Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Review: FALLING SKIES, 2.1 & 2.2 - "World's Apart" & "Shall We Gather at the River"

Wednesday, 20 June 2012
**½ (out of four)

I really enjoyed the first batch of Falling Skies episodes from season 1, but then the show started to spin its wheels and my interest diminished. I managed to watch the whole season, but beyond a few moments the show didn't capitalise on its concept and make its characters matter. Even now, I struggle to remember people's names, have no real connection with the majority of folk, and don't feel compelled to keep watching. Although, on a visual level, Falling Skies at least delivers the goods. The various alien paraphernalia, but particularly the two alien breeds themselves (the crab-like "skitters" and their sleek humanoid “Overlords"), look absolutely terrific. There appears to have been improvements with skin texture and animation between seasons, because they're remarkably lifelike and realistic this year. It's just a pity the humans don't leap off the screen as much.

Last season ended similarly to Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, if Spielberg's aliens had been aggressors, with historian action hero Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) agreeing to board an alien ship to prevent his sons coming to harm. The two-part premiere (aptly airing on Father's Day) played around with chronology, featuring a jump forward in time by three months and subsequent use of flashbacks, but I was glad writer Mark Verheiden (Battlestar Galactica) played fair with the audience. We still got a decent look inside the spaceship Tom entered, in scenes echoing Fire In The Sky at times, and our first human/Overlord interaction.

The show feels like it's on surer footing when the humans are interacting with aliens, either personally or during a military attack in the streets. It's only when the focus shifts to the characters that you find yourself struggling to care sometimes. Wyle's great as the everyman protagonist trying to protect his three kids, and I like world-weary Captain Weaver (Will Patton doing Lee Majors), but almost everyone else are just vaguely familiar faces--still. And that's a shame, because I'd love to really care about the Mason's as a family dynamic, but I don't. The adults definitely need to rise up and take charge more; particularly Moon Bloodgood as Dr Glass and "bad boy" Pauly Shore-alike Colin Cunningham as biker/chef Pope. At least we have a few new faces introduced in this two-part premiere, such as engineer Jamil (The Killing's Brandon Jay McLaren), who may prove more immediately successful.

Overall, I'm going to stay positive about Falling Skies. I think the writers know what worked and failed last year, and there are some astute improvements already; like how the resistance is now fully mobile, which is great because the pacing was ruined by the frugal decision to have them take sanctuary in a high school for most of season 1. If the kids become better written, the adults take charge more, the action become more roving, and the overall story develop in enjoyable ways, Falling Skies could grow into a genuinely good alien invasion for the small-screen. It's one to keep watching and hoping for the best, because the conceptual basics are there, and lord knows the budget is.

written by Mark Verheiden (2.1) & Bradley Thompson & David Weddle (2.2) / directed by Greg Beeman / 17 June 2012 / TNT