Falling Skies: Pilot

"Retreat, regroup, return... revenge."

Falling Skies is about a world where insect-like aliens have invaded. They've taken out most of the population, the military and the infrastructure, and they're occupying cities. The tattered remnants of the human race (can I get the word "rag-tag" in there, too?) are in pretty much a permanent state of retreat and scrounge as they try their best to survive, as well as organize a resistance against a too-powerful unknown enemy.

Apparently, someone learned a lesson from The Walking Dead and Battlestar Galactica. Apocalypse, check. Good sci-fi/horror elements, check. Actual well-written human drama and decent storytelling, check. Although there were elements that were a bit too familiar, the two hour premiere held my interest and worked for me. The first five minutes of Falling Skies gave us the entire invasion and the current situation of the Second Massachusetts in a series of children's crayon drawings, and I knew all I needed to know; it was better set-up than the entire first hour of Outcasts. (And crayon drawings tend to be cheaper than special effects showing the invasion of Earth, too.)

With no military, the leaders and fighters of the Second Massachusetts are mostly civilians. Mason (Noah Wyle) is a former history professor who keeps explaining the current situation by drawing on his knowledge of history, and that sounded like what he does was boring, but it's not. I like that he's a father and a teacher.

And I like that there's a strong focus on children. I liked the outdoors "classroom" scene, and the sadness of seeing kids only slightly older carrying guns and fighting, as they certainly would in a situation like this. It's interesting and creepy that children are a special target of the aliens, which don't have a name but the Second Massachusetts call "skitters." Human adults are killed by the skitters, but children are kept prisoner and "harnessed" (let's throw some Puppet Masters in there). They must need slaves for something, and whatever it is, it's not good.

The first hour centered the Second retreating from a city and Mason leading a small group of fighters back for a truckload of food. The second hour introduced a nasty but intelligent and likable outlaw leader named Pope, who is apparently hungry for good conversation. (The pockets of aggressive humans might be even more dangerous than the aliens, check.) I particularly liked Pope and Mason talking about whether the humans were the colonials in the colonials versus redcoats scenario, or the American Indians being subsumed by the Europeans.

I think my favorite moment was Mason picking up a book for the trip from a huge pile stacked on the ground. He tossed away a popular magazine and then literally weighed two classics in his hands, A Tale of Two Cities and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, in order to choose the lighter one for his backpack. The piles of books sitting out in the weather were my choice for Most Obvious Symbolism as representatives of the lost human race. I also liked the scene with the skateboard. Such a nice moment without being consciously heart-warming.

On a scale of apocalyptic television dramas, I think I'd give the premiere of Falling Skies three out of four backpacks. It has promise,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

5 comments:

TJ said...

(I'm sorry for double posting this comment, but I guess this is the place where it really belongs...)

I so need to make a complaint about "Falling Skies". I had great hopes for this series, but six episodes in, I cannot stand it.
In a way, it reminds me of 25 years ago, when I used to think that all American shows where shallow, and all the characters were one-dimensional. They also used to have this creepy "family moral thingy" going on that was just not understandable for me.
And here I am, watching this show, trying to give it a chance, and I feel like thrown back decades in bad writing/directing/cheesy silliness or whatever...

I am soo disappointed. There are some brilliant American shows out there (and yes some of them has been reviewed on this site), but I am sorry to say that I feel that "Falling skies" are making the most of destroying my faith in the American TV show industry.

What annoys me the most is that it trashes one of my favourite genres...

I am going to give it a couple more episodes...if it doesn't improve immensely...then I'm gone...

Billie Doux said...

Hi, TJ: I've been disappointed in the last few episodes as well. I really thought there was some promise there. I'm going to keep watching for the rest of the brief season, but I agree that it's losing me.

Trebabe.uk said...

After watching the first episode i didn't like it at all. soz but all the pukeyness with the kids and skateboarding yuk. my mum convinced me to keep watching but i was dubious. It did get better by ep 4 but i'm not liking the general ikkyness of it all.

Billie Doux said...

It's interesting how down people are on the show, I agree. I'm not in love with the show yet, but I thought the last couple of episodes were quite strong.

Anonymous said...

I love this show! I'm totally into it and can't wait to see the finale which I've DVR.