Two-Hour Season 2 Premiere
Episode 2.01 “Worlds Apart” and 2.02 “Shall We Gather At The River”
Starring: Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Drew Roy, Jessy Schram, Maxim Knight, Seychelle Gabriel, Peter Shinkoda, Mpho Koaho, Colin Cunningham, Connor Jessup, Will Patton
Air Date: June 17, 2012
TNT’s science-fiction series Falling Skies is a satisfying blend of Jericho, V, and The Walking Dead, a post-apocalyptic drama that chronicles the aftermath of a cataclysmic, debilitating alien invasion.
Created by screenwriter Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan) and executive producer Steven Spielberg, Falling Skies is a 21st century spin on The Spirit of ’76 – an American Revolutionary War where the oppressors are extraterrestrials. In only a matter of days, the invaders neutralized our technologies and annihilated 90 percent of the world’s population, leaving only pockets of resistance to fight back.
In many ways, Falling Skies is the ultimate combination of Spielberg’s affinity for history and science fiction. It utilizes elements of The Pacific and Band of Brothers with War of the Worlds to create a serialized alien invasion story that examines the struggle of the survivors. While the first season was hindered by soap opera melodrama at times, Falling Skies managed to satiate sci-fi fans with intense action set pieces, cool creature designs, and enough mysteries to keep the audience invested.
The first season of TNT’s series ended with a Close Encounters of the Third Kind-esque cliffhanger, as former college professor turned freedom fighter Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) accepted an invitation from the tall, slender Overlords to a dialogue. Tom boarded the alien spacecraft willingly, hoping to secure his son’s freedom from the invader’s influence and gather intel on the hostile extraterrestrials.
Meanwhile, Captain Dan Weaver (Will Patton) and the 2nd Massachusetts marched toward Boston to meet up with other resistance fighters – but they never arrived. Outnumbered and on their own, Weaver’s men attempted to take out an alien super-structure on their own.
As the second season of Falling Skies opens, three months have passed since Tom ‘beamed up’ with the Overlords. The 2nd Massachusetts, along with John Pope’s (Colin Cunningham) outlaws, are still fighting the good fight against Mechs and Skitters. The Mason boys Hal (Drew Roy), Ben (Connor Jessup), and Matt (Maxim Knight) are dealing with their father’s disappearance in different ways. After being harnessed and ‘influenced’ by the extraterrestrials, Ben has developed enhanced strength and endurance – the beginning of a process that could turn him into a Skitter or something worse if a cure isn’t found.
Meanwhile, back on the mothership, the Overlords are offering Mason and the remaining humans a ‘gift’ – an opportunity to surrender. In exchange for sanctuary, the aliens will set aside a protected area where human survivors will be relocated. In other words, a prison camp. The Overlord notes that humanity should be quite comfortable with the concept, being as it’s taken from our own history. “The worst of it,” says Mason. The aliens have studied our history and handpicked from humanity’s darkest hours: the atrocities of Cambodia, Nazi Germany, the Trail of Tears. It’s hard to argue with the tall, slender Overlord – oppression is in our nature.
Mason, being the bad-ass scholar and historian he is points out, “I’d be careful about drawing too many lessons from the past, because our history is yet to be written.” According to executive producer Remi Aubuchon, “The objective this season was to ramp everything up: the stakes, the personal drama, the tension.” If the first season was about the survivors’ struggling to find their footing in a post-apocalyptic world, season two is about accepting the past as prologue and fighting for the future.
While I still have issues with the show’s melodramatic acting and incredibly old-fashioned storytelling, season two has definitely picked up the pace. Perhaps the best part of Falling Skies‘ return is the upgrade in special effects. The Skitters have a more fluid, otherworldly presence in terms of their animation. They’re genuinely creepy creatures reminiscent of the prawns from District 9 and Spieberg’s own crab-like creatures from War of the Worlds with a hint of Plo Koon from the Star Wars prequels. There’s even a “hero” Skitter that I’ve dubbed “Red Eye” who gives a bit more personality to the invaders.
The Mechs are on par with the Cylons from Battlestar: Galactica, another brilliant science-fiction series crippled by a shoestring budget. As for the Overlords, they’re unsettling in that Fire in the Sky kind of way, but not nearly as fleshed out or interesting as Ridley Scott’s Space Jockeys or other tall, lanky alien designs we’ve seen before.
As season two of Falling Skies moves forward, the survivors will live a nomadic existence as they march toward Charleston, South Carolina, where they hope to meet up with other remaining existence groups and begin to rebuild society. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead or V and you’re looking for a summer fling that involves alien invasions and post-apocalyptic scenarios, then now’s the time to get caught up on Falling Skies. The first season is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.