Saturday, 13 August 2011

FALLING SKIES, season 1 finale

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Sorry about the delay posting this. To be honest, it totally slipped my mind. Anyway, I stopped reviewing Falling Skies after "Sanctuary: Part 1" because I was bitterly disappointed by the conclusion, which was so predictable I could hardly believe what I was seeing. When Skies began I enjoyed some of its elements and creative decisions (the fantastic design of the aliens, the strong relationship between Tom and his three sons), but then its problems grew more noticeable (insipid female characters, that interminable high school location—which the aliens don't just bomb). Given the show's emphasis on children (protect them, cherish them), it also grew very mawkish in my mind. But I stuck with the show, so here are my random thoughts on the final three episodes:

  • Many readers here were spot-on about the "skitters" themselves being enslaved by a higher alien intelligence. The emergence of tall, humanoid, fish-faced aliens therefore lacked the intended surprise for me, but I appreciated the development. I'm sure one of the crab-like skitters will be "unharnessed" soon and become an ally, which will be fun if it happens.
  • The sudden decision to turn Weaver (Will Patton) into a drug-addicted liability didn't work as well as it could have. It felt like a random idea tossed into the season, to create internal drama at the end. And who the hell was Lt Danner, the soldier loyal to Weaver who became a big obstacle for Tom? Has he even been on the show before episode 9? Much about Weaver's fall from grace didn't ring true to me. Maybe if we'd seen him popping pills before now, or something, it may have worked better.
  • I was disappointed that Pope's (Colin Cunningham) role in the show didn't go anywhere interesting. It was fun to see him develop bullets capable of puncturing the "mechs", but he was ultimately a weak version of Lost's Sawyer. He had a few nice moments, but the character just didn't work as well as I’d hoped. Too flimsily written.
  • It was cool that unharnessed Rick (Daniyah Ysrail) was revealed to still be loyal to the aliens, as their brainwashing hadn't worn off. The idea that the aliens can be confused by transmitting a specific radio signal was nicely done, with Ben (Connor Jessup) instrumental in finding the correct frequency because he's affected by radio waves himself. It's just a shame it became clear Jessup's a poor actor—who also reminded me of X Factor loser Eoghan Quigg, which was distracting.
  • I was frustrated that Dr Glass (Moon Bloodgood) kept being wasted—especially because you could sense she'd be great in a more proactive role. Having Glass stuck indoors as the group's resident doctor, nursing injuries and eventually smooching with Tom just wasn't very interesting. Bloodgood's an attractive woman who, as we know from Terminator Salvation, makes for a credible action star... so why not utilize that?
  • The actual two-part finale wasn't too shabby, although I was hoping for something far grander. The season's cliffhanger, with Tom willingly abducted by a humanoid alien, who are intrigued by the tenacity of human resistance, didn't really work for me. Are they going to interrogate Tom on their ship? It just struck me as very odd; a scene that exists because it would make for an unexpected conclusion to the season.
So what was that enormous crane-like structure over Boston? Do these aliens have motherships? What do they want from us? There's still an awful lot of questions that Skies hasn't even started to answer. I'm not even sure if there are survivors beyond Massachusetts, across the US and the wider world. I guess that's fine. You don't expect a show to reveal everything in season 1, but I do wish we had some kind of rudimentary understanding about what the enemy are up to.

Overall, Falling Skies isn't a bad series, but its only significant strength was the intriguing mythology created for the aliens, which were themselves fantastic creations. The cast were decent, but we didn't really learn much about them over ten hours. I'd have enjoyed pre-invasion flashbacks to get a better sense of who these people are, but none came—and the way the characters were developed in the present wasn't that strong. Tom's an egghead with strong paternal feelings, Weaver's a self-righteous tough guy, Glass is very empathetic, Pope's a charismatic bad boy.

The limitations of a cable TV budget didn't help Falling Skies capitalize on its global premise. The high school became a very limiting location, and there was never any sense of what the aliens are actually doing to capture the survivors. It makes more sense for the 2nd Mass to be constantly on the move, but the show couldn't cope with the demands on the production that would cause. I wish we'd had more scenes focusing on the human cost of this situation, too—like that scene when everyone enjoyed watching a movie outdoors. (We'll ignore the fact it's the equivalent of lighting a bonfire and flares, shouting their location to the enemy!)

What did you make of this series? I've heard some people say it started poorly and got progressively better, while others say the opposite. Or was it entirely a wasted effort that squandered its potential?

written by Mark Verheiden (1.8 & 1.10) & Joe Weisberg (1.9) / directed by Anthony Hemingway (1.8), Holly Dale (1.9) & Greg Beeman (1.10) / 31 July & 7 August 2011