June 10, 2013




FALLING SKIES is, for TNT, the series Syfy needs and doesn’t seem to be able to pull off.  As futuristic adventure sagas go, there’s nothing innovative about it, or even stylish, and now that the original producers have departed, it’s no longer much interested in being an allegory.  It’s just a straightforward, humans-vs-aliens battle show with enough serialization and character development to keep viewers absorbed, and in that it succeeds.

The 2-part Season 3 premiere (Hour 1 written by showrunner/Executive Producer Rene Aubuchon and directed by Greg Beeman; Hour 2 written by Co-Executive Producers David Weddle & Bradley Thompson and directed by James Marshall) picks up 7 months after the events of Season 2, enough time so that the baby Anne (Moon Bloodgood) told our hero Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) she was carrying in the finale is just about ready to be born.  There have been a few changes in that time:  Tom’s group of rebels is no longer on the run, as it was during the first two seasons of the series, but is instead settled down in Charleston, where Tom has been elected President of the community (as he remarks to someone, it makes him leader of about 20 square blocks), and at his insistence, the resistance has started working with a group of aliens who claim to be rebels themselves, flying around the galaxy to free the planets enslaved by the more evil aliens.  Not everyone is happy about this alliance (Tom himself compares it to Roosevelt and Churchill working with Stalin in World War II), and maybe that giant thing the rebel aliens are building isn’t the anti-alien superweapon they swear it is, but the war’s tide has turned since they joined forces.

A more sinister development is that Tom’s oldest son Hal (Drew Roy) has been infected with some kind of brain-bug by his pre-apocalypse girlfriend Karen (Jessy Schram), who’s now wholly inhabited by alien consciousness.  The device makes him think he’s paralyzed, but at night Karen comes to him and has him join her in the nearby woods for sex and treachery, a fact Hal’s current paramour Maggie (Sarah Carter) is just beginning to figure out.  The show also turns to a couple of traditional plot twists, as Tom learns that there’s a high-level mole in Charleston, and Anne, having given birth, becomes convinced that there’s something preternatural and presumably alien about her baby.

TNT spends real money on Falling Skies (Steven Spielberg is one of the Executive Producers), and the season premiere begins with a 10-minute pitched battle between humans and several different speces of biological and mechanical aliens.  There’s also a high level of guest star, who in these two hours include Terry O’Quinn returning as Tom’s mentor (a quick victim of the mole), Gloria Reuben as Tom’s chief aide, and Robert Sean Leonard as an agoraphobic physicist who has to help Tom destroy the nuclear plant supplying the aliens with their power.  (Leonard’s role doesn’t turn out to be as much fun as it sounds like it ought to be.)  Those production values pay off, as the show often feels more expansive and even deeper than it really is.

Wyle effectively gives Falling Skies a center of gravity.  He’s not an ambiguous lead, as many cable shows feature these days–one never has to worry about his essential sanity or goodness of heart, as one may, for example, debate Rick’s steadiness on The Walking Dead.  Wyle is well-supported by Will Patton as the resistance’s chief soldier and by Bloodgood as his spunky love interest.  It’s too bad, though, that Pope (Colin Cunningham), who started as an engaging but not entirely trustworthy rogue affiliated with the rebels, has been reduced to a mere scheming annoyance.  And despite all the work that several production teams have put into them, Tom’s sons Hal, Ben (Connor Jessup) and Matt (Maxim Knight) remain callow and not very interesting.

The plotlines laid down for Season 3 (there are only 10 episodes in all, so with 2 already done, the season will be over by early August) seem study enough to keep Falling Skies rolling.  The show has become TNT’s highest-rated original drama, holding very well in Season 2, and although there’s plenty of competition on Sunday night cable these days, few of them are bread-and-butter action shows like this one.  Hokey and undemanding it may be, but Falling Skies is unpretentious, fast-moving entertainment, which is more than many of its massively budgeted big-screen counterparts this summer can claim.



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."