Falling Skies carries obvious comparisons to The Walking Dead, but it’s both better and worse than The Walking Dead. Better because it moves at a faster pace, but worse because it’s light and predictable. The Walking Dead is overdramatic, but Falling Skies lacks drama. The Walking Dead builds a convincing world, Falling Skies doesn’t.
Falling Skies bears the hallmark of second-hand Spielberg, too many kids and too much banter. And ridiculously predictable writing. Two seconds after we meet Sarah Carter’s character, it’s obvious that she will be the one to turn on her companions. Just as it’s obvious that every time the gang breaks into a store or armory, it will be a trap.
There are things to like about the show. It tries to imagine an alien invasion in realistic military terms. The civilian population reduced to guerrillas being pushed back into the hills. But then it shoots itself in the foot by making its hero too incompetent to have any kind of status, but still insisting that he’s right and the commander is wrong.
When Wylie’s Mason insists on doing something and the commander is opposed, it’s Mason who’s right, even though he screws it up. Is it believable that in a country filled with veterans, that the best a group of 300 could do for a second in command is a guy who reads military history. It’s not. What’s worse is that Mason begins spooling out the research that the writers did to prepare for writing this show in dialogue.
The characters never amount to much, but the cast is good enough to carry through. Noah Wylie and Jessy Schram are the only ones who register positively. But even Moon Bloodgood isn’t as annoying as she usually is. What’s lacking is anything for them to do. Wylie gets the character development, but that means playing dad and talking about military history. The rest are even worse off.
On the defensive is Noah Wylie trying to act his way through the clumsy writing and mediocre direction. But there’s only so much he can do. He tries to add pauses to turn ridiculous dialogue into something weighty, but the camera is against him. When he weighs two books against each other, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea vs A Tale of Two Cities, deciding which to take along and which to leave, it should be a weighty moment. But the scene carries no more weight than if he were choosing between two types of bread in a supermarket.
Worst of all is the predictability. Every scene is obvious and done to death. There’s nothing original here. Falling Skies keeps moving and it avoids the turgidity of V, but only at the expense of being obvious. Some of the dialogue is bad, “Professor Kick Ass” is an obvious nominee, but it’s the plot that really suffers.
With better writers and direction, Falling Skies could be standout. Instead it’s weak with some promise.