Falling Skies threw a huge curveball in the last few minutes of its first season — the sort of weird out-of-nowhere turn of events that makes you wonder if you missed a few episodes. And now that the show is coming back for its second season June 17, the show's cast and new showrunner admit that they were just as startled as you were.
The good news? They feel like they found a great way to make it pay off. Minor spoilers ahead...
We were lucky enough to speak one-on-one with a few actors from TNT's Falling Skies the other day, plus the new showrunner Remi Aubuchon, who took over for season two. We also took part in a conference call with star Noah Wyle.
And one thing came across loud and clear in all these conversations: Nobody knew what to make of that cliffhanger, in which Tom Mason (Wyle) willingly stepped aboard an alien ship. At first, anyway.
When Aubuchon agreed to take over as showrunner from Mark Verheiden, he sat down and watched the first season, including some episodes that hadn't aired yet. Aubuchon tells us:
I watched all of the episodes in a row, and I was going along, going, 'Okay, that's interesting. Okay, I can see something there. Okay, that's good. And when I got to the end, and it was that ending, I went, 'Oh my God, I'm in trouble.' I mean, I thought it was cool, but it's also one of those moments as a writer, where you go, 'Ohhh kay, what do I do with that?' ... I called up Graham Yost and I called up Mark [Verheiden], saying, 'What were you guys thinking?' And they said, 'I dunno. We just thought it was cool.'
But once Aubuchon got into a room with a bunch of other writers and started talking about that cliffhanger, "it became a really fun challenge." Out of that cliffhanger, says Aubuchon, came some really positive things that propel a lot of the storytelling in the second season. And the writers came up with a pretty cool way for Tom Mason to get off that spaceship again.
"You'll always catch people after a huge trauma saying, 'Oh, it wasn't that bad.' Or, 'It was fun,' Or, 'It was cool falling off that cliff,'" says Aubuchon. "The truth is, at first it was like, 'Oh my God, should i just say I can't do this job?' Ultimately, though, I think it turned out cool."
Meanwhile, Wyle told reporters on a conference call:
I got a lot of phone calls about that [ending]. Number one feedback: 'What the hell were you doing getting on that spaceship?' So we kind of wrote ourselves into a little bit of a corner trying to justify it, and I think we did a really good job coming back in season two, and explaining what happened to him and what happens to the group in his absence. And it's allowed us to really jump off from a novel place this year.
Wyle added, "You know, it's easy to write, and then you suddenly go, 'Oh my god. What did we just do, and how are we going to deal with it?'"
Moon Bloodgood, who plays Dr. Anne Glass, says she was sort of daunted but impressed: "It takes a bit of guts to say, 'Okay, we're now going to have a character go onto a spaceship. And season two is now going to place somewhere with that storyline.'"
It changes everything
And the good thing about the "Tom goes on a spaceship" storyline is, it helps push his character arc forward in a really interesting way. Wyle said coming off a few months on an alien spaceship means the character comes back "slightly changed." He comes back "harder-edged."
Tom comes away from that experience feeling used and manipulated. It wasn't the experience [he expected]. He thought he was going to be having a nice conversation with an extraterrestrial being. It turned out to be worse than that. More than that, I won't say. But that's what made it fun.
Meanwhile, Tom has a hard time getting reintegrated into the Second Mass, because they've had a really tough time in his absence, and they've accepted his death. Plus they can't help suspecting that he's been altered by the aliens somehow, or has been turned into a "homing pigeon" to help the aliens locate their troops.
There's an element of distrust. Certainly Tom espouses it himself, about himself. You know, he doesn't want to be a security risk or a liability in any way. But he can't be positive that he wasn't released with some ulterior motive in mind. So that allows us to start this season off with a little bit of tension.
Falling Skies comes back June 17. We'll be posting more excerpts from our exclusive interviews in the next few weeks.