Wednesday, 20 July 2011

FALLING SKIES, 1.6 - "Sanctuary: Part 1"

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

"Sanctuary: Part 1" was a decent episode that eventually pushed Falling Skies into different territory (literally, with a new location), but I don't have much to say about it. I liked the opening—with a father stealing medicine because he wants to leave the 2nd Mass with his family, who are freaked by recent goings-on—and there was a terrific set-piece with kid-soldier Jimmy (Dylan Authors) surviving a Mech attack and then being confronted by a Skitter angrily bursting an inflatable Earth, but the episode only piqued my interest in its dying moments...

This occurred when Terry Clayton (Henry Czerny), a military pal of Weaver's (Will Patton) from a vanquished platoon, was revealed to be collaborating with the aliens. In a parallel to the Blitz, the 2nd Mass's children were evacuated under Clayton's command to a country retreat, unaware he intends to hand them over to the Skitters. And the cherry on top was discovering that Clayton only learned the 2nd Mass were protecting kids after torturing the captured Pope (Chris Cunningham) for information.

It was a great ending that had me eager to see what happens next, but this was otherwise an hour of simple adjustment. I'm glad Falling Skies has realized it can't hang around that high school for much longer and is starting to branch out, though. There's still no explanation for why Ben (Connor Jessup) was "unharnessed" from his parasite and has recovered better than Rick did (he's even endowed with increased strength), but I trust that will come. The mystery of why the Skitters need human children is the show's best hook, and Skies is doing a good job teasing us with what it all means. I remain convinced the writers were inspired by Torchwood: Children Of Men's own child-coveting ETs, but they're adding a few interesting twists.

I'm still enjoying Falling Skies, let's be clear, but the potential of early episodes hasn't evolved into anything transcendent yet. It's advertised as a big-budget "TV event" epic with Spielberg's name reminding you of a small-screen War Of The Worlds—but it's really just a competent, sometimes interesting apocalyptic drama, with a tolerable budget. There are a handful of good ideas, some fantastic aliens, and an engaging if clich├ęd performance from Patton (here given a great paternal moment with a boy who just got the scare of his life), but it needs work bringing everything together in a special way that excites its audience. Successful television drama is often alchemical, and Falling Skies hasn't quite found a unique voice from within itself (possibly because its well-trodden concept can't break free of intrinsic mustiness), but there are definite flashes of gold here and there. Fool's gold? That's for you to decide. But now we've started the second-half of season 1, with another 10 episodes in development for next summer, your demand as a viewer naturally increases. I hope the show rises to this tough challenge.

written by Joel Anderson Thompson / directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan / 17 July 2011 / TNT