In part one I spoke about Defiance as part of a trend of alien invasion shows we saw early in this decade. Falling Skies like Defiance was another one of the better TV shows this short and unceremonious era produced, and that also got it’s own game.
My introduction to Falling Skies took place in the late summer of 2011. I use to have Fridays off from my job of the time and I would often assist my wife, who was a book sales rep back then, in placing her books out at a large Walmart store. With the book section being oddly in the electronics section, I got to see TV ad after TV ad for TNT. The one ad that always stuck out was for Falling Skies, a TV show which followed a group of survivors after aliens knock out communications, and invade. Great and interesting concept, one problem though, it was on TNT a network I hate due to its non-stop commercial breaks, and the fact that it always turns the volume up on its commercial as does its sister station TBS. A few years later I decided to look the series up and found a few out of order episodes on Directv on demand, so I recorded the first. With the first episode a little violent towards the beginning and my youngest son in the room I decided to turn it off to return later, but I would end up returning to it a lot later. After completing Defiance I decided to stay with the whole alien invasion theme and started watching Falling Skies again.
Falling Skies not only preceded Defiance by two years but also overlapped with Defiance in it’s three seasons. Falling Skies is another show that features a lot of familiar faces, perhaps a bit more well known then some of those in Defiance. ER’s Noah Wyle as Tom Mason headed up the cast and produced the show, Will Patton (Spitfire Grill, The Agency, Remember the Titans) plays Captain Weaver, and Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation, Eight Below) plays Anne Glass. There are a lot of other familiar faces too from TV and movies too, and the ensemble cast comes together well to produce a compelling show. Out of the gate I must have watched four episodes in the first sitting, and I found myself easily losing several hours a night getting involved in the show. Having the ability to binge watch this I have to say this is one of those “just one more” type shows that will keep you up till the wee small hours. Frankly, it took me finishing this series to actually begin getting to bed at a decent time again.
So the main jist of the story is that what remains of the United Stated military, is broken up into small units and assigned groups of civilians to protect and move to safety. Essentially, the mission comes down to survival and resistance. The show focuses on the Mason family headed by Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) a former history professor, turned resistance fighter and second in command after Captain Weaver. Having lost his wife in the initial attack Mason now only has his sons the older Hal (Drew Roy), and the youngest Matt (Maxim Knight) while his middle child Ben (Connor Jessup) has been captured and attached to a mind controlling “harness” by the aliens. Tom Mason is also involved with Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) the doctor attached to their group, the “2nd Massachusetts”. Mason also finds himself compromising with and eventually forming a friendship with the hard nosed US Army Captain Weaver (Will Patton). Of course we also have are human villain John Pope (Colin Cunningham) a former murderer turned leader and weapons designer, who questions authority and acts as Mason’s foil.
Season one revolves around moving the civilians to safety, but in the process of doing so the Mason’s find Ben’s whereabouts and begin working on way of rescuing him as well as some of the other kids harnessed and being used for labor. In the meantime on the search for food, weapons and working vehicles the “2nd Mass” encounters a group of raiders called the “Berzerkers” lead by John Pope. Pope initially takes them hostage, but decides later to join the 2nd Mass not only adding himself but another new character Maggie (Sarah Carter) to the cast. Maggie begins to develop a relationship with Tom’s eldest Hal, after his girlfriend Karen (Jessy Schram) is taken and harnessed by the aliens. In the meantime Pope advises the 2nd Mass on best methods for killing the spider like aliens known as “Skitters”, and makes special bullets to combat enemy “Mechs”. Eventually the harnessed teens and Ben are rescued, but only part of Ben’s harness can be removed with the remaining part giving him super-human abilities. Weaver decides to attack a large alien structure in Boston, and well on recon with Mason discovers a new race of aliens who seem to be in charge. The season ends with a failed attack on the alien structure, and the survivors leaving the middle school they were hiding in for most of season one, but not before Karen reappears with the new alien overlord and forces Tom to board their ship.
