Falling Skies has a fan in me. TNT's newest original programming, a 10 hour event that promises to be better than NBC's The Event, Falling Skies is fantastic TV fun. Despite the urge to think this is a mid-series ER episode, what with the unlikely alien invasion, chaotic battle scenes and Noah Wyle (I feel LP shooting daggers at me but, come on, ER had some crazy episodes in its day), we know this is not ER because we are in Boston, not Chicago. I forgive you if you were initially confused.
We open approximately six months after aliens, called Skitters, and their mechanical killing friends, called Mechs, have invaded Earth. the invaders have apparently killed off all of the military and have thrust the good city of Boston into your basic post-apocalyptic nightmare scenario. We are thrust into the story of one Thomas Mason (Wyle, who is utterly likable in this role and really does some heavy lifting in making this enjoyable), former American history professor, current second in command of the 2nd Mass resistance fighters. Its all very Star Wars meets Independence Day, if Independence Day had been prolonged and had less Bill Pullman and Will Smith.
Tom is dealing with being a good leader to his people, a good father to his sons (even the one that has been "harnessed" by the Skitters, more on this later), and a maybe boyfriend paramour to the group's sole doctor, Anne Glass (played by the oddly named Moon Bloodgood -- a name that seems right out of the Dothraki people from Game of Thrones) and that all 3 of these things tend to him pull him in opposite directions. Tom is also inflicted with a condition which demands that he name drop historical parallels to everything that is going on at any given moment. While going to the bathroom, Tom is heard to say, "This is just like the time that George Washington took a dump in the Potomac." (OK, that scene didn't really happen but you get the idea).
The head Minute Man (I'll be calling them Minute Men going forward since I think we are clearly supposed to be thinking of the American revolutionaries and the aliens as Red Coats) in charge has decreed that they are abandoning Boston since the food and weapon stores have been picked clean and there is nothing to gain by staying except death. The Minute Men and civilians will be split up and sent into different directions, each group to consist of 200 civilians protected by 100 Minute Men. There is some clear friction between Tom and Weaver, the (possibly crazy in a Dennis Hopper kind of way) man appointed by the head militiamen to lead the 2nd Mass group on their exodus to Acton.
Shortly after the group heads out, its clear that there will not be enough food for them to survive on and Tom offers to take a small band back a food distribution center and circle up with the larger group in a few days. Tom, together with his oldest son, Hal, Hal's girlfriend Karen and some other guys that maybe will be more important later head out. Hal and Karen are sent out to scout the way for Skitters and Mechs and Hal spies his missing brother Ben marching zombie like along a dirt pathway along with a bunch of other kids and teenagers. Ben has been harnessed by the aliens. Harnessing involves an external spine-like thing being inserted into the backs of our youth, thereby rendering them under the mind control of the aliens. We don't know too much about the process or the affects - only that the Minute Men's science people have not been able to successfully unharness on of these kids without killing them. The upcoming previews also seem to intimate that he harnessing maybe fixes preexisting conditions on these kids. How is that for universal healthcare?
After reporting his brother's being alive yet harnessed to Tom, Hal, Tom, Karen and the gang make a relatively easy trip to the Food Distribution Center. Of course, once there, they run into a Skitter and a Mech. Oh noes. After a great little firefight and a C4 explosion (every good show needs C4 explosions), the Mech and the Skitter are dead and Tom's merry band of misfit freedom fighters make it out of the Distribution Center with a pickup truck full of food. YAY! Also, YAY, the skateboard Hal retrieved for youngest brother Matt's birthday. The first hour closes as everyone stands around watching this little boy ride his skateboard around - I know it sounds terribly cheesy but it was done in a very good way conveying the desperation these people feel and we are all suckers for for a little happiness, however it may find us.
