Falling Skies is back and it has been absolutely worthy the wait.
Picking up just three months after Tom Mason (Noah Wylie) bravely stepped onto the aliens’ spacecraft to find out more about why they’re here, and how it affects not just the human race as a whole but his family in particular, the series swung into high gear and gave us a while bunch of answers, and disquietingly a reflection of our own flawed humanity.
It was skilfully done. During the flashbacks woven into the storyline as Tom, in a drugged post-op state (he is accidentally shot by his son Ben as he returns to the group at the tail end of a firefight) remembers his journey back to the ones he loves, you see him taken into a large hive-like room in the middle of which sits one of those tall silver elongated aliens we saw in the dying episodes of series one. They appear to be the ones calling the shots – the alien master race if you will – and what follows once Tom steps into that room is chilling indeed.
Not so much because of the fact that the alien makes Tom an offer he believes humanity has no choice but to receive – move into special allocated “sanctuaries” or be exterminated. Naturally Tom defiantly rejects this out of hand, but is caught somewhat flatfooted when the alien points out to him that as a history professor he should be aware that what they are offering is simply what humanity has done to those among it with whom it disagrees. How is there offer any different?
At that point, you seem Tom momentarily pause. He acknowledges the dark chapters in mankind’s history but points out that we are more than the sum of those times and that our history hasn’t been fully written yet. Emboldened, he expresses profound disappointment that such an advanced species, with so much technology at their disposal, could be so base as to mimic the way humanity treats those it considers expendable.
The scene does end on a somewhat defiant note with Tom knocking the Skitter standing guard to the ground, grabbing his gun and firing it at the alien. Karen, once a resistance fighter, and now a harnessed slave to the aliens and the alien’s mouthpiece through this whole exchange recoils too. But Tom is brought back under control, but not executed as we might expect but released with many others who are summarily mown down by gunfire as they run away from the departing spaceship.
Everyone but Tom is killed. As he stands there alone, staring at the Mech and the Skitter it’s obvious the game has changed – the aliens will not rest till mankind is totally eradicated and the planet is theirs, and Tom is the one who will take that message back to humanity.
Much of the rest of the episode centres on the the growing tension between Tom’s two eldest sons, Hal and Ben. Physically strengthened by his time as a harnessed servant of the aliens, Ben is pushing back against Hal with a fury that leaves the brothers on a dangerous path to estrangement. It still isn’t clear in this episode how connected Ben is with the aliens but Karen, who is still harnessed, make sit clear that while the connection can be broken (she doesn’t reveal how), it isn’t yet. Clearly Ben is being affected somehow and it points to renewed tensions not just with Hal but the whole group in episodes to come.
The other major development is that the group, forced to flee the sanctuary of the school is now open, exposed with the aliens now able to track the heat signatures of the internal combustion engines powering the bikes and trucks. This is a significant problem since without these means of transportation, they can’t flee the constant alien patrols which in this episode come too close to comfort forcing everyone to flee again.
It exposes the fact that the 2nd Mass. is, and really always was, a vulnerable ragtag group of fighters, hopelessly you might think outgunned, and increasingly at the mercy of aliens who are adapting their suppression techniques the more they learn about humanity.
All in all it leaves our plucky band of survivors in a precarious position, and underlined just how great the fight to survive is going to be.
Sure the show still has a few flaws. It keeps dipping its toe – hell, its entire freaking body – into the warm waters of Spielbergian sentimentality. Don’t get me wrong – I love warm and fuzzy moments as much as the next guy but it always feels the ones in this program are far more “7th Heaven” or “Touched by an Angel” sugary sickly sweet rather than “ER” we’ve gone through hell and bonded inspiring. There’s too much of the former in the show but this episode only ventured there once and only towards the end.
I am hoping they can put the group into real harm far more often, and make the alien threat so dangerous that the threat to the group’s survival, which has been highlighted but is curiously absent if a major sentimental moment or narrative moment specific to the internal interactions of the group takes place (in other words the aliens only turn up at convenient times), that the sense that they are perpetually up against it is heightened till it hurts.
Overall though a great more muscular start to the season than I expected and I look forward to seeing where the 2nd Mass. goes next in their harrowing, never ending fight for survival.