The creative roller-coaster ride that is “Falling Skies” opens season four on a downward arc, as the TNT series goes a little gaga with its alien-invasion metaphors, including Hitler Youth-like camps to re-educate younger prisoners. While the show picked up considerable momentum in its last go-round — and remains perfectly watchable popcorn fare — the notion of dueling alien constituencies, with one friendly to the humans, risks spinning “Skies” off its axis. Noah Wyle’s sturdy Everyman, who frets about his extended brood, remains extremely valuable in grounding the show, but for all the Skitters he’s dispatched, even he can’t overcome the show’s camp factor.
Suffice it to say whatever gains the human insurgency scored — with help from another alien force, the Volm — are pretty quickly erased, scattering the members of the central group while setting up new dangers. That includes leaving some incarcerated and others to battle on, demonstrating that even the invaders (yep, those not-so-affectionately-named Skitters) — when one is captured — can be subjected to harsh-interrogation techniques.
Exec producers David Eick and Greg Beeman (who wrote and directed the premiere, respectively) admittedly face a delicate balancing act, creating a formidable enemy while at the same time trying to make the humans’ guerrilla warfare tactics appear to have a fighting chance. But now that Wyle’s Tom and his new wife Ann (Moon Bloodgood) have a baby daughter who grew to adulthood remarkably quickly and possesses strange powers, well, the train to silly town appears to have left the station.
To its credit, the Amblin-produced show has rebounded from narrative stumbles before, and strictly on an action level, has become more enjoyable, parlaying its success into better and more generous special effects. The series also promises an infusion of guests, among them Mira Sorvino as a potential love interest for perpetually cranky wiseass John Pope (Colin Cunningham).
TNT has been extremely shrewd about scheduling “Skies” in friendly fashion — using scads of promotion during the male-viewer-heavy NBA basketball playoffs, and, in this latest flight, pairing it with another testosterone-fueled series, the Michael Bay-produced “The Last Ship.”
Based on the first few hours, then, it would be premature to suggest the sky is falling. But as the producers labor to manage and advance all the show’s moving parts, they appear to have lost a couple of battles. Let’s just hope that doesn’t bode ill for the larger war.