TV Review: Falling Skies Series 1 Ep 3: Prisoner of War

As you can probably tell, so far I would describe Falling Skies as “Good, But…”; a show that feels like it has a lot of potential, a show with a lot of nice ideas, let down by a strangely choppy quality to its scripts and editing that breaks it up when it should be letting it stew together. This week promised a bit less conversation, and a bit more action, so lets see how it went.

As ever, we have a mix of good and less-than-good, and we’ll start with the latter. The first third of this episode isn’t great – not bad, per se, but just wheel-spinning of the sort that a 10-part series really can’t afford, and reflecting the tendancy of the writers to introduce characters by “talking” scenes not “doing things” scenes. And our new-character-of-the-moment is, a bit like Pope last week, a refugee from another show, this time in the shape of Harris, a weasily Gaius Baltar of a character without the charm or sexy visions. I can only hope he doesn’t try and seduce a Skitter at any point.

That said, the rest of the episode is much, much more like it. Having tracked down Tom’s missing son to a bunch of Harnessed kids working on Scrap metal reclaimation (whats that about? one of the characters asked, presumably before the audience can…)  Tom is sufficiently desperate to have him back he’s prepared to risk submitting to a risky removal proceedure. “At least he’ll die free”, he says, in a nicely understated moment. The mission goes wrong, however, when one of Tom’s team sees his lost son, and grabs him instead, all hell breaking loose and Tom’s son Hal and sidekick girlfriend Karen getting cut off in the fighting.

And then it really gets good – the rest of the group the rescued kids group of Harnessed are gunned down by a Mech in front of Hal, who is then released to “send a message”. Both this, and Hal and Tom’s reunion are brutally effective scenes, and whilst I’ve commented that Falling Skies doesn’t seen overly keen to wallow in post-apocalyptic grimness it’s reassuring to see that show realises that it has to, from time to time, to work at all.

Also good; the sense that there is a direction to all of this, as Tom maims and captures a Skitter, and the Harness release operation appears to be a (partial, perhaps) success. The episode overall shows a good focus on the whole “surviving the alien invasion” concept, with its dollop of heart-warming left for B-plots and side scenes, and the pacing was improved by stacking all the weaker material near the front and letting the main story run in its own way.

So I guess I remain cautiously optimistic, which I guess at least fits in with the tone of the show.

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

Rating:  4/5
GS Reviewer: Matt

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