Each week, MTV Geek will sit down with the writers of TNT’s alien invasion drama “Falling Skies” and in a spoiler-heavy interview about the developments in the latest episode. Who lives, who dies, and what strange new factions will develop in the third season as the 2nd Mass escalates their conflict with the alien invaders.
This week’s first part of the two-hour season premiere, “On Thin Ice,” joins the Second Mass at their settlement in Charlotte, NC, seven months after the events of the season two finale. A new alien race, the humanoid Volm, has joined Tom Mason and his people in their battle against the Eshpeni Overlords, while a rebel faction of Skitters has also put their spider-y mitts in to help out. Tensions are understandably high.
We spoke with writer Remi Aubuchon (who also serves a executive producer for the series) about the episode… And what’s coming next:
MTV geek: The conflict between the humans and the Skitters has shifted a bit going into the seven month jump. While the battle is still asymmetrical on the invaders’ side, the humans seem to have tilted things somewhat in their favor. Could you talk a bit about some of these changes to the ongoing conflict?
Remi Aubuchon: One of things we talked about this season was the idea of “At what cost victory?” In other words, what does it feel like to get the victory and then what do you do with it? And what are you willing to sacrifice to have that victory. And so in order to do that, we wanted to increase the parity between the Overlords and the humans.
But as we learn over the course of the series–and I think we even start in the first episode, that doesn’t mean everything’s going to be perfect and easy now. We’ve got a big giant gun in the basement that’s going to “destroy the Eshpeni war machine.” The episode is called “On Thing Ice” and one of the reasons for that title is that not everything is as secure as it seems. We start up looking like the humans are in control and kicking butt, but not everything is as secure as it seems.
Geek: Yeah, there are all these concentric circles of paranoia–all the way out to the fringes with Pope and his people being very vocal about their distrust of both the Skitters and the Volm, while closer to Tom, you’ve got Anne worried about the true nature of her newborn.
Aubuchon: Yes, definitely. But not just for the sake of ramping up the paranoia, although that’s what does happen. As someone once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you,” which always felt like a surreal test of what’s in my mind and what’s real.
In this case, I think it’s just that the stakes are high and we wanted to pile as much pressure on Tom as we can because he’s the character that we’re following. It seems that things are great and he’s ahead of the game, but there are consequences to that. And the result is that there’s an extra level of paranoia because the enemy is getting desperate and they’re willing to take all sorts of tactics to try and destroy the enemy in front of them–the humans–but also the Volm.
Geek: It also has to make the humans more desperate, I’d imagine. Victory’s so close, so what are they willing to do to bring this conflict to an end? What is Tom willing to do?
Aubuchon: I think it’s in the first episode that Tom says to Weaver “Do you really think that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill wanted to work with Joseph Stalin?” Of course not, but they had to and if it hadn’t been for their alliance with Russia and Stalin, WWII would have taken a longer time to be completed.
And I think that not necessarily in terms of looking for a shortcut, but the ways in that the victory’s decisive, Tom says it’s close enough that he can almost taste it. You’re right, it’s that situation where the finish line is almost in sight, but so far away, and that can be dangerous.
Geek: If we could talk about Tom a little bit more, because he’s a bit more complex this season than he has been in the first two because of the additional roles that he’s had to take on: father of a newborn, commander-in-chief, negotiator with two alien species.
Was there a concern that you were putting too much on him this season? Because it does seem that he’s wearing all of this well.
Aubuchon: I certainly think that Noah [Wylie] and I talked about some of this stuff, he said “Oh! That’s a lot!” But I feel that Noah as an actor that can handle that.
But the one thing that I think we can focus on, the one thing about Tom Mason as a character and why he’s so fun to write, is that he’s an everyman hero. He’s got a good, solid moral compass. He has compassion. He understands a lot about history and the world, but he has no practical experience in leading what are the remnants of the United States. In a way, we wanted to see what happens when a man takes on this huge amount of responsibility. Even with the most experienced of statesmen, something needs to be sacrificed. Politicians talk about it all the time, how they’re resigning because they want to spend more time with their family because they realize that they’re leaving what they’ve been fighting for behind–and that’s certainly Tom’s story.
But I think that what will make this season interesting–and I think we see a lot of that in this episode–is that Tom will have to do a lot of negotiating and finding his way through uncharted territory. And in the end, he’ll come out victorious–it may not be the victory he was expecting, but it will be the victory that he and the rest of the world need.
Geek: What characters should we be watching out for this season besides Tom?
Aubuchon: Well, certainly Hal is a character that already from the end of the second season we know has something going on with him. Hal will go on a journey that will rock his world but everyone’s world around him. There’s a lot of stuff going on–I would pay attention to him.
But the one character I would pay attention to is a new character, Cochise. He’s one of the Volm [Doug Jones], part of the landing party that’s managed to align themselves with us. So it will be really interesting to see what happens with these aliens.
Geek: You pulled the trigger pretty quickly. At the tail end of season two, we saw that he was being infiltrated by the Eshpeni probe, but within the first episode or so, we’re pretty much told that he’s going (unknowingly) rogue. What sparked such a speedy reveal in that storyline?
Aubuchon: The pulse that I felt between the end of the second season and before we started writing the third season is that everyone knew what was going on with Hal. So I kind of wanted to just start with “This is what it looks like now, but I guarantee you it’s not what’s happening.” So part of it–I’ll be honest with you–is a little bit of a trick in that I think that everybody thinks they know what’s going on with Hal, but I guarantee there’s something crazier and weirder.