Summer Television: ‘Falling Skies’

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So we’ve seen four episodes of TNT‘s newest summer offering “Falling Skies,” a post-apocalyptic alien tale originally conceived by Steven Spielberg and Robert Rodat (both exec producers). Starring Noah Wyle, Drew Roy, Moon Bloodgood and Will Patton, the first season has gotten off to a fast-paced, if uneven start where we see the humans banding together to fight off the alien threat.

Wyle plays Tom Mason, a history teacher that has become a soldier in order to fight the aliens. His wife has died, leaving only him and his three boys, Hal, Ben and Matt. Hal, played by Roy, is old enough to fight alongside his father, while Matt (Maxim Knight) is just a little boy trying to understand his new world. Tom’s middle son Ben has been captured and “harnessed” by the aliens; these harnesses can control the children’s minds.

They’re joined by Anna Glass (Moongood), a young pediatrician turned doctor for the entire resistance unit, who lost her husband and son when the aliens first attacked. Patton is truly the all-star of the cast as Captain Weaver, the commander of the unit; he’s tough as nails, but always has a mischievous twinkle in his eye that reminds us he wasn’t once all work. He’s also one of the only actual soldiers in the unit, making his job of protecting everyone that much more difficult.

The plot follows a pretty straightforward path in that we see the humans go on a mission, come up against some type of alien obstacle and then come back together for a message of hope in the end. That’s the only thing holding this series back from becoming something great — it refuses to wallow in the mire of the post-apocalypse which is exactly what viewers want to see when they watch this kind of tale. We want to see a lot of darkness with just minor glimpses of brightness, and “Falling Skies” globs on the schmaltz in heavy doses. For example, Professor Tom always feels the need to give a history lesson to his sons right after something bad happens, trying to remind him that countries and people have prevailed.

And while the hopelessness might never reach the level of “The Walking Dead,” another post-apocalyptic tale that premiered on AMC earlier this year, TNT has quite a large budget for action and they’ve managed to create characters we care about in just four episodes. The aliens are really impressive special effects-wise, probably unlike anything on television. There are two types — “mechs” or giant robots and “skitters,” spider-like aliens in the traditional sense. While the mechs do the most damage, it’s the skitters that strike fear when you’re watching, which is exactly what should happen when watching malicious aliens such as these.

But are they as malicious as they seem? The good thing about the show right now is that it’s moving forward at a pretty quick pace. We’re learning more about these aliens, and they might want something more than to just exterminate the human race and take over Earth. Could they want to help us, or could it be something even worse than extermination?

The show is definitely great summer fluff, and perhaps with a little more experimentation of the tone, the writers can strike the right balance necessary for great television. Graham Yost, another exec producer for ‘Skies’ and the showrunner for one of the best shows on television right now “Justified,” has much experience with this sort of balancing act between villainy and heroism. Like “Justified,” the show might just need a little longer to find its footing. If you’re checking out anything this summer, I definitely recommend this to be your top choice.

“Falling Skies” airs 10 p.m. Sundays on TNT.


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