We love to wax nostalgic at PoP!, but sometimes it’s what’s yet to come that most quickens our nerd pulses. For better or for worse, let’s star the speculation over what’s making us Future Tense
Last year, we, along with several other outlets, received a mysterious Flip camera with a short video on it announcing the 2nd Mass and nothing else. A fun scavenger hunt ensued and folks pieced together that it was publicity for TNT’s upcoming sci-fi thriller Falling Skies. I’ve had the chance to preview the first two episodes of the series. Is it worth tuning in June 19th?
In a nutshell, I can sum up Falling Skies as “The Walking Dead with aliens and on a much bigger scale.” We’re thrust into the action after the invasion has already begun and are immediately introduced to the resistance, specifically the 2nd Massachusetts. Whereas The Walking Dead features a small cast of characters, Falling Skies focuses on a core group, but the backdrop is a cell of over 200 civilians with the 111 fighters as they make their way across Massachusetts, trying to elude and maybe evil kill their alien oppressors.
ER’s Noah Wyle stars as former history professor Tom Mason. He has two sons in his group with a third taken prisoner by the aliens, dubbed “skidders” by the survivors. No one knows why yet, but the aliens have a tendency for kidnapping kids and implanting a harness along their spines, turning them into mindless slaves. Mason’s son Ben is among the slaves and his quest to find his boy is a principle motivator for his character beyond mere survival. Mason plays opposite Weaver, a generic army man character whose sole purpose is apparently to say gruff things to Mason to try to make him a better fighter. He’s not the deepest character I’ve ever seen, and to be honest, much of the supporting cast is pretty underdeveloped as of now. We don’t know much about any of them… With the exception of John Pope, who is way interesting. I won’t spoil the specifics, so I’ll just say that Pope is a bad man looking for new ways to do bad things after the end of the world.
Effects-wise, the aliens look pretty great, as do all the ships. The mechs look a little tacked on in some of the shots, but so far they’re the only low point as far as effects go. As good as the digital skidders are, the practical aliens for the close-ups are fantastic. There’s a powerful bit in the second episode involving a POW that is made so much better by an actual physical alien in the scene. These things may not be as scary-looking as the Xenomorphs, but we never saw the Xenomorphs employ Nazi tactics of war, so who’s to say which is scarier?
So is it worth checking out? Truthfully, aside from the introduction of John Pope is the second half of the two-hour pilot, I was largely unimpressed. The pilot episode didn’t put me in the moment. The mood was never set quite right for me (Full disclosure, I was quite sick when I watched it, so that may have had something to do with it.). The second episode, however, had some great character moments, good effects, a tense battle in a hallway and was generally kind of awesome. Plus, it ended on a great cliffhanger, so now I have to wait a month to see what happens next and that’s already driving me nuts. The second episode did its job.
The pilot may very well be better than I’m giving it credit for, but it’s the second episode where the show starts to shine, in my opinion. I’m in. There’s nothing really like this on TV right now and there hasn’t been for a long time. If you’ve got any interest at all in sci-fi or alien stories, I’d highly recommend checking this out and if you don’t love the pilot, give the next episode a try. Long term, Falling Skies needs to further develop some more of its supporting characters. If it can manage that, the biggest flaw in the series thus far will disappear and we’ll be left with a really solid piece of sci-fi.