It’s no secret that the supernatural is the flavour of pretty much all of the TV we watch these days, in one way or another. Any show can be a means of escape, it’s true, but there is just something about the world beyond that which we see that just seems to pique the imaginations and curiosity of contemporary audiences like no other subject.
As such, you can understand why Fallen would be a popular concept to bring to life on screen. It has all the ingredients for both a great adventure and a captivating storyline, one that has the power to whisk an audience out of the mundane and into the mystical without – if done right – even breaking a sweat.
Made for television in 2007 by ABC Family, Fallen tells the story of Aaron Corbett (played by Paul Wesley): a well-liked, talented teenage boy, sitting on the cusp of college applications, sporting success and a life beyond the familiar halls and ensuing dramas of high school. At home however, he is the once orphaned, now adopted son to two loving parents and the sole older sibling to their troubled, autistic little boy. But on the day of his eighteenth birthday, both worlds are turned on their heads, when he suddenly finds himself able to – amongst other things – hear and understand the thoughts of animals, heal creatures on the brink of death, as well as finding himself able to both comprehend and fluently speak any and every language. Understandably freaked out, Aaron seeks answers, only to find them in the most unlikely of places: namely, a mad street bum named Zeke (played by Tom Skerritt) who recognises him instantly as one of the Nephilim.
For those of you not versed in biblical history, here’s the basic 411: once upon a time, long before mankind existed, there was a war in heaven, during which an angel called Lucifer (played here by Bryan Cranston) was fought and beaten, along with all the other angels who followed him. The latter were called the Fallen, and subsequently had their wings clipped for their insubordination. As further punishment, they were all expelled from paradise; the Fallen, exiled to earth. However, in another crime against heaven, the Fallen entered into relationships with humans, creating a race known as the Nephilim: humans with the powers of an angel, but the soul of a man.
In heaven, a group of warriors called The Powers are banded together in order to hunt down these so-called abominations. However, over time they have become arrogant and overzealous, enough to warrant even others of their kind to assist in protecting the Nephilim rather than destroy them.
The spanner in the works? A prophecy: that one day a Nephilim will be born with the power to actually redeem the Fallen angels and return them to their place in heaven. And so it is that Aaron discovers from Zeke – himself one of the Fallen requiring redemption – that he is the fulfilment of that prophecy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Initially shot as a 4 part mini-series, Fallen marks somewhat of a milestone for Paul Wesley as an actor, in that it really was the first of his forays into ‘leading man’ territory. Granted, his stint as a slick high school jock (who also happens to be a werewolf) in the short-lived but popular TV series Wolf Lake gave him a chance to stand out as part of an ensemble cast, which he managed to do with aplomb. But it was in his role as Aaron Corbett that would really test his ability to not only headline a major TV production, but also to carry it off successfully in front of a much broader viewing audience.
Not an easy feat when you consider the calibre of the rest of the cast, with heavyweight Hollywood alum like Tom Skerritt (Cheers, The Grid, Brothers & Sisters and Picket Fences, the latter for which he won a Golden Globe) and Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in The Middle, which earned him both Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, and Breaking Bad, for which he has won the Emmy for Best Lead Actor 3 years running) sharing the screen. Such casting lent Fallen a certain acting gravitas, it’s true, but this would have meant nothing had Paul Wesley not been up to scratch. After all, aside from his acting, he did have all the ingredients to be appealing to a viewing audience: he was good looking, affable and genuinely charming. All the things that, arguably, most audiences generally hope a decent hero to be in one way or another. But as both time and Hollywood history would tell you, these qualities will only get you so far. If these charms are all an actor has to rely upon, it won’t take very long for an astute audience to get bored and switch off. Wesley however, proved more than up to the task of being both convincing and likeable in his portrayal of Aaron Corbett, showing himself to be capable of carrying both the core plot of a serious mini series, as well as the viewers interest over a number of episodes.
For those, then, who have followed Paul Wesley’s acting career, it will come as no surprise then that he has proved so successful in his current role as Stefan Salvatore, on the CW’s breakout smash TV series of 2010, The Vampire Diaries. He has shown that he has the acting chops to match it with even the most celebrated and experienced actors; and more than that, to match them well.
Granted, Fallen is no True Blood, or Twilight (groan at the comparison if you will, but it’s there). But for the purpose for which it was created, this series proved then – and continues to prove now – to be a decently made, generally satisfying piece of television: something that, even with the biggest budget possible and all the heavyweight studio backing in the world, sometimes eludes even the most heavy-duty and celebrated series at times, these days. For what it is, Fallen ticks all the boxes for a fun, well shot, decently crafted series, and was an excellent indicator of the promise Paul Wesley has come, now, to fulfil so impressively as the resident brooding hero in the action-packed, fictional little corner of Georgia known as Mystic Falls.
Star Rating: 4/5