T Lo is Watching: “Falling Skies”

Posted on June 25, 2011

With The Killing giving us THE WORST FINALE EVER, and since Project Runway and The A-List: New York, don’t start for another month, we thought we’d devote some time to the latest “aliens among us” series, Falling Skies, from TNT. If you’re like us and you suffered through V and The Event, then you’re either sick of alien invasion TV shows or you’re holding out hope that someone might actually get it right one of these times. We watched the 2-hour pilot this week (which is OnDemand if you’re looking to catch up) and we were pleasantly surprised by this one.

We’re not going so far as to say it’s worth your time. Seriously, we’ve been burned too many times before. But we will say this show, right out of the gate, doesn’t suffer from the biggest problems the aforementioned shows did. It starts off in media res, months after the aliens successfully invaded earth. In other words, this isn’t a show about an alien invasion; it’s a show about an alien occupation. For us, that makes a huge difference. One of the most frustrating things about V was the fact that the entire planet seemed to treat an alien invasion like no big deal and even the people who were nominally the “resistance” were all clean, well-dressed people who, after a day of pretend-fighting aliens, would all go home at night to clean sheets and running water. In other words, V, and to a lesser extent The Event, were flawed on a conceptual level because they never treated an alien invasion like the BFD it’s supposed to be.

Not so with this show. It’s more like The Walking Dead in that sense. Everyone’s a refugeee and civilization is apparently over, for the time being. There’s a resistance, but it’s not the feel-good resistance of so many Hollywood apocalypses. There’s the self-appointed military, and then there’s the “civilians,” which in this case, is everyone who doesn’t have military-ready skill sets; that is to say, the vast majority of the population. Right there that sets up a tension that could provide a nice framework for all the stories going forward and could ask some rather uncomfortable questions about how quickly we’d revert back to… well, back to the days when armies decided the fate of the world.

The first two hours were focused on short-term missions; getting food and checking out an armory. It would be nice if the show continued in that vein. Clearly, the survivors are barely surviving at all and there are questions being asked about how this makeshift society is going to work. Meanwhile, the aliens are still out and about, harvesting earth’s children.

Oh, did we not mention? For once, the aliens have a seemingly simple goal: they want our kids. We’re sure it’ll be a while before we find out why, but it’s so refreshing to encounter aliens with simple-to-understand life plans. After 2 seasons of V, can anyone really sum up exactly what those Prada lizards were here for? Can anyone tell us what the “event” actually was? The problem with so many of the failed attempts at good sci-fi shows the last couple of years is that none of them seemed to understand the K.I.S.S. principle. The status quo of the fictional world should be fairly easy to sum up in a sentence or two. If it’s not, you’ll have a hard time keeping the audience engaged and a hard time building more complicated stories on top of your baseline. The premise here couldn’t be simpler and the pilot unfolds in a confident, low-key manner that fills you in nicely on the details, while introducing you to all the major players. A good, solid start, as far as we’re concerned. Although we’re warning you now: there’s a fairly cheesy (and painfully obvious) “Sawyer” ripoff right there in the pilot and we can’t say that fills us with confidence.

We’ll leave the rest of the summing up for our first real recap, but if you’re still looking for a decent alien invasion show, you might want to check this one out. It’s on TNT, Sunday nights at ten. Meet us on the couch.

[Picture credit: Ken Woroner/TNT]

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  • Maybe they are after the children because they intercepted one too many High School Musical transmissions in outer space and they were all, “Take Us To You Bieber.” And also, Miley and Momsen are like, thisclose to flashing their ladyparts and Starfleet considers such activites to be flagrant acts of war.

  • Dani Colman

    I find myself in mind of Torchwood: Children of Earth.  A must-watch – and, I think, right up you guys’ alley.

    • Funny you should mention that; Tom just watched it the other night. It was excellent, but very depressing at the end.

      • Rand Ortega

        The new series, Torchwood: Miracle Day, starts on STARZ July 8.
        Here’s the trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVktcOQD1zA

        • Anonymous

          Oh bah, on Starz not BBCA?? I don’t have that one! 

          • MilaXX

            Yup It’s a US/BBC collab. I think we even get the series before the UK this time around. I’m going to sub to STARZ just long enough to watch the series.

