TV Review: Riveting, Action-Packed Return For TNT’s ‘Falling Skies’

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CHICAGO – Rarely has a program returned for its second season with as much confidence, improved storytelling skills, and overall entertainment value as TNT’s “Falling Skies,” returning tonight, June 17, 2012. While the first season was good, the two-hour premiere hints at a show that really could be great and stands as the best pair of episodes the producers have yet delivered. Even if you weren’t interested in season one (recently released on Blu-ray and DVD), you should check out tonight’s sci-fi action. Genre material doesn’t get much better than this on TV. Television Rating: 4.0/5.0
Television Rating: 4.0/5.0

In nearly every quantifiable category, “Falling Skies” feels improved at the start of season two. It’s overall just a more confident program. Season one was a good show about how average people responded to ordinary circumstances. While it was dramatically engaging, it also got a bit repetitive and certainly was built on a foundational theme that couldn’t last through another season. Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) and his fellow survivors are much clearer about their roles in this new society. So where does a show go from here?

Falling Skies
Falling Skies
Photo credit: TNT

It’s hard for me to say given the VERY cliffhanger nature of the season one finale and the network’s desire that I not spoil how it’s resolved. At the end of season one, Tom not only discovered that the aliens who had taken up genocidal home on Earth were vulnerable but was asked by one of them to board their ship for a little interstellar summit. Hoping for an answer as to what might happen to his son Ben (Connor Jessup), a young man who was kidnapped by the space monsters and seems still connected to them or possibly even worse, Tom took the invitation and the first season ended with him walking into the light. What does he learn? How does he come back? (I don’t think it a spoiler to say that star Wyle is not leaving the series). I can’t say but it’s more dramatically rewarding and surprising than you might expect.

Falling Skies
Falling Skies
Photo credit: TNT

The same can be said about the entirety of the first night of the second season of “Falling Skies.” The first season developed something of a predictable groove. Tom & Weaver (Will Patton) would fight about strategy. Tom would try to protect his kids. There would be an attack that everyone would survive. They would move on. The storytelling in the first two episodes of this new season is so much more confident and unpredictable. From risks in filmmaking style (I love a tracking shot through the camp of survivors near the end of episode two and there’s an OMG moment involving Tom’s eye that could be the grossest thing that will air on TV all Summer) to what is generally a much more aggressive tone, “Falling Skies” feels reinvigorated. Even the budget seems higher as this season will be much more heavy on combat given the fact that the survivors basically now see the enemy as vulnerable after the action of season one’s finale. They’re not waiting around. They’re fighting back.

It helps to have a more adept cast as well. Wyle was easily the best thing about season one and he’s once again a solid lead, someone who never gets the credit he deserves as an engaging everyman. However, much of the supporting cast in season one was problematic. Some of those problems remain (as much as I’ve liked him in the past, Patton over-acts here and some of the child actors need more lessons) but Colin Cunninghmam continues to steal nearly every scene he’s in and Moon Bloodgood seems excited by finally getting more of a character arc with her romance with Tom. Even Jessup has improved (and grown quite a bit) since season one. Sarah Sanguin Carter & Seychelle Gabriel deserve praise as well. Wyle seemed a bit stranded in terms of acting in season one but the ensemble has risen around him in two.

There are still some screenwriting flaws - some hackneyed dialogue and a bit too much exposition when visual storytelling would suffice — but while I entered this season a bit hesitant as to whether or not I would continue with the program on a weekly basis, I left the end of the first night’s two-parter excited to see where the show would go next.

Falling Skies was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 5, 2012
Falling Skies was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 5, 2012
Photo credit: WB

If you need to catch up, the first season of “Falling Skies” hit stores on June 5, 2012 in a very solid Blu-ray set from Warner Bros. The ten episodes come on two discs and the transfer is good but not the best I’ve seen recently. As for special features, the featurettes are of the all-too-brief variety (I can’t STAND 2-3 minute featurettes…they’re more like commercials) but the discs do come with a healthy amount of audio commentaries, including several with the charismatic Wyle.

Special Features:
o “Falling Skies from Pencils to Print: The Dark Horse Comic Book Revealed”
o “Animating a Skitter”
o “Falling Skies Panel: San Diego Comic-Con 2011”
o Behind the Scenes Featurettes
o Audio Commentaries
o Unanswered Questions: Season 2 Sneak Peek

“Falling Skies” stars Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Maxim Knight, Connor Jessup, Seychelle Gabriel, Peter Shinkoda, Mpho Koaho, Colin Cunningham, and Sarah Sanguin Carter. The second season premieres with two back-to-back episodes on June 17, 2012, on TNT. The first season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 5, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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