Falling Skies Season 3 Premiere Review: Cowboys and Aliens

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Jun 10, 2013

Falling Skies S03E01 & S03E02: "On Thin Ice""Collateral Damage"


Near the end of the second half of Falling Skies' Season 3 premiere, the newly promoted Colonel Weaver questioned the motives of the newest addition to the show's endless parade of menacing alien invaders—the Volm—by pointing out how asinine their story is. Cochise, the noseless wonder and apparent leader of the not-quite-fish-heads-not-quite-skitters Volm, claimed that they were intergalactic freedom fighters who were once invaded by the Espheni and now follow their former overlords across the galaxy, liberating the planets and peoples that they invade and generally just making it their prime directive to dick around with them at every possible opportunity.

Lol. Okay.

Weaver asked whether Tom had ever considered the possibility that the Volm were lying, or that maybe they were simply teaming up with the humans to oust the Espheni so they could be our new masters... and Tom replied that he hadn't and that was a good point. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the New United States. 

Personally, I don't know which option is better with regard to the Volm. It's true that their sweeping—er, dropping—in at just the right time with a slew of handy-dandy alien technology and insight into the Espheni way of life is a terribly contrived way to hand the humans a few honest-to-goodness victories and to quickly shift their priorities from scavenging for food and spare bullets between skirmishes to orchestrating actual, tactically relevant battles with goals beyond "don't die." However, throwing yet another big baddie onto the pile of Falling Skies villains would have been equally lame and frankly, I'm already over the whole Hal-is-implanted storyline. 

Are the Volm just using the humans? I don't know. Maybe. I don't really care. If they turn out to be sincere allies, then that was a seriously lazy way to write the Mall dwellers to victory. But if the Volm end up being their own brand of evil, I really don't think anyone here will be surprised. Either way, they're a kind of meh addition to the series, so I'm happy just to ride out the storyline, see where it goes, and oogle all the new toys.

However: I would like to point out that I at least entertained the idea that the Volm might not be the saviors they're claiming themselves to be and the fact that Tom didn't makes Tom look really dumb. Dumb, Tom. DUMB. 


Anyway, when we returned to Charleston, it was many months after the Season 2 finale and Anne was super-preggo and about to pop—and then she did, and the baby, Alexis, was super creepy and super-mobile (and articulate) for a newborn because what Falling Skies needs now that Ben is a definite good guy and Matt has made the full transition from precocious adolescent to bitchy teenager is an unsettling child. What is it with this show and the freaky childrens?

The Mall Brigade liberated Jeannie Weaver's boyfriend in a mission that two seasons ago would have been considered high-stakes, but nowadays qualifies as little more than a step outside for some air... except this time, the Espheni and the non-friendly Skitters knew they were coming because battles are boring when stuff doesn't get blown up. Also, the rebel skitters have super convenient facepaint now so that we (and the 2nd Mass) can tell them apart from the toolbag ones. It's too bad that there isn't a huge market for Falling Skies action figures, because I'm so jaded by Star Wars' endless variations on the same freaking things that my first thought upon seeing the paint wasn't "cool," it was "action figures." Idk. The paint was cool, though, and like Tim pointed out when he reviewed the Season 2 finale, something had to be done to differentiate the rebels from the non-rebels. 

Rather than chalk up the ambush to some random fluke, el presidente and the gang immediately jumped to ESPIONAGE... which was 100 percent correct. They rode back to the city on their horses (because they have horses now) and Tom put Ex-President Manchester in charge of finding the mole. For whatever reason (probably because playing nice is better than being locked in the brig), Manchester decided to fully support the administration that disgraced and then defeated him at the end of last season. That's fine... though I'm not sure why he had to be reduced to a bumbling doofus. Because once you put his shaky methodology aside, Manchester built something really impressive out of the remains of Charleston before the 2nd Mass arrived: a functional (if flawed) government, a (relatively) safe haven, and a society that wasn't just barely surviving, but flourishing, if only on a very small level (it's important to stress the small part). Doing so required a lot of questionable decision-making, but it also required cunning and insight—which kindly Old Man Manchester seemed to be inexplicably lacking seven months later. 

Whatever, he's dead, Jim!


You'd think that Manchester's murder would have panicked someone—anyone—in Charleston, but the teeming masses and their fearless leaders actually took the news rather well. Tom made tracking down the killer a priority... but not more of a priority than blowing up the local nuclear reactor so as to put a halt on the Espheni fuel supply. Also: radioactive mutant harnessed children, because again with the monster babies! 

