August 5, 2013



FALLING SKIES told a somewhat different story this season under showrunner Remi Aubuchon than it had in its first two years, and the changes worked fairly well for the most part.  Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and his plucky band of rebels against the evil alien Espheni, instead of roaming the east coast, were based in Charleston, and for part of the season Tom was their elected President.  Storylines concentrated on the uneasy bond between humans and the seemingly good alien Volm, personified by the one they called Cochise (played under a lot of latex by Doug Jones, whose previous non-human roles include his remarkable turn in Pan’s Labyrinth), as well as the humans unwittingly mind-controlled into being Espheni spies.  Tonally, there was a lot less reference to American history in general and the Revolutionary War in particular, and the show as a whole was more meat and potatoes sci-fi action-adventure.

The more focused narrative allowed for increased character development and some solid new additions like Vice-President (and then President) Marina Peralta (Gloria Reuben) and eccentric–of course–scientist Roger Kadar (Robert Sean Leonard), although at times things became repetitious, with multiple Espheni moles being exposed and episode after episode featuring rebel rebel John Pope (Colin Cunningham) being a dick.  The season also had one standout hour, which took a neat Matrix/Prisoner detour as Tom lived in an alternate “pre-invasion” reality while the Espheni probed his mind for details about the joint human/Volm attack on their grid.

Tonight’s Season 3 finale, unfortunately, wasn’t the show at its best, largely because it mostly consisted of set-ups for (the already-ordered) Season 4, which will have David Eick rather than Aubuchon as showrunner (a voluntary change, it should be noted, not a Walking Dead-type network coup).  The grid attack was disposed of in the episode’s first few minutes, a seemingly very expensive few minutes by TV standards, to be sure.  That left the bulk of the episode devoted to pondering whether the Volm really were good aliens, which it at first seemed they weren’t (all humans were to be forcibly relocated to Brazil), then they were (it was all a misunderstanding–they didn’t realize the humans might prefer to stay), then maybe they weren’t after all (or so said Jessy Schram’s evil, Espheni-possessed Karen, who may or may not have been killed at the end of the episode).  It made for a lot of ambiguous dialogue that ended up having no real punchline.

Even less promising was the continuing storyline of Tom’s newborn daughter Lexie with not-dead-after-all Anne (Moon Bloodgood, who in real life had to be absent for several episodes because she was actually having a baby).  Lexie somehow possesses alien DNA, could talk to Anne shortly after birth, and in the way of demonic babies in every horror story that has one (and this season’s True Blood faeries), grows at a superhuman rate.  The end of the finale had Lexie pulling Espheni worms out of mind-controlled Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) with a mere touch, while figurative Twilight Zone music played in the background.  This whole motif feels like a different kind of show than Falling Skies has been up till now.

It’s not clear how much involvement Eick had in these set-ups, although since Aubuchon is leaving the show under his own steam, it’s unlikely that he would have departed with loose ends Eick hadn’t approved.  In any case, they give Eick some big issues for next season, with Tom apparently going back to the Seasons 1-2 format by roaming from battle to battle without a home base.  Eick does have a solid pair of leads in Wyle and Will Patton’s crusty-but-benign Colonel Dan Weaver to take the show in whatever direction he has in mind, even if the supporting cast’s strength is more mixed (with all the work the show has done trying to deepen the characters of Tom’s sons, none of them has succeeded in making much of an impression).  Falling Skies is a big success for TNT, with ratings above a 1.0 almost every week (despite a recent dip), and keeping it as a summer treat with just 10 episodes per season is a wise scheduling strategy.  With Syfy airing everything these days except, you know, actual science-fiction, Falling Skies is just about the only game in town for old-fashioned us-vs-aliens action-adventure.  If the show can sidestep its demon babies and stick to what it does well, it should be able to keep going for the long haul.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."