      • C H

        I am shocked and appalled that you started Torchwood with the Children of Earth season. You MUST get the first season, which was much more episodic in nature, and delved into each of the characters and how/why they were so devoted to Capt. Jack…I mean besides the hotness and charm factors. Plus it has SPIKE James Marsters trading punches and smooches! Get thee to the first season!!!!

        • We’re kind of used to readers assuming we haven’t watched certain shows, but we’re completely puzzled as to why you’d assume we haven’t watched the first two seasons of Torchwood. For what it’s worth, I (Tom) really hated the first season and thought it was too “Oooh, it’s Doctor Who with sexy times!” in its approach. The cast never really came together and it wasn’t until a couple of them died off and Martha Jones started making appearances that the show got better. Better, but not great. Season 3, which was really just a mini-series, was the best work yet from the cast and creators.

          • MilaXX

            I know you don’t blog about everything you watch I just don’t want to assume you watch something just because you are tv buddies in my head. 🙂

          • I was a huge Martha Jones fan, too.  Hers are the only Torchwood episodes I watched because I disliked the first season (or the half episode I watched before I broke out in a rash) for the same reason Tom did.  But, yeah, Rory is such a lovely addition that I think he’s tied with Martha for me if only because of his sadness over losing “Sexy.”  Arthur Darvill is so wonderful.  (sniff)

            But I’ve decided to fill my summer viewing with the greatest reality show ever, at least this summer, Rhett & Link:  Commercial Kings.  It airs on IFC and sadly can’t find the full episodes online so if you don’t have IFC you’re out of luck, but if you do, they made commercials for a cat hotel and a doggie day care/cab service called “Super Shmuttle” which taxis dogs to the dog park and it was just the most amazing and hilarious half hour I’ve ever seen.  The commercials are available for viewing on YouTube or on IFC.com.  Great show.

          • MilaXX

            Ive seen  it advertised. may give it a looksee.

          • C H

            Ummm…Doctor Who with sexy times? How in the 11 (or 26 depending on your view) dimensions of space/time could that be a bad thing?

            The assumption was made because you did not expound at length on how T:COT was better than the first seasons. Dammit…I demand humbly beg expository responses to everything that you guys encounter, because you are my blog crack and I am constantly needing my fix.

          • Anonymous

            My thoughts exactly regarding Torchwood Season 1. I hated it enough to stop watching even though I enjoy James Marsters an awful lot. But if Season 3 is that much better I may give it a go.

          • Anonymous

            I recapped/reviewed Torchwood’s first 2 seasons at The House Next Door (which I think is at Salon.com now) and I concur with Tom’s assessment completely.  Season 1 was a mess character- and story-wise, with way too many aliens OTW interested in sex.  Season 2 was a vast improvement with more consistent characterizations and some really harrowing story lines (although the whole Dead Owen thing went on a bit too long).   “Children of Earth” was simply brilliant, but yeah, kind of a downer, too.

          • I really disliked the first season, too, and I was so burned out that I completely skipped the second season of Torchwood.  Which made me feel like a really bad scifi fan and an even worse Whovian, but I just couldn’t take it.  Once I saw the ads for Children of Earth, though, I got sucked back in…which was a good thing, because Children of Earth was excellent.  Eventually I’ll go back to season 2 of Torchwood, if only to see the Martha Jones episodes.

            It took me a while to come around to Gwen, but I ended up liking her.  I feel like Russell T. Davies was especially good at making well-rounded characters–ones who had inner strengths which made them awesome, but also flaws which made them human.

        • Anonymous

          You took the words right out of my mouth! Loved the first season, and Spike was one of the highlights. Especially when Capt. Jack kept dying/resurrecting in the coffin.

      • Jen Anderson

        I bawled like crazy during Children of Earth. It was brilliant, but I never want to watch it again. But in that show, there was an actual reason why they wanted the children. In Falling Skies, I’m not sure why they need slave labor since they can build robots to work for them. I imagine that they need child slaves because anyone older can’t merge with the spine harness thingy, but I really hope they give us a good reason why the aliens need main controlled slaves at all.

