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Falling Skies: A Parable of Man’s Determination to Survive

If you didn’t watch the highest-rated cable television series in the summer of 2011, it is probably because you ditched TV a long time ago, you consider anything labeled science fiction unwelcomed, or you gave it a shot but it took longer than two hours for mankind to redeem itself so you pulled out your worn-out copy of Independence Day in its place.

The Story

The first episode of Falling Skies begins with a child telling the story of how earth fell. The camera pans across crayon drawn images of the destruction of 90 percent of mankind told in a way only one still bravely clinging to innocence could. Rather than taking an Independence Day or War of Worlds approach, Falling Skies picks up seven months after the virtual destruction of all military and civic order.

Seven months after the initial attack, 90 percent of mankind has been wiped out. The enemy is little understood and only seldom encountered, mainly because those that remain are doing their best to go unnoticed and survive. Adults who fail to go unnoticed are being systematically hunted down, while children, for reasons unknown, are being taken away to serve the mysterious invaders.

One of the twists of this story is that the invaders are not one homogenous army.  Instead they are comprised of an equally mysterious mixture of lizard-like Skitters, a race of apparently humanoid grey-skinned beings that seem to be in charge, and artificial life attack drones called mechs by the humans that fear them.

This is dystopian fiction with all of its necessary elements: the breakdown of society, loss of the power grid and access to technology, and almost endless fight for survival. Falling Skies focuses on a band of survivors known as the Second Massachusetts, an obvious historical allusion to the Continental Army of the American Revolution.

The cast of characters is quite large since this the story of 300 men, women, and children fleeing post-apocalyptic Boston. Two of the strongest characters are unlikely co-leaders of the ragtag group: retired Army Captain Weaver and Boston University history professor Tom Mason. With Weaver in military command and Mason in charge of the civilians, they form a strained alliance to bring order where all has been taken from them.

Why Watch Falling Skies?

If you are a fan of Hollywood blockbusters, you will be initially underwhelmed by Falling Skies. Yes, there are some first-rate special effects, but they are only used sparingly. Some of that is the result of the budget constraints of creating twenty hours of television as opposed to less than two in the average movie. But the main reason is that this is not a story about aliens or futuristic technology at all.

Like the short-lived Jericho of a few years ago, Falling Skies is story about mankind, not jaw-dropping special effects. It isn’t just the alien’s motives that are hard to pin down. One of the more interesting characters is Pope, a criminal who learned to cook in prison but lives and breathes to kill as many of mankind’s invaders as possible.  Pope may not win any good character badges, but he can be trusted to take out every Skitter he can find.

Other survivors have turned to appeasement as their road to salvation. One episode features a former member of the Second Mass leading a splinter group that is willing to trade other survivor’s children in exchange of theirs being left alone. Still other individuals have been allowed to live in near luxury in bombed out Boston in exchange for providing information about the resistance. One is left to wonder if man’s greatest enemy is himself rather than alien invaders.

Though Falling Skies has been renewed for a second season in the summer of 2012 and is the highest-rated series on basic cable this year, it is not without its detractors. Some have characterized it as an Independence Day knockoff, while others say it is clichéd and derivative. Perhaps, but there is a reason this series continued to resonate with viewers throughout its first season. It offered enough mystery to hold their attention while taking the time to explore the more complex and deeper issues of family, loyalty, purpose, and what truly makes us human.

©2011 Off the Grid News

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