TV review: ‘Falling Skies’ S3 EP1 “On Thin Ice” – SEASON PREMIERE

This review contains SPOILERS

 

Keep watching the skies…

Starring:  Noah Wylie as Tom Mason, Moon Bloodgood as Anne Glass, Will Patton as Dan Weaver, Colin Cunnigham as Pope, Drew Roy as Hal Mason, Connor Jessup as Ben Mason, Maxim Night as Matt Mason, Sarah Sanguin Carter as Margaret, Doug Jones as Cochise.

Series created by:  Robert Rodat

Episode Directed by:  Greg Beeman / Written by:  Remi Aubuchon / aired in the UK:  16/07/13

What’s the series about?

Opening six months after a devastating alien attack, Falling Skies follows the soldiers of the 2nd Massachusetts regiment and the civilians under their protection as they fight to repel the invaders…

The story so far…

Following the first season finale, Tom Mason returns three months later after being held captive by the alien ‘Overlords’.

The 2nd Mass is taking up temporary refuge in an airport hangar when a visitor arrives in a plane with a message that remnants of the U.S. government are massing in Charleston, where a safe haven has been established.

As the 2nd Mass begins their journey to Charleston they encounter one of the ‘Skitters’ (the Overlords’ subjugated foot soldiers) who claims to be leading a rebellion against their masters.

When the 2nd Mass finally arrives at Charleston Tom finds that the leader of the community is his former mentor, Arthur Manchester (Terry O’Quinn).  When Manchester refuses to allow a rendezvous with the leader of the Skitter rebellion, Weaver and Mason decide to take action leading to a coup by Charleston’s General Bressler (Matt Frewer).

As the second season finale closes, the 2nd Mass are shocked by the arrival of another alien species – will they be enemy or friend?

Episode review

Picking up seven months later, “On Thin Ice” sees the tide of war turning in favour of the human race, thanks to the support of new alien allies the Volm.  Earth’s new friends have furnished the resistance with advanced weaponry and technology – including a device to safely remove harnesses – to battle the invading ‘Esphani’ (as they’re known to the Volm – just as you were beginning to know your ‘Skitters’ from your ‘fish heads’!), who the Volm have been pursuing across the cosmos – helping to liberate occupied worlds along the way.

The episode opens with an action packed rescue of Jeanne Weaver’s harnessed boyfriend Diego from a mine and an ambush by a couple of ‘Mega Mechs’.  By the time the series titles appear it’s clear that much like the previous season, Falling Skies is back with verve.

At first it all feels a little bewildering as we’re dropped into the middle of proceedings all these months later.  Reassuringly, most of the missing detail is divulged via some necessary and well serving character dialogue.  Tom Mason is now the elected leader of the New United States with Dan Weaver a Colonel, the Volm have established a base outside of Charleston leaving a representative (enter Hellboy star Doug Jones’ character – the pleasantly mannered, well spoken ‘Cochise’) attached to the resistance.

It’s not all so rosy though, Pope and his band of rag-tag ‘Berserkers’ are still as brash as ever, there is growing dissent regarding the allying rebel Skitters (sporting Braveheart-esque face paint) and suspicions of a mole, with the ensuing investigation leading to disastrous consequences for one character.  Weaver in particular makes his grievances known to Mason especially with regard to the Volm, leading to a neat Churchill/Roosevelt/Stalin analogy from Mason.  I’ve always enjoyed the growing camaraderie between the two ‘brothers-in-arms’ and this scene is a highlight of that, given all the more subtle complexity given Mason’s new status as ‘President’.

Meanwhile Hal Mason, having lost the use of his legs, is being plagued by ‘nightmare’ encounters with Karen – who has taken over as the new, human, Overlord.  The birth of Tom and Anne’s daughter provides a celebratory occasion but ultimately produces eerie overtones.  All of this provides some interesting conflict, the basis of all drama.

Largely, the character relationships are more or less as we left them last season – no major criticism in that there has been reasonable character development thus far.  Amongst all of the dark dramatic elements there are moments of hope, a Citizen’s Forum allows Tom Mason to rally the cause of the human spirit – which actually works well here compared to some of the more ‘syrupy’ moments from the first season.

“On Thin Ice” closes with Tom’s revelation to Weaver that the Volm are constructing a weapon (represented by some nicely detailed CGI) to destroy the alien towers that will prevent the Volm reinforcements from entering Earth’s atmosphere.  Things seem to be going well for humanity in their war with the invaders…just how long will it all last?

It’s all off to a promising start and I eagerly await the coming instalments, made all the more enticing as the show has already been renewed for a fourth season (to air in summer 2014).  Now if only they could increase the episode count to 13 a season…

The bottom line:  Falling Skies continues to rise the ranks of the ‘must watch’ list, amongst all the alien intrigue and action there is the human drama reminding us that like all the best sci-fi it tells stories that relate to the human condition.  It’s a series that is well worth your attention, even if it is a little short at ten episodes a season.

Did you know?

Series creator Robert Rodat served as screenwriter on Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning World War II drama Saving Private Ryan.  Spielberg of course serves as Executive Producer on Falling Skies.

Falling Skies Season 3 airs Tuesdays at 9pm on Fox (UK).  Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.

'Cochise' (Doug Jones) is one of Earth's new friends as new allies the Volm help humanity take the fight back to the invaders...

‘Cochise’ (Doug Jones) is one of Earth’s new friends as new allies the Volm help humanity take the fight back to the invaders…

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