Falling Skies Season One Review

Falling Skies is a US sci-fi series created by Robert Rodat and produced by Steven Spielberg. It takes place six months after an alien invasion leaves the planet devastated. The world’s power grid has been neutralised, military forces decimated and 90% of the human population is gone in just a few short days. We don’t know why they are here or what they want, just that they are rounding up 8 to16 year olds to fit with a biomechanical obedience device called a “Harness” which allows them to control the child. Any attempts to remove the harness result in the child instantly dying.

Hearing such an ambitious plot, I went into watching the first season of Falling Skies knowing that it could be an amazing series if done well, but that it could just as easily be another forgotten B-list series if the story was rushed. I am happy to say the the series was very impressive, and I had very few complaints in my time with it.

The first episode gets off to a great start, explaining the six months between our lives and those being lived in the series from the perspective of the children. Young children can be heard talking about the trauma of the genocide of the human population over shots of a series of crayon drawings of the attacks that get steadily more gruesome. It’s clear these children don’t understand what is happening, they just want things to go back to normal. This is an overarching theme in the first series, as it follows a group of survivors trying to live life as normal regardless of the terrible situations they are in.

Picking up six months after the invasion, we watch as the survivors band together to fight back against the various alien races. Tom Mason, a former Boston University history professor, becomes the second-in-command of the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment, a group of civilians and fighters fleeing post-apocalyptic Boston. What I found particularly interesting about this is that the group contains a significant number of civilians, both those trying to live life as normal and those who have stepped up to fight. The human drama between the desires of these two groups is handled very well. Whilst part of the group is planning there next raid for food for the group there will be ordinary people teaching groups of children, trying to work out ideas that might help the fighters, or trying to provide whatever forms of psychological help they can to the children struggling with what they have seen.

One of the most important things when your show is centred around an alien invasion is obviously the creature design and Falling Skies delivers in that regard. The first series has three main types of aliens: six legged insectoid “Skitters”, humanoid creatures with grey skin (a slightly stretched lengthwise version of your stereotypical grey alien), and bipedal attack “mechs”. Each of the different types of creature serves a very different purpose in the narrative and the designs reflect that. The Skitters are gruesome, fast and terrifying, the mechs are slow but destructive if messed with and the grey species are tall, authoritative and intimidating. Whilst occasionally there will be a scene where the animation doesn’t mesh perfectly with the live action, it happens rarely enough that it is easily forgotten and ignored.

The series does a great job of handling its pacing. While there are several multiple episode storylines and the eventual aim of surviving or defeating the aliens, each episode tells its own mini story that fits into the big picture but has its own well-paced progression and aims. You leave each episode with a sense of closure on one topic, but itching to watch the next and see how they manage in the next step of whatever they are trying to do at the time. You also get a well-balanced mix of action and story as the series’ creators clearly know when their audience is ready to move on and doesn’t keep them in one place longer than they have to.

The series has a good amount of twists and turns as well as emotionally impacting scenes, hence my reluctance to talk about too much beyond the first episode in this review. You’ll just have to trust me that the story starts from a strong base plot and continues to build on it well throughout the series. Every time you think you know what’s happening, something new will happen that completely flips the table. Interesting and well developed characters join the group and there is always a wealth of perspectives being shown when it comes to making the big choices.

In summary, Falling Skies is a really enjoyable series. It may not be the highest budget Spielberg has ever worked with, and it may not have the best special effects, but it really makes up for that by being an interesting and unique take on the alien invasion story. It feels new, it feels fresh and it constantly keeps you guessing. You get the feeling all the answers are coming, but you will still desperately race through the episodes hoping to find those answers sooner.

Falling Skies Season one is released in the UK on July 2nd 2012.

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