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‘Falling Skies’ Spoiler Interview: Writers Jordan Rosenberg and Heather Regnier On Ep. 3.07, ‘The Pickett Line’

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, the Mason men go all “Searchers” for the abducted Anne (Moon Bloodgood), but after all of the betrayals, mind-control, and distrust, will they return to Charleston? Will they even get that chance once they come into contact with an isolated mountain family? Meanwhile, back at the 2nd Mass, the new administration is having a hard time taking root as Pope and other disruptive elements push back on new executive orders. Oh, and we finally learn the secret of the Volm weapon.

Writers Jordan Rosenberg and Heather Regnier return this week for another round of questions about the latest installment of “Falling Skies,” “The Pickett Line.”

****Spoilers below****

MTV Geek: Already, we’re seeing friction with Marina in charge of Charleston–in particular with the clampdown on Pope and his people’s space. Could you talk a little about how each of you sees her leadership style and how she might be better/worse than Tom?

Heather Regnier: I see Marina’s leadership style as more of a Thatcheresque iron maiden to Tom Mason’s back-slapping Bill Clinton. Tom’s a firm leader, but prides himself for being open-minded and an ear to the people, whereas Marina (the only person in Charleston with actual pre-invasion political experience) relies on herself and her gut, which can make her more parochial in her decision-making. I think both leadership characteristics have a time and place, and one is not necessarily better than the other. It’s more context-specific.

Geek: We also get to see the Masons interact with another desperate family. They’re kind of the best-case scenario in a world under assault by aliens. What was the genesis of this plot thread in the middle of the search for Anne?

Jordan Rosenberg: I’d say it was a combination of two things:

The first is that if you’re going to do an off-the-beaten-path kind of story, which is what this quest to find Anne is, you want to make that trip worthwhile on a deeper level for the audience. You hope to give people an unexpected storyline that throws the entire show into sharp relief. Makes the characters question themselves. Because here we are, on a search whose very genesis seems predicated on the fact that we have this Tom vs. Karen conflict. If you take a step back, that conflict exists mainly because Tom has become leader of the human rebellion, and if you take another step back, he’s only become that leader because he chose to put himself and his family in the fight in the first place.

And that connects to the other part of it, which was our showrunner Remi Aubuchon’s long-standing desire, all the way back to season 2, to tell a story about characters who have taken the “road not traveled” by the Masons. I’m talking about characters who never joined in the fight or an attempt to rebuild civilization. Those characters took different guises — I believe the initial instinct was to find a woman like Calypso in The Odyssey, living alone in the wilderness, and by Tom coming to her in his hour of need, he brings the war to her doorstep. We actually tried that storyline out in another of my episodes, “Search and Recover,” but felt it overloaded the Tom/Pope conflict. But we still really loved the idea, so it morphed into this patriarch vs. patriarch conflict we find in “The Pickett Line.”

Geek: The question this backwoods family poses is “what would you do to survive,” and for them, they argue that community isn’t the way to make it through the invasion. What are your thoughts on this?

Rosenberg: My thoughts are mixed. You can argue individualism vs. collectivism all day long, and I can see both sides. Duane and Gil’s first obligation is to their family, and they are meeting that, in a sense. Though it may be stripping away a few layers of their souls to do so, is it markedly worse than facing head-on the horrors of this alien war? That’s a tough call.

But clearly you see what lack of community does to them in the end. Without community, you have no protection when things go pear-shaped. Sure, being in a group makes you a target, but then you have the group’s protection to help fight back. Also, I think there’s also something to be said for living or merely surviving. The Picketts are doing the former, and they’ve become vultures, of sorts, in the process. They represent more of the dystopic apocalyptic vision you see in pieces like “The Road.” And look how far it goes. We never know whether Duane would have gone through with having his family execute the Masons, because Tom was fast-acting enough to stop it. But who would those kids have become after that? Would their survival be worth much, even to themselves, if they’d become murderers?

Ultimately, I guess it comes down to how you see yourself in relation to your fellow man. Do you have an obligation to continue on and honor the sacrifices previous generations have made to make this a nation of fellow citizens, or do you throw that all out once disaster hits.

Geek: What was the decision behind Matt shooting the uncle? To my knowledge, he hasn’t yet shot at or killed a Skitter, so his first kill, is a more or less innocent man.

Rosenberg: Well, hold on. How innocent is the guy trying to kill your brother? Matt shot in defense of his family. He certainly had no malicious intent other than freeing Hal.

