I'm not going to lie to you. If watching television wasn't my job, I'd be bailing on Falling Skies right about now. Not because it's absolutely horrible—it isn't. But it's not great, and do you really want to waste time watching half-assed television when you could be learning how to play the saxophone, making homemade explosives out of kitchen supplies, or cleaning out your email inbox?
Of course, things could be a lot worse for me than watching Falling Skies to pay the bills. In fact, I'm still hanging on to a glimmer of hope that the show will turn things around and fulfill its potential. Why? Just look at the credits: The writer of Sunday's episode "Grace" was Melinda Hsu Taylor, who wrote the Richard Alpert episode ("Ab Aeterno") of Lost (one of the series' high points). Graham Yost is an executive producer, and he's the same guy who created Justified, which I would argue is one of the best three shows on TV right now. And of course there's Steven Spielberg, who, while he's not quite the same Spielby who gave us Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark, is still Steven Spielberg.
The point is, there are good people working on this series and almost every show goes through some dreadful period of growing pains, so I'm not worried about sticking around for a bit. We just have to bite down on a leather strap while Falling Skies awkwardly has its way with us. If you're not into that kind of kinky business, then you've probably already denounced the show and moved on to other great summer programming or sped off on a stolen motorbike like Pope. I don't blame you, I don't fault you, and I don't mind that you did. I'll let you know if it gets better. And if you really, really enjoy Falling Skies, that's okay too. It's not a bad show.
That said, there a lot of dumb things happened in Sunday's "Grace"—but at least the show seems to be trying to fix its biggest problem: adding depth to its characters. Unfortunately, it's doing so in a clunky way. Aside from Pope and Dr. Harris, the two "bad guys," there's enough personality in the room to fill a teaspoon. Everyone else recites their lines in a tough-ish-guy manner and then leaves. When you assemble a search party to go hunting for motorcycles and the only thing that distinguishes one guy from the next is the color of his skin (with the exception of Pope, who is getting pretty awesome), you've got problems.
Elsewhere, a few nuggets about other characters slinked into the show. Lourdes suddenly became a Bible-thumper (can we please eliminate the super-religious-person archetype from sci-fi shows? Don't go down that road unless you can do it well). The show alluded to something bad that happened to Anne (Moon Bloodgood)—but it didn't help us get to know her any better. And Dai decided that talking about himself in the third person is a great touch that should have been implemented from the get-go. Basically, instead of devoting the hour to one or two characters, the writers sprinkled in little tidbits about everyone and then gave us a weird Kumbaya ending that completely fizzled. Usually there's some communal victory to warrant that kind of "we're all in this together" celebratory scene, but all that really happened was: Tom and his pals got attacked by kids they couldn't save, their prized captive and chef got away, Dai got shot in the leg, and Mike's kid might have died. But at least they got fresh bread!
Falling Skies has the benefit of being on when nothing else is, but if it doesn't iron out its wrinkles soon, it won't matter.
Your next assignment: Even with a huge cast of undeveloped characters, Episode 3 means it's time to step up and pick some favorites. At this point, Dr. Harris (Steven Weber), a.k.a. Dr. Negativity, is the only person other than Pope who I ever get excited to see on screen, because he's a jerk and he says all the things I would say. Seriously, Anne, are you trying to help save humanity or home-school the captured alien? Thanks to user ferrage's comment last week, all I think of when I see and hear Pope is Sawyer from Lost, and "Grace" made it pretty obvious that Pope is a direct rip-off. But at least he's something. In the "so bad they're good" department, I've taken quite a shine to Margaret (Sarah Carter), the blonde rescued from Pope's gang. She always has a gun in her hand and she always tries to act mysterious and tough, but fails completely. I'm honestly hoping they keep her that way for the entire series, for hilarity's sake. Who do you like best so far? (And if there's a character you favor simply because he or she is so weird, let us know that too).
... Mike! You are an idiot! Sticking a gun in the alien's mouth and demanding that he/she talk? Ripping off the harness from your kid? Not exactly Father of the Year material.
... I've read a lot of your comments about the bad acting is in the show, but didn't really notice it until this episode. Dog Boy might be the worst kid actor I've seen in a long time.
... Dear Special Effects Dept., it might be a good idea to stop showing close-ups of the captured alien now, special effects department. It reminds me of something from Amazing Stories.
... Who else couldn't stop thinking about Lost when Tom and friends were walking through the grass looking for motorcycles? Tom is everyman hero Jack. Pope (Sawyer) was being all racist to that one dude (Sayid). I was just waiting for him to call someone Stay-Puft.
... User linkthehero82 totally busted me regarding last week's story: I was wrong about Lourdes and Anne being daughter-mother. I could blame shoddy writing and poor characterization, but I'll take this one on the chin. I'm an idiot.