The debut season of “Falling Skies” is well underway, and while it has plenty of kinks to iron out, it certainly has shown promise in its first three episodes. Unfortunately, things come to a screeching halt in the fourth hour when the hackneyed writing kicks into overdrive and the episode’s almost total lack of action fails to keep the viewer’s interest for a full sixty minutes. As much as I hate to say this, given my affinity for science fiction, the quality of “Falling Skies” seems to be going the way of many a show with a solid concept, but poor execution. Although it has been touted as comparable to other science fiction greats for weeks prior to the premiere, this is certainly no “Battlestar Galactica.”

The Players:

  • Director: Peter Toye
  • Writer: Melinda Hsu Taylor
  • Cast: Noah Wyle, Drew Roy, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Colin Cunningham, Steven Weber

Episode Title: “Grace”

Mason and his regiment encounter a whole band of skitters and harnessed teens when they journey to a bike shop to seize motorcycles for the 2nd Mass. In the meantime, Dr. Harris and Anne butt heads over their differing methodologies for gathering intelligence from a captured alien, one who appears to have a special connection with Michael’s son.

The Good:

  • Skitter 101: In this episode, more knowledge about the skitters unfolds in a fascinating way. It’s about time that we learned more about the aliens, so the information is very much welcome. Certainly, the mythology built around them is quite imaginative. I won’t spoil it all here, but I will say that the relationship between the aliens and the harnessed children is further elucidated.
  • John Pope: Pope continues to prove himself as the most compelling character in the show, and when he takes off during Mason’s mission to attack sleeping aliens, he also establishes himself as a loose cannon. Pope, with his unique sensibilities and moral compass that can only be described as all over the place, is certainly the one to watch as this series progresses. I have a feeling that he’ll be back, and soon.

The Bad:

  • The plot: Normally, when a series introduces a major plot point, the arc resolves within an episode or two. “Falling Skies” chooses not to do this with the rescue of Mason’s son, instead artificially expanding the narrative by giving Mason tasks to complete before a rescue mission can be attempted. Throwing obstacles in the way of a protagonist achieving his or her goal is nothing new; in fact, such conflict is the stuff of drama. But the way in which “Falling Skies” goes about creating this conflict is unnatural. The obstacles should come about organically, rather than be doled out to Mason by a military commander. One gets the sense that the writers are simply looking to give Mason more things to do before he can recover his son.
  • The pacing: Yet again, “Falling Skies” suffers from what has now can be officially diagnosed as a chronic pacing problem. This episode does not have nearly enough action to sustain its quieter, subtler moments, which make up the majority of the hour. It is, in a word, boring.
  • The melodrama: “Falling Skies” has taken a turn for the melodramatic in this episode. Especially when considering the scenes involving religion, some parts of the show feel too over-the-top. It is difficult to determine whether such an effect is the fault of the writing, or the acting, or the direction, but it is safe to say that the product as a whole suffers from a bad case of high school drama class syndrome.
  • Clichéd writing: For a show that promotes itself as thoughtful, drama-driven science fiction, “Falling Skies” quite often falls victim to stale dialogue: for example, when Margaret talks about how she wanted to turn her gun on herself while she was with Pope. Essentially caricatured character archetypes – the unsentimental military commander, the fervently religious believer, the angry and vindictive father – beget trite motives and dialogue that not even the best of performances can salvage.

Overall:

I was hoping that “Grace” would be the saving grace of a show that is quickly going downhill, but evidently, “Falling Skies” continues its trend of clichés and poor pacing. What’s more, this episode saves almost all the action for the last twelve minutes of the episode, making it all the more difficult – that is to say, boring – to sit through for an hour of your time.

Rating: 2/10

“Falling Skies” airs every Sunday night on TNT!

What did you think of last night’s episode?