If you haven’t been paying attention, the most high-profile scripted show of summer 2011 has arguably been the Steven Spielberg produced Falling Skies airing Sundays on TNT. This sci-fi character drama tells the story of an American resistance cell in the aftermath of an alien invasion, but focuses on the relationships and families of the people who have been affected.
The show stars Noah Wyle (ER) as history professor Tom Mason who finds himself as one of the leaders in the 2nd Massachusetts, a band of patriots fighting back against the alien aggressors. While the “invaders from outer space” genre has been long explored in film and TV, this show stands out more for the interpersonal relationships, then sci-fi action and effects.
The series revolves around Wyle’s character trying to keep his family together after his wife has been killed, and the middle of his three sons has been taken and enslaved by the aliens. His oldest son fights with him, while his youngest son tries to maintain some form of a normal child hood while in a military refugee camp. Mason’s relationship with his commanding officers also provides an interesting dynamic, as the remaining members of the military are not quite sure how to interact the civilians they must protect. Wyle’s character also seems to be developing a relationship with the Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), who has become a kind of surrogate mother and de facto civilian leader in the camp.
This show has so far succeeded where other shows such as V or The Event failed by avoiding the large-scale big events and explanations that always look cheesy on TV, and make these shows less and less believable. Although the series does have its share of action, the tone has more in common with Jericho or Walking Dead, with viewers seeing very small-scale local storytelling of a major apocalypse, and being kept guessing as to what else is out there and why this is all happening.
Initially the only real insight to the invasion at all comes in the opening narration of Mason’s youngest son, explaining that first the electronics stopped working, then the military was destroyed, then all the capital cities were wiped out, and then all the parents had to fight back. No doubt as the series progresses the details will trickle in, but one can only hope the show remains grounded in what it is, a series about family and community, and people banding together to survive.