Early Review Of Falling Skies

The TNT marketing department is wasting no time in trying to get the buzz out for the new show Falling Skies.

Social media folks who have high Klout scores were given “VIP” passes to a pre-party last Thursday at the Highball and then preferential seating at a screening of the premiere episode (really episodes 1 & 2) at the Alamo Drafthouse, followed by a Q&A with Moon Bloodgood.

Before you think I have Klout score that even ranges within the single digits, I was invited by my friend Kat (@katmandelstein, thanks!).

So how was it?

I give the show a B- rating and I will watch it this season to see where it goes.  

While it’s a good show with a lot of room to grow into itself, the comparisons to the Walking Dead are inevitable and I have to point out that as a result, the bar is being set very high.

One of the disadvantages this show has out of the gate are the aliens.  When you think about the Walking Dead, the zombies are not an adversary so much as they are an environmental condition.  The zombies have no strategy.  No plan of attack.  They just exist to foil the humans.  The conflict is entirely within the confines of the human condition; man vs. man.

With Falling Skies, the backdrop of the alien invasion has to divide it’s time between the alien takeover of the planet (“them” vs. us) as well as the human condition elements.  Too many unanswered questions (like what’s their end game? etc.).

While both conflicts are served, they do tend to go back-and-forth a lot.

Not too much has been revealed about the aliens, and I almost would have liked to have had even less information than was given.  The reason being, once you start to peel that band-aid you really want to just keep tearing at it until you rip the entire thing off.

What if the alien plot becomes more interesting than the people?  Stargate always had this problem, where the characters became subservient to the science.  These type of shows only work when it balances out evenly (which is a difficult task).

While there were a few dark elements that speak to how people will respond to what might be the end of civilization, these things are presented and then quickly tucked away.  Which is not a bad thing.  It’s just a thing.  Steven Spielberg is the executive producer of the show and it airs on TNT, so given both of these facts you kinda know going in that if it ever starts to go into dark territory it’s going to refocus back onto the alien conflict and not linger in the depths of the soul of the downtrodden.

For instance: there’s a particular sub-plot about children that should be a lot more disturbing than it actually is and yet they spend very little time on the depth of emotion to be had by this sub-plot and I suspect that later on in the season it will be more about the alien invasion and less about the children affected.

Recently, the show “The Killing” had a stand-alone episode that just focused on the detectives and not on the murder they are investigating.  Some felt it was a cheat.  Others felt it was a brilliant piece of storytelling.  If Falling Skies wanted to be cutting-edge, they’d pull a “Lost” and do a show from the perspective of the children at some point.  Flip the camera around as it were (Tailies, represent!).  But I won’t be holding my breath for that to happen.  10 minutes, maybe.  But not a full episode, sadly.

The first episode was written by series creator Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan) and while it was good, the second episode was the stronger of the two  with a number of moments that the audience reacted to (it helps that Graham Yost wrote that second episode).

The cast is solid and Noah Wylie is a great lead (as to be expected).  I will say that Will Patton kinda sticks out a bit. He’s an amazing actor, but I can’t shake the image of him as the bad guy in The Postman.  There’s a post apocalypse “you can’t go home again” joke here; somewhere.

The standout of the cast has to be the character Jimmy (Dylan Authors), a solider who only yesterday was a thirteen year-old boy.  He doesn’t have a ton of screen time, but when he is in a scene he owns it.  I give a huge amount of credit to Falling Skies for getting a leg up on the Walking Dead with this brilliant character.  My challenge to this show is to take advantage of him and bring him to the foreground the way that writers did with Kat on Battlestar Galactica.

This is a solid show, but it’s also family entertainment.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s got drama.  It’s got action.  And like I said, if the Walking Dead is a bit too dark of a show, this might be a nice alternative.

And, as a counterpoint to that statement: if you do like the Walking Dead, you might like this show as well.  Just don’t expect to see someone forced into a “hacksaw” type of decision any time soon.

I’ll report back on the blog as the season progresses to let you know where I land on this.


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