Mild Spoilers Ahead
The setup is more than familiar: a large team of strangers come together to fight back against a seemingly impossible foe, but where Falling Skies differs slightly, is in it’s approach. There is structure here, a militia (The 2nd Mass) with a mostly unquestioned leader in the form of the leather-skinned Weaver (played by Will Patton) and the in-fighting isn’t nearly as present as it is in some other shows, and it doesn’t have the soap opera dramatics (cough… Walking Dead… cough) either.
There is no ambiguity about the nature of their antagonists either — the skitters are not here on a mission of peace or discovery, and they are not here to do anything less than conquer civilization. The show also brings a sturdy appreciation for history, both human and American, with a reverence for the conflicts that dot our timeline — incidences of similar forces, overcoming similarly impossible odds. In the second season premiere, the show, from Steven Spielberg and Remi Aubuchon, picks up three months ahead of where they left off. Tom (Noah Wyle) is gone after willfully boarding the skitter ship at the end of last season.
In his absence, the 2nd Mass has continued on, struggling but stubbornly standing in against the mechs and the skitters. Tom’s sons, Hal (Drew Roy) and Ben (Connor Jessup) have grown into capable soldiers, with diverging personalities and styles. Hal is prudent and strong, an able lieutenant (like his father was) to Weaver, while Ben is a wild card, whose recklessness is cause for concern.
Without spoiling too much, the first half of the two episode season premiere, focuses on both Tom’s return and his captivity. Flashbacks are shown and the skitters motives are touched on in greater detail. Tom’s journey back to the 2nd Mass is no simple go, and when he returns he isn’t exactly greeted like a hero by everyone.
John Pope (Colin Cunningham) is the primary doubter, and the shows most one dimensional character, a rebel leader who walks around over-high on swagger. Pope is a thorn in the side of Weaver and the 2nd Mass, but he comes in handy amidst a fire fight, and thus far that seems like reason enough to have him along, for now. As a character though, Pope simply checks off the box that says “Smart-assed Malcontent” and he doesn’t really do much more than whisper doubts, seed discontent, and mug for the camera.
Moon Bloodgood’s Anne Glass is a pivotal character among the civilian flock of the 2nd Mass, working as the Doctor — her work is pivotal in the first half, and we see the losses that the unit has suffered through while Tom’s away, through her eyes.
Speaking of the second half of the premier, I liked it far more than I liked the first. Whereas the first half is exposition heavy and mired in military strategy as the 2nd Mass fights off the increasingly potent skitters, the 2nd half re-focuses on the human struggle as the unit tries to cross a river and Tom learns more about what the skitters wanted with him, and the ways that his sons have changed without him.
Ben, who was taken by the skitters and fitted with one of their harnesses before it was removed, is an essential part of the early season so far. Faster, stronger, and colder than his peers thanks to the after-effects of the harness and his hatred for skitters, Connor Jessup is a little wooden and over-detached, but I’m curious to see how the character matures with Tom back in the picture and how he learns to control himself.
Noah Wyle is, of course, the shows center as Tom, the former history teacher. I feel ancient saying this, but I still remember watching Wyle as a nervous and unsure intern on ER (though the character eventually and inevitably matured over time), and it is a joy to see Wyle playing this role. Early on, back in season 1, his presence was frankly overshadowed by the CG (which has gotten a little sharper this season) and Patton, but in these first few episodes the impact of his loss and the power of his return are clear. Displaying a quiet toughness, Tom is the nail that holds the photo to the wall, and I’m excited to see people both gravitate toward him and feel threatened by him for his mysterious lost time with the skitters.
Falling Skies premieres tonight on TNT at 9/8 with a 2 hour double episode. I’ve seen the first four episodes of the season, and I can honestly say that the show gets better each time so far this season.