FALLING SKIES: Season 2 Brings More Skitters, Conflict, and Chaos

This past Sunday brought the much anticipated return of FALLING SKIES and I had the pleasure of screening the first four episodes of season 2 ahead of time. The epic drama from TNT follows Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), a college professor turned military leader, after Earth has been invaded by aliens with superior forces. Not only are there the multi-limbed skitters and the Mechs, but the humanoid Overlords pulling the strings. After the 2nd Massachusetts, the civilian resistance, launched an attack on the alien structure over Boston, Tom went aboard their spaceship to keep them from taking back his son Ben (Connor Jessup). Now three months have passed, Tom is still MIA and the 2nd Mass is continuing the fight against the extraterrestrial invaders.

The 2nd Mass is on the move, trying to stay ahead of the alien retaliation. When Tom returns, he finds things are a bit different than when he’d left: His eldest Hal has stepped up in his absence and become a leading voice in the group, while Ben is using his alien harness-granted abilities to fight the aliens he now hates with a fervent passion. Pope is no longer a captive of the 2nd Mass, instead becoming part of them and leading a gang of eager skitter hunters called the Berserkers. Weaver (Will Patton) has luckily calmed down, losing a lot of the crazy from the end of last season, but his offensive attacks have cost the group numerous casualties that wear on them all. While Tom has made it back alive, not everyone is excited that he is back after having spent months aboard the alien ship with gaps in his memory that he can’t explain.

The second season also brings a bleaker perspective of life post-invasion and we get to see more of the world outside the relative safety of the 2nd Mass. Not only do we get more interaction with other survivors, but there are more glimpses into the cramped and strenuous lives of those in the resistance. The 2nd Mass isn’t able to maintain a secure location for an extended period and now they are forced into the nomadic lifestyle we only saw briefly last season before they holed up in the school. Now that everyone is on the move, they look more haggard and dirty. Despite the loss of life and the reality of warfare, there is still that core of hope, perseverance, and humor that keeps the characters going.

While, the first season focused a lot on the human relationships and developing complex characters, the second season opener sets the stage for a new dynamic from the get go. The successful human offensive has led to the aliens fighting back even harder. It’s a testament to the show that it manages to retain a strong focus on the human conflicts and relationships that made season one so captivating, while adding to the constant alien threat which the characters can no longer simply hide from. Casualties are piling up and danger is ever more imminent, but the characters are never thrown to the side in favor of action. It’s a delicate balancing act at which the show is proving itself to be awesome, having explosions, massive battle scenes, and rounded characters.

Despite the three month jump in time, the characters have all progressed in a way that is welcome and believable. Maggie (Sarah Carter) shows a marked change from the stoic, stalking survivor of Pope’s earlier gang, and the fluid banter between her and Hal makes it seem inherently natural. Their new friendship (perhaps moving toward something more) allows both Carter and Roy to show a new side of their characters outside their roles as scouts in the resistance. Additionally, a few new faces have joined the group, notably Brandon Jay McLaren as Jamil, the mechanic that may be Lourdes’s new love interest, and Sanctuary’s Ryan Robbins as one of Pope’s Berserkers.

Pope as the leader of the Berserkers seems to be back in his natural element, leading a group of miscreants and killing skitters. Yet, it seems strange to see him as an actual part of the 2nd Mass and as the (unpopular) voice of reason in the group—he is far from alright with Tom’s mysterious return. Even so, he is just as volatile and self-motivated as before, and Colin Cunningham is as entertaining and charismatic in the role as ever. It’ll be great to see how his status in the resistance develops and how he’ll operate as part of hierarchy, where he isn’t at the top.

Where season one had a focus on the military-civilian relations, this time the focus is on the alien-human conflict, which includes the tension caused by Tom and Ben who have both been affected by the aliens. Wyle looks haunted and gaunt as Tom, which adds to the overall atmosphere and mystery. There is the looming question of what the aliens did to him and if he can be trusted, a question he’ll be forced to ask of himself, as well. Ben uses his superhuman strengths to help the 2nd Mass fight, while simultaneously alienating him from them—they both appreciate his abilities, while also questioning his loyalties. He is somewhat of a wild card, because he sometimes ignores orders if he can kill a skitter by disobeying. Jessup manages to make Ben both distinctly human and an inherent outsider, making him wholly relatable and the unknown effect the harness had on him all the more distressing. Both Tom and Ben pose certain threats, but are portrayed with such empathy that it is nerve wrenching to watch for both their sakes and the group’s.

While some questions are answered, new mysteries are introduced. The show maintains a good balance between new introductions of plots without overloading or leaving too many loose ends floating about. All the actors excel in their roles, making the dynamic scenes all just fantastic to watch. The increased conflict with the aliens and the lack of security in the day to day survival of the 2nd Mass is making for an explosive and exciting season two without sacrificing the high quality of the storylines. If the rest of the season is anything like the first four episodes, it’ll have viewers anxiously awaiting Sunday evenings to see what’ll happen next with the 2nd Mass.

Falling Skies airs on Sundays at 9/8 c on TNT.

Kristen Micek