Waiting a year between a pilot and a series pickup felt like an eternity while waiting for TNT to make a decision about “Falling Skies.” It seemed almost impossible on the technical end that the cable channel could sustain this series.
But once those early returns started coming in, TNT realized that if there were any technical snags still holding “Falling Skies” back, they would need to fix them, because viewers were enjoying this show, and they certainly wanted more.
Flaws and all.
Not that there were a lot of flaws. There really wasn’t. Mark Verheiden, who really made his name on projects like Syfy’s “Battlestar Galactica,” did a tremendous amount of work to ensure that “Falling Skies” was simply not another alien invasion series. Instead, he created some that felt real, with issues that make sense, and an enemy that made you look for some space behind your couch for comfort.
Remi Aubuchon, the co-creator of the “Battlestar” prequel “Caprica” and a second-season writer for “Stargate: Universe,” takes over and comes in with a slightly different attitude. No longer is this about humanity on the defense, looking for a hole to punch through. The Second Mass now has a goal, and they aren’t sitting around waiting for that finish line to come to them — they are going to it.
That means a lot more traveling, and a lot less staying put and defending old schools. And I think that’s excellent. I enjoyed the school episodes, because it was a fascinating place to be holed up — but there is a time when the group has to move, and that time is the second season.
But moving is far more dangerous than just sitting put, believe it or not. They not only have to worry about Skitters and isolated people doing anything it takes to survive, but let’s just say the roads and bridges aren’t what they used to be. It’s become traversing the frontier all over again, with equipment that weighs several more tons than what early Americans have had to deal with.
After stepping into an alien ship at the end of Season 1, Noah Wyle does return as Tom Mason, but it’s a return that doesn’t come without consequences. Not just with the alien invaders, but with his own people (and family) who are not sure whether they can trust him. One person who certainly doesn’t is John Pope (Colin Cunningham), and as insane as this character is, he tends to be the only person speaking what the rest of us are thinking.
Whether or not the Second Mass even listens to Pope is something viewers will just have to wait and see as Season 2 progresses. That is if they can even pay attention. That’s because another Mason should have some people worried — rescued son Ben Mason (Connor Jessup) who is not fully free of the Skitters’ grasp, but seems to have some very harsh and direct feelings about his former captors.
Also struggling with both her feelings and what she does for the Second Mass is Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), who has to give up what was almost a cozy medical bay at the school in Season 1, for a bus that does not provide a lot of room, and is not very easy to travel with. Her challenges and how she works through them should be more interesting as the season progresses.
The best part about “Falling Skies” for me besides the story, concept and characters is the fact that despite going against an enemy that seems to always be a step ahead of them at every turn, they are not willing to give up. And discovering a goal — a place they need to head to, almost a utopia of sorts — gives them additional motivation to chug along, no matter how difficult the going gets.
The sense of distrust is great, especially when it comes to Wyle’s Tom Mason. Even as a viewer, you’re not sure if it’s important as a human being to give Mason the benefit of the doubt, or if it’s the first step toward your doom. Mason himself questions this more than once, especially as more and more of his story is revealed about what happened on the alien ship, and the shocking aftermath.
Seeing more of the survivors who are not necessarily affiliated with the resistant groups is great as well. Too often, we find stories where everyone seems to be of like mind in general, and that there aren’t strays — or that our heroes are in the minority. It seems that way with the Second Mass, as they are doing whatever they can to bring the planet back to humans, even if the rest of the survivors aren’t too keen on that idea.
I was worried that I would tire of Will Patton as Capt. Weaver, but instead, it’s been the opposite. The more we learn of the military leader, the more I can’t wait to see what happens with him next. Writers resisted the urge to make him an unfeeling military leader or even a boy scout, and instead gave us someone who was flawed, and who probably would not even be involved in anything militaristic if there wasn’t an invasion. He’s the reluctant leader who has to lead, and is really not bad at it at all.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
There seems to be still too much coincidental discovery, whether it be of technology, of people, of strategy. It’s understandable that you have a bunch of regular everyday people on the run, and they have to try and discover those things while doing the running — but while coincidence may happen from time to time to get you out of tough jams, writers can’t always depend on it to pull through.
“Falling Skies” is off to a great start as a series, but the last thing it needs is a Wesley Crusher.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
“Falling Skies” stars Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Colin Cunningham, Will Patton, Drew Roy and Connor Jessup. “Worlds Apart” was written by Mark Verheiden and directed by Greg Beeman. “Shall We Gather at the River” was written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, and directed by Beeman.