The second episode of TV’s latest high-profile sci-fi blockbuster Falling Skies opens with an assault on an armoury. It’s all shaky camera work, gloom, guns, hiding behind cars and tension, everything you would expect from a big budget alien-invasion drama and it comes as a slight relief after the premier’s schmaltzy ending.. (An extended scene of children playing on a skateboard contraption to a backdrop of emotive music and adults looking on almost teary eyed at their youthful innocence – which left me hoping that an alien would swoop down and annihilate every last one of the little bastards).
Just as your appetite is whetted for some heavy extra-terrestrial action, they bring in a dog. A cute dog with big eyes and a waggy tail that the 13-year-old boy who is part of the raiding party (the show still hasn’t explained why children are allowed to tote guns and be part of a military force) loves. They use the canine as a decoy to draw out a Mech (an alien robot contraption that looks like a cross between a Cylon and Star Wars Battle Droid). The boy runs out to save the dog and puts himself in the line of fire until he is rescued by protagonist Tom Mason (played by ER alum Noah Earnest-Face).
The opening sequence sums up my problem with the show as a whole. It can’t quite seem to decide whether it is a Battlestar Galactica-style survivalist epic or a family drama akin to Dr Quinn Medicine Woman (which is actually referenced later on in the programme!) This is not to say that the show doesn’t have potential. Our heroes are captured by Pope and his ragtag band of outlaws, which brings a new angle to proceedings, showing that not all survivors are willing to band together to protect humanity, as they would much rather shoot, kill, rape and steal things in the face of the ensuing apocalypse. Pope (gleefully brought to life by Colin Cunningham) brings a much needed injection of humour and offsets the angst of Hal Mason – who seems to be played by Jacob from Twilight – as he worries for his father and girlfriend’s safety.
Despite the show’s cloying tendency to be overly sentimental and verbose, there are lots of questions that still remain unanswered which will certainly bring viewers back for more: Why did the aliens conquer earth? Why do they enslave children instead of killing them? Why do the survivors still have perfectly quaffed hair and immaculately white teeth in world with no electricity and few cosmetic products?
The mystery deepens…