“Did you see last night’s episode of Falling Dead? I mean Walking Skies. Wait, what?” When TNT first introduced Falling Skies back in 2011, my friends and I would joke about how similar it was to AMC’s The Walking Dead, which had begun the year before. Even their names became intertwined. Though these shows’ similarities went far beyond their ‘Participle + Noun’ titles. It’s now three years later and from characters to story elements these shows have become even more eerily – and sometimes laughably – similar. Don’t believe me? Well here are 10 similarities that will make you laugh, cry and face-palm. Of course some are general elements of any post-apocalyptic genre; but others are so ridiculously mirrored … well you’ll see what I mean.
Keep in mind that Falling Skies follows The Walking Dead in each of these similarities. From general similarities based upon ‘Pilot’ episodes to Season–specific plot devices, Falling Skies always trailed The Walking Dead by half a year.
1. Post Apocalyptic Genre on Cable Network:
After the success of AMC’s The Walking Dead, which originally aired as a mini-series during Halloween, other networks tried to copy the success by introducing their own post-apocalyptic shows. From Terra Nova (2011) on Fox to Revolution (2012) on NBC, the big Broadcast Channels figured ‘what works on a Cable Channel would work even better for us’. Well with most of these shows being canceled after one season – Revolution miraculously got a second despite loosing it’s allure halfway through Season 1 – it seemed like success couldn’t be copied.
Then there was Falling Skies, which unlike the other copycats that’d precede and follow it was on a Cable Channel. Without the need of entertaining everyone, they could find their own little niche – and they did! With an ironically similar title and a similar home, Falling Skies had survived the fires of Season One. Though as this article suggests there was much more similarities between the two than just a post-apocalyptic genre on a Cable Network.
Even the set ups of these post-apocalyptic stories were similar. In The Walking Dead, we have flashbacks to before and after the breakout but we never get to see the moment of outbreak. We never learn about Patient 0 or know what caused the strain, which are usually staples of any Zombie tale. For The Walking Dead – whether in TV form or its original comic form – how it started was never important.
We find the same situation in Falling Skies as we see plenty of flashbacks to before the invasion; but we never get to see the moment of first attack, which is usually a staple of any Alien Invasion-tale. In both shows, we meet up with the main character (Rick and Tom) some months after the world has ended only to find strange beings that resemble our former friends – which brings us to our next point.
2. Zombie-like Element:
In The Walking Dead, the characters don’t actually have a word for ‘zombie’. When these “walkers” first arrive, people have to learn what they are and how to deal with them. As the show progresses, it becomes painfully clear that some are unsure if these are the dead reanimated or just ‘sick people’ who can be cured. Whether it’s Herschel’s who kept these “walkers” locked up in his barn until a cure could be discovered, Milton who tried to scientifically discern if a person’s consciousness could remain post reanimation or more recently Lizzie who though the Walkers were evolved humans who only wanted to play, some people have had a hard time adjusting to these humans shells.
Despite being a show about aliens, Falling Skies had their own type of ‘zombies’ in the form of harnessed children. In Season One, we saw how kids had a strange parasitic worm placed on their backs and immediately became mindless slaves. Some struggled to snap their kids out of it; but they wouldn’t listen. Early attempts to remove the harness proved fatale or left the child wanting to return to his/her former life of being ‘harnessed’. Though harnessed or not, things grew much more sinister this season when we found kids being brainwashed in a reeducation camp. The difference is that unlike harnessed kids – who eventually found a way to be de-harnessed by human and Volm alien tech – a brainwashed child couldn’t be reasoned with.
– Related Fact: In both shows, the survivors must come up with ‘nicknames’ for those beings that they don’t understand ‘Walkers’, ‘Biters’, ‘Skitters’, ‘Fishheads’, etc.
Much like in The Walking Dead, you find people unable to act when faced with these walking puppets that have no sense of self or their former lives. Though these occurrences were all limited to children; but this season is about to change that again as now adults too are being harnessed and undergoing a process known as ‘Skitterization’. Child or adult, now everyone can become a violent and animalist shell of their former self – just like becoming a ‘walker’.
3. The Threat of Other Survivors:
The world as you know it is over, so obviously law and order are at an all time low. Though while some try to preserve what once was, others embrace the new world order – or lack there of. The Walking Dead did a great job of this when the group met a group of militant survivors in Season One. Falling Skies would follow suit by having their main characters meet a group of militant survivors lead by a man named John Pope – but we’ll get to him more later. Both situations had uneasy beginnings; but they both turned out to be allies. In later seasons, these instances of initial uneasiness would result in much worse consequences.
