Review of “Live and Learn” (01:00) and “The Armory” (01:01)
The new TNT series Falling Skies is one of the best science-fiction shows in some time. Executive produced by famed film director, Steven Spielberg, the hour-long drama blends together an alien invasion story with a family saga, and it all feels natural, if not completely original.
Noah Wyle, of TV’s ER, plays Tom Mason, a Boston history professor who finds himself a leader amongst a ragtag group of survivors some six months after a devastating alien attack. Trading in books for guns, Tom and his new friends scrounge for what resources they can find and battle like citizen soldiers against the aliens.
We first learn of the invasion by looking at kids’ paintings that are flashed across the screen. In their innocent voiceovers, the children say that there was a bright light and all electronics stopped working. The major cities and military outposts were destroyed. Survivors headed toward the hills.
The extra-terrestrials, who remain mysteriously unexplained throughout the two-hour pilot (coined “Live and Learn” and “The Armory”), look like spider crabs jacked up on steroids. They crawl around, scaling walls and moving quickly through the scarred terrain of New England. The surviving humans call these aliens skitters, and they become the main villains of the series. The other type of out-of-this-world baddie is known as a Mech, a more robotic-looking alien that shoots bullets from its arm.
We quickly find out in the season premiere that Tom is not just looking to survive in the resistance movement. He has already lost his wife during the invasion, and he’s still protecting two of his three sons, Hal (Drew Roy) and Matt (Maxim Knight). The third son, named Ben (Connor Jessup), has been abducted by the aliens and is being held captive with other children. When Tom and his team of soldiers stumble upon the kids, they find that the children look like drugged-out slaves, walking around and collecting metal. Protruding from their spines are symbiotic aliens that resemble horseshoe crabs. Merely recapturing the kids doesn’t look like it will suffice, because when removing a harness, the child dies. These young souls are imprisoned in their own bodies.
Whatever the aliens want with planet Earth obviously has something to do with the children.
Helping Tom is Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), a helpful and attractive pediatrician, and Captain Weaver (Will Patton), the fierce leader of the Massachusetts outpost known as 2nd Mass. While Anne is motherly and educative, Weaver is a hard ass, take-no-prisoner military man. Both characters, upon first glance, seem too archetypal, but they likely will grow on the viewers as the series progresses.
One of the best characters is Porter (the great Dale Dye), commander of all the Massachusetts regimes and a much more grounded person compared to Weaver. Another good one is John Pope (Colin Cunningham), a bandit who presents a unique problem to the 2nd Mass.
Falling Skies proves to be an amalgam of The Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactica and Lost. It’s a survivalist drama that reimagines a new society where unsuspecting people get a chance at redemptive leadership. Robert Rodat, who created the series, hasn’t created a completely original show. Elements of Falling Skies have been done before (and perhaps even done better), but on the whole the TNT series is a solid early-summer entry that deserves viewership.
Wyle holds the series together with a simple performance that never overreaches. It’s obvious that Tom is hurt after his wife’s death, and his only true mission in life is to protect his three sons.
Ben, the one child of his that got away, appears to be the pivotal M.O. of the show. Save Ben and all will be all right.
We’ll be watching to see if Tom and his fellow survivors make good on their promise.By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
TNT, Sundays at 10 p.m.
Created by Robert Rodat
Starring Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Colin Cunningham, Maxim Knight, Drew Roy, Will Patton and Dale Dye
Bubble score: 3 out of 4
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