  • Anonymous

    The children thing makes me think of Torchwood:Children of the Earth, which still gives me the creeps to think about.  So if that is their inspiration, it might not be a bad thing.

    • MilaXX

      I hate Gwen so I won’t even begin to tell you how long it took me to get over CoE

      • Gwen is awesome! I love her thick Welsh accent and the gap between her teeth!

        • MilaXX

          I hate Gwen almost as much as I hate Rose from Doctor Who. I have to work to separate my Gwen hate from Eve Myles who is just lovely and I like as an actress. On TW I like Toshiko, but if you haven;t seen anything but CoE you haven’t met her.

        • Anonymous

          I like Gwen as well. One of the reasons I enjoy (some) British tv is the fact that many of the actors look like real people. They’re not orange and “perfect” which I find refreshing.

  • Yeah, do Torchwood: Miracle Day which comes out july 8th, ten episodes: guaranteed to wrap everything up. Plus John Barrowman.

    • Rand Ortega

      Sorry Afl Sofia, didn’t see your post!

  • G

    Unfortunately for “Falling Skies”, we watched it right after the finale of “Game of Thrones”.  Bad idea.  Like following a delectable 10 course meal with a bowl of jello.  Could only stand 45 minutes.  

  • Anonymous

    I have it series passed on the DVR, but my new policy with brand new series is letting the eps pile up for a minute until I know there will be a second season (Terriers and Lights Out I’m looking at you).  Sounds promising though.

    • I was so mad when they canceled Terriers! I loved that show, and it was shot down the street from my friend’s house so we would have daily Donal Logue sightings.

  • Kelly Broderick

    The Sawyer rip off was annoying as was the casting of the older son, it took me half the first episode to realize he wasn’t Noah Wylie’s brother.  Dude looks way too old and his father looks way too young.

  • Im not sure if i totally love it, the pace was really slow the first episode, but it reminds me of The Walking Dead so ill give it a go.

  • Do you have plans to cover Drag U? It is much much better the second season, and they did away with thoroughly ravaging the poor contestants by giving them letter grades.
    I just may give Falling Skies a shot! 

  • Anonymous

    Really liked the first episodes and I wasn’t sure I would. I didn’t like V much at all (and I’m old enough to have watched the “first one”).
    I liked the complicated characters on Falling Skies and the fact that the story seems to have lots of room to develop.
    Keeping my fingers crossed. It’s a long time until Spring 2012 and Mad Men and Thrones come back.

  • MilaXX

    I’m also a hope springs eternal type of gal. I watched the 2 hour pilot and I’m interested enough to continue so far. besides if it sucks Torchwood is right around the corner and as long as they don;t make Gwen too insufferable I can get my sci fi fix there.

  • you might want to watch Torchwood – Children of Earth – really worth it in the land of alien invasions!!

  • How about you watch True Blood instead. 

    • I agree. Though, I’m sure they could watch both. I would love to see you guys write about True Blood. It very entertaining show. It did suffer the “where is this going?” issue in the second season with the long drawn out explanation of Maryanne, but it seems to be getting back on track. I watch that show with the remote on one hand and an eye dropper in the other. I can’t waste time blinking.

  • I was kind of iffy on the whole thing but my husband convinced me to sit and watch it. I was kind of confused at first because there was no invastion but finally got it. I didn’t make any Sawyer connection until I read it here….so not the same thing for me. We’ll keep watching for sure and see how it pans out! And my husband agrees with you on The Killing….in his words “it sucked balls”!

    • Yvette Coleman-Pitts

      What is the Sawyer connection?

  • Falling Skies reminds me a lot of Walking Dead — post apocalyptic city, lots of dirty people scrambling to survive, a few Lord of the Flies scenes where tough guys jockey for power.

    But what’s better (so far) about Skies is that the people seem intelligent and curious, and are trying to figure out what happened in order to solve the problem (retrieving the harnessed kids). In the first season of “Dead” I don’t remember much analysis or ingenuity. In fact, TLo gave Dead way more credit than I could muster.

    BTW: let’s all be clear. It wasn’t just the finale that sucked in The Killing, it was episodes 3 through 13. The crap finale was just the nail in the coffin (pun intended).

