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.
What’s in the basement? And what’s up with Anne’s baby? The second part of this week’s “Falling Skies” season three premiere offered more questions and paranoia as we learned the scope of the human resistance’s alliance with the Volm and rebel Skitters. You can’t just use crazy alien tech and not expect something weird to happen, right?
For this episode, we spoke with writers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson about the cost of fighting to win and some of the historical precedents that went into developing the themes of the current season of “Falling Skies.”
MTV Geek: I noticed a running theme of hybridization and blending things together and how that’s a real challenge for the 2nd Mass and the remaining survivors in Charlotte. Could you talk a bit about that theme and how that emerged for the writers this season?
David Weddle: I think it’s a thing very present in contemporary society and that’s why we like portraying it. And it also reflects the realities in war time where you have allies thrown together who, in order to defeat the enemy, must overcome their differences and their suspicions of one another. And they may not share much in common, but to win, they have to somehow overcome that.
The theme reflects contemporary society, too. We’re a very divided country where we put personal interests first and it’s extremely difficult to find common ground. So it’s interesting for us to reflect that in the drama.
Bradley Thompson: One of the things we’re dealing with is–like with the Soviets and the Allies–you have to realize that at some point, there’s going to be an “after” the war. And you have to figure out how things are going to play after that–you’re not only thinking about can we beat the big enemy right now, but where we’ll be left at the end of the war.
Weddle: Tom points out that Roosevelt said that Stalin was a monster–but he was our monster, and we needed him. We used him and were suspicious of him and he was equally suspicious of us. Reasonably so, since we tried to attack the Soviets a couple of times before the war started.
Thompson: Like the U.S. invasion of Russia in 1919.
Geek: Two episodes in, and we still haven’t seen a lot of the Volm–they kind of hang back and let the humans the rebel Skitters fight this out as a proxy battle.
Weddle: The Volm are doing what our Navy SEALs and C.I.A. did in Afghanistan: they gave weapons to the rebels It’s sort of interesting for us to see them advising and telling us to go after certain objectives but not participating themselves (and the suspicion that helps breed. It reflects positions we’ve been in recently, and it creates some interesting tension for us.
To have them fighting the battle for us and participating would dissipate some of that tension and dissipate the mystery of the Volm. And it just seems like what they would do: they would use us to achieve the strategic objectives for them.
Geek: Yeah, it’s not explicitly called out, but it seems like the Volm get to keep their hands clean. Meanwhile, the Eshpeni are mostly targeting the rebel Skitters and the humans in all of this.
Weddle: Certainly. Weaver has all kinds of doubts about what these guys are really up to. Tom does too, but Tom’s a realpolitik type of person, so he makes these decisions like the Allies did in WWII. So Weaver’s got these suspicions and all of them are valid, but we’re winning for the first time and we need these guys. So, Tom’s trying to ride the tiger, and Weaver’s hoping we don’t get eaten by the tiger.
Geek: And what about Pope? He’s the biggest voice of dissent right now and it almost seems like he’s biding his time for something. It feels like we’re on the edge of him becoming a full villain again.
Weddle: Pope’s always had a clear-eyed view of the landscape, and he’s not going to make a move unless he can be up in a position of strength. So right now, he’s cooperating, going along with the objectives that Tom wants. And it suits Pope’s purposes, too, because he’s pretty well set up in Charleston. But I wouldn’t turn my back on him if I were Tom–if Tom has a moment of weakness, the first person I’d be worried about is Pope.
Geek: Now the conflict between the humans and the invaders is no longer as asymmetrical as it was before–the humans have a fighting chance, now. How do you feel this change in morale has shifted the dynamics of our survivors in Charleston? Specifically Tom? He’s more dynamic, more forceful now–he’s in a leadership role in a conflict that the humans might actually win.
Thompson: Tom is reaching out to the Volm and saying, “If I could use these guys, we could win,” but there’s still a lot of distrust for them because the Volm aren’t showing all of their cards. And the humans are building this big thing for them and we’re providing resources for them–and we have no idea what it’s going to do.
Geek: But it always feels like when there’s this level of optimism for the end of a conflict is present, that’s when things will reach their lowest point.
Thompson: Worse than Pearl Harbor or worse than when we got kicked out of Bataan or worse than when we’re actually winning in Midway? It’s always “worse” until you’ve won.
Geek: It seems like you’re both students of military history.
Weddle: We worked for “Battlestar Galactica,” and for me it comes organically: my father was in the first Marines division of World War II–he fought at Guadalcanal and Okinawa. So, I grew up almost suffering by proxy from post-traumatic stress with that. I grew up watching war movies with my father and documentaries–trying to understand him and trying to cope with the emotional fallout from what’d he’d been exposed to.
That turned into a fascination for war, particularly World War II.
And Brad’s dad also served and we had that in common even before we would write together. One of the reasons that we became friends is that we would talk about all of those issues and realized we both had a very strong common interest in them.
Thompson: My father was in the United States Navy during the second World War, and he served on the battleship the U.S.S. Indiana for the very last part of it. What I noticed growing up with him is that he concealed the damage that was done very well from our family. And it didn’t look like he had a problem until we found out much, much later that he had a tremendous amount of claustrophobia which would strike him when he was way below the water line, waiting for a torpedo.
Weddle: My dad had claustrophobia, too–he hated ships, he hated small places.
Thompson: The other thing is that he never really understood [the war]. It was this big thing that happened in his life, and he spent most of his life studying the history, trying to understand what actually happened, what he was swept into. So he studied all of this stuff and I wanted to be like my dad, so I studied it like he did. So I just kind of developed that naturally.
Geek: I guess, my final thought, and all of this kind of ties into it nicely with “Collateral Damage,” is that idea of the hidden costs to war that we might not see for a while. Just returning to the idea that things are looking good for the human side, but at some point, in the history in this world will have something to say about what Tom and the survivors were willing to do to win.
Thompson: In this episode, we’re having to make a decision to destroy a reactor and stop these guys, but it could possibly irradiate 2/3 of the East Coast. And what will that mean for future generations? Is that a price we’re willing to pay?
And to bring that down to the personal: Tom and Weaver are having to wage a war where they’re making decisions and at some point, they’re going to have to deal with them. I mean, look at Vietnam: people went over there to fight, and today people are still dealing with that.
Weddle: I think that’s a very important thing for Brad and I: when we write war dramas, we want to write the psychological costs for the characters. And we see that cost all the way down to Tom’s youngest son–even his behavior is changing in ways that are kind of funny, but that are also kind of disturbing.
Thompson: Even Pope: he’s suffering from this, but he’s hiding it really, really well. In fact, he may not know it, but his behavior has changed and he’s going to be paying for it.