'Falling Skies' Series Premiere

The missions give Falling Skies an episodic shape, with objectives that can be accomplished each week while advancing the overarching plot.

Falling Skies

Airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET
Cast: Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Colin Cunningham, Connor Jessup
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: TNT
Director: Carl Franklin
Air date: 2011-06-19

Falling Skies opens six months after a massive attack against earth, an attack that has destroyed major cities and wiped out long-range communications. Our ragtag band of survivors has been scrounging around in the suburbs of Boston, but by now they've picked the area clean and the aliens keep targeting progressively smaller groups of humans for extermination. Commander Porter (Dale Dye) decides to split the group in two and send them in different directions. Weaver (Will Patton), a soldier with extensive military experience, will be in charge of the 2nd Massachusetts Unit, with Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) as his second-in-command.

Tom is a history professor by trade, and in the series premiere he spouts facts about past wars and battles as examples of what the 2nd Mass should be doing. Though it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to assume aliens will behave like humans, it's also typical of the genre. More often, Falling Skies doesn't offer too many guesses as to the invaders' intentions. At first, all we know about them is that they are very powerful, and not incidentally, capturing and controlling teenagers via organic critters that attach to their spines, nicknamed "harnesses."

One of Tom's sons, Ben (Connor Jessup) is harnessed, and even if they do manage to rescue him from the aliens, the heroes have yet to find a way to remove the harness without killing the host. Ben's brother Hal (Drew Roy) is old enough to go on military missions and be involved in a budding (and instantly tiresome) love triangle with Karen (Jessy Schram) and Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel).

Weaver is set up as the hard-ass authority figure who repeatedly interferes with Tom's efforts to rescue Ben. There's always another mission that needs to be taken care of before Weaver can spare him for a personal quest. Although Weaver fits a few too many military clichés (he's completely stuck on the chain of command, he resents having to drag around 200 civilians with his 100 "fighters"), his goals make sense, and Tom is too practical to complain much. Their missions give Falling Skies an episodic shape, with objectives that can be accomplished each week while advancing the overarching plot.

That plot -- essentially, how the humans will come together in order to survive -- has been linked in TNT's marketing campaign with its executive producer, Steven Spielberg. One thing the Spielberg name brings to the show is production value. The aliens, slimy, six-legged, two-armed beasties called "skitters," always look great, and the bipedal, robot-like "mechs" are convincing as well. The harnesses are sort of like organic, glowing wormlike things, appropriately creepy.

Still, Spielberg's track record as a television producer is spotty, ranging from seaQuest DSV to Band of Brothers, and so it might help that he's working here with creator Robert Rodat, whose scripts include Saving Private Ryan, as well as writer and producer Graham Yost, who worked on The Pacific and, more recently, Justified. Yost's script for the second episode introduces us to Pope (Colin Cunningham), a complicated outlaw who's reminiscent of Boyd Crowder, the Walton Goggins character on Justified. Pope's initial conversation with Tom is a standout moment, revealing that he's a man with his own moral standards and sense of purpose. That purpose occasionally lines up with what the 2nd Mass is doing, but often it doesn't.

Falling Skies' mix of compelling individuals helps to make its early use of formula less troublesome than it might have been. Later episodes develop interesting and diverse motives, as the 2nd Mass begins to figure out what the aliens are up to and how to fight them more effectively. Wyle's earnest hero is flawed and sympathetic, as he struggles with his loss, seeks to save the world, and develops a relationship with a doctor named Anne (the excellent Moon Bloodgood). What's remarkable is that he's only one of many reasons that Falling Skies is good science fiction.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.