  • FWIW – Critics who have seen the first few episodes claim that the series gets better as time goes on!

  • FWIW – Critics who have seen the first few episodes claim that the series gets better as time goes on!

  • I, too, enjoyed the “in media res” take on the alien invasion story. It definitely gives the story a much more immediate sense of tension and danger. I have my own theory on the children and why they want them, but it’s much too early to try and figure out if I’m right or not. I will for sure be tuning in again. If nothing else, it gives me Colin Cunningham back on my TV every week. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I hope this Torchwood is good because I’m watching it now on Netflix.

    • MilaXX

      Just an FYI, It’s pretty campy until the Children of Earth ep. This was a spin off of Doctor Who. (Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who). I think the upcoming series will be a bit more serious as well.

  • Another show you might want to check out (I’ve started watching Falling Skies as well) is Outcasts on BBC America…Saturday nights at 9.  It’s first episode was great, maybe even more intriguing than Falling Skies.  Your faithful follower…

    • MilaXX

      I’ve been watching that as well. Don’t know if I would call it more intriguing, but so far I’m still with it.

  • People who want to catch the pilot– it’s being re-aired tomorrow morning (Sunday) at 10am, so set your DVR.

  • Anonymous

    I’m so so glad you’re watching this one as I really liked the premiere as well. My first thoughts were wow, unlike V, the resistance is more than a few people, they actually look like they’re fighting aliens, and as you said, it reminded me of The Walking Dead which is a good thing.Actors that can act, and decent writing in that first two hours, time will tell, but so far with not much on the tube, I’ll be tuning in for more. I can’t remember which one of you is the bigger scifi fan, but if you haven’t read The Passage, I do believe you’d LOVE it.

    • I just finished The Passage!  I can second this rec.

  • Elizabeth Denton

    I’ll watch anything with Dr. Carter in it. Thanks for the heads up. 

  • I caught the Falling Skies pilot last night. I thought it was pretty good, it reminded me a bit of Jericho.

  • Anonymous

    Noah Wyle gets props right off for not looking like Dr. who’s-it that he played in ER or St. Elsewhere or whatever…  I had to look up who the actor was.  As for the rest, I’ll wait for TLo to tell me whether to keep watching…  a premise that puts children at grave risk will make it hard for me to invest in unless there are a huge amount of redeeming qualities to make the journey worth it.   

  • Anonymous

    Me too TLo! It’s very The Walking Dead, so I hope it won’t end in ridicule.

  • I always like to watch new alien shows that are on. While this is a bit cheesy, I do like the fact that we’re already into the meat of the story in the first ep, unlike The Event and V, as you pointed out.  I’m on board for now.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, I got distracted right at the start of the post. You’re planning to continue watching The A-List??!!???

  • I don’t watch, have no intention of watching, but I do love Noah Wylie with a beard!

  • Do y’all watch Weeds or The Big C? I’m looking forward to them the most this summer…

  • It’s has the feel of something in between Battle Star Gallactica and the Walking Dead to me.

  • Anonymous

    Since you’re already tuned into TNT on Sunday nights, I highly recommend Leverage in the 9 p.m. slot. 

  • I watched the pilot last week and was underwhelmed for the first hour and half… but, man, those last 30 minutes really cranked it up a notch. Certainly enough to get me to add it to the DVR. Many elements of the show remind me of ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ especially the military vs. civilians theme. Hopefully ‘Falling Skies’ can amount to at least half of the amazing show BSG was!

    • Anonymous

      I totally agree with the Battlestar Galactica mention — military vs. civilians. Think they could have some good story likes like BG had as a supplement to the overall arch of the show. I thought Falling Skies dragged a bit as well but the 6/26 episode and the latter part of the pilot got me really interested.

      Not to mention the third episode looks quite good as well. Here’s hoping it sustains itself…

  • aimee_parrott

    I’m really glad you guys are blogging this (for now).  I really liked the pilot, although GOOD GOD YES, was that guy ever a raging Sawyer rip-off!  Still, I’ve always like Noah Wyle and I think he’s giving a really nice performance here, understated and believable.  I’m cautiously optimistic.