Review: 'Falling Skies' Season Two - 'Worlds Apart,' 'Shall We Gather at the River'

When I spoke with him, actor Noah Wyle said that he struggled a bit to find a reason for his character Tom Mason to get on board the aliens' ship at the end of season one. Ultimately, he said it was Tom's love of his sons and the possibility to negotiate some kind of peace with the invaders that led him to do what otherwise seemed completely irrational.

Indeed, the aliens as they were portrayed in the first season (and the race that we've come to learn are are their handlers) were pretty much on a enslave-kill-destroy vector when it came to humanity, eliminating most of the world's military resistance, leveling the major population centers, and placing mind-controlling harnesses on the children, using them for hard labor. What they were up to and what they want is still one of the big mysteries of this TNT series, but the second season's first two episodes go a bit further than the first in making them more intriguing while at the same time making the human resistance of the Massachusetts-based Second Mass seem more imperiled than they were in the first season.

With this second season, even as some deficits still persist—clunky dialog, some telegraphed character moments—the sense of danger has increased, making Falling Skies feel stronger overall in these first two episodes than it did in the entirety of the first season.

Since the season opens with a few revelations about Tom Mason's fate, I'll avoid going into too much detail, save to say that he's alive, and at some point will reconnect with the Second Mass. As for that group of survivors, they've taken some heavy losses during the three months of Tom's absence, and shifts in leadership have placed Captain Weaver (Will Patton) in a shaky alliance with erudite former bandit, John Pope (Colin Cunningham). Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) is now a full-fledged combat surgeon, while Tom's sons Hal (Drew Roy) and Ben (Connor Jessup) are fully soldiers in the Second Mass.

The new dynamic is ripe with all kinds of opportunities for tension for the temporarily displaced Mason Sr., and while the first two episodes don't really have the opportunity to get into all of the problems that have resulted from his absence, a loss of trust is one of them for one of those reasons I won't talk about. The relationship between Mason's two eldest sons grates a bit as Hal tries to assert some kind of authority over Ben and the latter says something along the lines of "You're not my dad."

Suffice it to say, his escape from the aliens was for reasons that may have been partially beneficial to the invaders.

On that front, the effects for the Skitters seems a bit improved, possibly owing to more scenes shot at night or in darkened interiors. The few practical effects shots of the Skitters are also well-realized, one in particular sporting one black eye and one red eye, giving at least one of the six-legged beasts some personality. The mechs still look a bit awkward and weightless in the scenes, while I'm still undecided on the towering new alien species were were introduced to at the conclusion of the first season. Far more successful are a couple of scenes of body horror, one involving an eye, another involving Ben's continued... metamorphosis, and if Falling Skies can maintain that level of strange and gross, then it can count on my coming back each week.

I was down on season one, mostly because all of the rough edges outshined the promise of this full hour of televised alien invasion each week. Season two has thankfully smoothed out some of those rough spots and may find ways to grow beyond its first season limitations.

The second season of Falling Skies makes its two-hour debut Sunday night at 9 ET on TNT.