August 31, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Finale Review: “Falling Skies”


The past two seasons of FALLING SKIES have been something of a wreck, all the way through to tonight’s flat finale, and with its ratings echoing the show’s title, it’s hard to regard the show’s departure with much beyond relief.  Under showrunner David Eick, Season 4 featured a spectacularly wrongheaded series of plotlines that combined World War II tropes with a magical one-third alien child-woman and a trip to the moon.  Season 5, while rarely hitting quite that level of lows, was aimless and seemingly desperate as it flailed toward a finish.

Eick turned once-charming scalawag Pope (Colin Cunningham) into a homicidal lunatic, then abruptly blew him up.  He constantly re-used plotlines from earlier seasons, like the one where our heroes entered an environment where the leader was seemingly sympathetic and responsible–this year, she was a former love of Dan Weaver’s (Will Patton)–only to be exposed as psychotic and/or in league with the aliens, or in this case both.  Then there was the one where a character thought to be dead–this time, it was Lexi (Scarlett Byrne), that child of Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), his wife Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and an Espheni–who turned out to be an evil replica sent to sabotage the humans.  A promising new character played by Catalina Sandino Moreno was kept around for half the season but got no development at all, and the romantic triangle between Maggie (Sarah Carter) and Tom’s sons Hal (Drew Roy) and Ben (Connor Jessup) faded away.  An outer-space deus ex machina was introduced as it developed that Tom was rescued from the crash of his moon-craft by yet another alien race (appearing to him in the guise of his dead first wife), which presented him with what looked like a super-sized suppository and told him that if he got it to the Espheni Queen, all the Espheni would die at once, voila!

Any hope that the last episode, written by Eick and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, would miraculously bring things to a satisfying conclusion disappeared quickly.  Despite the previous episode’s cliffhanger suggesting an all-out air attack by the Espheni, the show didn’t have the budget for that, and the attack lasted about 30 seconds.  Instead, the bulk of the episode took place in what were supposed to be the subterranean tunnels under Washington DC, where the humans had to be vewwwy vewwwy quiet so as not to disturb the alien pods that littered the area.  There was, in fact, no big final battle at all:  Tom was captured by the CG spider-ish Queen, got his hand free of the cocoon to grab the magic weapon, and seconds later the Queen, and all the Espheni, were vaporized, with no twist or consequences involving the other aliens.  The episode had played with the idea of killing Anne, but since she had revealed minutes earlier that she was pregnant and this was a TNT show, there was no chance that would hold.  (The godlike other aliens brought her back from the dead with a couple of underwater tentacles.)  And most pathetically of all, Eick brought Pope back for a single scene to stagger after Tom with a gun, mutter something about having been rescued from the bomb, and then decide not to kill Tom after all (and then apparently die, although that wasn’t a hundred percent clear).  It all ended with an epilogue by the remnants of the Lincoln Memorial where all the surviving characters were statesmen and women, and Tom’s youngest son wrote the story of the great alien war.

Noah Wyle remained a fine orator of rousing speeches to the end, Will Patton was a gritty, likable second in command and Doug Jones brought grace to his prosthetic-laden role as the good-guy Volm alien Cochise.  Beyond that, Falling Skies never really figured out what to do with itself after its first seasons, and seemed to stay on the air through inertia more than anything else.  Despite a premise that seemed capable of extending indefinitely, it became less welcome than an Espheni overlord.  Tom Mason, even in the epilogue, kept insisting he was only a teacher, so he might appreciate this old lesson:  sustaining a hit can be at least as difficult as coming up with one.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."