makes his way put to the room in which he saw the camera. “The Shadowman” ends with him finally making his way to his destination, but there’s no camera in sight. In its place, the Woman in Red is sitting there, waiting for him. “Hello Burton,” she says. “Sit down, won’t you?” She reveals a handgun and cocks it, ready to shoot. “We have a lot to talk about.”
- Just in case it was unclear, Tess may be off the map, but she’s still in touch with Taka and Burton -- both through her sister, Sabine, and through a series of burner phones. Speaking with Burton towards the beginning of the episode, she doesn’t express sadness over her current situation; she’s just happy to finally be with James, and she vows to never put him in harms way ever again.
- And that finally leaves us with Woody. Despite being arrested at the top of the episode, Woody is soon enough a free man. The one solo scene he has in this season premiere is when, while walking out of a cafe one afternoon, he is apprehended by intimidating-looking muscle and told that “she” wants to see him. Turns out, “she” is Taylor Bennett. Little is known at this point who Bennett is, but we do know that she’s a multi-millionaire investor and member of New York’s upper crust. While she doesn’t have the abilities to tap into others’ dreams the way that Burton, Tess, Taka, and Woody can, she knows the potential of such powers and, through Woody, hopes to put them to use. Meeting with Woody, she says that she has a job for him while his firm is out of commission. It’s a job that requires his “special abilities.” So what’s in it for him? “A chance to change the world,” she says, “and a fee I think you’ll be more than happy with.”