It's not that the mission wasn't a worthy one, and I can appreciate the effort to make Tom's presidency a difficult one. It certainly puts Manchester's mindset into perspective. The assault on the power plant just seemed like a sharp change of pace after the first half of the premiere, with its emphasis on the mole. I think it would've been less jarring if the "two-hour premiere" had been aired as a true two-hour episode, rather than a back-to-back two-parter. "On Thin Ice" left us hanging with Maggie discovering the supposedly paralyzed Hal's muddy boots and Tom, Weaver, and Cochise kicking around a potential attack on the Esphemi defenses, only for "Collateral Damage" to throw us into a random mission-of-the-week with a very self-contained story of its own. Yes, we saw more of the spy in action, and yes, we learned that Tom is pretty much the only dude in Charleston who wholeheartedly believed the Volm's story—but mostly the episode was about hot-wiring a power plant so it could be destroyed without killing half the Eastern Seaboard. Go team!

Tom's decision to send Weaver's men out as bait so that he and Dr. Strangelove could complete the real mission themselves was ballsy, and even though Weaver seemed to "get it" after the fact, his men are a different story; even Weaver, for all of his understanding, didn't seem to appreciate being the bait, but who would?

Falling Skies' two-episode Season 3 premiere wasn't perfect, but it did attempt to correct some of the flaws of the much-maligned second season, and nitpicks aside, what the episodes did well, they did very well. Words cannot fully express how delighted I was that Anne's pregnancy wasn't this huge drawn-out thing and even Alien Baby's birth was relatively mellow. As much as the Hal stuff makes me groan, the Maggie stuff that goes along with it is solid, and while I can see the inevitable Weaver/Tom divide forming on the horizon, "On Thin Ice" and "Collateral Damage" set us up for a slow burn, which actually shows both characters quite a bit of respect. Tom has proven that he's not incapable of making tough calls and maybe even being a little bit dispassionate for the sake of survival. And Weaver, for as much as he may personally dislike some of Tom's ideas, is not yet ready to stage a straight-up coup because he's not a moron and he realizes that splitting the humans has never really worked out for the humans on this show.

So all in all, I'm excited for the rest of the season. Really! Not in a gripping, edge-of-the-sofa, not-gonna-make-it-to-next-week kind of way, but in a respectable way. I genuinely enjoyed the premiere... when I didn't have to think too hard about it. 


NOTES


– "Human logic is to be discarded when at war with extraterrestrial beings." Spoken like a true human, alien savior. 

– I really like the communal feel of New Charleston, with its bar and its school and stuff. It feels like a logical progression from Season 1's group of rag-tag survivors living out of cars to, as their situation feels less hopeless, a band of people who are ready to live again. 

– Super glad the back of the plant wasn't actually undefended because REALLY? I can't believe Weaver bought that, though. I mean, really

– Of course the village nerd broke his glasses. Of course he did. 

– So... even though we know that Hal has been sleep-meeting and sleep-sexing (WTF) with Evil Karen in the woods, he was hanging out waiting for his creepy demonic stepsister to be born, so he couldn't have wasted Manchester. Who do you think did it with the alien ray gun in the underground bunker?

– What'd you think of the premiere overall? How would you describe your level of excitement (or lack thereof) for the rest of the season?

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  • TheCjm1999 Jun 15, 2013

    The episode seemed to drag...I have given up on Falling Skies.

  • fre_jim Jun 14, 2013

    wait, are they building a "matrix" device??? that's what I could catch from next episode promo

  • Scarpad Jun 13, 2013

    The Dialog on this show is horrible, I can stand the acting, and the story to a degree, but whoever is doing the writing needs to be replaced, some of the cheesiest dialog I've hear in a long time, and the person who mentioned that the characters kept referencing the time jump, just in case the audience didn't get it, was spot on

  • Bill_Thomas Jun 13, 2013

    I thought the season premiere was solid, certainly better than any of the episodes from season 2. I'm looking forward to watching this season play out; in my opinion, this is one of the few shows that's doing solid (though not brilliant) science fiction. Considering how bitterly disappointed I've been with the major networks' lackluster offerings in the sci-fi genre (in particular, a certain kilowatt-challenged clusterfoulup), solid-but-not-brilliant science fiction is more than satisfactory.

    My biggest complaint about the premiere: if I'd been taking a drink every time a character ham-handedly referenced "these past seven months...", I'd have had alcohol poisoning in the first 20 minutes. Apparently, post-apocalypse, everyone will be carrying rolling calendars in their heads to track the time from significant events. Good thing nothing important happened between the season 2 finale and the season 3 premiere.

  • mad-pac Jun 13, 2013

    have we watched the same show? It didn't seem to me it had never occurred to Tom the Volm could be plotting against humans. The impression I got was that he considered the Volm the lesser evil, that he'll do anything to beat the Espheni, even if that took taking a leap of faith and trusting these new aliens.

