'Falling Skies' season finale: Showrunner Remi Aubuchon answers your burning questions!
Falling Skies has been spicing up its addicting recipe of sci-fi, family drama, action and major creep-outs throughout its second season, and it all came to a head in tonight’s finale.
SPOILER ALERT! Be afraid, very afraid, almost as afraid as you are of crawlies, to read on if you haven’t yet watched the Falling Skies season finale.
The 2nd Mass’ season-long journey to Charleston ended in disappointment and new lessons for the Revolutionary War-alluding show. Fans got some fun surprises (and spine-tingling ones!) in “A More Perfect Union,” the season 2 capper to the Steven Spielberg-produced TNT show.
After watching the cliffhanger-filled finale (and taking some time to catch our breath afterward) EW chatted with showrunner Remi Aubuchon. The writer/producer is currently knee-deep in prep for season 3, which begins shooting in less than three days! But he took a break from his work in Vancouver, Canada to talk at length with us about shooting the finale and what fans can expect when Falling Skies returns next summer for another 10-episode season.
Aubuchon talked about the new addition to their lineup of alien species, revealed what Red Eye was silently saying to Ben as he died and cleared up a point of confusion about the skitters that’s been a subject of great debate among fans since Lourdes and Anne made a major discovery last season. Read on for answers to your burning questions.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There was a lot of big stuff going on in this episode, as should be the case with a season finale. What was the sentiment for you and the other writers as you got started on this episode?
REMI AUBUCHON: We actually planned for a fairly big ending right at the beginning of prepping the second season and beginning to talk about it. I’d say at least 70 percent of what we talked about doing right at the beginning of figuring out season 2 we ended up doing in [the finale], which was awesome in many ways. But the main thing that we really felt strongly about was we needed to have some kind of sense of victory. The first season – I won’t say it ended on a downer, but it certainly ended with us getting our butts whipped, and we just felt like we wanted to have a sense of “You know what? It’s a year later, and we’ve learned how to do some things, and one thing we’ve been able to do is take the fight to the enemy,” and that’s kind of what we started with.
So 70 percent of what you imagined for the finale got in. What happened to the other 30 percent?
There’s some things that we pulled out and put in other episodes earlier. I had been pitching when I pitched to Steven [Spielberg] and Michael [Wright, TNT’s head of programming], as I have to do at the beginning of each season, and I had this whole thing of saying, “Thousands of skitters are gonna come down one side of the mountain! And another thousand rebel skitters are gonna come down the other side of the mountain! And they’re gonna clash, and they’re gonna fight! And in the midst of all this comes a herd of spiked kids!” And obviously we didn’t do a big version of that, but we did a small version of it.
I really liked the scene when the 2nd Mass gathers around the rebel skitters to shield them, and the final scene with Red Eye was powerful too.
In a weird way it’s a little bit of a call back to the pilot episode in the first season where they for the first time gathered around a dying skitter, but it was done in a non-sympathetic way. Hopefully we had gained some sympathy for Red Eye and to see how far we’ve changed, or at least Tom and the 2nd Mass had changed in their attitude toward skitters that not all skitters are bad and this one in particular was actually someone we will miss. It’s unspoken, they never say that directly, but I think it resonates, which are my favorite kinds of scenes in Falling Skies to do.
So there’s a new alien in our midst! What kinds of speculation about this creature are you hoping to hear from fans?
One of the things that I hope the fans will see is that of course this is an alien that doesn’t look anything like the aliens we’ve been confronted with since the beginning of the series. And in fact there’s a certain benign-ness. It’s uncertain as to whether or not he’s friendly or unfriendly, but the one thing that we can definitely determine is he kind of looks a little like us in a way. His eyes do not seem as shark eye-like as the overlords’ eyes did or even the skitters who have a frightening look to them. So I’m hoping that some of the speculation will be “Wow, this is not only a game changer, this could be a game changer for the good.” And then that begs the question of “is it too good to be true?” I’m hoping that there’s a lot of questions running around the blogosphere and the Internet world because I think that that’s certainly what we had intended.
Ben said very mysteriously that the giant weapon they destroyed is pointed at the sky because “it isn’t meant for humans.” Is it safe to assume that there’s some connection with this and the new alien?
