TV Review: Falling Skies: Episode 1 “Live and Learn” and Episode 2 “The Armory”

Genre: Sci-Fi | Drama |Action

Premiere: June 19th, 2011 at 9/8c

Network: TNT

Creator: Robert Rodat, Steven Spielberg

Director: Carl Franklin (“Live and Learn”), Greg Beeman (“The Armory”)

Writer: Robert Rodat (“Live and Learn”), Graham Yost (“The Armory”)

FALLING SKIES stars Noah Wyle (ER), Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation), Will Patton (Armageddon, TNT’s Into the West) and Drew Roy (Secretariat), and is executive-produced by Steven Spielberg, along with DreamWorks Television heads Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank, Graham Yost (Justified, The Pacific) and screenwriter Robert Rodat. Rodat, who earned an Oscar® nomination for his screenplay for Saving Private Ryan, wrote the pilot from an idea he co-conceived with Spielberg. Mark Verheiden (Heroes, Battlestar Galactica) and Greg Beeman (Heroes, Smallville) are co-executive producers.


Falling Skies opens in the chaotic aftermath of an alien attack that has left most of the world completely incapacitated. In the six months since the initial invasion, the few remaining survivors have banded together outside major cities to begin the difficult task of fighting back. Each day is a test of survival as citizen soldiers work to protect the people in the care while also engaging in an insurgency campaign against the occupying alien force, whose nature and purpose remain a mystery.

In an interesting twist of fate, I was talking with a friend of mine recently about sci-fi genres. He said that his favorite kind of sci-fi is when something about the nature of humans overcomes the impossible odds of an alien invasion. If there is such a genre (isn’t that in almost ALL sci-fi tv shows, in one way or another?), this show represents. BUT don’t count this one out as being predictable or schlocky. In fact, it’s not clear that humans will prevail at all, in the overall scheme of things, and that is one of the strengths of the show.

Instead of beginning before the invasion, this story takes place after that big event, so this is not a series that features the armies of the world uniting, or freaky laser shows from on high. Don’t worry, effects aficionados, we ARE shown the aliens and we ARE shown at least one ship, and some other cool CG things.

But this is not Independence Day; this is, to use the analogy, 1777. It’s  the scrappy Americans doing what they can against the awesome British army. Which is where our main character comes in. As the TNT publicity has made clear, Noah Wyle was a history teacher before the invasion. An American history teacher. See what they did there? And it works very nicely. This is, as so many of the best sci-fi series are, primarily about the characters and not about the effects.

Happily, these characters are not one-dimensional. As you watch you’ll see people and automatically, if subconsciously, think, “oh, that’s the doctor, oh, there’s the teen love interest” and fit them into their little slots, but one of the main differences with these characters, which comes as a result of their situation, is practicality. They are all trying to be practical. The invasion is new for us but it isn’t new for these people, and much of what we get in the first two hours is a snapshot of all of the adaptations they have made so far.

The “adaptations” aspect of this show, along with its many characters and its fairly quiet and somewhat shell-shocked atmosphere, reminds me of both Battlestar Galactica and Stargate: Universe. The obvious difference is that this takes place on Earth, not in space, and a good deal of it is outside, so it is literally visually lighter as well as feeling somewhat lighter than either of those series.

The premiere is actually the first two episodes, and it was fairly obvious, at least to me, that they each had different writers and directors. The spirit is the same, but the energy is slightly different. The first episode is a good introduction, but needed just a little more oomph to really get me fully invested; that was provided by the second episode and its additional characters. By showing them together, TNT is giving this show a fair shot at establishing itself. I am definitely looking forward to episode three, which will air in the show’s regular time-slot, Sundays at 10/9c.

I give Falling Skies – Episode 1 and Episode 2, Four out of Five Stars.

Erin Willard
Written by Erin Willard

Erin is the Editor In Chief and West Coast Correspondent for