Falling Skies Concludes

falling skies picture

After five seasons the TNT TV series Falling Skies has come to a conclusion. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Falling Skies told the saga of the Mason family and a ragtag group of human fighters resisting an alien occupation of Earth. It was a rocky road getting to its endgame with unexpected highs and lows.

Looking back at Falling Skies, it could be seen that it was trying to emulate the same post-apocalyptic feel of the more superior The Walking Dead, but it couldn’t achieve those lofty goals. Still, it was for the most part entertaining to watch.

The first three seasons were easily the best for Falling Skies since the show displayed a desperate, squalid atmosphere where the freedom fighters were always on the run and for the most part were just staying one step ahead of the alien Espheni and their minions. As the show progressed so too did the humans.

fs castLed by Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), his wife Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and Col. Dan Weaver (Will Patton), the human fighters got better at fighting the aliens and were able to set up a provincial government thanks to the help of alien allies called the Volm, represented by one of the coolest TV aliens, Cochise (Doug Jones). Despite its limited budget, Falling Skies was generally entertaining, well acted and had some impressive production values. The set design was extremely dark and disheveled, which sold the fact that the American countryside was decimated by the alien invaders. The show had its faults such as delving too much in Mason family drama that involved Hal’s three sons, and the stories and characters were uneven.

hal and cochise skitters attack truck

Regrettably, Falling Skies took a turn for the worst in its fourth season, which was just a symptom of its behind-the-scenes hurdles where the show went through many showrunners. How bad was it? Well, one of the worst sci-fi clichés was used: the alien/human hybrid who prematurely ages into a young adult and has superpowers. Then the show’s characters were split up; some were put into a ghetto where Tom Mason became a vigilante superhero (I’m not making this up), then one of his sons wound up in an alien youth camp where the children were being indoctrinated to welcome the alien conquerors. If the aliens had conquered Earth why go through all this trouble?

Luckily, Falling Skies improved somewhat in its final season. It became grittier and darker even though the writing and character motivations were all over the place. Take for example, breaking bad popethe character of John Pope (Colin Cunningham), who was first introduced as a villainous biker type then became an antihero. During the final season, Pope decided to go back to his murderous, evil ways and was after Tom Mason. At that point, Pope became like Jason Voorhees and was impossible to kill. He would show up in the last few shows in an extended cameo and be unceremoniously dispatched only to turn up alive in the next episode. This went all the way into the final episode, but at least his final scenes were actually effective thanks to Cunningham’s acting ability.

It was easy to tell that the showrunners wanted to wrap up the show in the last episodes, which is why things felt so rushed. But what was maddening, was the insistence of introducing and then ignoring new characters. Some were interesting, others were forgettable. Like with Pope, this trait went on into the final episode “Reborn” where a new biker type entered the picture (Jeff Fahey), who basically provided off-screen cannon fodder.

find your warriorThe final battle between the humans and the aliens showed its budgeted limitations with much of the action happening off-screen and with sound effects. But at least “Reborn” ended on a satisfactory note, even if it won’t go down as a great finale. Looking at its pluses and minuses, the final episode represented the entirety of Falling Skies. Some good ideas with uneven execution, but on the whole, the show was a decent diversion on TV for the summer.

Lewis T. Grove

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Summer Genre TV Watchlist

It’s very clear that the summer season has become the best time for genre TV shows. Maybe it has to do with there being less competition in the air waves, but in any case this summer has quite a selection of sci-fi, fantasy and horror TV shows either returning or debuting. Leaving out pure garbage like Under The Dome, these are the most anticipated TV shows.

defiance second seasonDefiance (June 19): Syfy’s ambitious TV series about aliens and humans sharing an uneasy peace in the future in the town called Defiance returns for its sophomore season. The first season was uneven in quality, but showed potential as the characters were fleshed out and compelling mysteries were explored. Hopefully Defiance can continue going up in quality.

Doctor Who (August): Peter Capaldi’s turn as the Twelfth Doctor begins this August. The long-running sci-series about a time-traveling alien and his adventures is as popular as it was when it premiered way back in 1963.

Dominion (June 19): A sequel to the 2010 supernatural thriller Legion, Dominion takes place in a future where angels and humanity are at war with each other. Legion was so-so, but based on the trailers and its premise, Dominion warrants a viewing or two.

Extant (July 9): Halle Berry stars in this Steven Spielberg-exec-produced sci-fi mystery. She plays an astronaut who after coming home from a solo mission may have brought back an alien life form. That’s because while in space by herself, she became pregnant. Expect lots of jaw-dropping revelations.

Falling Skies (June 22): The alien invasion saga is back for its fourth season. The ragtag humans continue their desperate war against the spider-like Skitters and now the tired sci-fi trope of young alien/human hybrids that age rapidly. Still Falling Skies in the past has been a generally well-done and exciting TV show, so it should pull it off again.

