The highly anticipated first season of TNT’s sci-fi alien drama Falling Skies has come to a close, with a two-hour finale episode that no doubt took some direction from many of it’s genre predecessors. The series, created by Robert Rodat and produced by Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks, drops the viewer into a world that has been recently devastated by an alien invasion. Spielberg, aliens? Not such a shocking combination, but one that certainly makes for a tall order to fill.
We follow the characters, civilian members of the 2nd Massachusetts Militia, as they attempt to fight and flee the destroyed city that was once Boston. In this two-hour finale, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) deals with fears over Captain Weaver’s (Wil Patton) ability to lead a massive coordinated attack on the alien structure located in the city. As this attack is being planned, the aliens simultaneously prepare to attack the 2nd Mass’ position at the high school. Meanwhile, Rick and Ben must try to cope with figuring out what is happening to them, who they are, and where they belong. Spoiler Alert….
HOUR 1: Mason stages a mutiny after learning that Weaver has been abusing pills and may not be fit to lead their insurgency. Finally, Mason convinces Weaver that they must work together, and that this attack, which would likely result in casualties, needs to be a group decision. Mason learns that the skidders are also harnassed, like his son Ben, and may not have always been as they appear. Mason’s fears that Ben may be transforming seem warranted, but as Ben begins to sense the changes within him, he fights to remain human. Meanwhile, ex-con Pope continues to assemble his explosive devices and machine piercing bullets, while Mason’s youngest son defies his father by helping!
HOUR 2: Weaver leads an army of volunteers to Boston in what becomes a failed attempt to rendezvous with other militias and destroy the alien structure. At the same time, Mason prepares the civilians to move locations to avoid an imminent skidder attack. Ben learns that his connection to the aliens can be used to his advantage as he helps to track down a radio frequency that can be used to disrupt alien communication, causing the aliens’ eventual retreat. Rick tells one of the harnassed kids all of the 2nd Mass’ plans in hopes that the aliens will accept him, but they leave him behind, and Mason convinces Rick that his place is with the humans. After the successful retreat of the aliens from the school, Mason drives out to Boston to meet up Weaver’s forces, only to learn that they have been defeated. In a final Hail Mary attempt, Mason fires an RPG at an alien ship, which crashes into the tower, causing a massive explosion. The episode ends with Mason and Weaver being stopped by an alien ship containing his oldest son’s now harnessed girlfriend. She explains that the aliens never expected so much resistance and want to negotiate. They tell Mason they will take Ben back if he doesn’t go with them and we are left with Mason boarding the ship.
For me, it felt like the two-hour finale emulated the recent success of the Lost formula- an incredibly serialized plotline, a very short time span, a focus on characters and emotions, a sprinkling of mythology, and more questions then answers over the course of the season. The finale itself resembled so many early season finales of Lost, with half the group preparing an offensive and the other half preparing to run and hide, yet at the same time defend themselves. In fact, there were so many similarities to the general episode structure, that at numerous points throughout the episode I half expected Tom to quote the famous ‘Live together, die alone’ line.
While Season 1 didn’t have the intelligent dialogue or big budget action that some audience members might prefer, it did have a focus on characters and a slow peeling off of the outer layers of back story which draws me to shows like this. I also love the way the writers have replaced flashbacks with history lessons of past wars, specifically the American Revolution, as a metaphor that carries the narrative along. Setting the show in New England, the birth place of our nation, really works for this show. For some, the bar may have been set too high. And while I don’t expect to see any Emmy nods, I for one can’t wait to see what happens when we pick up with Mason as he enters the alien ship.
Falling Skies will return for a ten-episode second season on TNT, Summer 2012.