I watch both of these shows but until I rewatched The Walking Dead Season 1 I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Falling Skies. There is an excellent book for writers, The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. The first stage in using the Hero’s Journey for writing a novel is The Ordinary World.
This stage is vivid in The Walking Dead. We see Rick Grimes as a deputy sheriff, doing his job. Talking to his buddy, we can see his love for his wife, his child, and his duty. When he is shot pursuing a bad guy his first thought is to tell his buddy to not tell his wife about his injury. His first thought is to not worry her. This tells us all we need to know about Rick Grimes and his relationships around him.
The loss of this stage in Falling Skies is glaringly clear. The action opens with an older man and a young man on the run. We learn later that one is the dad. They are running from aliens. The aliens kill grown-ups and capture and enslave young kids. All this is great action but we don’t know these people. We don’t care they are in danger. Later we learn Noah Wylie’s character was a college professor before the aliens arrived and now he is with the army. The show missed an opportunity to show me this character as a professor. What was the character arc of the nerdy, bookish professor becoming a rebel, resistance fighter? Show me the loss of his middle son to show me his love for his youngest and his oldest. Show me losing his wife. What did that do to him? Was that the moment that sent him to the army to fight the invaders? We don’t know. There has been no flashbacks, no dreams of what was, how life used to be.
Falling Skies dropped the ball. The Walking Dead grabbed it and scored a touchdown.