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Falling Skies Season 2 Premiere – Review
Falling Skies’ first season had a lot going for it – a strong concept, likeable characters, exciting action sequences, and an interesting mythology – but because of its strengths its weaknesses became more apparent. The storytelling was often below what you would expect from a science fiction series about an alien invasion, with the majority of the episodes ending on inappropriately upbeat notes, as if the 2nd Massachusetts wasn’t under constant threat of extermination. Occasionally the show would go down these rabbit holes that can only be described as serious missteps. What immediately comes to mind is the two-part episode involving the kidnapping and trading of kids to the aliens. As Season 2 began, the worry on my mind was how Falling Skies would address these concerns. Would it be aware of its faults and take the necessary steps to improve itself or would it stubbornly press forward, pulling a Veena Sud and completely ignoring any outcries from its loyal fans.
It’s always going to be difficult to judge a show from the first couple of episodes, but “Worlds Apart” and “Shall We Gather At The River” do show improvements, and even a little self-awareness – I thoroughly enjoyed Weaver’s remark of needing Tom’s input on war strategies and that Tom would likely have a “historical anecdote to put it all in perspective” – and it all points toward a better second season. Things are more gloomy, with the “hey, we’re gonna get through this” attitude sufficiently toned down. It’s still there, and likely won’t ever be totally gone, but it fit more with what was happening on screen.
With all that said and done, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the first hour of the premiere. “Worlds Apart” opened strongly enough, three months after the aliens took Tom. Pope and Weaver lead an attack, ending with Tom resurfacing and accidentally shot by Ben, the middle son who used to wear an alien harness. The action was well choreographed and it served as a great way to let us know the 2nd Mass has not been sitting idly by while Tom was in that space ship. They’ve been fighting back and making a small dent in the alien forces. Ben has joined up with the other resistance fighters, becoming their number 1 gunman thanks to whatever it is the harness did to him. He’s stronger, faster, and more pissed off than ever before. His hatred of the aliens is allegedly the only thing keeping him from crawling back to them, and he enjoys killing aliens a little too much.
Everything that follows is a mix of good and bad. Tom is in bad condition thanks to Ben’s trigger-happy accident. While he’s unconscious, we’re taken – via flashback – to Tom on the alien ship. The flashbacks are informative to a point. We learn the aliens offered Tom a chance to surrender on behalf on the surviving humans and the aliens would grant them a spot of land to live on peacefully while the aliens ravage the rest of the world. Not exactly loving the idea of being a prisoner on his own planet, Tom refuses and is promptly let go. We’re introduced to an alien who will be popping up from time to time – from here on out I’ll be calling him Red Eye – who kills a bunch of prisoners except for Tom, both so he can send Tom a message and because Tom may not be 100 percent uncompromised.
What remains of the flashbacks is simply Tom’s journey up until Ben shoots him. It really amounts to nothing, unless the plan is to bring back the little girl he befriends. The present day scenes are much more interesting, but the back and forth between past and present is grating. Thankfully, hour two, “Shall We Gather At The River,” makes up for it all. It’s fun and straightforward and continues to unravel the mysteries of the aliens. We learn that Tom has indeed had something done to him by the aliens, giving me a big sense of relief. I was worried they would stretch the question of Tom’s loyalties for too long, but quickly enough we discover he has something in his eye. We still don’t know if that’s only thing that was done to Tom, but this is good enough to keep me invested in this storyline.
My only real complaint for the second episode is the heavy focus on relationships. Everybody seems to be pairing off – Tom and Anne, Hal and Margaret, and now Lourdes and newcomer Jamil. They’re all in various stages of courtship, but Falling Skies was less than subtle about these pairings, especially with Lourdes and Jamil, who are already locking lips in the first scene they have together. Other than that, I’m excited for how things have started for Season 2. With any luck, the trend will continue and we’ll have ourselves a solid, entertaining season of television on our hands.