But as far as deciding to bring Matt into the violence, we’ve obviously been toying with that all season. Matt is a child soldier. It’s not nice to put it so bluntly, but the aliens have forced everyone’s hand. Now, Tom and Weaver and the other adults are trying to be responsible with deploying him, but the fact is, this is the human toll of war. And we thought it would be surprising and appropriately disturbing to not just have Matt blow away a Skitter. That’s a bit easier to deal with — they’re ugly and creepy and leggy — and oh, yeah, they invaded your planet. But people killing PEOPLE is what happens in actual war. And we want to tell the story of how this kid is gonna deal with that. Matt’s not a fully-baked cake, here, despite his bravery under fire. And I think this shooting opens up a lot of great, if difficult, storytelling possibilities.

Geek: How do you think Anne’s absence has impacted each of the Mason men?

Rosenberg: I’d say it’s a toss-up between who is feeling it more severely, Tom or Matt.

Obviously, Tom has an extremely complex set of feelings here. I would almost leave it at that and say keep watching – because you’re going to see the full extent of it very soon – but just to highlight, Tom’s feeling:

Guilt over how he handled the Lexi situation with Anne. Rage, at Karen and the Espheni, but also at himself for putting his Presidency above family (even though he seemed to have little choice). Horror – could he be losing another woman he loves? And then there’s all that comes with the fact that he hasn’t entirely let go of his wife and her role as the kids’ mother.

And of course, for Matt, Anne is someone he’s allowed himself to love like a mother after the tragedy of losing his own. So this is brutal on that level. But, for Matt, I would say he doesn’t have the emotional tools, like Tom does, to differentiate the various strains of agony he’s feeling. It’s more of a “sharknado” of emotions that’s threatening to rip him apart. I could easily see him going to a very dark place if they’re not successful in getting Anne back.

As for Ben and Hal, they definitely care deeply about Anne. They love her for loving their father. For giving Tom a child and some light in his life. Ben owes her for de-harnessing him, as well. For these two, though, I believe they draw much more of a distinction between their actual mother and Anne than Matt can. Matt’s sort of blurred that line, but for them, it’s more of a pain-by-proxy situation. If there’s any good in that, it’s that they might have a better chance of keeping their heads together on this journey to find her.

Geek: With the murder of the President, the motto for the series is, at this point, “watch your back.” To what extent has this season been about bringing together humanity only to have them tear each other apart internally.

Regnier: I think the stakes have risen dramatically in this season. Charleston has allied with the Volm, and in response (or maybe anticipation of this) the Espheni have infiltrated Charleston and used our people as moles and spies. As we’ve gotten to know our enemy, adapting to them and learning their weaknesses, the Espheni have done the same with us, infiltrating our sense of community and trust, manipulating us based on our emotions (Hal and Lourdes are the prime examples of this). I think every season of “Falling Skies” has touched upon the idea of bringing people together and tearing them apart, how catastrophes can bring out the best and the worst of humanity, but you’re seeing a more heightened version of that this season, because tension between both sides is ramping up.

So as the stakes rise, and this war draws nearer, no one, man or alien, is pulling any punches. No one is safe. No one can really be trusted. And yes, everyone should be watching their backs.

Geek: We also see Pope’s subversiveness being… subverted, I guess by Weaver. What’s the relationship between these two now? And what exactly does Pope believe in?

Regnier: As people outside of this war effort, Pope and Weaver are as different as two people can be. Even within the war effort, they have very different methodologies and approaches. But what Pope and Weaver do have in common, is their suspicion that the Volm might not have our best interest at hand, and their refusal (if that’s true) to take that lying down. They’re both fighters to the bitter end and that is their common ground that we see overlapping at the moment. Their relationship is revolves around their commitment to the fight. In terms of Pope’s beliefs, I’d say he’s a little confused right now, ambivalent at best. We started him as a man only out for himself, a vigilante cowboy in the wild wild apocalyptic West (or East, I should say), but slowly but surely, Pope has found himself fighting for causes greater than just himself, and caring for others (we saw this with Crazy Lee’s death, Matt Mason, and even when he was trapped with Tom in the woods). Pope’s soft underbelly is becoming a little more exposed, and it’s putting him at a crossroads: whether he will embrace the vulnerable side of his humanity or reject it to an even greater extreme for fear of becoming too soft.

You’ll have to tune in to see!

Geek: That final shot, with Tom being being captured by the mech–you have to figure his luck is running out in terms of surviving capture by the Eshpeni. Or even coming away profoundly damaged. What do you think each encounter so far has done for him?

Regnier: I think each encounter takes a great toll on Tom, but that might not be a bad thing. Every time the Espheni screw with Tom or his family, it reignites his passion and his belief that the aliens must be destroyed. Whether or not they reach a breaking point with Tom, psychologically or physically, is yet to be seen

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