Review: Falling Skies Season 2 / Cert: 15 / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Connor Jessup / Release Date: July 8th
More war-war and less jaw-jaw seems to the watchword for Season 2 of this alien invasion show. That hardy fighting force, the 2nd Mass, originally 300-strong, has been whittled down to 170-odd and is in constant danger of being pinned down by its foes. Young Ben (Jessup) has gone all trigger-happy. Several cuddly supporting characters bite the dust in agonizing ways. Doctor Anne (Bloodgood) is running out of medical supplies and platitudes. What with one thing and another, there's hardly a moment any more for those nice long chats against a background of plinky-plonky piano that were such a feature of Season 1.
On the bright side, Tom (Wyle) is back from his excursion on an alien spaceship, even if the joyousness of his return is dampened somewhat by Ben accidentally shooting him (told you he'd gone trigger-happy). Oh, and he and Weaver (Patton), croaky-voiced leader of the 2nd Mass, are getting on much better too – in fact, they're almost inseparable as they mull over maps and dream up ways of imperilling their men. A couple of potential game-changers are also afoot. A provisional government, it is rumoured, is being established in far-off Charleston, and there are even suggestions that a faction of the dreaded skitters (some of the pug-ugliest aliens ever to be seen on mainstream TV, half Creature from the Black Lagoon, half occasional table) are plotting to overthrow the fish-headed Overlords who are responsible for this whole Earth invasion lark.
There are firefights galore, and Battlestar Galactica-style psychological games as several long-lost comrades turn up in mysterious circumstances. Beefed up, faster moving, more action-oriented and less character-driven than Season 1, it's not quite The Walking Dead, but it's pretty hard-hitting stuff. The SFX are impressive, a cunning mix of CGI and puppetry – the skitters skit, the Overlords build eerily glowing emplacements in the countryside, and Anne pulls a wriggling alien parasite out of Tom's eyeball. The performances are very good too, although, as his character toughens up, there's less scope for Wyle to exude the troubled decency that is his forte.
And then of course there are the constant references to the American War of Independence, which give the series a special relish for we Brits. Notice how the Overlords are tall and chinless? Just like us, by gad! All they're missing is a monocle! (Still, we come off better than the French, who are presumably supposed to be the skitters.) Never mind – even if it won't win any awards for diplomacy, Falling Skies is turning into a steadfast trooper of the small screen. This box set comes with a bandoleer of enjoyable features including a decent “making of”.
Extras: Audio commentaries / Writing the second American Revolution / Team Skitter / Designing the Spaceship / Creating the Crawlers / Terry O'Quinn is Manchester / Second Watch - Episode 20 / The Skitter Evolution / Season 3 Preview / Season 2 animated trailer