Review by Shaun Daniels and Edited by Sharon Wong
Falling Skies: Parts I and II Appointment television is back and its name is Falling Skies. Ambitious, Epic and Kickass are just a few words to describe the two-hour premiere of Dreamworks Television and TNT’s 10-episode series Falling Skies. From start to finish, the fast but well paced action never stops with just about everything on point from the acting to the special effects; this show is firing on all cylinders. It will (or already has made) make your heart feel like it is beating out of your chest as the ragtag group of fighters sneak around searching for any last bits of food, water and weapons. You’ll even feel every bullet as it whizzes by, narrowly missing you.
Falling Skies opens with narration of planet Earth’s invasion/onslaught by an alien species, juxtaposed with children’s drawings, showing how they are coping with the event. Each child describes what has happened to their families while at the same time painting a larger picture of the world they live in. From the narration, we learn of the aliens’ designs for the people of Earth; kill off the parents, and kidnap and “harness” the children which allows the aliens to control them. The aliens are spine-tinglingly, horrifying six-legged squid-like creatures that due to their way of moving (skittering on the ground) are called skitters by the humans of the Resistance.
The fall of Boston and its surrounding towns is the opening battle sequence with Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and his middle son Hal (Drew Roy) narrowly escaping another attack from the aliens during a supplies-hunting mission. The few remaining survivors of the group make their way to a rendezvous point where a compound has been set up for the armies to retreat out of the city and regroup. These so-called armies are comprised of men and women of the military, police force and civilians. At a debrief, Tom is passed up as a commander of the 2nd Massachusetts by Resistance leader Porter, played by the great character actor Dale Dye. Tom, in turn, is second in command to the single goal-focused Weaver (Will Patton) as a result of his lack of military experience; Tom is a history professor specializing in American military. Tom also serves as the liaison between the soldiers and the noncombatant civilians. The unofficial leader of the civilians is Doctor Anne Glass (Blood Moongood) who is the constant thorn in Weaver’s side and sets the table for bigger issues between civilians and soldiers. Glass confronts Weaver over housing and tells him that the “eaters” (the name soldiers have nicknamed the civilians) contribute to the fight as much as the soldiers by performing daily tasks like cooking and schooling the children. Right from the get-go, the tension is established between Tom and Weaver; Weaver thinks soldiers are more important and worthy than civilians with Tom straddling the fence but leaning more towards the civilians. Though Tom believes civilians are a liability and hinderance, they are the “best motivation to fight.” To make matters worst, Hal spots older brother Ben (Connor Jessup), who was believed to be dead, in a group of harnessed children but Weaver is reluctant to give Tom permission to search for his son. Instead, Weaver keeps Tom on a short leash by sending him on mission after mission, focusing Tom on the needs of the 2nd Massachusetts.
On one of the scavenging missions, Tom and his team lure out a Mec, a robotic bi-pedal version of a skitter, from an armory. The mission fails but they return and are ambushed by a rebel group led by John Pope (Colin Cunnigham). The rebels, who have been spying on the 2nd Massachusetts, send Hal back to the Resistance to negotiate the release of the Resistance group. Weaver being Weaver, he refuses the deal and prefers to leave them behind. Meanwhile, Tom and Pope get to talking and clearly, they see the world very differently. Pope thinks that the alien invasion is the best thing that has ever happened to him as he is now able to do as he pleases without the law stepping in. He also believes “there ain’t no place this is going but down.” Hal returns with Anne to tend to Pope’s wounded brother but Pope is not satisfied and leaves to face Weaver himself. Pope forces Weaver to surrender a car and their best weapon, a 50 caliber, though things change quickly for the rebel leader. Tom and team reappear at base camp with the help of Maggie (Sarah Carter), a kidnappee forced to turn rebel, and stop Pope from from escaping. Unfortunately for Pope, his men are vanquished by the arrival of the aliens. In the end, Tom and Hal get what they want, and set out with their team to search for Ben.
Overall, this episode is well written as the invasion is delivered in a creative manner shown in the opening scene in the form of the children’s drawings. The other standout is that the show starts after the initial invasion, putting the viewer square in the action and not allowing the viewer to catch their breath. Initially, we were skeptical about the story about a man fighting aliens alongside one of his sons. Who would put their teenage son in harm’s way? This father-son, boy soldier dichotomy is pulled off in the writing with strong dialogue and the actors involved as Noah Wyle’s Tom shows the angst of sending his son off to fight all while knowing that he’s a good soldier. Throughout the episode, there are touches of normalcy amidst the chaos in the form of Matt, Tom’s youngest, celebrating his birthday and playing catch with his dad. We would be remiss not to mention two things; the show takes place in our city of Boston and love the ’04 Red Sox vs Yankees reference, and the American Revolution overtones of the conflict with the aliens.
The special effects are used sparingly but correctly, creating a very cinematic look. The skitters themselves are CG but blend right in just like the soldiers and civilians. From the Mec to the airships, its safe to say that you wouldn’t want to be in their sights. Where Falling Skies is headed is anybody’s guess but there are many hints at what’s to come. First, the ominous mothership has yet to move so there is more to it than meets the eye and second, the bi-pedal mecs lead us to believe that they are being piloted by the harnessed kids. All we really know is that we can’t wait until the Resistance “retreats, regroups, returns and revenges.”
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