I’m not asking for much from Falling Skies. I was pretty pleased by the first two parts and decided to take a wait-and-see approach. There was promise among problems, but it delivered what I had hoped for by not skimping on shots of aliens and not letting any characters do anything too stupid. That’s all I need out of summer programming, and about the extent of what I expect from an alien-invasion series from the same American network that brings us Franklin & Bash.
This Tuesday’s “Prisoner of War” (FX, Tuesday, 9pm) took away a lot of the good faith I had in the series, transforming my cautious optimism into accepting platitude. I’m still going to watch the show, and not just because there isn’t anything else sci-fi that’s decent right now. I’m a sucker for the genre, and part of being a sucker is watching shows that you know aren’t actually that good. It’s still too early to declare anything as fact, but my guess is Falling Skies will be a series that we all forget about 10 years from now. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts even if we get is something that’s fairly mediocre.
Last night’s episode delved further into the mystery of the harnessed children who’ve been turned into slaves to do menial chores for the aliens. We had believed that removing the harnesses from the kids’ spines meant instant death, but that’s not the case thanks to the guy from Wings, a doctor who subscribes to the theory that if someone’s life is threatened, load ‘em up with morphine. One kid was successfully de-harnessed, but he was a drugged-up mess and pretty much useless until he stopped sleeping (kind of like normal teenagers).
Meanwhile, Tom conveniently encountered a lone Skitter in a dark hallway while playing the hero by going after two people (one of them being his son) who’d be left behind during a botched mission. He kicked the alien’s butt and dragged it, alive, back to HQ to be examined—as is required at some point in all alien-invasion shows and movies.
The end of the episode gave us something to think about other than whether or not we’ll continue to watch this show. And dammit if it didn’t answer that question with a “sure, I guess so.” When our P.O.W. alien opened its eyes, the de-harnassed kid opened his eyes at the same time, implying that the two are connected, possibly in some sort of hive-mind situation. So can any alien mind-control a kid, even after a harness has been removed? Does the harness meld into the host’s body, as Dr. Harris insinuated? Is something else afoot? Do you even care?
You don’t care? Well, that might have to do with the stunted character development going on. New series with big casts are always tough to get to know, and last week I mentioned that the first two hours laid the groundwork for who’s who while giving us a little more about the central character. That’s understandable. But in this week’s episode, several of the secondary characters remained very secondary. Give me something on Moon Bloodgood’s character and her Amber Alert of a daughter, Lourdes! I want to learn a little more about Mike and the Asian guy! Make Colonel Porter and Captain Weaver more than just military cliches! A show that’s ostensibly about survival needs to introduce us to people we want to see survive—because if we don’t know them, we really don’t care if they make it or not. In fact, if you’re a jerk like me, you’d rather see them killed. This show needs a character death, and soon.
Instead, most of the character development we’ve seen has dealt with characters who were introduced in the start—which was really just the first two episodes of the season, and where we first met leader-of-the-renegades Pope. Pope is now the only person in the 300-member Resistance who knows how to cook. But if we’d spent half as much time learning about Mike as we did discovering that Pope likes to poach chicken and went to culinary school, we’d care more about Mike and understand why he made the stupid decision to wave his arms around like a lunatic, thus botching the mission to rescue Tom’s son Ben. That misuse of time continued last night when we met Dr. Harris (Stephen Weber), who hogged valuable storytelling time even though we still know very little about everyone else. What’s the point in introducing new characters when we don’t know the ones who are already present?
Falling Skies isn’t downright horrible yet, nor is it the next great sci-fi epic. So far it’s spectacularly mediocre and super average. And during this drought of summer television, that’s enough to get me to keep watching. I’m still giving this a shot. What about you?
… The people have spoken and now it is known: Moon Bloodgood is “very, very hot” according to those of you who spoke up in last week’s comments. I would also go so far as to say she could be half of the hottest mother-daughter combo since Friday Night Lights‘ Tami and Julie Taylor.
… The alien mechs don’t appear to be too into chasing humans once they spot them. Twice they’ve caught sight Tom and his pals and attacked—but the show cut to commercial and when it returned, things were back to normal. It’s as if whenever the writers need a way to end a scene, they just write in a mech.
… Did anyone think they were watching Dead Space the TV show when Tom shot off the legs of that Skitter in the dark hallway? Achievement unlocked!
… What’s up with the blonde chick they rescued from Pope? Lighten up, lady, and stop dropping bricks from the roof of buildings when you’re spying.