Friday, June 20, 2014

TELEVISION: Falling Skies returns Sunday – but is it still worth watching?

I’ve been a big fan of TNT’s Falling Skies since the beginning.

To be fair, I wasn’t sure if I would like the alien drama. The only thing I knew about Noah Wylie’s acting ability was that he drove me nuts on ER and he was in those Librarian movies – which didn’t really interest me (knowing that Christian Kane is going to be in the new series, though, will force me to watch – but that’s a whole other issue).

Steven Spielberg gave the show some heft, though – and I do love an alien invasion storyline.

So, I tuned in – and I was blown away.

To me, Falling Skies is what the V reboot should have been. It was gritty, well-acted and it touched on the bigger questions about collaborators and human nature when the world comes to an end. The V reboot – despite Elizabeth Mitchell – was all flash and no substance.

At its heart, Falling Skies is about family. Tom Mason (Wylie) lost his wife in the early days of the invasion. His middle son, Ben (Connor Jessup), is taken by the aliens and “harnessed” and forced to do slave labor. His eldest son, Hal (Drew Roy) is stuck between being a boy and being a man and his youngest son, Matt (Maxim Knight) is trying to learn what being a kid really means in a new world.

Supporting characters include Will Patton’s gruff and loyal Captain Weaver, Moon Bloodgood’s quiet and
dedicated Anne, Colin Cunningham’s rapscallion John Pope, Seychelle Gabrielle’s innocent Lourdes and Sarah Sanguin Carter’s feisty Maggie.

Through the three previous seasons, other characters have come and gone – but most of Falling Skies’ drama is generated through these characters.

The first season of the show as all about survival and dealing with the harnessed kids. Once Ben is freed, we soon find out the harness has mixed alien DNA with his own and given him enhanced abilities. Through the years, Jessup has grown the most as an actor and his Ben is the character that most often serves as the moral compass to those around him.

On the flip side, Hal often reverts to teenage whining as he straddles a line between adulthood and the inconsiderate teenager he was before the world came to an end. As his love interest, Maggie is probably the most interesting female character – and her loyalty is only tested by her pragmatic nature.

The first two seasons of Falling Skies were strong – but I had issues with the third season.

I didn’t have a problem with Hal being implanted with a worm so the aliens could control him. That’s good science fiction.

And, as a viewer, I understood that Bloodgood’s real life pregnancy forced Anne to be off screen for most of the season. Those things happen in television. It is what it is.

On the flip side, though, I’ve found the show dwelling on unimportant political issues at times – and that seems to drag down the narrative.

And, finally, Tom and Anne’s newborn daughter is (quite frankly) a jump the shark moment.

Anne gave birth to Alexis early in season three, found out she was somehow an alien hybrid and then disappeared with her for the bulk of the season – only showing back up in the season finale. When the duo did show back up, Alexis had aged years and could now walk and talk.

I think Kenneth Johnson should sue.

Johnson, the creator and writer of V, also wrote about a half alien, half human, hybrid named Elizabeth. Elizabeth also grew rapidly – so rapidly she saved the day at the end of V: The Final Battle. While Alexis hasn’t technically saved the day yet, she did eradicate all the worms that were infecting Lourdes and she appears to have some sort of power.

Johnson also wrote in his original work that the humans joined forces with other aliens to eradicate the invading aliens (did you follow that). And, when the first alien threat was over, it looked ominously like the “helper” aliens were now going to take over.

That is also exactly what is happening in Falling Skies. The Volm have showed up, pledging that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and said they will help defeat the invading alien army. Then, at the very end of season three, they tried to relocate all the humans to camps for their own safety while they continued the war.
Of course, our heroes balked, and we’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out what will happen next for them, but I’m a little worried.

I still think Falling Skies is well-written and acted, but the writing is starting to suffer. Let’s hope that season four rights the ship instead of sending it down the same road that V: The Series did before it was ultimately cancelled.

What won’t work is Alexis being the new focal point and sudden “savior” to us all. That failed on V and it will fail here.

Alien invasion stories only work when you look at the human element associated with it. Falling Skies is – sadly – starting to lose the human element.

What do you think? Is Falling Skies losing its mojo?


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