Falling Skies Episodes 1.1 and 1.2
"Live and Learn"
Written By: Robert Rodat
Directed By: Carl Franklin
Written By: Graham Yost
Directed By: Greg Beeman
Original Airdate: 19 June 2011
In This Episode...
The pilot episode sets up the new world order. Aliens have invaded Earth, and at first they "tried to be friends," a child's voice over tells us. That didn't last long. The aliens killed adults and put these "harnesses" on the children to control them. Electromagnet bombs knocked out all electricity.
Tom, a professor who lost his wife and middle son to aliens, is working with the resistance. They know they probably can't kill all the alien forces, but the hope is that they can cause enough problems for the aliens to send them packing. His eldest son, Hal, and youngest son, Matt remain with him. As the series opens, this particular segment of the resistance numbers 600, and the commander decides they need to split up. The alien radar systems seem to only pick up the heat signature of 500-600 people in a group. Tom believes that with 600 forces, they could rise up against the alien overlords, but the commander smacks that idea down. He instead names Tom as second-in-command to Weaver, and sends them off with 100 fighters and 200 civilians.
The group begins a grim march through an apocalyptic wasteland. Weirdly, some areas look war ravaged, and others are completely untouched suburbia. They are searching for food and weapons. Hal sees middle-brother Ben on one of his scouting trips. Ben has been harnessed by the aliens, but at least he is alive. He reports back to Tom, who takes this intel to Weaver. Weaver is a hard-ass and won't let Tom go for his son until all his objectives are met.
With food found at a distribution center, the group next hits up the armory and are immediately captured. Not by aliens, but by Pope and his band of merry bastards. He sends Hal back to camp with a pretty blonde, Maggie, as his guard. Weaver refuses to negotiate, but Annie, a pretty doctor who is obviously meant to be Tom's love interest, goes back with them. Pope's brother was shot, so she hopes that if she fixes him, Pope will let his hostages go. He doesn't. Instead, he and a few henchmen go to rob the resistance camp. Maggie shoots dead the injured brother and Cue Ball. They had been raping her since they captured her months ago.
Pope's group is now "negotiating" with Weaver, who finally relents. They want the GTO with a big-ass gatling gun on it, and all the food. When alien ships cruise overhead, Pope hops in the GTO and bails on his "friends," who are evaporated by an alien bomb. Tom and his group catch up with Pope, and Weaver takes him as a prisoner. Maggie joins the resistance. And Tom, Hal, and a few others now set off to find Ben.
Dig It or Bury It?
I was very disappointed in Falling Skies. It was slow. A show about an alien invasion shouldn't feel slow. We get to see the aliens in the first few minutes, which is good - we have a whole series, no need to tease us with the promise of aliens later on. But the action scenes were barely average. They had no tension - perhaps because I just didn't care about the characters. There was no new territory covered here. The aliens were fairly unimaginative. They invade earth and want humans gone. Is there an alien movie that doesn't cover that?
On the plus side, the acting was good, and the production values were high. Sci-fi and horror on TV is tough because you really have to put the money behind it to pull it off. Falling Skies did that, and with Steven Spielberg executive producing, I would expect nothing less.
Two interesting concepts were introduced that have piqued my interest enough to keep me coming back. First are the harnesses the aliens put on the children. They look like glowy exterior spines that go right over the kids' spines. So far, removal of these harnesses has killed the victim. I hope these harnesses have interesting applications in future episodes. Maybe the aliens can activate the kids to be spies. Or turn them into the perfect army.
The second concept is that of the mech suits. The school teacher relates an observation one of his students made. Humans have generally made robots in their image. The "skidders" (aliens) are six-legged, arachnid-like creatures, but their mech suits are built as bipeds. Obviously this is going to be an important point later on; I want to know why.
Let me get this straight. Aliens travel millions of miles across the universe to find us. They have sophisticated tech like lasers an electro-bombs. But they can't pick up on the heat signatures of less than 500 people. Oooookaaaay.
Tom and his band of merry men head out to find Ben. A love triangle is brewing between Maggie, Hal, and Hal's girlfriend Karen. Um, yay?