Episode 1: On Thin Ice
Episode 2: Collateral Damage
The Season Premiere
By: Carlos Uribe
Falling Skies is a show about the human war effort, along with it's allies, against an alien invasion force.
Welcome to the new season of Falling Skies! The premiere picks up seven months after the cliff-hanger from last season's finale. The new aliens turned out to be allies who have helped turn the tide of war against the skitters. They've given the humans technology to properly remove the harnesses, grenades that mess with the mech's operations, and are building a giant weapon that will allow their army to invade the planet. The human-alien alliance has turned out to be fruitful for our rebellion but it doesn't come without any tension. The humans don't trust them. They might be willing to work with them to beat the skitters but they're worried about what's going to happen when they win the war. Will these new aliens actually help them or will they turn around to conquer them? This is a good tension for the show because it makes sense and it helps to ensure there's going to be some conflict between the aliens and the human commanders. These new aliens aren't the only ones helping our human war effort. The skitter rebellion has officially set up camp next door and the two factions have started to help each other. There is tension between them as humans don't trust them and some still can't seem to comprehend the idea that there could be good and bad skitters. The show doesn't have a lot of subtlety as the writers are clearly drawing parallels between the skitters and bigotry towards human minority groups. This alliance between the three factions (human, skitter, new aliens) has helped turn the balance of power over to the human side. Of course, allowing this imbalance to side with our protagonists makes things too easy for our heroes. The writers upgrade the skitters by giving them access to supermechs that aren't so easily defeated by EMP grenades and some of the kids are too far gone through the harness to ever be saved. There is a threat of an incoming massive invasion that threatens to destroy their city. Overall, I guess it's a good way of setting up this season's conflicts: the tensions between the allies and the threat of the skitters remains. It is a pity that we did skip seven months because it would have been interesting to see how these new aliens set up their alliance with the humans. Falling Skies always seems to be more interesting in the effects and not the causes. They skipped the actual invasion, they fast-forwarded Tom's negotiations with the overlord, and now they've jumped ahead to a period where the humans might actually be able to win their war due to new alliances.
The season premiere has two missions. The first mission is a way to show us how things have changed. The characters are able to use grenades to disable the mechs, their easily overpower two skitters, and their able to capture some harnessed kids. This includes that harnessed boyfriend of Weaver's daughter. It goes pretty smoothly until they get ambushed. The supermechs reveal themselves for the first time and a group of skitters rush out of a mine to attack them. We find out that with this new balance of power (grenades) comes a new dangerous threat (the supermechs) that threatens to shift the momentum back to the skitters. It gets to then have the skitter rebellion and one of the new aliens come in and save the day which shows the viewer how the alliance has been helping the human military. In other words: it's a good use of the mission. The ambush itself helps set up a plot that I'm not completely welcoming but I'll talk about that in a bit. The second mission comes from a warning that the skitters are planning to invade Charlestown with the new supermechs. The city had been able to repel two invasions but it's different because of these new weapons. The best way to deal with this threat is to eliminate the fuel source for the supermechs. Without the fuel, the skitters won't be able to invade and the city will be safe. This is complicated because they need to blow up a nuclear reactor without having radiation fallout making the region inhospitable for centuries to come and because there's a spy who will reveal their secret plan to the enemy. They deal with the first by having a scientist tell them where to place the charges. The second one is where they have a giant misdirection that was actually sold by the series. It's a good mission because the stakes are clear but it turned out to be a futile one. The new alien allies of the humans are building a weapon that will allow their troops to land on Earth. The skitters are going to throw everything they've got at Charlestown to try and stop this from happening. In other words? The Charlestown invasion is going to happen regardless. A threat of an invasion is a good way to build up the tension and to pump up the narrative momentum but it also has a drawback: it's doubtful this show will be able to ever actually show the epic battle. It doesn't have the budget nor the time to properly dedicate itself to it. I guess it's possible they could spend a whole episode on the battle and TNT is prepared to spend bucketloads on that single episode but the cable network doesn't have HBO money nor the mentality to make it likely. It's not a good thing for the show to continually promise a battle that we're never going to actually get.
A popular plot tool for science fiction dramas like Falling Skies is the concept of a spy. There is someone, we don't know who, that is delivering the enemy with intel on our actions. It builds on the level of mistrust between the humans and the aliens but there's also the possibility that one of the humans might be a spy. They might not even know it as they could have been implanted by one of those bug things. It's not really a plot to undertake but I'm not sold on the execution so far. It comes as no surprise that this character is able to easily kill Manchester (this implies the spy is human). The scanning of the maps to show thumbprints might be a new way to gather information but it's not exactly like this makes it fresh or original. I think that's the problem with the spy plot: it's been overdone by so many shows before that it's hard to immediately get behind it on Falling Skies. It has the potential to drag the show down if it lasts too long or if it simply becomes as a plot device to keep misdirecting the skitters to their true plans. It's not like the character is going to be someone we know well because that would be a betrayal of what we know about them and because it would limit their future appearances on the show. If Falling Skies can properly pace the spy plot before it gets old or annoying then I'll be happy but I'm skeptical that's going to happen. I have a feeling this spy plot is going to get tedious before long.
There is a lot of personal dramas on this premiere as well. Hal is having sleepwalking nightmares when he meets with Karen, the new human overlord. This puts some tension between him and Maggie as the two don't really know what's going on. Hal even refuses to admit there's a problem until Maggie catches him sleepwalking. Hal is also dealing with being temporarily paralyzed but that's simply not very compelling at the moment. It might be if he was forced to be undergoing physical therapy on the road with the limited resources of the first two seasons. When he has access to a facility with bouncy balls and a staff, it's simply not very interesting. It's smart to tie his fear that Karen might win him over if he allows himself to recover from the paralysis but it's disappointing that's all the series does with his personal journey in being stuck in a wheelchair. At least that's better than what the writers gave to his little brother. Matt starts by being useful in the first mission but quickly becomes a pain once it finishes. He doesn't want to go to school so he skips out and blows up an abandoned building the rebellion was hoping to convert into a housing facility. He does promise to help repair the damage as well as go back to school so he could have a place in the world once the war is over. It's a bit annoying about how no-one pointed how having an education would actually help him fight the war. The plot itself felt like it was filling in time by giving the youngest member something to do. It doesn't help that it also has an “after-school” special kind of vibe that doesn't fit with the series. As for Anne? We don't spend a lot of time with her pregnant as she has the baby by the time of the premiere. I think the math is a bit off. We find out she's pregnant in the season finale. It's been seven months and she has the baby now? That's a very early delivery! There is a reason for that as the baby is so advanced it is really intelligent and can speak. It's kind-of stupid at this point and it's badly executed as the series keeps evoking horror movie techniques that never really mesh with the rest of the series to the point of parody. It actually feels like it belongs on another show.
The two-hour season premiere of Falling Skies has some good parts and some bad parts. The two missions were executed well and they served a good purpose. The human alliance with the aliens has a lot of tension that should be exploited later on by the writers. The new supermechs are a good way to keep the skitters a credible threat. The bad? The spy plot has the potential to be overdrawn and tedious. The personal drama is largely not that interesting at this point. I could care less about Matt's conflict with going to school and Hal's wheelchair drama was non-existent. His nightmares with Karen are a little more interesting but it also feels like typical romantic teen genre drama. Anne's new super baby feels a bit too much like a satire of horror movies to properly fit in with the Falling Skies universe plus the whole plot is stupid at this point. I'm hoping the third season is an improvement over the first two seasons but so far I'm doubtful. The season premiere might be a mixed bag but there's as much hope as there is doubt.