“Falling Skies” is proving to be a disappointing series so far, plagued by trite writing and characters as well as a plot that is not doing much to reinvent the science fiction genre. But I am not ready to throw in the towel quite yet, given that the show has only taken its first steps into the world with four episodes. Fortunately, its fifth episode seems to be one decidedly bold step in the right direction. “Silent Kill” is an example of just what “Falling Skies” can become with some more tweaking as the season progresses.
- Director: Fred Toye
- Writer: Joe Weisberg
- Cast: Noah Wyle, Drew Roy, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Steven Weber
Episode Title: “Silent Kill”
Mason hammers out a dangerous plan to rescue the teenagers held hostage by the skitters. Back at home base, Anne makes a discovery in her research that proves to be integral to Mason’s mission.
- The writing: Overnight – or, at least, over the course of a week – the writing seems to have improved considerably. It’s crisper and riddled with far fewer clichés and one-liners than previous episodes. Hopefully, this means that the series has found its voice; however, with the revolving set of writers that the show employs, that may be asserting too much at this point in time.
- The pacing: By doing something as simple as throwing in the alien attack in the first act of the episode, the series ratchets up the tension, raises the stakes, and invests the viewer in what is happening at the school – a place that had previously been devoid of interest. From this point onward, the episode continues at a solid pace that hits the right beats, whether they be action-packed or more subtle, at the right moments. Moments of intense combat punctuate the episode, as opposed to all of the action occurring in the last fifteen minutes of the hour.
- Hal and Margaret: Could it be that a romance is already brewing within the ranks of the 2nd Mass? It looks like there is some sort of interest between Hal and Margaret, and it’s about damn time that some two people started making eyes at each other. The show has been sorely lacking in the sincerely emotional – if not romantically tense – department, so this blossoming romance is a most welcome addition to a series that could use a boost in tender moments.
- Location stagnation: It seems to me that the 2nd Mass has outstayed its welcome at the school. What would help move the plot along is if the people themselves actually moved to a different location, which would provide new challenges aside from the mission-of-the-week. There is a reason why movies, TV shows, and books that take place in post-apocalyptic settings don’t have the characters stay in one locale: besides the convenient plot point reasoning that it is unsafe to settle in for a long time, utilizing constant movement forces the plot along, offering a brand new environment with novel obstacles for the characters to confront. The writers of “Falling Skies” would benefit from taking a page out of the “Walking Dead” show and comics and similar properties.
- The characters: You know that there’s a problem when, five episodes into a show, you can’t find yourself feeling sympathy for any of the main characters. There is nothing out of the ordinary about their respective (or collective) plights to draw you in. Each of them has their own motivations and concerns, to be sure, but they still aren’t intense enough to generate genuine concern from the viewer.
- Cliché city: While the dialogue issues seem to have been worked out, the character archetypes and plot devices still remain. Captain Weaver, in particular, falls victim to the played-out elements of his character the most often: his battle-related comments every other sentence, his clandestine pill-popping. Even the alien’s attack on Dr. Harris in the beginning of the episode, while a refreshing break from the usual monotony, was predictable, if not inevitable. I’m still waiting to see something new from the writers, even if it’s merely turning a typical science fiction convention on its head. That type of ingenuity is where the intrigue happens, but so far, such authentic originality has been hard to come by in this series.
“Silent Kill” is a major improvement over last week’s episode on many fronts, but the series still lacks the necessary emotional qualities to warrant sincere investment. If it does away with the clichés and develops the characters into authentic people as opposed to caricatured protagonists, “Falling Skies” could truly be something great.
“Falling Skies” airs every Sunday night on TNT!
What did you think of last night’s episode?