The summer TV season is never fully in swing until TNT’s Falling Skies is back on the airwaves, and audiences finally get to return to the fight with the two-hour premiere this weekend. For the sake of this spoiler free-ish review I’m going to critique the two episode premiere On Thin Ice and Collateral Damage as a whole, since that’s the way the network chose to air them, and I must say the premiere episodes made me quite happy the Mason family along with The 2nd Mass are back in action.
On Thin Ice jumps forward in time (as so many shows love to do) seven months after The 2nd Mass arrived in Charleston and were shortly thereafter greeted by a new alien race’s arrival. Since then this new ally race the Vohm and it’s representative we met in the season 2 finale, that the newly appointed President Mason (Noah Wyle) has in a somewhat racist fashion named “Cochise” played by legendary under-the-makeup actor Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), and his small group of alien friends have revealed that they have come here to help liberate the Earth from the “Espheni,” the actual name of the show’s invaders.
Seems pretty convenient, and many of the humans agree, becoming understandably skeptical since, along with the new alien’s arrival, an alliance with the rebel skitters (who now paint a red stripe on their face for ole dead “red eye”) has coincided with some obvious intelligence leaks on mission outings.
Despite this growing unrest things are going pretty well in Charleston for the 2nd Mass. After a pretty nifty battle to open the episode we see most of the Masons have settled into roles in the budding society and things are happier than they’ve been in a while after visiting some truly dark places and events in the past two seasons. It’s refreshing to see a little bit of hope.
Much of the first half of the episode is used to establish where the characters are at this juncture, the most amusing of which is “Popetown,” the biker bar-ish town on the outskirts of Charleston run by the Berserkers and the area’s namesake Pope, who continues to do his good/bad guy dance much to my enjoyment.
Meanwhile, Ben (Connor Jessup) has taken on being the mediator between the humans and the rebel skitters, Weaver (Will Patton) was promoted to colonel, Anne (Moon Bloodgood) is very pregnant, Matt (Maxim Knight) is an annoying pre-teen and Hal (Drew Roy) is…well something is very wrong with him that I won’t spoil. Along with cameos from a few familiar faces from Charleston the show feels like a new era has set in.
But when an opportunity to make a devastating blow to the east coast forces of the skitters presents itself to the 2nd Mass, the mole who has been sabotaging their efforts becomes more aggressive, while Mason and Weaver are forced to construct a high stakes assault that can turn the tide in their favor, all the while knowing their efforts are being watched.
The addition of “Cochise” is probably the most promising aspect of this new season, and the scenes involving him are executed well with impressive special effects for a TV show budget. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that Steven Spielberg executive produces the show, but it’s very exciting that on a weekly TV show technology is to the point that this level of a fictional creature can be brought to expressive visual life. Very stoked to see more of the character and how his brethren play into the overall arc of the season.
There’s also the introduction of a new kind of Mech, interestingly explained as a weapon normally saved by the Espheni for more dangerous threats, and underlining the fact that humans are gaining ground in the war. All of the robot tech looks really good in the two-part premiere with the only visual downfalls being a few shots of the skitters running around that look a bit cartoon-ish, but the effects team still mixes the practical and the CG with pretty good results.
Collateral Damage also sees the introduction of “The Rat King” (Robert Sean Leonard) a character integral to the assault on the skitters that is a bit of the generic eccentric genius, but adds some light comic relief and asks a few questions that audience is most certainly also asking.
Unfortunately it’s not all top-notch entertainment with the B and C-plots being bad to downright awful. The storyline that is being setup with Anne and the baby seems so damn ridiculous that if they’re not careful it could quickly turn into a “Jump the Shark” moment (the premiere might already reach it for some viewers). Also, while the early reveal with Hal is pretty shocking, the overall places that it goes throughout the premiere are pretty repetitive and annoying to a level that brings down one of the most likable characters on the show.
Falling Skies is not a perfect show and it never has been, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, and the high production values certainly do not hurt its enjoyment factor. The season 3 two-part premiere continues in this tradition and adds some cool new aspects to the overall mythos while feeling like the overall story/war is actually progressing rather than staying stagnant and stationary. Some truly horrendous sub-plots aside, On Thin Ice and Collateral Damage combine to deliver a visually impressive and action-packed return to the summer favorite.
The Vohm, namely Doug Jones as Cochise. Pope being Pope. The lighter visual tone of the premiere. The tough decisions made by Mason and Weaver. The new Mechs. Mostly great special effects.
The baby. Oh god the baby. The “new” villain in charge. Some shoddy effects with the skitters in certain places. The finale battles outcome still seems a bit easy even with the consequences. Hal’s storyline.
The show is simple popcorn sci-fi entertainment and the two-hour premiere certainly delivers that in spades, providing some immensely entertaining TV, but sets up some troubling storylines that hopefully won’t bring down the overall season.