‘Falling Skies’ Pilot Recap: “They Didn’t Want to Be Friends”

TNT’s new sci-fi series ‘Falling Skies’ can be summed up pretty simply: It’s a poor man’s ‘Walking Dead’.

Be it zombie infestations or alien invasions, both shows have the same premise. A group of people have survived a horrific apocalyptic scenario, and now they’re fighting to survive. In the long run, the zombies/aliens/whatever don’t really matter. What matters are the human characters still alive and if we care about them or not. ‘Walking Dead’ does a great job connecting us with its characters, even having whole episodes completely sans zombies. ‘Falling Skies’, however, seems pretty set on being an alien invasion movie and leaving the characters as one-dimensional husks to be shot up by armored alien mech suits.

Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) was a history teacher in his past life, before the aliens came to Earth. Now he’s a soldier, carries a weapon, and spends his days and nights searching for food and weapons. Hundreds of people have survived the alien onslaught and have created different factions. These factions have some military support and leadership. Captain Weaver (Will Patton) is one of those leaders. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy and really despises the idea of Tom being his second in command.

Tom has three kids. Two of his boys are with him in the group of people they’re protecting, while his other kid has been “harnessed” by the aliens. The aliens kill the adults and enslave the kids by putting weird-looking implants into their backs turning them into mindless zombie people. What they’re used for, we don’t know yet.

One of ‘Falling Skies’ biggest problems for me is that I’m never able to take Noah Wyle seriously in any role he plays. It doesn’t matter if he’s an ER doctor or a made-for-TV librarian action hero. He has zero charisma and has the same exact look no matter what situation he finds himself in.

You can tell from the first two episodes that ‘Falling Skies’ is heading down the road of most post-apocalyptic movies/shows. Some of the people left are even more dangerous and unpredictable than the aliens. This is an interesting dynamic if done well. How will people react when faced with extinction? Will they turn on each other and do what they need to in order to survive? Or will they help each other out and try to survive as a working, cohesive group?

In the first two episodes (the premiere was two hour-long episodes back to back), the survivors have to go on two different missions: gathering food and gathering weapons. The aliens, which are called Skitters, are smart. They set traps for the humans. Warehouses and stores with food are used as ambush points. Lure the humans into the food and – Wham! – they’re toast. Yet for some reason there are only about one or two aliens every time the humans encounter them. So, for the most part they’re easily dispatched before they actually start killing main characters. My favorite part of the episode is right near the beginning when a few superfluous extras die. After the battle, someone asks, “Who’d we lose?” Tom’s oldest son replies, “…a bunch of guys I didn’t know.” That’s how it will be for most of the show, I’m guessing. A few background characters will bite the dust just to make us think that everyone is in danger, but really none of the main people are in much danger at all. It’s hard to really get all that hyped up about the intensity of the show.

‘Falling Skies’ also has a pretty slothful pace, some really stilted dialogue, and pretty uninteresting scenarios. We’ve seen it all already. It doesn’t appear that ‘Falling Skies’ will get out of the rut it’s already dug for itself. There’s nothing new here. Just the same old post-apocalyptic TV show that just so happens to involve aliens. I don’t really see the show getting any better.

Other Random Thoughts:
  • Why are the aliens killing the adults but keep and enslaving the kids? There must be a plan for them other than a slave workforce. You would keep the strong-bodied adults if you wanted an efficient population of mindless slaves.
  • Why does Noah Wyle bug me so much? Why?
  • If the ‘Walking Dead’ zombies met the ‘Falling Skies’ aliens, who would win? Aliens maybe, but by the looks of them, they’re low in numbers. Maybe the zombies could overrun them eventually.
  • This is one of those shows were the characters are going to stay dirty for the entire time. It looks like the make-up artists take handfuls of soot and just spread it on their faces.
  • This is yet another alien force that runs around without any bodily protection. There are giant metal mechanized suits that walk around, but we haven’t seen if there are actually aliens inside driving them. The foot soldiers, however, run around on six legs without a suit of any kind. If they’re that intelligent, they should know better.


  1. Luke Hickman

    I haven’t seen it yet, but trust your opinion since we’re on the same page about ‘Walking Dead.’ Don’t think I’ll be watching this now. Thanks for saving me hours!

  2. well i didnt think of the walking dead since i didnt watch that show but it reminded me a lot of the origanl V. the rag tag team of soliders who used to be this or that. instead of a camera man , we now have a history teacher and i said to myself nah and turned it right off.

  3. Bob

    Aaron got this review pretty much right. I’m a SciFi fan but get pretty much turned off by mindless shows offered on that network, and this one isn’t too much better. I took special note how the “Skitters” resembled the alien in “Super 8”, even the sounds they make, and started to fall asleep when the show broke into musical interludes a couple of times (skateboard and refugee gathering scenes). Slow action and more character focus than real SciFi.

  4. Yep, I used that exact term on another message board, “A Poor Man’s Walking Dead” The premise is exactly the same thing but its just not as good, the acting is pretty bad, the FX are pretty bad and the scenarios so far are just ripping off the Walking Dead, I’ll give it a couple more episodes but so far I’m not impressed

    As for the Skitters, yes they do have armor on, did you miss the whole gun fight where they were bullet proof until you could get close enough for a point blank head shot? Maybe they arent wearing anything and thats the natural toughness of their skin, but either way its still really hard to kill them with the weapons they have, so it really doesnt matter….

  5. Psmith

    Mr. Peck – even comparing this to anything resembling a program you enjoy is giving it far too much credit. Bottom line – its all been done before – probably 1000 times already. (they just canceled “V” and the “Big Event” – was NOT) War of the Wolds meets uhhh – War of the Worlds! Thanks Spielberg for sharing your Alzheimer’s with us. And Network Execs agonize after these shows bomb? Forget the show – the premise is BS and worn out already – and the execution (production,writing,acting) is pathetic. Time to dust off my B5 DVD’s – again!

  6. Zargon

    This show, like most on TV, just goes to prove that anyone involved in the entertainment industry (with the exception of Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, and a few others) failed 7th grade Science. Otherwise why do they believe that you have to get ‘close’ to kill an alien – do they really believe that the velocity and impact of a bullet is that much different at 5 feet than 100 feet. Stupid!

    Also, the plot line (especially of the 6th episode) is just Resistance vs the Nazis. Really. Take the aliens out of that episode (they are only in it a few seconds) and it could be an episode of Combat (and considering the way Hollywood eats its own dead, maybe it was).

    • I think Apollo 13 already proved that Ron Howard failed 7th grade science. Rockets don’t make “zoom-zoom” noises in the vacuum of outer space.

      Anyway, I watched about the first half of the first episode of this show over the weekend. The supposed Boston setting is hilarious for anyone who actually lives here. “ShopSmart” indeed.

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