If you’re going to write any kind of post-apocalyptic drama, you’ve got three main choices: Killer Zombies, Killer Robots or Killer Aliens. Falling Skies, given its association with Steven Spielberg, settles for aliens as its antagonist of choice. If James Cameron had attached his name to the project, it would undoubtedly have been called The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Expectations for Falling Skies were low to begin with. We’ve done alien invasion to death. I’m seeing overtones of Tom Cruise’s take on War Of The Worlds, but much less of the awful alien soap opera that V became. There are also parallels with M Night Shyamalan’s The Happening – a migrant human population looking for safe haven from whatever’s killing them. Wind/aliens/whatever.
However, we’re plunged straight away into the horrific aftermath of alien invasion. Hilariously, to avoid the expensive CGI that showing us the extermination of the human race would have entailed, we’re given the backstory by way of children’s drawings of the event. Cheap and cheerful!
Still, the premise is pretty solid even if it does cover old ground: the aliens (referred to as Skitters) have wiped out most of the human race, and small bands of resistance fighters are springing up to fight them. The Skitters are enslaving human children using organic-looking harnesses which attach to their necks and seem to drain their free will. It seems that they’re essentially scavenging for metals while leisurely exterminating the rest of the human race.
The pilot episode of Falling Skies establishes much of the backstory and introduces us to the Mason family – Dad, two sons and one other son who’s currently in the clutches of the aliens. I thought the addition of Moon Bloodgood would spell romantic entanglement between her character and Noah Wylie’s, but so far they’ve avoided that particular cliche. The Masons are part of the resistance, though it’s established early on that the military and civilian wings of the resistance aren’t wonderful bedfellows. The gun-toting types aren’t entirely pleased at having vulnerable civvies in tow, and they have a two-tier system in place where ‘soldiers’ get to sleep in houses while civvies sleep in tents. It’s actually a wonderfully complex notion, and points at some solid thinking on the part of the show’s creators.
Something else that I enjoyed was Noah Wylie talking to his screen son and realising that six months ago he was setting curfews, while now he check his kid has enough ammo before leaving for the night. That really brings home the reality of living in this alternative universe – it’s a dangerous place with potential injury/death/enslavement on every outing.
Strangely enough, Wylie kicks ass as the history professor turned revolutionary. And does anyone else think he vaguely resembles a haggard, post-apocalyptic Keanu Reeves? The supporting cast were all solid, though I’ve yet to warm to Bloodgood’s character. I’m enjoying Will Patton as General Weaver – a hard ass military character who’s also a bit of an asshole. Unless proven otherwise, I’m going to love hating him.
Elsewhere, we’ve got a religious girl with a crush on Tom Mason’s son Hal. It’s important to see the religious angle when aliens come knocking, because of how that might affect faith. We’ve also got the leader of a gang of alien hunters, a mean unhinged fella by the name of Pope. There’s also an interesting question posed by another character – when the Skitters have six legs, why do their mechanical sentinels have only two? I’m guessing there’s an important answer to that question in the future.
Note: I know this review is a few weeks late. Blame the holiday period! However, I’m planning to keep up with a few of the newer shows this year, so expect catch-up reviews in the near future!