TV Review: Falling Skies Series 1 Ep 2: The Armory

So,  last week I quite enjoyed Falling Skies, with some reservations, and certainly enough to rate it as a “good start” to a show that it setting itself some odd tonal challenges. So how fared our family-centred, post-alien-apocalyptic drama this week?

Well, pretty much the same. I certainly enjoyed it well enough again but there are sufficient niggles that I still can’t bring myself to really love it, and this time some of them may be a little deeper than “first episode syndrome”. So, here we go.

First, the good. Following on from last week, Tom and his tiny band of “cross-section of america” followers head off on a Recon of a local armory in search of guns and ammo to keep the 2nd Mass. in supply. There’s a nice tense sequence showing that these guys may be militia but they’re not total amateurs – I liked their method for sniffing out if there are any ambushers waiting – tempered by a reminder that they there are weaknesses in inexperienced or too-young combatants. Again, the Skitters/Mechs are shown to be thinly-spread yet powerful the rapid retreat in the face of a lone Mech says a lot about the scale of the fight that they are in.

However, sent back a second night to complete the recon Tom’s team run into a bunch of other humans, who after a brief (and refreshingly brutal, with one dead and another near-fatally injured) firefight take them hostage, wanting the 2nd Mass. only heavy weapon in exchange.

And here we have a problem. For a start, this is straight from  “Post Apocalypse Storybook, Page 1” and facing off our heros against a bunch of skuzzy, redneck rapists isn’t saying anything new and interesting. Secondly, their skuzzy leader who is actually a bit intelligent and a bit charistmatic and ends up in the main cast…well frankly James Sawyer annoyed me enough in the early series of Lost and finding his long lost twin in Falling Skies doesn’t exactly fill me with warm fuzzy feelings. And he got to be in the “Tom was a history teacher” conversation that the shows writers feel overly fond of.

That screaching halt to the episode aside, it then goes on to pick up again. Both Captain Weaver and Dr Anne Glass get a bit more to do, and Weaver especially comes across as a much more nuanced character; for all his grumbles about civilians in the first episode, here he puts them first when the crunch comes. Margaret’s story is realistically grim, and sets up her role in resolving the hostage situation nicely, and the final confrontation is a good reminder of the margin between survival and death when you live on a planet occupied by trigger-happy, genocidal aliens. More trigger-happy genocidal aliens, please.

And to be fair, whislt the show does lurch towards somewhat unneccesary “moments of heartwarming” at least this weeks was shorter, and the teenage romance scene was actually quite funny. Actually the dialogue overall had a little bit more pep to it this week, and Pope and Tom’s overly long chat notwithstanding, the pacing was pretty good to. But I was dissapointed by the decision to run a pretty generic storyline, away from the more interesting aspects of the shows set-up, this early in it’s run, seemingly just to introduce a character I feel I’ve seen done a few too many times before.

Next week however, Tom is off to find his Harnessed son, which should put us more squarely back in “Families vs Aliens” territory, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

Falling Skies airs on FX and FX HD on a Tuesday night, 9pm

Rating:  3.5/5
GS Reviewer: Matt

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