As season 2 begins we see the survivors in a makeshift encampment, and Anne Glass and her young assistant Lourdes (Saychelle Gabriel, The Last Air Bender) struggling to keep up with the medical needs of the survivors. In the meantime with Tom missing, Hal and Ben butt heads over teaching Matt about using a weapon. Later we see Tom being tortured on the alien ship, before Karen arranges a meeting between him and the alien overlord. Tom manages to break free and attack the overlord, and his Skitter guard (keep him in mind) before being recaptured. Tom and some other humans are dropped off in Michigan, where he witnesses the other humans shot down while he is allowed to live. The survivors scope out a former hospital to use as an new HQ, and must move there quickly when alien mechs begin closing in on their current position. Tom eventually finds his way back to the 2nd Mass. Once at the new place Ben and Maggie find the dead bodies of several formally harnessed teens but one is found alive, Karen. Ben tries to protect Hal from Karen’s influence, she ends up seducing him instead and the two run away only for Karen to lead Ben into a trap. As the aliens are about to execute Ben, soldiers from the 2nd Mass arrive killing the would be executioners, and capturing the Overlord who tortured Tom. With the Overlord captured alien attackers descend on the hospital to free him and infest the hospital with flesh eating bugs. Tom mortally wounds the Overlord, and works out a deal to give the aliens enough time to save him, while the survivors evacuate the area. They eventually end up at small airport where a plane lands, and tell the survivors about a new US capital and survivor colony in Charleston, NC. The survivors fight their way there, but Ben encounters and makes contact with the Skidder guard who held father and is now a member of a Skidder resistance against the Overlords. As the season ends the survivors make it to Charleston, as Ben sets out to help the Skidder resistance, and the episode ends when a mysterious new group of aliens arrive.
In season three we see that not all in Charleston is as it seems, as Tom meets his mentor who is now President of the United States and who has a chokehold on the colony. The new aliens the Volm assist the survivors war on the alien invaders the Espheni, and announce that they are building a secret weapon to counter an Espheni secret weapon. Ben returns with the friendly Skidders, but is met with distrust and resistance by the new government. Lourdes finds herself infected by an alien virus, and begins a path of destruction. Tom and Anne get deeper into their relationship and Anne becomes pregnant. As the season roles on a near coup leads to Tom being elected the new president, and balancing his alliance with the Skidders and Volm, while his military commanders disagree. The colony is eventually attacked by members of the US Military who claim the actual president is alive, and arrange for Tom and Cochise to meet with him. After Tom and Cochise are separated, the Espheni shoot down Toms plane with himself and Pope on board. Pope and a wounded Tom then fight their way back to Charleston. In the meantime Hal is also infected by an alien virus, and Anne gives birth but realizes her baby isn’t normal, and later finds out the baby has alien DNA causing her to run away with the baby. Tom steps down from office to find Anne, leaving his VP Marina Peralta (Gloria Reuben, also of ER) in charge. Marina begins to grow suspicious about the Volm weapon and with her science advisor and Weaver, uncover the Espheni’s terrifying plot to use the structure in Boston from season 1, with others worldwide to irradiate the planet and kill all living things. While searching for Anne, Tom is captured by Karen, who at the Boston structure informs Tom that she killed Anne and the baby. Tom escapes Karen, and makes it back to Charleston, just in time to uncover Hal’s infection, and using a Volm medical device help cleanse him. Later Lourdes bombs the colony bunker, and Volm structure but is eventually caught. The Espheni weapon goes online, and the Volm and 2nd Mass set out to Chicago(?) to destroy the structure there with the Volm weapon. In the season finally Anne and the baby Lexi return, but the child has aged years in the short time. The Volm announce their plans to move all humans to safety in Brazil, but the humans meet that plan with resistance. Karen appears with a proposal towards the end, but is killed by Tom while Lexi cures Lourdes of the alien virus. On the way back to Charleston the Espheni attack again, separating the Mason family.
