Although the ratings have remained reasonably good, one suspects a contingent of “Falling Skies” viewers have stuck with this Steven Spielberg-produced drama the last few seasons just waiting to see its conclusion. That heightens the interest level as the TNT series launches into its final run, with the prospect of the human rebellion at last overcoming the alien invaders who have killed, brainwashed and otherwise tormented them for so long that even Noah Wyle’s good-natured character is angry enough to support torturing prisoners. Mindless fun, “Falling Skies” has clearly reached the point where it’s time to bring the curtain down.
Actually, the show has gone through several contortions along the way, from a slightly clunky start to a stronger and more action-driven second season to bouts of ridiculousness as the war has dragged on, unearthing a hybrid baby who aged impossibly fast, and a rival extraterrestrial force. As this season begins, the human insurgency has struck a major blow against the alien Espheni — essentially decapitating much of their command structure — though as they quickly discover, lowering the boom on the forces that remain isn’t going to be the “turkey shoot” that Wyle’s Tom Mason envisions.
The first two episodes (both directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi) contain bountiful helpings of action, as well as the war-movie cliches that have been part of the program’s formula since the beginning. That includes last-minute rescues, casualties, debate about tactics between Tom and his grizzled lieutenant (Will Patton), a crisis due to a lack of supplies, and, of course, the soldier who puts his and potentially others’ lives at risk because he’s so hell-bent to avenge a fallen comrade.
Although “Falling Skies” is a pretty lean, mean, combat machine, with some first-rate visual-effects work, the producers have also incorporated plenty of soapy elements, among them a romantic triangle involving Tom’s two older sons (Drew Roy, Connor Jessup) and Maggie (Sarah Sanguin Carter), the young woman torn between them. And the creatives can still play with things like the more gruesome aspects of alien physiology, belatedly answering the question of what happens if a person gets hungry enough to munch on what they colorfully call “Skitters.”
Like many of Spielberg’s TV contributions — and there have been quite a lot of them in recent years — “Falling Skies” draws from and then elongates aspects of the director’s filmography, owing its strongest debt to “War of the Worlds.” Yet at its core is a fundamental question of maintaining humanity amid the struggle to win back the ordinary lives these people have lost, a point Tom explicitly makes during a rally-the-troops speech in the premiere.
At a certain point, though, this protracted war of occupation, told from the perspective of those fighting to free their homeland, has produced a yearning for what such situations often lack — namely, a definitive victory and a clean exit. Chalk that up as one area where fantasy can improve upon reality, and one reason why it will come as something of a cathartic release when the time comes to stop watching the “Skies.”