I would pick the week all of the summer shows premiere to go out of town, wouldn't I? Then I came back into town and actually started doing stuff, rather than just sit around and watch television all day. What is this world coming to? Anyway, the DVR backlog that has resulted as of this sudden burst of strange behavior means that I just got around to watching the pilot (and also second episode) of Falling Skies last night.
First The Closer, then Leverage, not to mention a few other incredible shows...TNT is really raising the bar for quality television. NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC take note guys, this is how you do television. TNT has got the formula down. They hire incredibly talented actors, one or two who are fairly well known or just familiar faces (in the case of Falling Skies we've got Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, and Colin Cunningham) leading a pack of other incredibly talented actors who are maybe less known but who all work together seamlessly. They keep the seasons short, allowing for tighter storytelling, and they hire competent writers capable of telling a damn good story.
Falling Skies is the kind of show that I think will have broad appeal despite its science fiction trappings, because it is just amazing storytelling. The scifi angle isn't the story, it is just one aspect of it. This is how good scifi is in its natural environment, of course, it's just that most non-fans don't know or believe this because there is such a glut of pure crap out there dressed up in a thin scifi shell.
The show is set in Massachusetts about six months after an alien force arrived on Earth and wiped out 90% of the human population. The intentions of the aliens are not yet known, at least not to the viewer. What is known is that they kill any adults they find and capture any kids. The kids are turned into some sort of slave labor using a parasitic "harness" attached to the spine. The aliens don't seem particularly interested in hunting humans down. They've parked themselves in all of the major cities and built strange ginormous structures that loom over the skyline. They do send out patrol ships over the countryside, but again, they don't seem to be hunting, just taking out what they see and keeping the pesky indigenous species in check.
Flick Filosopher compared Falling Skies to the recent remake of V and to The Walking Dead, stating that it is everything she had hoped those two shows would be and that they failed at utterly. To me it evokes more memories of Jericho, which was another fantastic piece of television, even though it went a little bit off of the rails with the conspiracy theories in the end. Falling Skies has no hint of conspiracy theories so far (thankfully). While, like Jericho, it does pit the occasional group of surviving humans against each other, those conflicts are almost incidental.
Falling Skies is about people. These people are trying to recover some of what they have lost, a sense of security, home, and normalcy. There is resistance to the aliens, yes, it is small but growing. The dynamic between the civilians and the military seems to be headed toward a rocky clash, it seems to be doing so in a natural way, and not in one that will spell out disaster for everyone because the writers decide to beat someone over the head with the stupid stick. But I will be interested in seeing how the "civilians are slowing us down" and the "civilians give us something to fight for" mentalities resolve their inevitable conflict.
My history major self isn't too upset that the main character was a history professor either.
In case you couldn't tell, I absolutely loved this show. I am really looking forward to following these characters and watching their story unfold. The pilot and second episode did an excellent job setting up the primary characters and making me actually care about them. Did we get their life stories? No. Did we get enough that we feel for them and hope they will survive and overcome adversity? Heck yeah. My fingers are crossed that the show continues to build momentum as it has done, answering a few questions here and there but leaving enough suspense to keep things interesting.
If things keep going like they are going, this looks to be an amazing series. Thank you TNT, please, keep it up.
First Impression Rating: 11/10 (No, seriously. It was that good. Also, it gets a bonus point for creative use of Colin Cunningham. He will never just be Major Davis again.)