Season four opens very dire as Tom and Weaver are imprisoned, Matt is stuck at a brainwashing school, Anne is alone with a group of survivors, and Ben encounters Lexi and Lourdes at an odd sanctuary. Lexi, who has now aged to her late teens believes herself to be a messiah who will bring peace to the Earth by forming a union between the Espheni and Humans, and is served by Lourdes. In the meantime Ben remains skeptical and finds out Lexi is secretly meeting with an Overlord known as “The Monk”. While that is occurring Matt finds himself and another student fighting the schools brainwashing. Back in the Charleston ghetto Tom finds a way to escape his cell and attack Esphenis in the camp as “The Ghost”, well Hal attempts to help others in the camp. Tom eventually gives himself up to save the camp, and is told by the Overlord on the spacecraft above the camp of the new Espheni plot to mutate humans into submission. Afterwards Tom, Weaver, Hal, Pope, and a new character Dingaan (Treva Etienne) develop a way to breakthrough and disable the energy nets keeping them in the camp, as well as a plan to evacuate the survivors. Anne and her troop eventually find Lexi’s sactuary, and Matt and Maggie clue her in on Lexi’s activities, Matt and Maggie also develop feelings for each other in Hals absence. Pope manages to carry out destroying the energy fence, and the Charleston survivors escape encountering Cochise and his Volm commandos at a former food warehouse. A recon party see’s Matt at the school, and Cochise, Tom, and Weaver set out to rescue him. In the process of doing do Cochise is injured, and Weaver encounters his daughter who has now been mutated, but dies saving him. Eventually Tom, and his survivors find the sanctuary as well and the Masons are reunited creating a love triangle between, Hal, Ben and Maggie. We also pick up a love interest for Pope along the way Sarah (Mira Sarvino). Lexi eventually enters into a cocoon, and emerges with frightening powers killing Lourdes, and then escapes to an Espheni ship bringing Ben with, who believes he can turn her. Seeing the forced mutations, Ben escapes back to the sanctuary which is now under attack, they survive several attacks but not before bringing down an enemy aircraft known as a Beamer. Hal and Cochise uncover the main enemy powerplant on the moon, while Anne saves a paralyzed Maggie with a few of Ben’s harness pins bringing Maggie and Ben closer. Lexi, finds out the aliens are just using her and planning to kill her, and kills The Monk with her powers, before heading back to the sanctuary. By this time Tom has decided to conduct a suicide mission to the moon to destroy the central power plant, and Lexi looking to prove herself agrees to go with.
As season 5 opens Tom is reinvigorated after an odd set of dreams, as the tide is turning against the Espheni. The sanctuary must hold on for dear life after the the Espheni release tides of cloned Skidders on them. Eventually, the 2nd Mass find the cloning facility and head out to destroy it, while Sarah finds herself in alien glue and Pope must fight to save her, butting heads with Tom who's on his way to destroy the cloning facility. After Pope becomes angry from his loss he leaves the 2nd Mass with his remaining Berzerkers, taking Hal hostage along the way. Tom sets out to find Hal and Pope, while Weaver and the 2nd Mass must move again. Tom eventually finds Pope, and Hal and releases Hal and Isabella shooting Pope in the process, but then finds himself being snatched by a flying Skidder. Hal and Isabella set out to find Tom, and the 2nd Mass finds shelter at a former distillery that also contains and alien communication node. Tom, is saved from the flying Skidder and finds himself at a rural farm far removed the invasion, but where the children remain oblivious to the invasion. After helping the eldest son come to grips with the invasion, Tom convinces him to stay and help protect his family. Isabella and Hal find Tom, who thanks to his encounter with the family, suddenly has new commitment to the fight. Reunited with the 2nd Mass, the group moves out to a former navy base held by a Virginia regiment lead by former colleague of Weavers, Captain Marshall. As they quickly find out Marshall is extremely paranoid and imprisons and plans to execute Tom, Anne, Hal, and Ben. Weaver finds out Marshall is meeting with an Overlord in the woods, and kills the Overlord bringing the body back to base and upsetting Marshall. As the execution is being carried out the soldiers of the firing squad refuse to shoot, and the Volm and remaining distillery garrison arrive to save the day, in the fight Marshall is killed revealing she was a disguised alien. As the garrison comes under control an ancient alien race reaches out to Tom revealing the Espheni end game with the arriving queen, and provides him with a weapon to fight them. A disfigured Pope finds out Tom is still alive and sets out to kill him, however the attack is a failure and Pope is assumed killed. New survivors arrive at the base, and a final attack is planned on Washington DC where the alien queen has nested, and produced eggs for an overwhelming occupation force. The 2nd Mass gets into DC, and Tom makes it to the Lincoln Memorial where the alien queen has fully nested. Spoiler alert: Tom manages to release the secret weapon killing the queen and destroying the eggs. In the battle though Anne is mortally wounded, so Tom carries her body to the ancient alien vessel, saving her life. In the process Pope sneaks up on Tom, but terribly wounded is unable to carry out his attack, and dies on the beach in front of Tom (ala Darth Mahl and Obi Won in Star Wars Rebels). Matt rewrites new world policy, as Tom and company lead a new world order.
