'Falling Skies' Spoiler Interview: Writer John Wirth On Ep. 3.08, 'Strange Brew'


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.

In this week's episode of "Falling Skies," we get a chance to poke around inside 2nd Mass leader Tom Mason's head after he's captured (again) by the Eshpeni. And thankfully, we have the man who wrote the episode, John Wirth, to lead us on a guided tour of Tom's messy headspace.

Spoilers after the jump

MTV Geek: Getting inside Tom's head--it's pretty thick with all kinds of self-created drama. What's that all about?

John Wirth: I think I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in Tom’s head, but it’s always interesting to me to hear what the actor has to say about it. And Noah is pretty articulate about what’s going on in Tom’s head. The difference between the way an actor and a writer approach these things is, I think, on a fundamental level the actor is inside working his or her way out, whereas a writer is outside working his or her way in. In Tom’s case I believe he is pretty practical, a pragmatist and a realist. He quite intelligent and has a broad world view – I’m talking about both pre- and post-invasion. He knows what’s at stake and he knows what he’s lost.

But there is that part of his brain where he wishes things were different. And when he muses about it, now, I think reality gets in the way of a pure reckoning of his memories; reality and the desire for wish-fulfillment begin to fold in on each other to create an alternate reality. This is the world Karen takes advantage of in "Strange Brew." It’s like a hanging curve ball she takes complete advantage of and whacks out of the park.

Geek: So, all things being equal and the Eshpeni invasion DIDN'T happen, would it be fair to say Tom's life would have been a mess?

Wirth: If the invasion hadn’t happened, I believe Tom’s life would have been messily human. Three boys, tenure track at the university, long term marriage. Given the state of his life now, I think even the worse kind of life imaginable with his family back then would’ve been preferable. And I think he romanticizes the life he had. I happen to think his life was pretty good. I mean, did you see Rebecca? She’s awesome. Did you see that house? I’d live there.

It’s all good.

Geek: What are some of the challenges of some of these alternate reality/imaginary tales stories?

Wirth: The big challenge in telling an alt reality story is how to do it without flashbacks. "Lost" used flashbacks effectively to get off the island. Then when they got tired of that they turned them into flash forwards.

In an ongoing drama where the stakes are tied to the timeline of an episode it’s tough to maintain the dramatic tension sometimes when you’re cutting to a flashback – which by definition, exists out of time. My concept with this episode was to bring the stakes into the here and now so that they are playing out concurrently while the alt reality story is unfolding. If you think about it, while we’re watching the story of Tom’s life before the invasion, he’s under lock and key, attached to that horrible alien machine on the Tower going through hell. His stakes are real, because the longer he holds out and does not tell Karen what she wants to know, the more jeopardy he’s in. And, if you believe Karen, the more jeopardy his family is in.

So, in this case, we’re telling the story inside out. We chose to show the audience Tom’s struggle to break through the artifice created by Karen, but the true story, the stakes of the episode, were really tied to what was happening to him inside that Tower hooked up to that machine.

Geek: It's fascinating that Pope is kind of Tom's ID while Weaver is, in a way, his struggling conscience. Could you talk a bit about that dichotomy?

Wirth: Of course Pope is going to irritate, poke at, and just generally piss Tom off no matter what the circumstances.

I thought it would be fun to have him play the office mate, the guy who thinks he knows exactly what’s going on with Tom when, in fact, he doesn’t. Pope’s a know-it-all. He’s got an explanation for, a theory of, everything. At least that’s his schtick. We all know people like that, don’t we? Just shut the f**k up already!

As for Weaver, I always felt like he was the one character, the one aspect of Tom’s psyche that Karen could not completely control. Which is why he spends the entire episode trying to break through Tom’s dream state. He’s trying to wake him up. A true friend, in other words--wake up and smell the coffee! See the reality of what’s happening to you. Test it. Question it. Figure it the f**k out.

In contrast to Pope, who measures the validity of friendship by how much of his world view he can force onto people, Weaver just tells it like it is.

Geek: Who were some of the other characters you hoped to explore in this episode?

Wirth: I actually wanted the entire episode to be inside Tom’s Brain. The working title of the show was, in fact, Tom’s Brain. But Remi didn’t feel like the audience would sit still for it, nor would the network, so we boiled it down to 3 acts in the brain. So by necessity some of the story had to play in real time in Charleston. But I think everyone makes an appearance in the Brain story, however brief.

Geek: How many times will the aliens get into Tom's head before he cracks?

Wirth: This is a question for David Eicke and Carol Barbee the current showrunners. I don’t know if you could go back there now. I suspect not. But, hey, it’s an alien show. Anything you can imagine, can happen. I can tell you this, it was a joy to write and I think it came out very well.


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