THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (2022)
Limited Series (Premiere)
Aired On: SXSW 2022
Release Date: 04/24/22
THE "IMDB" PREMISE:
"An alien who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution and must confront his own past to determine our future."
The fish-out-of-water concept is a common storyline. It has been a staple of literature for centuries. A version of it was novelized by author Walter Tevis in 1963 where a humanoid alien comes to Earth, assimilates into the population and ends up incredibly wealthy after inventing innovative technology. That story was the first iteration of “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, which is now a new television series to be aired on Showtime in April 2022. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The second iteration was the 1976 David Bowie vehicle of the same name. Despite never seeing it myself, I am quite aware of the cult following it holds. This new iteration, adapted for TV, seems confident it can march to the same beat, and capitalize on its name. To be fair to this series, many stories have been reinvented, rehashed, rebooted, I could go on. This new version seemingly wants to mark its own path, I only wish I cared more about where it was leading me towards.
Faraday (Chiwetel Ejiofor) lands on Earth in the American west. He is thirsty, he is lost. He is an alien. While the episode begins and ends with the Faraday character established and famous, the bulk of the pilot episode is the world-building of the time Faraday lands on Earth. He parrots what he hears others say. Some of this is for comedic value, most of it is annoying. After being picked up by police, Faraday calls for Dr. Justin Falls (Naomie Harris) by name to come see him. Falls has never met this person and has no idea who he is. But Faraday is convinced that Falls is the key to saving his species.
When we meet Falls, the little context gives us clues to her academic and scientific past that didn’t pan out. In the present she scores drugs off a dealer to care for her dying father, while dealing with her scumbag boss and other miscellaneous wild-west type ruffians. She meets Faraday at the police station, walks out, and picks him up shortly later after he is being accosted by thugs. The two pair up and hit the road with promises to assist one another. At this point, Faraday has picked up enough English to wheel and deal as he needs.
There are a few more scenes of dialogue and progression that were specifically designed to explain plot and character motivation. But for a 50 minute pilot, a half hour would have sufficed.
Despite the lengthy intro episode, The Man Who Fell to Earth didn’t sink its claws in deep enough to truly hook me. The two leads looked uncomfortable. I don’t mean the characters, who are indeed required to be awkward and cramped. I mean Ejiofor and Harris. The tone may need to shift as the series continues. The first episode of The Man Who Fell to Earth attempts to sew in intellect, humor and alienation all in one sitting. It bit off more than it could chew but I’m hopeful the rest of the season can put the pieces together smartly. It is a good premise with a familiar mythos that we’ve seen before; the show just needs to stable itself before it can really take off.