The Last Ship (June 22): Based on the last shipbook by William Brinkley, this post-apocalyptic drama focuses on a lone U.S. Navy ship and its crew. An important change from the book is that instead of surviving a nuclear war, the ship and its crew grapple in a world where a pandemic wiped out most of humanity. The previews make it look quite exciting and riveting.

The Leftovers (June 29): Former Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof presents this HBO series set in a world where the Rapture caused two percent of its human population to disappear. As expected, people go off the deep end as fringe cults and chaos comes to the fore.

Outlander (Aug 9): Noted showrunner, Ronald D. Moore executive produces this new STARZ  series about a World War II-era British nurse who winds up in Scotland in the year 1743. This romantic time travel drama is based on Diana Gabaldon’s popular books, and it looks like an epic book romance come to life.

strain

The Strain (July 13): This one looks scary! Based on director Guillermo Del Toro’s book trilogy, this FX TV show is about scientists trying to stop a virus that turns people into vicious, deadly vampires. Will this replace our summer vampire fix now that True Blood is ending?

true blood castTrue Blood (June 22): Coming back for its seventh and final season, the HBO vampire drama as expected wraps up its storylines about a world where vampires have come out and struggle to get along in society. Although True Blood isn’t as buzzworthy as in the past, its racy scenes, bloody gore and ever-twisting plotlines still deliver.

Annette DeForrester

Falling Skies Rising

The science fiction war drama TV show Falling Skies just concluded its second season on TNT with the episode “A More Perfect Union”, and proved that it never rests on its laurels.

Falling Skies stars Noah Wyle as Tom Mason, an ex-history professor and now second in command of a rag-tag militia called the 2nd Mass. Originally based in the Boston area (and for the entirety of its first season), the unit abandoned New England early in the second season to head for the supposed safe haven of Charleston, South Carolina.

As with most filmed road trips stuff happened, usually to progress a storyline or develop characters. For instance, Tom started a tender relationship with the group’s field medic Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), dealt with recriminations from being abducted then released by the alien invaders (from the end of the first season) and had to accept that his children had grown up. The oldest Hal (Drew Roy) became a competent, deadly soldier and a future leader; the youngest Matt (Maxim Knight) grew up too fast and is now doing sentry duty; but the most interesting son is his middle one, Ben. He had been abducted (along with many of Earth’s children) by the aliens before the show started and fitted with a biomechanical device on his spine that enslaved him. Ben was rescued last season but this season covered the repercussions and gave Ben one of Falling Skies’ best arcs. It became clear that he had been altered by his experience, seen with his enhanced physical skills and the psychic links he shared with aliens whenever they were nearby.

This was instrumental in one of the main arcs. It was revealed that some factions of the arachnid-like alien Skitters were rebelling against their masters and were seeking help from the humans. Tom and others had to overcome their mistrust of the rebel Skitters and while some of the show’s plots moved along a bit too fast, this one had the right pace. This helped viewers to see that things weren’t black and white when it came to the aliens who conquered Earth.

So what waited for them in Charleston? Supposedly the city was the new capitol of the United States with a working government and armed military. More importantly to the beleaguered 2nd Mass., the city offered the promise of a return to normalcy: hot showers, meals and safety. In the penultimate show of the season, “The Price Of Greatness”, they discover that the city had moved underground, leaving behind ruins to throw the aliens off their tracks. Despite a warm welcoming and comforts, things weren’t so great in the underground city. Our heroes were caught between Tom’s old mentor (Terry O’Quinn), the civilian leader, who basically wanted to remain hidden from the aliens and the General Bressler (Matt Frewer), who wanted to go after the aliens. By that episode’s end, the military initiated a coup but that didn’t solve anything.

The final episode of the season had the 2nd Mass. undertaking a covert mission to assassinate an alien Overlord and destroy a cobbled-together installation. There was genuine tension, excitement, deaths and new developments to carry over to the third season. The acting and character development was very well done, it even made viewers feel for an inhuman rebel Skitter when it was killed. That alien never spoke and was quite hideous, but anyone would’ve felt its plight as it desperately tried to fight its alien enemies.

There are many questions unanswered in the show, chiefly, what do the aliens want with Earth? By the end of “A More Perfect Union” it seems as if the aliens are at war with another alien race, but it’s unknown if the new aliens can be counted as allies. Falling Skies gave viewers enough bait to entice them to keep watching.

Many second seasons for shows are make or break in terms of quality. Luckily for Falling Skies, it has found its bearings in the second season and like any worthwhile TV show leaves viewers eager for new episodes and new seasons.

Lewis T. Grove

Falling Skies Returns

Falling Skies premiered last summer and while it was executive produced by Steven Spielberg it didn’t receive half the fanfare and hoopla that Spielberg’s other TV offering Terra Nova did. But Falling Skies did one thing that the other sci-fi show couldn’t, it survived.  This week, TNT premiered the second season of Falling Skies and it picked up where it last left viewers.