    Cochise? What kind of name is that for an alien? How can the humans call him that with a straight face? Who are Cochise's friends, Geronimo and Sitting Bull?

    I don't trust Cochise because he sounds like Darth Vader, obviously.

    "Human logic is to be discarded when at war with extraterrestrial beings."
    You and your damned Volm logic, Mr. Spock!

    OK, why is Karen so evil of a sudden? So, she's being controlled, right? But why do the aliens need an overlord that is being controlled? Isn't the one who's controlling her the real overlord? Or does she make evil decisions on her own evil free will now? How can she be controlled and free at the same time? I'm confused.

    How come everybody has electricity now? Oh, wait, that's another show.

    I hope Charleston has good lens-making technology because I was wondering where Robert Sean Leonard's character is going to get new glasses.

    Stupid Matt. When are they going to use mathematics in a war? Come on, of all useless things people do learn in college, math is one of the easiest to prove its use.

    Manchester's method of investigation was confusing and apparently ineffective. It seemed to me more like he had drawn twelve names from a hat and decided those were the prime suspects, because without any hard evidence, it's all guessing. Besides, he seemed to be completely surprised the killer was the mole. "Uh... So it was YOU? I'll be damned" Aaaaaaargh..." It would be nice if they had shown him asking inquisitive questions around instead, collecting evidence, discussing his conclusions with Anthony so we'd get the impression he was actually getting somewhere.

    Tom should strongly request the Volm to provide some volunteers to die along with the humans in suicide missions, at least for morale purposes. So far, the humans are dying, the rebel skitters are dying, and Cochise is giving pep talks.

    I read some comments saying they wanted the story to develop from the end of last season to know what happened with that alien race, not the Volm. Well, to me, even though that alien was quite different, that was a Volm, but they changed the alien CGI design and just hoped we wouldn't notice the difference.

    Moon Bloodgood must have been really pregnant, in real life, because she is chubby now.

  • elhund Jun 17, 2013

    I agree Tom did say that working with the new Aliens was like world war 2 and the allies pact with Stalin.

  • Ahmad92 Jun 12, 2013

    I thought the premiere was just a little bit less than okay. I used to get excited to see the next episode during the first season but this episode at some parts wished it would just end. The best thing in this episode was the newborn mason staring at his mother while she's asleep, and saying "Mama!" after coming down from the bed and going under it! what i didn't like was his mother's reaction to this "hehe maybe its just my imagination" if it were my child i'd run out of the house screaming and leave him there.. very likely never to come back. also, i really hate noticing details or negative things cause they tend to ruin the enjoyment of a show, but at sometimes it feels as if the show is begging the viewer to notice. but even with all of its flaws, Falling Skies still is quiet enjoyable. hopefully the story of this season will better than the previous one.

  • HaendelMexArro Jun 12, 2013

    Well I'd say I'm a huge fan of the series since it started, but if there's one thing I feared when known was the 7 month time jump... and so it happened, there are too many holes int he story line now, we were settled in a new start point within 40 minutes and to be honest there's quite a lot that could've happen between those seven months... Falling Skies is going in a new direction, and though I can understand the production decision it seems to me that a sci fi well written show with lots of action might start to change into a political sci fi show based in more events storyline than a development of the core itself...
    I like the premiere and won't say I didn't enjoy seeing my favorite characters back, but somehow from year 1 to now it's a lot to take in...

  • FlvioMex Jun 12, 2013

    I don´t have any hope about Falling Skies. It looks old. I didn´t like also the 7 months jump and all the storytellings are very weak. For me it was a boring and frustated oppening but I´ll be following because, even remenbering Defiance, I love Sci-Fi. Let´s see...

  • curry20060 Jun 12, 2013

    Well, the first episode was entertaining.
    I did not like the jump of seven months ahead, but ok, let's go for it.
    The superbaby story is creepy but interesting: will it be a super fast growing kid with powers like in the first V series ? She'll save the world. I wonder how it will turn out.
    I think this show is still too much into family values, but it has reached Season 3 and it is opening up, not like Defiance which remains enclosed in its little world (for the moment since still in Season 1). I will continue to follow the show hoping for more improvement.

  • funnyl3unni Jun 11, 2013

    I haven't read through all of the comment yet, so I apologize if this has been stated already: Tom didn't say that he hadn't thought that the Volm could be another enemy - in fact he points out specifically the alliance with Stalin in WWII as necessary despite him being a lunatic. I think you're thinking on when Tom talks with Weaver and Weaver asks if Tom had thought the "big bad gun" possibly wasn't the weapon they thought it was, and *that's* when Tom says he hadn't thought of that - which is still highly disturbing from the President of the New United States as you noted. However, Tom making the connection between the Volm and Stalin shows that he definitely realizes that the Volm could in the end be their enemy.

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