Thursday, June 23, 2011

Falling Skies: "Live and Learn" and "The Armory"

            At some point in the first part of this two-hour premiere for Falling Skies (which is really two completely different episodes attached together for no reason), the main character, Tom Mason, is trying to convince the commander of the resistance to let him go find his son by saying “What would you do if you could get your kids back?”  There is a quiet moment as the commander contemplates this…and then Tom says “He’s my son.”  This is the kind of terrible writing that completely destroys what the show is trying to do.
            The general premise of the show is an alien invasion, which is capturing humans for…some reason, that I’m sure is defined in the future.  We follow the resistance, as they…uh….resist?  The more I think back on the show, the less I actually know about the situation as a whole.  The exposition is told to us at the start through kid’s drawings and their narration.  This is an interesting idea, but it has the unfortunate fact that A. we don’t get to actually see the events leading up to what happened and B. we have to listen to kids talk.  Even a short clip of the initial invasion would be fine.  Instead, I feel the ads that I saw on Youtube did a better job of telling what happened. 
            The first episode’s plot involves…uh…nothing.  Nothing at all.  The characters just kind of be for an hour.  Well, there’s some plot points, including Hal, one of Tom’s three sons, finding out that Ben “He’s my son” Mason is still alive, but that’s setting up a plot point for later.  We see the resistance move around from place to place, which is about as thrilling as it sounds.  There’s never any danger, no tension.  There’s no alien ships flying overhead, or the fear that one of the aliens’ mechs will suddenly pop out of nowhere and start firing.  Instead, it’s just scenes of people walking and talking.  After about 40 minutes, some of the resistance members raid a food stock and finally fight some aliens.  Where it turns out that they’re complete failures at this.  In the next episode, it’s a shocker when it turns out it’s easier to hit the aliens if you shoot their legs, slowing them down.  Instead, they just fire wildly and luck out.  When they look at the alien afterwards, he’s…adorable.  I’m not disgusted or terrified.  I want to give him a hug or buy a plushie of him (by the way, TNT, plushies of the aliens?  Awesome idea).  At the very end, we see a scene where a little kid rides on a skateboard, and everybody just looks on and smiles.  If this was a good show, this would be the scene where suddenly the aliens attack, the kid dies and the audience’s jaws drop as we find out that anyone can die.  Since this isn’t a good show, it’s just a sickeningly sweet moment, and then they move on.
            The second episode at least has a plot.  The resistance is trying to get some guns from an armory, where they run into another gang, who’s more villainous.  We can tell this because the gang leader calls the black and Asian members of the resistance “a….uh….gangbanger, and….uh….I think…some kind of Oriental”.  Offensive!  My virgin ears can hardly take this villainy!  Yep, he’s about as weak as he sounds, constantly struggling to try and sound all evil, while generally failing at it.  The sad part is, he’s also better developed than the main character, who’s downright flat.  He’s a designated hero, through and through.  We’re supposed to nod at him and say “Our hero!”, but instead he has about as much screen presence as a lamp.  When he goes against his commander’s orders, instead of getting chewed out, the commander just says the equivalent of “You rascal, go and get your son!”  After we have another sweet moment with his young kid, of course.
            I get what they’re trying to do here.  It’s like they really want to be the next Walking Dead.  Having read The Walking Dead, it does it better.  There’s a better sense of characters, tension that jumps off the page, and the fear that your favorite character could be the next one to die.  Falling Skies is full of flat characters and boring, poorly-written dialogue.  Just a bad show.

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