Falling Skies Season 3 Review “On Thin Ice”

Falling Skies Season 3 Episode 1 & 2 On Thin Ice; Collateral Damage (9)

Skipping ahead in time can be a tricky prospect on a series, to put things mildly. Oftentimes, it seems like a desperate gambit to win back viewers that fled after a particularly lackluster season, or a last ditch effort for a show to reinvent itself before it’s too late. However, sometimes the move pays off, and I’m happy to report that was indeed the case with the season premiere of “Falling Skies”.

Let’s face it, things were a bit rickety in the first season, not helped by the massive amount of post-apocalyptic shows and movies out at the time. The second season separated a good bit of the wheat from the chaff and got onto the right track by being a leaner, meaner endeavor and ending strongly, if a bit cliffhanger-heavy. Now we have the third season, which is- so far, at least- off to a good start.

In the first of two back-to-back episodes, “On Thin Ice”, we open up with the remains of 2nd Mass having taken refuge in Charleston, having amassed a fair amount of people over the dropped time period. Thanks to Anne’s knowledge of an alien machine, she is able to de-harness any kids that the soldiers can capture and bring back to Charleston, which has helped increase their numbers.

While it is noted that there are issues with staying put in the long-term by making themselves a bit of a sitting duck; for the time being, the city is looking more like a city than any we’ve seen since the attack. I couldn’t help but think of the recent show “Defiance” (which I also review), in that Charleston has an ad-hoc city vibe, complete with a bar and shops and the like, plus aliens and humans co-mingling together- albeit each having their own separate places in town, so there’s still clearly some hesitation among the humans about it.

The most notable addition to this end would be the alien called Cochise (Doug Jones, best known for his work with Guillermo Del Toro in most of his films, almost always as a creature of some sort), who serves as Tom’s closest alien adviser, and a representative of the so-called Volm. The Volm are a race of aliens that claim to be helping to rescue planets decimated by the Espheni, the main baddies of the show. The latter use the harnesses to force skitters (the creepy spider-like aliens that were the main bad guys in the first season) and humans alike to do their bidding.

With the help of Cochise, Tom has made Charleston a bit of a safe haven for the time being, hitting the Espheni where they live and using the alien’s tech against them. As a direct result, the aliens are keeping their distance, but for how long? Not exactly helping matters is the presence of a mole within the battalion’s ranks that is clearly helping to tip off the Espheni just enough to keep them slightly ahead of the game.

Other new characters include Peralta, played by Noah Wyle’s fellow “ER” co-star Gloria Reuben, who I’m not quite clear on, as to what she does. She seems to be a longtime Charleston resident from the older, pre-2nd Mass days that serves as a bit of a go-between for both sides. There’s also Lars (Jared Keeso), a- ahem- “battle buddy” of Maggie’s; Diego, a formerly-harnessed friend of Jeanne’s (aka Weaver’s daughter) that’s rescued and reunited with her; and last but not least, the newborn alien-human hybrid Alexis, the creepiest baby this side of Gage in Pet Sematary. (And I know my creepy kids, let me tell you…)

The show got off to a fine start with an exciting battle between the 2nd Mass and a group of aliens, with the introduction of the so-called Mega-Mechs, a supersized-battle bot that almost gets the best of our boys and girls until Tom shows up with the back-up cavalry- on horses, no less- and saves the day, with the help of Volm tech. It was nice seeing everyone on top of things for once, at least until that bit at the end, and even then, everyone worked together like a well-oiled machine, not unlike Rick’s group in Season 3 of “The Walking Dead” vs. that team in earlier seasons.

Other changes include the hierarchy of things, with Tom essentially the acting President of Charleston, though he bristles a bit at the terminology whenever it’s mentioned. The returning Bressler (Matt Frewer) is the General and Weaver (Will Patton) is the Colonel of the military, with Anne (Moon Bloodgood), the head doctor and Lourdes (Seychelle Gabriel) her head nurse. Tom also tasks Arthur Manchester (Terry O’Quinn) with finding the mole, with a little help from Anthony (Mpho Koaho).

As for Tom’s family, Hal (Drew Roy) is still involved with Maggie (Sarah Carter), but is now partially paralyzed after the events of last season and wheel-chair bound- or is he? In his dreams, he can walk, and is secretly meeting with the nefarious Karen (Jessy Schram), a human-alien hybrid that has assumed the position of Overlord with the Espheni, in order to better combat their foes. It seems Karen put a probe into Hal’s brain that allows her to communicate with him and draw him to her, where they are continuing their relationship on the sly, unbeknownst to anyone else- including Hal himself, who thinks he’s dreaming. This includes a bit of hanky-panky between the two, so we might not have seen the last alien-human hybrid baby.

We didn’t get a whole lot of info on Tom’s other sons, save that Ben (Connor Jessup) is still buddies with a skitter and serving as a go-between for them and the humans and he seems to have a gal pal, Penny, who never leaves his side as far as I could see. Youngest son Matt (Maxim Knight) is becoming a bit of a soldier in his own right- also shades of “Walking Dead” and Carl- and is acting a bit out of character. More on him in my review of the next episode.

Beyond that, the biggest incident not mentioned was the murder of Arthur, who I just knew was going to bite it the minute he said he had important info and Tom waved him off until later. D’oh! From the looks of things, the killer appeared diminutive and possibly female. I’m tempted to go with Jeannie as a potential suspect, seeing as she conveniently got a hold of exactly who she was looking for out of the blue, but that seems like a stretch. Since Arthur reacted like he knew his killer and wasn’t all that surprised by it, I’m guessing it’s someone else, likely a male, though I can’t think of anyone with a motive as of yet, save maybe Pope, who’s always been a bit sketchy. Still, he shut down the anti-alien rabble-rousing, so it would seem he’s on the up-and-up. Also, he’s far from small, and whoever did it looked pretty short.

That’s about it, but come on, that was quite a lot for one episode! I think the flash-forward was a smart idea overall, as it not only moves the story forward a fair bit in one fell swoop without getting bogged down in some of the details that almost derailed the show at times in the past, but also because it allows for some nice forward momentum, as we see most everyone in different places in their lives, having been changed by all they’ve been through, sometimes for better, sometimes for the worse. I thought this was one mighty solid episode and definitely a step in the right direction. On the plus side, there’s not nearly as much post-apocalyptic fare now as there was when the show started, so there’s that as well.

What did you think of “Falling Skies” this week? Are you good with the time skip, or do you wish the show had picked up directly where it left off instead? How about the various changes to the characters? Do you think the Volm are really our heroes’ allies, or is it all some nefarious plot to bring down the humans from the inside? What was up with that big weapon thingee at the end, if indeed it is a weapon? Sound off on this and more below, and be sure to check out my review for the second episode as well, which can be found here!