June 22, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Falling Skies”



After a falsely cheerful minute or two, the Season 4 premiere of TNT’s sturdy post-apocalyptic alien war saga FALLING SKIES set to work establishing its lines of battle for this summer.  By the end of the opening sequence, the script, by new series showrunner David Eick, had jumped forward by 4 months and fractured the show’s central nuclear family, the Masons, scattering them to what will presumably be the major storylines of the season.  Skies started out as a self-conscious sci-fi riff on the American Revolution, but it seems as though this year the relevant conflict is World War II.

Patriarch Tom (Noah Wyle) and son Hal (Drew Roy), along with grizzled soldier Dan Weaver (Will Patton), all reside in the Espheni “ghetto camp,” although Hal doesn’t know about his father’s presence, since Tom is technically prisoner in the maximum security section, but is able to regularly break out for some vigilante recon as “The Ghost.”  (The fact that the all-powerful Espheni haven’t figured out that the mysterious figure haunting the camp is Tom or that he’s been evading their surveillance so easily is best not examined too closely.)

Tom’s younger son Matt (Maxim Knight) is in another part of the show’s WWII landscape, inhabiting an updated Hitler Youth camp, where young people are tutored by collaborator humans into turning in their parents and otherwise cooperating with their conquerors, although of course Matt is part of a secret rebel force within the unit.  (The disobedient youths identified by the Espheni are sent off in trucks for fates that haven’t yet been explained, but are certainly dire.)

Tom’s wife Anne (Moon Bloodgood) is a leader of the armed anti-Espheni resistance, making raids on alien ammunition transports, while she desperately seeks word of her missing daughter Lexi.

Lexi herself (new regular Scarlett Byrne), who had previously grown with extraordinary rapidity from a baby to a school-age child, has become, in the intervening 4 months, an adult, and presumably her touch of alien DNA is responsible for her familiar magic-child powers of telekinesis, telepathy and the like.  She’s at the center of the oddest and potentially most problematic of the season’s new locations, as the guru-like leader of a seemingly miraculously safe “Chinatown” community where the Espheni supposedly have never touched a person or piece of property, and she guarantees that the peace will last forever.  Her half-brother Ben (Connor Jessup) is properly suspicious, although his fellow warrior Maggie (Sarah Carter) has taken a long drink of Lexi’s Kool-Aid.  Whether this will turn out to be a Matrix-type illusion or something else is as yet unclear.

In all, it was a reasonably compelling start to the new season, directed nimbly by Greg Beeman with decent TV-level special effects for the alien attacks, and distinctive looks for each of the script’s locales.  Wyle and the rest of the cast are comfortable in their roles, although the young actors are noticeably weaker than the adults (Carter being the exception), a problem that’s plagued the series from the start.  The question for this season seems to be whether Eick and his writer/producers will keep the obvious cliches at bay, especially the Espheni = Nazis metaphor, and the super-child powers of the newly-grown and ambiguous Lexi. Falling Skies has been TNT’s strongest show in the ratings with the under-50 audience, regularly hitting numbers in the 1.2 range and above, and although competition on Sunday nights has become ever more ferocious, it seems capable of holding onto its fans for another summer.



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."