Note: Episode review contains minor spoilers.
The Resistance is still hanging tough heading into the second season of Falling Skies. In a Hail Mary play Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) steps aboard the Skitter ship as Captain Weaver (Will Patton) looks on in shock and wonder. Fast forward 3 months after this bold decision, we see the likes of Pope (Colin Cunningham) at the front lines of a squad rallying them on with the war cry of: “Life hands you Lemons, you blow its freaking head off!” Indeed, there was a lot of aliens being made into piecemeal but did all the rocket blasts, deadly skirmishes, and ghoulish alien technology equal an exciting 2 hour premiere of Falling Skies? This review would be a very poor one if I just reverted to my typical response when discussing this show with others, which is a shrug of the shoulders and a pursing of the lips. So instead I will try to justify why I am still not on the Resistance train – and no worries this is not meant to imply that I have been harnessed by the Skitter enemy!
Rather than just rip the show limb from limb like a bloodthirsty alien bent on destroying humanity, let me start with what’s working so far in Season 2. The strained exchange of diplomacy between Tom and the Skitters could not have been more cleverly put together. Using a human version of Google Translate through the compromised human Karen (Jessy Schram) was incredibly unsettling. However, I would have liked to see Tom sway a bit more to the concept of peace considering how alluring it is after so much slaughter. Tom is a tad too much of a paragon at times and his unwavering loyalties and ethics make him a flat character. Thankfully, his resistance to the idea of prison camps leads to a heart pounding set of events in which he along with several other commanders are left as target practice when refusing to compromise.
The highlights of the first two episodes would certainly be in other moments with Tom, Pope’s seeds of doubt, and Ben’s soul consuming hatred of Skitters. Of the Tom moments that shined in the premiere I would say the most intriguing was one in which his dialogue consisted only of wild screams of agony. Those who watched the show will probably not be surprised when I mention what moment this is. Any guesses? Times up – the moment I am referring to was when Tom was on the operating table with a wicked parasite swimming around his retina. I am glad the CGI team decided not to lean towards overt gore and instead leave us with a more chilling little entity poking it’s way through Tom’s cranium. It certainly left me rubbing my eyelids quite a bit.
Besides that scene, Pope’s constant questioning of Tom’s mental faculties made the Resistance seem less hunky dory and much more realistically desperate. I wish they had played this more out and perhaps even given Pope a believer or two. Subtle glances from Captain Weaver just does not cut it in my book. Ben being so hate driven was also a refreshing complication. His blind fury is beginning to sacrifice the powers gifted, or rather afflicted on him, and results in an ironic case of friendly fire on his own father. Concealing the fact that he hears screeching frequencies shows that he is not as in control of his body as he wishes to be.
The highs pretty much end there to me. As someone who cannot get enough of labyrinth plots with twists and turns enough to make you motion sick – Falling Skies just is not getting me in that sweet spot. Foreshadowing is almost haphazardly thrown in and questions are just answered with more questions (whose decree was it that earth should be on the chopping block?) There’s nothing wrong with stretching out mysteries but I mean come on, entertainment requires a nice mix of the seasonings. What feels overpowered at the moment to me would be the effects driven plot (“tick, tick, boom” indeed young Resistance fighters.) The story serves merely as a filler – a little garnish if you will – on the sci-fi platter being offered up. Battles end very predictably (alien mech resists a billion bullets, gets killed by a Mason family member after a few more shots) and the characters are falling into patterns we see in any other alien series or movie flick.
Give me a Pope that causes more dissention in the ranks, give me a Tom that does not loathe every bit of the Skitters and is curious about their advancements, give me a Dr. Glass who is truly a medical expert and not just a love interest for the protagonist, give me aliens that are genuinely manipulative and not total devil spawn, give me a Mason family that is not constantly on the strange pendulum between angst and “Leave It to Beaver”…I could go on and on with requests. Perhaps it is I who is asking to much of Falling Skies but seriously the production values are so high, the cast is great enough to commit, and the minds behind it (*cough* Spielberg) are so innovative that it leaves me perplexed as to why we still do not have a workable product.
Fans feel free to chime in. I really want to be a believer in Falling Skies but perhaps I am as irredeemable as Karen and the rest of the harnessed Skitter slaves…