At the end of the first season, the show’s protagonist, a history teacher turned freedom fighter, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) allowed himself to be taken captive by the alien invaders that have conquered the world. The second season premiere episode of Falling Skies (actually two episodes “Worlds Apart” and “Shall We Gather At The River”) takes place three months later in Boston and the Massachusetts countryside. Mason’s group led by the hard-bitten but sympathetic Captain Weaver (Will Patton) are engaging in harassing attacks against the alien skitters (vaguely resembling giant arachnids) and the robotics mechs. During one ambush, Mason’s two sons Hal (Drew Roy) and Ben (Connor Jessup), who was previously enslaved by the aliens, discover a wounded Mason in the melee.

Flashbacks reveal what happened to Tom Mason in the missing time. On board the aliens’ ship Mason is told that his group will be given sanctuary if they stop fighting. He refuses the offerand attacks the aliens’ bipedal overlord. Next thing he knows, he is released along with other military prisoners who are then executed; strangely he is able to escape. Eventually he reunites with the group but he no longer trusts himself. Convinced he has been turned into some kind of sleeper agent, Mason has himself restrained after a parasitic lifeform is found in his eye. The scenes where the group’s doctor, Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) removes the wiggling, worm-like creature were truly cringe inducing.

By the time, Tom Mason has reunited with his friends, it’s obvious that this rag-tag group is very desperate and depleted. Over a hundred people have been killed since Mason’s capture and they are low on supplies. These two episodes do a great job of showing how beaten down these fighters are and yet they keep on fighting. At this point, their primary objective isn’t to overthrow the aliens. They are simply outmatched. Rather their only goal is survival. The production design is excellent, everyone looks believably grungy and their equipment looks worn and well used. And the second season has ramped up the action and the tension.  As one of the few genuine science fiction shows on the air right now, Falling Skies is a well-produced effort and it seems as if the show has found its legs and will hopefully continue to grow. Unlike other genre shows, it’s fairly easy to jump into Falling Skies and watch the interesting story unfold.

Waldermann Rivera

Overcast For Falling Skies

TNT’s sci-fi series Falling Skies concludes its freshman season this weekend and like any good show near its final season episodes its building up to a good crescendo.

Here’s a very quick summation of the show. Earth has been invaded and conquered off-screen by aliens who are comprised of two types: the multi-legged skitters and robotic, armed-to-the-teeth bipeds called mechs. They’ve wiped out most of human civilization and have also kidnapped children and turned them into a zombified slave force via mechanical harnesses that are dug into their spines. The show follows the plight of a Boston-based militia group called the 2nd Massachusetts led by Capt. Weaver (Will Patton) and the program’s main character Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) who are trying to find a means to defeat the alien invaders.

The aliens have been scavenging the countryside for parts throughout the series and are building these huge towering structures in major cities. The purpose of the structures is unknown but guessed to be landing platforms. In the most recent episode “What Hides Beneath” the militia group is given orders to join an all-out attack on the structures. During a recon of the structure and the alien’s stronghold in Boston some revelations come up. First, the humans are able to develop bullets that can penetrate the mechs’ armor giving our heroes a glimmer of hope. Second a third alien species is discovered, and apparently it looks like they are in command of the skitters. Seeing these tall, elongated humanoids with their thin limbs was a surprise and unnerving. By the way the final look in the broadcast version differs from the clip shown on the show’s official website. But what was more disturbing was the revelation that during an autopsy of a dead skitter the humans find out that the skitters have their own slave-making harnesses attached to themselves too. What’s even worse is the implication that children who are attached to the harness for a long period of time are being mutated into a different type of life form. Already one of the rescued teenagers is showing an allegiance to the aliens and Mason’s recently liberated son has signs that he is mutating physically.

Falling Skies has been successful in answering some questions about the story and characters while bringing up new ones. What are the skitters exactly? Who are the new alien leaders and what is their agenda with our planet (please, please, please don’t let it be they’re after our water or gold–looking at you Cowboys and Aliens!)? Plus the show is giving out nuggets of information about the characters and developing them as well. For instance, in the “What Hides Beneath” episode viewers find out about Weaver’s family and their fate. There has been a hardening of sorts from Moon Bloodgood’s character of Dr. Anne Glass. Yet she is still the caring doctor we all hope for. Another good development which opened up a whole new can of worms was the rescue of Mason’s son Ben. When the show premiered the son was a captive of the aliens and the early episodes chronicled Mason’s quest to find his son and how he was held up. In other shows, this would’ve been the status quo and frustrating for viewers.  Here though, the son was freed and now the repercussions are becoming clear and it’s subtle, doesn’t hit you over the head.

Overall, the developments are coming at a perfect pace, not to slow, not too fast. It’s not a classic show but that’s fine because sometimes those kinds of shows get full of themselves. While there’s room for improvement at least they’re on the right path. If only the V revival was this good, maybe that show would still be around and remembered. Thankfully Falling Skies has been renewed for a second season and next summer can’t come soon enough. Anyone who hasn’t seen the show or missed episodes can catch a marathon on Sunday that precedes the season finale or watch them online.

José Soto

Images Courtesy of TNT