Falling Skies shied away from this theme for their following two seasons; but brought it back in their fourth season – which is also where The Walking Dead brought about their most drastic interactions with other survivors. During both shows’ Season Fours, the world has been over for a while now and aside from a few hanger-ons who’ve allied themselves with strong groups (Beth, weak and elderly, etc), everyone who’s still alive and free is pretty hardcore.
The Walking Dead introduced the idea of the ‘three questions’: How many ‘of them’ have you killed? How many people have you killed? And why? These questions weren’t just meant for weeding out the weak; but also showed the mental state of those they were bringing back. Later that season we met Joe and his gang of sociopaths, rapists and murderers; and nothing was more nerve wracking than seeing what they would do to Rick and his group.
Falling Skies finally went back to this feeling in Season Four when Tom and his group came across Nick and Cooper. We couldn’t place our finger on it; but for some reason Nick and Cooper just seemed too good to be true. Later we discovered Nick had killed Coopers family to create a diversion to escape imprisonment and then hoped to trade Tom to the aliens to better himself and his brother. As with The Walking Dead, this scenario ended with the cutthroat traitors dead and our heroes safe – though not before making our hearts skip a beat or two.
4. The Chaotic Yet Redeemable ‘Hick’ Badass:
When we first met the Dixon boys – Merle and Daryl – in The Walking Dead, we found a pair of racist, sexist, and uncultured characters. Though as time went on, Daryl become a much more central member to the group and quickly became the kind hearted badass we know and love today. Even Merle had his moment of redemption before his death. Well much like everything else on this list, there’s a Falling Skies version of it.
When we first met John Pope, he was loud, obnoxious and threw quite a few sexist and racial slurs around like they were nothing. Though – once again – over time he became that chaotic good character who always seemed to help the group in his own way. In many ways, Pope embodies both of the Dixon brothers though recently he’s become much closer to Daryl this season. He’s no longer at odds with the main characters and pulls his own weight as a trusted member. In fact, fans of Pope and Daryl make the same threat: “If ____ Dies, We Riot”. These characters might have different back-stories – and Daryl might have much more depth than Pope – but in the end these crass individuals turned into quite the charming rogues.
5. Post Show Discussion Program:
As if the shows themselves weren’t similar enough, they both had their own post-shown discussion program hosted by an awesome and nerdy host. Like many other aspects of these shows, these post shows were a unique idea that started with them and truly embraced the cult viewership following of these programs. Whether it was Talking Dead with Chris Hardwick or Second Watch with Wil Weaton, fans couldn’t wait to dig deeper into these episodes and ask questions of the special quest cast and crew. Ultimately, Talking Dead won this battle clear and decisively since 2nd Watch was banished to online before being canceled completely.
6. Problem-causing Son Becomes Badass:
Think back to the first two seasons of The Walking Dead. How many times do you remember saying “Damnit Carl!”? From getting shot to releasing the walker that eventually killed fan-favorite Dale, Carl inadvertently caused most of the groups problems. Now think about the first two seasons of Falling Skies where most of the action was focused along rescuing Tom’s harnessed son Ben and seeing whether or not he could be trusted. Whether by their own actions or the action surrounding their situations, Carl and Ben were one of the focal points of problems in the early seasons of these shows – Lori too but that’s another story.
Though despite these characters’ annoying and counter-productive beginnings, Season Three signaled a moment of drastic change as both became quite badass. Sure Carl and Ben had their early moments of losing control – like shooting an unarmed man and enjoying skitters killing too much respectively – but these two have become quite the strong fighters. They will always have a close relationship with their fathers; but they have proven that growing up in these new worlds can either break you or make you much stronger than you ever thought you could be. Whether casting aside fears (Carl) and putting down an inhaler (Ben), these two literally embody everything that is great about character growth.
7. Baby Causes Problems
If there is one thing people don’t consider about the apocalypse until it’s too late, it’s ‘what if we have a baby’? Well both shows have their own answers to this question; but yet they still have similar set ups and repercussions. In Season Three of both shows the ‘wife’/’love’ of the main character gave birth to a baby. Both situations and their repercussions elicited an entire episode or so of detailing; though the actual repercussions would have much more long lasting effects.
Sure there was drama with Lori and who was the actual father of baby Judith; but none of it would compare to the future hassles of having a crying baby grow up in a world where the slightest sound could attract walkers. This problem has continued through the next few seasons and is now a major point of adversity for Tyreese and Carol who are all alone in the woods with a crying child as hordes of walkers close in from all sides.
