(much delayed due to computer issues, sorry)
I’m a bit late to comment on this, so I’ll be brief. Falling Skies wrapped up its first season with a satisfying, solid B+ pair of episodes. I liked that even though the planned attack on the alien headquarters fell through, Noah Wyle’s Tom Mason got off one impressive RPG shot that caused enough damage to be an effective symbol of the resistance, a strong message to the invaders that the people of Earth wouldn’t go down without a fight. It’s something to build on, along with the trick they discovered of using the aliens’ radio frequency to irritate or confuse them. The writers on this show, and show runner Graham Yost, understand that it’s more dramatic and pleasing to beat aliens not with advanced military might but with items jury-rigged from civilians.
Better still was the character interaction. Sure, Tom hasn’t really changed, and it might have been nice if the inevitable kiss between him and Moon Bloodgood’s Anne had built up with a flirt here or there, but at least they’re together. Better was Will Patton’s Weaver, who got some nice moments in the last few episodes and who found his humanity again. I wasn’t much of a Patton fan, but he’s done well with the role. Colin Cunningham’s Pope is always riveting, even if he’s unsurprisingly softening a bit now that he’s found a place in the group. Peter Shinkoda’s Dai and Mpho Koaho’s Anthony really haven’t been given much to do, which always made for uncomfortable scenes with Pope when he’d make racist jokes. I mean, you’ve got a quiet, clever Asian and an African-American who made his living with a gun (though as a cop) rather than by his intelligence. True, ten episodes isn’t a lot of time, especially when there are action set-pieces to work in, but hopefully the writers work on the supporting characters more. Of the younger actors, Drew Roy’s Hal is average and Maxim Knight’s Matt just the cute young son, but middle son Ben, played by Connor Jessup, has done well with potentially tricky material as someone who wants revenge but is also sweet, and may be succumbing to alien mind control again. Jessup’s Canadian accent comes through at times but he’s got some talent. As for the story itself, I would just recommend more of the same, but deeper. With three types of alien menace, spooky brainwashed children and the occasional traitor from within, there’s plenty to work with, and hopefully Season Two will keep the surprises coming.
Apparently some folks are going ape over the season finale of AMC’s The Killing. Guys—it was a very up-and-down season. The finale wasn’t that bad, but it sort of fell into a Twin Peaks trap of not wrapping up the murder of the young-girl-with-secrets and moving onto something else. I would have been satisfied if Darren “Orpheus” Richmond was really the killer, we could drop the grieving parents, and get on to another case. Considering the many obvious red herring suspects and spotty character development, I don’t have much confidence in Veena Sud & Co. really weaving a magnificent conspiracy, or making me want to keep watching Michelle Forbes and her scheming sister take her place, or Stan go to trial and/or get sued, etc. Making Holder corrupt is a good quick shock that’s also a bad long-term strategy, because he was the most appealing character. It also doesn’t make much sense—wouldn’t the veracity of the photographic evidence be questioned? Tracked back to a source? And although I wasn’t a big fan of the character, I think Richmond would be better alive and working his way out of jail than dead. Not a terrible episode, just another one with some decent moments outweighed by not-good ones.
Also caught the season premiere of TNT’s Falling Skies, with Noah Wyle. I never watched that Taken, but apparently Steven Spielberg just can’t get enough of alien invasions. After a terrible montage of fake kiddie art and kid voices narrating the events of the past several months, when the aliens came and wiped out the military and most of the population, we meet Wyle, playing Tom Mason, a history teacher turned second-in-command of a resistance movement platoon. His CO is played by Will Patton, a character actor I’ve never liked, though to be fair he usually plays unlikeable characters. Patton lacks Tom’s compassion and sees the civilians as a nuisance and hindrance. I’ve always liked Wyle and he’s good here, an analogy-spouting academic who’s also superdad and super-understanding. As with Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, he’s a dad dealing with extreme parenting challenges with a teenage son who is forced to be a man quickly, and that manhood requires being a good soldier. There’s a too-cute young son who misses his mommy and wants things the way they were, and a missing middle son who has been enslaved by the aliens’ spinal harness thing.
The aliens come in two varieties: the Skitters, who are sort of humanoid in torso (if the standard slimy insect design), with four legs beneath them; and the Mechs, who are like chunky Cylons. They’re possibly just robots designed by the Skitters, possibly not. I like the theory that the Mechs have enslaved the Skitters and dragged them off their planet, but who knows. One thing the show has going for it is it doesn’t get too bogged down in mythology and secrets and hints. The two back-to-back episodes here mostly had to do with establishing the characters and situation, and then having the characters try to find food and weapons without getting killed.
The second half has a bright spot with actor Tom Pope playing a wicked outlaw. He’s not quite Manson, but he’s definitely brighter than his thuggish biker gang posse, and he’s enjoying this apolocalypse immensely, because it means he has power and can get away with almost anything. He’s foiled going up against the resistance, though (called the Second Massachusetts after a Revolutionary War army), but in an interesting twist, it looks like he might get to join the team instead of getting killed, since he’s smart and knows how best to kill Skitters. It’s a good idea, because the Wyle/Patton conflict will get a little dull without a wild card to stir things up. The show could be a little harder and tougher, but it’s pretty entertaining so far.