Falling Skies Season One REVIEW
Thankfully, the aliens were unable to detect large groups of armed men standing around in broad daylight.
Release Date: 2 July 2012
2011 | 12 | 395 minutes | £29.99
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Cast: Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Drew Roy, Jessy Schram, Maxim Knight
Over ten instalments exploring the aftermath of an alien invasion, Falling Skies touches upon topics such as rape, child slavery and prescription drug abuse. Why, then, does it feel so damn cosy?
You can put that down partly to the familiarity of most of its tropes, and partly to the influence of executive producer Steven Spielberg, who swaddles the show in a blanket of domesticity which blunts its sharper edges. Falling Skies sees pretty much every dramatic situation through the prism of family. The fact that our heroes, the fighters of the 2nd Massachusetts militia, set up base in a Boston school (providing constant reminders of innocence lost and happier days) speaks volumes. Meaningfully lingering shots of kids at play are common, and you’re lucky if you can get through five minutes without someone giving a loved one a hug. This approach may draw in a family audience and help ensure the series’ continuing survival, but at times it veers dangerously close to schmaltz.
Still, when it’s not being touchy-feely, it’s a pretty action-packed affair. If you had to sum it up in two images one would be a father embracing his son, the other a man crouching down behind a car and firing off some rounds. White guys, that is – this first season of Falling Skies isn’t exactly a haven for the brothers. Which seems a little odd, given that Boston has a 22% African-American population.
There are other niggles. We’re told that the technology of the invading “Skitters” – rather wonderful, scuttling, multi-legged horrors – isn’t up to detecting groups of “only” a few hundred as they wander around in broad daylight, although other humans seem to have no such trouble; this is rather hard to swallow, and removes much of the tension which should be implicit in a life lived on the edge of extinction. With the focus on the fighters, we see little of the wider civilian population or their concerns. And while history prof Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) is a likeable sort, he’s also such a paragon of virtue he seems too good to be true. You can’t imagine the guy so much as stealing a chip off your plate, or breaking wind.
On the plus side, ex-con Pope (Colin Cunningham), the show’s regulation Amoral Maverick, adds a much-needed dash of unpredictability, and the more we learn about the alien invaders, their biology, and their use of “harnessed” human children as slaves, the more intriguing they become. The show has solid production values, and there isn’t a weak-link performance.
But something’s missing. Possessing neither the cheesy camp appeal of V or the ruthlessness and darkness of The Walking Dead, Falling Skies is instead comfort viewing, the sort of inessential, middle-of-the-road show that’s liable to end up clogging up your set-top box, unwatched – the televisual equivalent of that potato you never got round to baking, that’s now sprouting eyes. What’s desperately needed as they soldier on into season two is a little more innovation, and a greater sense of real danger.
There are commentaries on five episodes, all featuring exec/director Greg Beeman and/or writer Mark Verheiden; Noah Wyle joins in on three of them. You also get the 2011 Comic-Con panel (21 minutes), a four-minute bit on Skitter CGI, two now-pointless bits of pre-launch promo (six minutes), and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it season two “sneak peek”.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
Watch our Noah Wyle video interview about Falling Skies season two.
Read more of our DVD reviews.
Falling Skies season two starts airing in the UK on FX on Tuesday 3 July, at 9.00pm.