Hour two. We are at Acton. The friction hits the fan when Weaver, I think sensing how important Tom is to the people's morale and also being a general dick, forbids him from running right off to find and free Ben. Tom can go once he and his merry band of misfit freedom fighters check an obviously empty armory for weapons -- the same armory they just checked out and at which they were almost killed by the Mech lying in wait. Also, a dog almost died. What is wrong with you Weaver? A dog sir, a dog! I am sure Weaver would like Anne, the sole doctor, to go along with Tom and maybe get killed since she is bitching at his heels about the unfair sleeping arrangements (the Minute Men are in the nice houses and the civilians are in tents outside). She makes the fair point that they are not just, "eaters" as the Minute men have taken to calling them but are also an important effort to the war effort, cook food, mend clothes, blah blah blah. Weaver. Is not impressed.
Back at the armory that's already been checked, Tom and his merry band of freedom fighters are taken hostage by John Pope and his less merry, but more kill happy band of psychos. John Pope (played by Colin Cunningham) is a redneck racist but also clearly very smart and very crazy. He delights in killing and sees the alien invasion his chance to shine, to be the best damn killer and looter ever! Do you imagine that when he was in grade school, he told his teachers he hoped to be a looter and killer when he grew up? See. That's whats wrong with social promotion. On the other hand, it really shows the American entrepreneurial spirit!
Anyway, as a I said, Pope is not stupid. He has been spying on 2nd Mass and its movements and its weapons. In exchange for their lives, Pope wants Hal to go back to Weaver and get him to give pope their 50 caliber machine gun, the sweet GTO its in and their food. Hal goes, after making an aborted attempt at trying to overcome his guardian captor, Maggie. weaver. Is not impressed. And says no. If we negotiate, they'll bleed us dry. George W. pops up into the frame to tell us that if we negotiate the terrorists will win. Hal is sequestered to a bedroom where is allowed to escape by his captor (who's son was also maybe harnessed, or dead). As he is fleeing, sole doctor Anne tells him that she might be able to help negotiate Tom's release.
As Maggie escorts Hal and sole doctor Anne back into the school auditorium headquarters of Pope and his cardinals. Pope is clearly pissed that they don't have a huge gun with him. Sole doctor Anne makes the case that she can save Pope's brother's life (who was shot during the armory battle where Tom and the merry band of freedom fighters were taken hostage) and that has to be worth their release. Pope counters that she can save brother bleeding leg's life and then also be a captive. He is leaving to talk to Weaver, or shoot the hell out 2nd Mass's camp until they give him what they want, whichever comes first. Maggie is left in charge with brother bleeding leg. I forgot to mention that while Hal was off being told "no" by weaver, Tom and Pope had a little heart to heart and the long story short is, Pope clearly has an underbelly of redeemability -- in the Han Solo vein, I think. He also has an impressively dead Skitter filling out his lair decor -- not sure if it is stuffed or not, but it is certainly a fashionable choice in a post-Apocalypse setting.
Anyway, as sole doctor Anne works on brother bleeding leg, brother bleeding leg begins making ungentlemanly comments towards Karen. His reward. Shot dead by Maggie; who also shoots the other guards left by Pope. Turns out Maggie was a captive herself at some point and was on the unfortunate receiving end of brother bleeding leg's welcome rituals. Viva la resistance! Maggie joins the band of merry of freedom fighters. With Maggie's help, the merry band of freedom fighters overcome Pope's mercenaries, who are laying siege to 2nd Mass's camp. After a failed escape where most of Pope's men are blown up by an alien bomber plane, Pope is taken hostage by Weaver, who's crazy Manson lamps (TM - Therese Odell at Tubular) are flaring away. Tom gets to relax the next day with a little game of post-Apocalypse lacrosse catch with his boys. Its all very surreal in the war torn background.
The show is going to be interesting. Its first 2 hours set a nice blended tone of humor, tension, the basic frailties of human emotion and the power of the human will to overcome or at least persist; all the while setting a nice sci-fi back drop. Punch my ticket, I'm in for the ride.
See you after episode 3 (the 2 hour premiere count as episodes 1 and 2).