Back on the Falling Skies end of the spectrum, baby Alexis’s birth was going to be a problem ever since we saw her eyes open with a creepy blackness like a sharks eyes. Anne trying to run away with the baby didn’t help the situation; and only made things worse as she and Alexis were captured by aliens and experimented upon. As Season Three closed and Four began, we found Alexis rapidly aging and now possessing all kinds of telekinetic, sensory, and air-bending powers. To make matters even worse, she is incredibly naïve yet feels she knows it all. Though the worst thing about Alexis isn’t that she’s being manipulated by aliens; but rather that her story line this season has caused huge continuity issues.
This is probably the one similarity on this list where Falling Skies outdid Walking Dead. Though considering how far Falling Skies went with their “problem child”, I think it’s safe to say this is one degree of difference that actually hurts them more than it helps them.
8. Beautiful Badass Named Maggie:
Do I really have to say anything more about this one? In Season One of Falling Skies we met the strong yet kind blond beauty known as Maggie. Through the seasons one thing has remained constant: she is a total badass. Season Two of The Walking Dead introduced us to the beautiful girl next door named Maggie. As a simple farmer’s daughter, she wasn’t that experienced a fighter; but she always had a fire in her. Since her first introduction, Maggie has grown to become a badass in her own right and claimed that spot at the start of Season Three when she single handedly discovered how to take down walkers protected in riot gear.
Now I know what you’re thinking: ‘Wow, Falling Skies beat The Walking Dead on this one!”. Well as far as TV goes, true; but Maggie Greene existed in The Walking Dead comics long before her TV appearance. Regardless of who came first here, there’s no denying that it’s hilarious that two shows with so many similarities both also have a beautiful badass named Maggie. Were there no other names available? Though this similarity actually has a part two which makes it even funnier.
9. Relationship Between Rising Leader & Aforementioned Beautiful Badass Named Maggie:
Whichever Maggie came first doesn’t matter because in Season Two both found themselves starting a relationship with an up and coming young leader. In The Walking Dead it was Glenn who for most of the time seemed like a kid; but Maggie really brought out the serious side of him that is driven to be taken seriously. In Falling Skies it was Tom’s son Hal who has struggled to become a leader like his father before him.
The difference with this similarity though is that Glenn and Maggie have stayed together through season after season while Hal and Maggie seem to be on their way out. The fourth Season of Falling Skies seems to be bringing Maggie and Ben – Hal’s brother – together. Despite being a little too close to home, this does still fit the mold of a badass named Maggie forming a relationship with an up and coming leader, which I showed Ben to be in Similarity #6. Ben and Maggie might prove to be a better match for each other than Hal and Maggie; but either way Glenn and Maggie from The Walking Dead will forever be our One True Pairing (OTP) for post apocalyptic television series.
10. A Radio Message Promises Sanctuary – IT’S A TRAP!
The final and most recent similarity between these shows was just introduced this season: a mysterious – and albeit creepy – broadcast. Though it’s not just the idea of a broadcast; but the fact that these broadcasts originated from a cultish environment that will most likely turn into being a huge trap. During the Fourth Season of The Walking Dead, we learned of Terminus. From creepy radio broadcasts to railroad signs, these people wanted to be found. As we discussed earlier, not everyone in this new world is a good person. So why invite everyone into an unlocked ‘sanctuary’ where there are no guns and an overabundance of cultish vibes?
We already know Terminus was a trap; but what about the Chinatown Sanctuary where Lexi and High Priestess Lourdes have set up shop in the Fourth Season of Falling Skies. The people here might not be cannibals – as we suspect the Termites are – but much like Terminus there are unlocked gates, and overwhelming cult feel and a strict ‘lay down your weapons’ policy. With Lexi being an alien puppet and the town surrounded by waiting alien forces, anyone finding their way into this supposed ‘Sanctuary’ is in for a rude awakening.
Additionally – whether Terminus or Chinatown Sanctuary – these ‘sanctuaries’ are the places that reunited a formerly divided group. Season Four of both shows find our heroes divided at some point; and it is at their respective places of false sanctuary that they are all reunited. Rick and his group get to Terminus and then happen to be locked in the same cell with Glenn and his group. Likewise, Tom and Hal’s groups will make it to the Chinatown Sanctuary where they will be reunited with Ben’s and Anne’s groups. Moral of the story: If something seems too good to be true during the end of the world, it probably is… but at least you’re friends will be dumb enough to fall for it too.
So there you have it. Those are the crazy, funny and eerie similarities between The Walking Dead and Falling Skies. As for who did it better, I’m a fan of both shows; but I have to give it to The Walking Dead. They did it first and have explored depths of human suffering that Falling Skies has barely scratched the surface of. Fans seem to agree too as The Walking Dead still has more air time, fans and shows no sign of slowing while Falling Skies has lost air time and are making their next season their last.
Were there any similarities that you saw that you think I missed? Sound off in the comments. I’d love to hear from you as always 🙂