So I said last season that I wasn’t very impressed with Falling Skies but I was going to give it a second chance to redeem itself. I finally sat down and started watching the new season 2-part opener and I’m not sure that my previous review was wrong.
At the end of the last season, the aliens “abducted” Tom Mason. Okay, they didn’t really abduct him, he went semi-willingly, told that if he didn’t, his son would be recaptured. The first episode is about what happened to him and how he gets free. Much of his experience is told in flashbacks, which I suppose is more interesting than just showing it all in one go, but to be honest, I don’t really like it. From what we know, he was taken aboard with promises that he’d find out about his son Ben and be able to protect him from being re-recruited by the aliens. From what we see, he never got anything of the sort. Instead he gets tortured and interrogated. Funny, those aliens seemed like the trustworthy sort.
The aliens are still stupid, or so inscrutable that they’re pointless. They offer a “sanctuary” to the remaining humans but we still don’t know what the aliens want with Earth in the first place. So far, we know they use human slaves to gather metal, we know they’re building towers in major cities, we know that their human slaves are eventually transformed into other alien forms, but seriously, this is supposed to be an advanced technical species, exactly what is it that they want from the Earth? And please, tell me, why are so many of these advanced space-faring species in these shows so filthy? They have big spaceships and the insides are all terribly dirty and disorganized. It happens in a lot of series, I just don’t get it.
The aliens, after Tom turns them down, release him and a few other captives that they’d likewise been trying to talk into the “sanctuary” idea. Then they gun them all down. Except for Tom. Why? I wasn’t under the impression that 2nd Mass was anything really spectacular. They’re just a small group of people fighting against the aliens, a part of the larger resistance but they’re certainly not in charge. So why is Tom special? We spend the next couple of flashbacks watching Tom work his way back to Boston, just in time to have Ben put a bullet in him. Good shot kid. Enter the endless angst trying to save his life. It’s not like he doesn’t have script immunity. Was anyone really worried he’d die?
So eventually, he gets back on his feet and because he doesn’t immediate explain everything that’s happened to him while he was gone, the group gets nervous. Oh wait, he tried to explain it and they told him to rest! Then they got mad that he was doing what they asked him to do. That makes sense.
Pope bitches about the loss of his Harley Davidson. Okay, if that particular bike had sentimental value to him, I might be able to see it, but there ought to be millions of cars laying around. As of 2007, there were more than 7 million motorcycles registered in the U.S. Stop whining and go get yourself another one. It’s yet another example of stupid scriptwriting. They say they lost a certain number of cars, but they should be able to replenish those cars easily. They say pretty early on that the aliens have never targeted vehicles before. Go to any street or used car lot you want, drive away a couple dozen.
Anyhow, we find out that 2nd Mass has been trying to find a way across the river to avoid being trapped and picked off by the alien patrols. While they’re out looking for bridges, they come across one in excellent condition. One guy says wow, it’s lucky this is here because the aliens have destroyed all the other bridges for 100 miles around. Now correct me if I’m wrong but if you’re flying down a river, seeing a bridge isn’t all that hard, is it? It’s not like it was an amazingly high tech camouflaged bridge, how did the aliens miss it? Oh yeah, the aliens are stupid and it’s a convenient plot device. Of course, a couple of alien ships happen along and crash into the bridge. Well, they barely graze the bridge. They dent the bridge. Oh no, the horror! They argue about how to possibly fix the minor damage and conclude that someone has to swim across the river to scout on the other side.
Swim across the river? Why? You can jump across the gap on the bridge. In fact, a large part of the bridge is still attached, just walk across. They make a big deal about not having the ability to fix the bridge, but they said they got a boat from a hardware store. That hardware store might carry, I don’t know… LUMBER?!?!
They get the idea that the skitters are tracking the heat of their engines so they think a square of fiberglass on the hood is going to make them invisible? It’s not like they try this amazing trick on all of their vehicles or anything, nor is it ever mentioned again during the episode. Was this just to add a little angst and waste a little time? Who knows.
Meanwhile, they find a metal bug in Tom’s eye and yank it out with tweezers, then stick it in a glass jar and leave it sitting around on the counter. I guess it never occurred to anyone that a glass jar just might fall off the counter and break, letting the alien worm-thing loose while the bus is bouncing across the bridge. Luckily, what happened wasn’t quite that stupid, the bug burned a hole through the glass and flew away so it could report back to it’s alien overlords. Of course, Tom insists that he can’t be trusted and demands to be trussed up in the most uncomfortable position imaginable. With beds and seats all over the bus, he tells them to tie his hands to a pole so the best he can manage is to slump onto the floor? Dumb, dumb, dumb.
After making a small patch to fix the bridge, they slowly, and I mean really, really, really slowly, “escape” from the aliens. I mean, it’s not like the aliens have flying craft to transport their troops to the other side of the river or anything, right? Tom effects his “escape” from his zip-tie bonds and rushes off to hold off the alien onslaught while the last couple of vehicles trundle across the bridge, then Pope blows the bridge with Tom still on the other side. Looks like Tom is a goner, but again, we know he has script immunity. The fact that nobody makes an attempt to look for him and doesn’t seem particularly surprised when he waltzes out of the water proves they know it too.
I keep trying to like this show. I don’t know why, maybe because it’s summer and there isn’t that much worthwhile to watch on TV anyhow. None of the characters are all that memorable. People act like Tom and Pope are amazing, but they’re just not. Pope might have the most potential but he’s really too unstable to be likeable. Watching Ben be angsty throughout the two-parter was no picnic either. Seriously, for the rest of the characters, they were so forgettable I could have sworn I never saw any of them before until I started watching the first episode. I guess this show might be okay for people who have never seriously watched or read sci-fi before, but all of the tropes are there.
So when do we get an intelligently, rationally written show that doesn’t just borrow from everyone else, doesn’t require everyone to act stupidly in order to force the plot along and keeps people guessing because it isn’t painfully obvious where things are going? I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. Other TV genres seem to have little problem doing it, so why not sci-fi?
I guess we’ll just have to keep waiting. Falling Skies isn’t it.