Falling Skies: The Forgotten Cast

We have a few new guest writers signed (and a few more hopefully) on in the coming weeks. But, this guy gets me. So, to kick off what I am calling (because I am a nerd) Guest-Writer-A-Con, we have The guy who reads my mind, my hive-mind-member and internet großer Freund,  KidCarnival!

As I have stated, different viewpoints are important to me, so Kid rags on Ben here a little, but I forgive him…

Falling Skies: The Forgotten Cast

I like ensemble shows. One reason is that I usually can’t identify with
the typical TV hero. I’m not the “chosen one” of fate and I don’t live a
life remotely similar to someone who saves the world (or at least the
day) on a regular basis. Sure I like to see how others do all those
incredibly heroic things, but I can’t identify with these people and I
can’t always understand their decisions. In shows with a large cast,
chances are there’ll be someone who seems to be a decent enough person
to me without being the biggest hero alive and still gets a fair share
of screen time and development. As long as there is someone I can relate
to, I’m perfectly fine with a typical hero being the lead and often not
understanding their motivations. But take that “someone” away and I’ll
be detached, asking “what the hell, hero” in nearly episode and that
question is never addressed in-universe.

That’s what I see happening in Falling Skies at the moment. The show is
very focussed on the Mason clan. That makes sense, yes. Tom is the lead
character the show follows and Ben is a central plot device. But I can’t
identify with a father who has no problem to put everyone else in danger
for the sake of his kids, and I also can’t identify with a troubled
teenager, no matter how much you see “alien superpowers” as a metaphor
for “being different”. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? After all, there’s
a pretty long list of names running down in the opening credits. What
are the odds there’s no-one I can relate to? Slim, on paper.

In theory, Dai seems to be a good match for me. He doesn’t have the
family ties Tom has and… Well, yeah, and what? I’m not a family person
myself, so Dai’s point of view should be similar to mine, but I don’t
know if that’s the case. Because the writers won’t tell me the first
thing about him. I get it, yeah, Dai isn’t a man of many words. But
there are so many ways to communicate that to the viewer and still give
him a strong personality. Stargate, for example, did it right with both
Teal’c and Ronon Dex. They were pretty high on the list of people you
better don’t invite to a talk show, but they still had defining
characteristics. With Dai, I have no idea what his motivation is, if it
is anywhere near my point of view.
Anthony also revealed something I thought was a good start early on.
Being a cop is, as I mentioned in another article, an archetype with a
clearly defined set of morals. I like to think I have a strong sense for
right, wrong and justice myself, and Anthony also doesn’t bring family
baggage. Sounds like someone who should see the situation from a point
near where I stand, yes? I like to think so, but I don’t know. Because
after the information about his former job, Anthony fades into the
background noise, just like Dai, for the rest of the season.
Then we have Pope, who got a lot more personality than Dai and Anthony
together in season 1. I have no problem to admit that I’m kind of a jerk
and it’s no secret I like to talk a lot. For the better part of the
show, Pope was the one who acted as my stand in when it came to call
Tom, Weaver and friends out on obvious bullshit. We could have been so
happy, watching Die Hard, killing aliens, braiding each other’s hair.
But then Pope left the 2nd Mass, along with Anthony, igniting my hope
I’d now have two characters to identify with. But nada. Instead of
showing even a few scenes of them away from the 2nd Mass, nothing
happened. And when they returned, Anthony immediately stepped back into
the background noise, taking Pope with him – instead of the opposite I
had hoped for. It would have been a perfect chance for the writers to
explore Anthony’s character more. Pope was already on the winning side
of character development; any interaction with him would have brought
out more of Anthony’s personality than the entire first season. But no,
the writers care so little, no-one even noticed Weaver called Pope
“Tector” in Molon Labe.

So, I’m in my early thirties, somewhere in the middle of the official
target demographic “16 – 49”, yet the only options the writers want to
offer me for identification are an unstable single father of three, a
troubled teenager and a possibly-teenage wannabe gigolo? If I was half
my age and had twice the identity crisis, I would probably easily relate
to Ben. Don’t get me wrong, Ben is an interesting character and adds
tons to the show. But he’s not helping me to achieve the immersion a
good show should aim for. Neither does Hal, with whom I wouldn’t have
identified at any point in my life. (You can read all the reasons for
that in another article.) And nor does Tom, whose life now, after the
invasion, resembles my life as little as it did before the invasion.
(Don’t tell me there’s also Weaver as an option – Weaver is the ultimate
father archetype, not only to Jimmy and his daughter, but to the entire
2nd Mass. He’s the, in his own words, “Papa Bear” of 175 other people.)

Every time, Dai, Anthony and Pope are around, it’s like the writers are
teasing me with a carrot – “look, here’s someone you’d probably relate
to a lot better than any of the main characters; someone who might have
a lot in common with you, but you know what? We won’t tell you a thing
about them. HAVE ANOTHER HAL AND MAGGIE SCENE INSTEAD!” That said, I
should probably consider myself lucky to have those three around in the
first place. As a woman – of any age and any background – my only option
for identification would be “someone’s girlfriend”, with the flavors
“someone’s ex-girlfriend” and “someone’s on/off girlfriend”.

I really hope the writers will remember at some point that in the
current generation, many 30-somethings are not married with children and
might want to know more about the characters who have more in common
with them than the Papa Bears of the show. How are viewers supposed to
feel for characters they don’t know anything about? How are we supposed
to imagine the danger and struggle in their situation? Creating
characters the audience likes and identifies with on some level is the
very art of making a successful show. No-one cares about the best of all
stories if the characters are bland and boring or outright hatable and
nothing else.

