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