FallingSkies2coverGrade:  B+
Entire family:  No
2012, 440 min. (10 episodes), Color
Rated TV-14 for sci-fi violence and peril
Warner Bros.
Aspect ratio:  1.78:1
Featured audio:  Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Season 2 preview

When Steven Spielberg signs on to co-produce a project, you know it’s going to have terrific production values, art direction, set decoration, and special effects. Falling Skies certainly does, but the one-hour TV sci-fi drama also offers a unique take on an alien invasion of Earth.

After attackers had wiped out over 90 percent of planet’s population, all that remain are groups of survivors who look to find a way to fight back and reclaim what was once theirs. What’s unique, though, is that conscious comparisons are drawn between the Second Massachusetts irregulars that band together in the Boston area to fight aliens and the original regiments that formed segments of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. It’s not just another post-apocalyptic survival story. By drawing comparisons, the series tries to make you think more about the nature of rebellion. 

FallingSkies2screenAlso unique is that the focus is mostly on a single family: the Masons. Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) provides the historical perspective. As a widower, the former history professor also feels the full weight of single parenthood—especially when a revolt against the aliens, like any war, has a way of accelerating the maturation process in children. Already in his twenties, oldest son Hal (Drew Roy) is treated as an adult, but Ben (Connor Jessup) is still a teenager and still causes his father concern—especially this season, since he may not have fully recovered from the biomechanical harness that the aliens had attached to his and other children’s spines to enslave them. It had been cut off, and three spines still glow, like antennae. Matt (Maxim Knight) is the youngest, but this season the prepubescent asserts himself more and goes against his father’s orders.

There’s a reason why Terra Nova, a big-budget dinosaur adventure that also had Spielberg’s backing, flopped, but Falling Skies is still going strong. It all comes down to characters and acting, and the ensemble for this kick-alien drama does a fine job. If there’s a weak link, ironically it’s one of the main stars. Will Patton sometimes just seems like he’s acting as Captain Weaver, a military man who came out of retirement to lead the regiment with Mason as his second in command. But even when he seems a little stiff or artificial his character is still as likable as the rest.

The balance of elements in this series is also nicely handled. The family drama, the relationship side plots, and other character-related scenes are well integrated with “creature shots” and moments of action or suspense. The most extreme violence that happens this season occurs when Matt lures two “skitters” into a dead-end, putting himself in harm’s way so that two shooters can take them out with two well-placed head-blowing shots. We also see how those harnesses are attached to children, and additional scorpion-like worms that crawl in and out of human orifices might unsettle the squeamish.

In our family, the “squeamish” turned out to be my wife. Our 15-year-old son loved it, and our 11-year-old daughter, who normally self-censors if something strikes her as too violent, found this entertaining because it was sci-fi violence. Season 2 is a bit darker and more extreme than the first season, with characters thought dead turning up again and a pro-gun message embedded in the finale.  Ultimately, I think it does come down to family, and because family is at the heart of this sci-fi action drama, it holds appeal as a choice for family movie night. We watched five episodes one night, and five the next—though no one appreciated the cliffhanger ending!