TNT’s new original series Falling Skies kicked off last night with a two-hour premiere. The new sci-fi drama is executive produced by none other than Mr. Steven Spielberg, and stars Noah Wyle of ER fame. The show picks up 6 months in to a hostile alien invasion in Boston, and everything has already gone to hell in a hand basket. We learn from the opening children’s drawings that the invaders are killing off all adults, and capturing and enslaving the children they come across, referred to as ‘harnessing’. To underscore how bad things are truly going the show opens with the destruction of Boston and the retreating of all Massachusetts Resistance Forces and survivors.
Porter, the leader of the resistance fighters, decides to break up the remaining fighters and civilians into three separate groups, and send them into retreat in 3 separate directions to rendezvous later. It is here where we learn that our main man Tom Mason, a former history professor turned resistance fighter, (Wyle) is assigned to be second in command in the 2nd Massachusetts Resistance, led by Captain Weaver (Will Patton), and that his middle child Ben has been harnessed by the aliens. We also learn from the meeting with Porter that while they are trying, there is no way to remove the harness from captured children without killing them. At the conclusion of the meeting, Tom is left with explicit instructions to do whatever it takes to protect the civilians assigned to them, which foreshadows the impending conflict he will inevitably have with Captain Weaver.
From here, we are now focused on the journey of the 2nd Massachusetts, and the civilians they protect. Besides Tom and Captain Weaver, the other main players in the group are Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood – Terminator Salvation), doctor for the 2nd Mass. and Tom’s other 2 sons Hal and Matt (Matt’s real name is Maxim Knight. No, seriously).
The first adventure we find ourselves on is a hunt for food for the group. After a grocery store on their retreat route turns up empty, Tom decides to take a handful of fighters back to check a food distribution center in the city. Upon scouting their route to he distribution center, Hal encounters his harnessed brother Ben, being led along with other captured children. Obviously he wants to save his brother, but he heads back to his father to report his findings. After a brief struggle, Tom is able to convince his son to carry out the food mission first for the good of the civilians, and then return to find Ben. It is at the food distribution center we finally get a good up close look at what the resistance is up against.
The group of fighters encounter and kill one of the six-legged alien invaders, skitters, and destroy one of their robots, mechs, which provides us a small glimmer of hope for the long battle a head. Upon return to camp with the food, Tom informs Captain Weaver of his son’s existence, and his intentions of rescuing him. Weaver reluctantly agrees to let Tom go after the boy on the condition that Tom checks out an old armory for weapons first. This ends part 1.
Part 2 picks up Tom and his fighters having an unsuccessful encounter with one of the alien mechs at the Armory, and forces them to return to camp empty-handed. The aliens were apparently using the Armory as bait.
At camp, the good doctor, Anne, informs Captain Weaver of the complaints starting to circulate among the civilians. Concerns about the treatment they’re receiving, compared to that of the fighters, setting the ground work for the impending conflict between Weaver and the other civilians. Thinking that the Armory is a lost cause, Tom decides to inform Weaver of his intentions to go back and look for his son Ben, but is instead ordered to go back and actually enter the Armory to ensure there is nothing of value to be gained, despite the danger of the alien Mech. Upon returning to the armory, Tom and his team encounter and are captured by a band of marauders led by a career criminal named John Pope (Colin Cunningham – Stargate SG-1).
Pope, who has been watching the group for days, and knows what supplies the 2nd Mass possess, demands a ransom of food and weapons for the return of the captured fighters. While making his demands to Captain Weaver, Pope is betrayed by the only female in gang, Margaret, who sets Tom and the other captured fighters free, in hopes of joining the 2nd Mass. It is here where we learn that Margaret was not only forced in to the gang, but was also raped by two of the members, one of which being Pope’s brother. Upon their release, Tom catches up with the Pope and his gang taking stock of their newly acquired supplies, and engages them in a brief fire-fight – which attracts the attention of a small alien ship. Pope narrowly escapes the ships attack only to be taken hostage by Captain Weaver. The remaining gang member were killed. Part 2 comes to a close with Tom and his eldest son Hal (Drew Roy) making preparations for their next journey: Saving Ben.
So after watching the 2 hour series premiere, I have to say I have luke-warm feelings about the series. The casting is good with Noah Wyle and Colin Cunningham fitting their characters perfectly. I found the direction to be great in creating their vision of the aliens, and post apocalyptic America, without too much cheesiness that comes with sci-fi series. But – I thought there was a real lack of back-story about the events leading up to the invasion, and lives of the main characters involved. Which I would expect from a 2 hour season premiere, and that made it a little hard to completely draw me in. I’m sure all of that will come in the next few episodes, but a little something would have been better than nothing.
All in all I have to say for sci-fi series its worth checking out. The script is pretty solid, and it’s certainly a hell of a lot better than that piece of crap V on ABC. So, while I think this show overall, is done very well, I have to honestly say I don’t think it will last more than a season. Alien invasions do not translate well to the small screen, and seem more suited for the theaters. Hell, they are even hard to come by on the big screen as well…
I give it 3 out of 5 grizzlies.