Falling Skies: 201 “Worlds Apart” Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
Last time we saw Tom Mason, he had willingly stepped on to one of the alien crafts in an effort to save his middle son (Ben) from once again being controlled by the invaders. That was the cliff-hanger that we’ve had to wait a year to see resolved and, subsequently, if Falling Skies can step it up a notch for the second season. I’m happy to say; that appears to be the case.
The episode opens with an action packed confrontation between the resistance and the invaders, but it’s at this point that one of the early themes of the series is established. Just as it appears the gang have won their battle and can withdraw, Ben shows signs of an increasingly violent nature towards the aliens. I’ve always said that Tom’s second son has the more interesting persona, which is only to be expected due to the nature of his experiences since the invasion, but that interest spiked a considerable amount when he disobeyed his brother, and jumped a couple of storeys just to stab an already ailing Skitter in the face.
There definitely seems to be a deep-seated hatred for the Skitters brewing inside Ben now, and it will be intriguing to see how that escalates throughout the season. Moreover, the already strained relationship he has with Hal looks sure to be tested further, along with Hal’s apparent leadership over Ben. All the problems around them add a much needed dose of imperfection to the family that has been the centre of attention in the series so far, and there is sure to be a lasting impact on all of them from these experiences.
It’s not long in to the episode before we see Tom once more, unfortunately due to the nature of his arrival he ends up taking a bullet from his own son. This then results in a series of flashbacks detailing what went on in the three months that he’s been prisoner aboard one of the alien ships. Although I’m sure it’s only a one off format, specifically suited to the situations posed in the episode, I think the flashes really were to the benefit of it. It’s always interesting to have two stories told at the same time, especially when the character it’s focused on is on the cusp of dying.
We find out that Tom was taken because the invaders would like to offer a means for the humans to survive (presumably to stop them causing so much trouble) which is for all intents and purposes a P.O.W camp. Tom declines. They try to convince him by reciting past examples of this exact idea being utilised by humans, and it really is an inspired thing to have them do. It gives them more depth and personality than just your run-of-the-mill outer space invaders, which they often came across as last year. This is down to the introduction of the ‘Skinnies’ though, the obvious leaders of the invading forces, which right from the off appeared as altogether more complex than their counterparts. The decision for them to lack a voice of their own, and instead talk through one that had been harnessed was again; inspired. Not least, because it was through Karen, someone who has a strong personal connection to Tom. All credit to the actress playing her as well (Jessy Schram) as there was a very hypnotic, otherworldly presence to her during those scenes.
It was revealed mid-way through the flashback story; that Tom was actually released by the aliens while all the other prisoners accompanying him were executed. Quite why they did that, I’m sure will be revealed all too soon. It was interesting to see Pope – the most untrustworthy character – question the suspiciously easy escape for Tom. He truly hates those Skitters, and is not about to celebrate the return of someone who may actually be under their influence. He continues to be one of the stand-out characters, but it would be great to see him get more screen time than he did here, so that he can really develop as a character. Right now though, it’s going to be exciting to see how his uncertainty of whether Tom is trustable or not impacts the 2nd Mass.
It was positive to see the residents of the 2nd Mass looking a little bit rougher around the edges than they did last year, some of them, particularly Dr. Glass, even looking rather ill. They often came across a bit too happy and unflustered by what was happening to them in the first series, but it’s great to see that issue has been somewhat rectified for the second instalment. I still have issue with them being out in the open though, it’s been established that the Skitters and Mechs can hunt in the daytime, yet their absence seems convenient if nothing else. I would hope that in future episodes; the Mass is forced in to an underground base, or at least an inconspicuous and fortified building. Post-apocalyptic drama usually works best in confined areas, as the claustrophobia and feeling of being cut-off from the world really comes across through that.
Another bone of contention that I’ve had since the very first episode; is the ships that fly over, apparently picking up on heat signatures as targets for their ‘blue bombs’. I’ve always questioned why they never seemed to pick up on the engine heat whenever the resistance was on the move, and although that issue has now been addressed; by them bombing a group of their vehicles, it raises another question in the process. Why can’t they pick up the heat of human bodies? It’s especially odd that they can’t do this when a bunch of them are all huddled together, surely warming each other even further. I think I know the answer; convenience, once again. It’s a problem the first series had on occasion and still seems to be present, and while it’s there to an extent in all programmes of this nature, they could at least make it somewhat less blatant.
It goes without saying; that the Mech searching the 2nd Mass’ almost abandoned living area, while Dr. Glass tries to remove bullet fragments from Tom’s abdomen in the medical bus, was the stand out moment. Utterly tense and terrifying, and intensified tenfold by that iconic sound the Mechs make. Inspired, I’m sure, by the Tripods from War of the Worlds.
I’m thoroughly impressed with how they’ve opened the second series; it’s done just what it needed to. There are little niggles, some that have plagued the first series as well, but nothing that massively detracts from the overall enjoyment. They’ve done a great job of establishing some themes that will run throughout the series, and really started a much more in-depth development of some characters that felt a little one dimensional last year.
8/10 (Very Good)