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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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