Ok, first of all I wrote this trying to avoid as many spoilers as possible, plus there is a lot going on in this show and many characters. So my synapsis hardly justifies the show. Unlike Defiance I will say Falling Skies is a little more family friendly. Falling Skies is pretty clean as far a cursing, and sex scenes, but there is some violence and occasional but rare gore. It's a show that would be good for older kids to watch, but maybe kind of frightening and intense for younger ones. Unlike Defiance it would have no issues with my eldest son watching this, as a matter of fact the story does have an element of young adult fiction to it since many of the main characters are teens and kids themselves like the Mason boys.
I liked Falling Skies a bit more than Defiance as well, since I felt the storytelling was a lot deeper, and the plots more well thought out towards the larger seasonal story arc. Like Defiance, Falling Skies did grapple with lazy writing from time to time, like the many “Shazaam!” moments when the characters showed up just in time to save the day, or how Tom always found his way back despite the 2nd Mass having moved on, or how everyone got to the sanctuary. Overall though, the stories were pretty tight and well told.
Falling Skies: The Game
To reiterate what I wrote over the weekend Falling Skies: The Game is a PS3 and XBox 360 title based on the alien invasion TV show that was on TNT. It's a third person tactical squad based game, which as you may know I'm not a huge fan of but in this instance it's not too bad. Perhaps they have come a long way from XCOM and the first Rainbow Six on PC, or maybe it's just that I liked the TV show enough to cut it some slack. Graphics wise the game isn't exactly a stunner, and has a slight PS2 look to it, but you have to figure that this game was never meant to be a AAA blockbuster and might have been made with a very limited budget. Playwise it works well with the PS3 controls, but than again tactical squad games are by nature stiff and grid based but I feel it works smoothly. As far as originality it stays pretty close to the TV show and actually brings in the voice talent of a few of the shows actors like Noah Wyle, and that's something the Defiance game didn't really follow through on. The game concept itself though isn't all that original otherwise and it's also kind of funny that based on the TV shows premise they decided to go with a game genre synonymous with that sub-genre in games, thanks to XCOM.
As far as lining up with the series, the games fits nicely and is suppose to take place between seasons 3 and 4. Despite not having access to the full cast the game's voice talent is enough to immerse you in the series. The games also takes enough elements from the series, like class of fighters, and fighting tactics, as well as plot lines to make the game feel like a lost season and to explain the 2nd Mass’s actions between Chicago and Charleston. As a fan of the series the game didn’t feel out of place, and was comfortable to settle into. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of tactical squad based games so i do wonder if another genre might have worked better, like and FPS, or RTS. With that said though I think the former would have seem out of place, and the latter unable to truly capture the small squad deployment that the series itself actually played out.
The Alien Invasion sub-genre of science fiction is nothing new and no doubt we will see TV shows based on the again in the near future. I do think that Falling Skies will be one of the better shows we will get to see in this sub-genre and gives some realism and weight to such an occurrence if it was to happen. Defiance, also treated the occurrence with some realism in portraying the tensions between humans and aliens coexisting together on Earth, and the plight of humans to survive in such a world. I also think both show produced video games that fed well off the actual chemistry of the shows themselves.
I hope you decide to check these shows and games out for yourselves, and let me know if you do.