TV REVIEW: Falling Skies S2, Ep4: Young Bloods

It’s probably getting close to repetitive how much I’m saying that this second season is an improvement on the themes and ideas of the first, but it does bear repeating. Nothing much has changed in many ways – the characters are still largely the same, the setup is largely the same, and what Falling Skies is trying to achieve – as a piece of drama – is pretty much the same. This episode returns to one of the shows core ideas, and one it’s explored before, but again, it just does it better.

This week opens with the focus on Matt, the youngest of the Mason boys, being used as bait to lure Skitters into a sniper trap. The sequence ends with a blood-spattered Matt yelling “That was…Awesome!”, a funny moment made from a situation where kids are assets of war and are growing up terribly, terribly fast. Tom, of course, goes mad when he finds out. It sets up the episodes big idea very well; the effect the invasion and aftermath is having on the surviving kids, and how they are reacting. It also lets Falling Skies explore that old post-apocalypse standby, Kids Doin’ It For Themselves.

So Hal and Ben are out on Patrol, giving each other meaningful character development time, when they run across an organised group of kids who, after a brief stand off, they offer support and supplies to. To the shows credit it never tries to make the “grown ups” remove the kids autonomy, or forcibly recruit them, the plan is to help them out, let them come if they want, and let them make their own destiny if they don’t. The emotional weight comes from the unexpected fact that one of the kids is Weaver’s missing, presumed Harnessed or dead, daughter.

Weaver was one of the first seasons problem characters, used as someone to butt up against Tom, but this season the two of them function well as a unit, and both characters benefit from it. He’s still a spikey, ill-tempered figure but he’s presented as a good leader for the 2nd Mass if not someone you’d want to share a beer with. Already estranged from his family before the invasion, the reunion is poignant and bittersweet and really well played, showing that Falling Skies can stick to its “Mankind is Fundamentally Decent” mission statement without lurching into cloying or maudlin.

The centerpiece of the episode however is a raid on a Skitter Harnessing factory, in which we actually get to see the Harnessing process. And boy did I wince through it. It’s a really well done piece of TV, not shying away from the horror of it, and once again reinforces the strange, almost parental view the Skitters seen to take of the Harnessed. Of course, the Good Guys storm in and mostly save the day, but it continues to open up questions over Ben’s status, and the overall motives of the invasion.

So there you have it, another pretty strong episode as Falling Skies continues to cement itself as a regular, and looked-forward-to, part of my week. I still have some reservations – it could do with stronger female characters, for instance, and some of its more serialised plots will depend heavily on their pay-offs – but it no longer feels like a show badly under achieving it’s potential.

Falling Skies continues on the FX channel in the UK on Tuesdays, 9pm.

Reviewer: Matt Farr

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