Falling Skies: Review: Season 1 Ep 9-10

TNT, August 7 (double bill)

As the attack on the alien’s HQ comes closer, the tensions begin to show among members of the 2nd Mass.

And so, the first season of Falling Skies ends not with a bang (as the proposed attack on the alien’s towering base seemed to promise) but with a whimper, as Noah Wylie’s Tom willingly boards the creatures’ Close Encounters of the Third Kind-style flashing lights spaceship.

Overall, the story that has been told here would have fitted better into a four 90-minute episode event series, like V back in the mid-1980s. The one-hour episodic format allowed for too much padding and meandering, with a formulaic approach. Each episode featured regulation moments of jeopardy (either at the hands of the skitters, aliens or other humans) and also stopped dead for the mandatory father-son bonding and ‘let’s all hug’ moments.

If the story had been dramatically compressed and told at a brisker pace, Falling Skies might have been a much more exciting series with a strong narrative drive and superb cliffhangers: imagine this screened over a week, with huge anticipation for what would happen next! Instead, we got an obviously budget-constricted show that seemed determined to stretch out its meagre production resources over as many hours as possible.

Weaver’s ‘breakdown’—that came out of nowhere in the previous episode—should have been a season spanning thread, rather than a non-event that was used to create artificial tension between him and Tom. Anyone remember the way Garibaldi turned on Sheridan in Babylon 5? It was a character trait and possibility that was long seeded in the show, so when it paid off it seemed like a dramatically perfect development. The writers of Falling Skies have not mastered this art.

Effects wise, the series has been poor. Even when massed ranks of ‘mech’ turn up in the final episode to assault the school they are achieved through basic cut’n’paste replication. The skitters have been noticeable by their absence in the second half of the series, even while their communication frequencies became important, and while the introduction of the tall aliens was welcome, making them (and their fancy ship) the cliffhanging climax to the series was just a cheap tease…

Speaking of bad writing, the way all the characters repeatedly ignored Rick’s “kill all humans” sentiments was simply risible. No-one paid the slightest bit of attention to his obvious alien sympathies (harness-induced, presumably) until it was too late. How stupid/ignorant/deaf were they supposed to be? If a point was being made that adults don’t listen to children, it didn’t work as Tom’s always mooning around his three kids.

We don’t see the assault on the alien tower and the aftermath is cheaply realised. Also, after last week’s seeming reveal about the nature of the skitters, these episodes left me unclear as to whether they were another alien race who’d been harnessed by the tall, grey aliens (hence their sympathy for the harnessed human children) or whether they were something harnessed human children turned into. Anne’s explanation at the start of ‘Mutiny’ seemed to suggest the former, while the semi-transformed harnessed girl seen in ‘Eight Hours’ suggested the latter.

The break-out character of the season has been Colin Cunningham’s Pope, chief, raconteur and explosives expert, as well as ladies’ man! He’s the edgiest character the series has got, and one whose role deserves to be expanded at the expense of some of the dead weight cyphers that populate the series.

Verdict: Falling Skies has been a disappointing, frustrating series that will have to improve markedly if its second season is to be justified.

Episode 9 ‘Mutiny’: 5/10

Episode 10 ‘Eight Hours’: 7/10

Brian J. Robb

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