Falling Skies has a foot in the door, but the door needs to be kicked
open. So, dear writers, please throw us non-teenagers, non-parents a
bone and give us some more about the neglected characters. Try something
new with Lourdes; don’t make her someone else’s girlfriend. Make her a
character of her own. Tell us something – anything – about Dai and
Anthony. Bring Pope back on the right track. Maybe even do something
totally crazy, like giving Hal something else than womanizing to do.

More can be read from Kid at CircusOfScars, found under the “BlogRoll”

Keep the Resistance Strong!

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~ by The Falling Skies Blog on July 25, 2012.

8 Responses to “Falling Skies: The Forgotten Cast”

  1. I rag on Ben? He’s one of the best kid/teenager characters I’ve seen on TV, only rivaled by Maia from The 4400. But as good as both are written and acted, I can’t identify with them at all. That’s all I’m saying. OMG DON’T SAY I’M EVIL… ohwait, I said I’m a jerk, so yeah, go ahead, Then Let Me Be Evil. lulz

  2. Reblogged this on circusofscars and commented:
    For the sake of completion.

  3. The major issue I have with the writing is the writers seem to believe we are there with the 2nd Mass everyday. We only get snap shots of what is going on every Sunday. I feel like a cousin who drops in for a few weekends every summer getting spits and spurts of the group dynamic. When Lourdes boyfriend died all I really knew about him was that he was the mechanic. I felt nothing at all when he died, painful as it was. I felt more for the poor bastard running from the Mech before he was executed. They really need to start filling out some of the blank spaces.

  4. Exactly. It’s impossible to care about random strangers. I can guess the jobs of random people on the street simply by looking at what they wear. But just because I know “oh, that dude works in contruction, he wears a helmet” it doesn’t mean I care what happens to him once he’s out of sight. That’s the feeling I get a lot lately. I miss a bit diversity.
    Every show will have a sub plot I don’t care for at some point, or focus on a character I don’t find very interesting. As long as there is something/one that interests me and exists alongside with the boring plot, I don’t mind. Completely zooming in on a small group and forgetting everyone else is even there… I do mind.

  5. I laughed quite hard at this, mostly due to the ‘braiding hair’ comment. I now have images of Pope in Dorothy pigtails. Anyway, I love this show as much as (and possibly more than) anyone else and I love Ben’s character but I agree with you when you say there’s so many other characters that could be expanded upon. Dai is comically underused (he shoots a bazooka and stands around staring at Tom and Weaver) and I almost always forget Anthony even exists. On that note, we can also toss Lourdes into the mix of underused characters as we see her a lot but she seems to have little (if anything) to say. Granted, that was all changed last Sunday when we see her become bitter and angry, but I can’t help feeling the writers kind of snubbed the other characters here. That said, it’s still a good, solid hour of television entertainment that is truly a rarity among summer programming and I still love it. I’m just frustrated that we can’t see more of everyone else in this story as well.

  6. If I wouldn’t suck so much at drawing hair, I’d certainly give Pope pigtails, but for now, he has to live with my skitter-claw voodoo hat: http://circusofscars.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/massachusetts-moon/ Anyway, I think it’s a sign of good storytelling to look at one situation from different perspectives. The shows I love most all do that; DS9 has many episodes were hostile (liberated Jem’Hadar, deserting Weyoun, guerilla Dukat) or simply neutral/uninvolved (Quark, Rom) characters comment on the big plot arc. The 4400 has two sides of a conflict and both seem to be right or wrong at some point. Babylon 5 probably took it further than any other show. And that’s what made them great – leaving the viewer many options to relate to and care about characters; find the one person to act like I, the viewer, would act in their situation and “speak my mind” – that’s immersion. Just having lots of names in the opening credits doesn’t make it an ensemble show.
    FS is doing *something* right because we are in the second half of season 2 and I still don’t outright hate any (or even worse, most or all) of the characters. They do have that foot in the door and that’s something not every show can say. (I’m looking at you, TWD.) Except for Hal, I haven’t given up on anyone yet, and even Hal could be saved by the one writer who doesn’t use him as a proxy to live fanboy fantasies.
    I do love FS, yeah, but with every silly romance sub plot; every time my three carrots are standing around, doing nothing, a part of me withdraws to the imaginary world where FS is a spaghetti western and Pope wears a voodoo hat.

  7. I think Dai is more of a forgotten hero then Anthony,Anthony was a cop and already a hero now he`s a fighter and survies.Dai though more mysterious and faithful to Tom,Dai has had very important scenes in season 1 and season 2 a few scenes but not as important as season 1.Season 1 Dai got hurt a lot though,this season he`s just there,fights when he has to but nothing special.Maybe in season 3 he will get better scenes,he was talking more season 2 so far compared to season 1.Let him kill some more skitters,Anthony will stay a strong character and have his important roles,either with Pope or the 2nd Mass.

  8. At this point, we can’t even know if Dai is a hero to begin with. Maybe he has an own agenda no-one even suspects. We know so little, everything is possible. As for Anthony, from a cop, I expect a bit more of an active role. It’s not like the 2nd Mass has an unlimited supply of military guys, and cops would be the next best thing – especially to a Captain Weaver, who wants to maintain a clear chain of command and wasn’t exactly happy to get a civilian second in command at first. It would have been logical to “promote” Anthony.
    I do see the potential for Anthony to become a strong character, but writing-wise, he’s merely “guy with gun in background” so far. The strong character is likely there, but FS hasn’t shown us much about it.

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