Well, it seems to be a big coincidence that they took down this huge weapon, and all of the sudden these guys landed. So I would say that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that there must be some kind of connection between the two of them.
NEXT PAGE: What’s up with creepified Hal?
We gotta talk about Hal Mason. It was so freaky seeing him like that!
And Drew Roy did such a good job – who knew that that cute smile of his could look so creepy?
Yeah, I loved it when we were shooting that. But when I finally saw it all cut together and stuff, it just scared the hell out of me. He was very excited because he was afraid he would be playing perpetually a teenage lacrosse player with a gun for the whole season. I thought he just nailed it. And it still creeps me out.
What kind of discussions did you have with Drew about this change for his character?
As I said, he was excited about it, but also what he was hoping would happen to his character is that he would have some kind of challenge. He had a challenge of sorts in the second season in that he suddenly found himself falling for a woman slightly older than himself who had a lot of baggage, and he was trying all of his high school boy tricks that always got the girl, but it wasn’t working, and he had to make some real substantive changes in his approach, his personality and his heart to actually finally win Maggie over. And that’s interesting and stuff, but we’re a show with aliens, and it’s very science fiction, and I think that Drew was hoping for something to be able to chomp onto, certainly something like what Ben had to go through in the second season. I love Drew as an actor, and I think we have a really cool story for him in the third season with this, but it’s a huge challenge.
But the main thing that we were discussing in the writers room, and this is an idea that we had right at the beginning of the season, so it was very hard for us to keep holding back on it until the last episode of the season, is there’s this weird love triangle going on between Maggie, Hal and Karen. And in a weird way, we made it as subtle as we could, but Karen wants him back, and there’s nothing worse than an old girlfriend scorned, and so what did she do to him in order to make sure that a wedge was driven between Maggie and Hal? And since she’s sort of now a minion of the overlords, she has the power to do something really nasty, and I think that’s fun, and it should be fun in the third season too.
Is that parasite that crawled its way into Hal’s ear the same kind of parasite extracted from Tom’s eye in the premiere?
Yeah, we joked that it was the 2.6 version. It’s detected through the eye, and now it’ll go through the brain.
Ben said something very different to Matt than he did to Hal regarding whether he’s going to stick around with the 2nd Mass. Can we assume that the death of Red Eye and other rebel skitters changed things, or is Matt in for a letdown?
No, I think that the idea was at the end in a very hopefully succinct way have Tom, who’s basically about to say to Matt, “Your brother’s got important work to do,” and it was Ben basically saying, “No, I’m here to stay.” You’ll notice that there’s a moment at which the dying Red Eye communicates with Ben, and while we don’t articulate that, what he’s saying in essence is “It’s time now for you to be with your family. You’ve done a job.” I just was afraid that since Ben does the talking for Red Eye, I just thought it would be weird if he talked for himself. I think Ben has realized that his place is with his family, and that’s where he can do the most good.
A skitter question for you: We got the revelation last season that the skitters were once harnessed when Lourdes and Anne dissected one. It’s not quite clear whether the harnesses turned the skitters into the six-legged creatures they look like now or whether their own skin just grew over the harness and they’ve always looked that. Can you clear that up and let us know whether we should be worried about the harnessed kids?
Oh, we should definitely be worried about the harnessed kids. The rule that Steven insisted on right from the beginning and I embraced and followed is that we don’t learn any more about the aliens or the mythology than our characters learn. We learn them as the characters learn them. I’ll break that rule for five seconds because I know there’s been a lot of speculation about this on boards and stuff. Our take is that, no, that’s what the skitters looked like. They were six-legged creatures on their planet, and basically they looked like that. What the harness does – it does a lot of things — but one of the side effects of it is that it creates a sort of exoskeleton around the creature itself, and you can see that happening to our human kids. In fact, our nickname for them in the writers room is “crusty kids.”
Like Jenny a few episodes ago.
Jenny, and her brother who we didn’t see very well, but we will actually probably be seeing the full result of what the harness has done to our children, which is devastating and horrific.
It seems like the 2nd mass would be able to find out all about what the harnesses do, since Ben can communicate with the skitters, but who knows how much they’ve actually told him.
That’s right. And I think that they actually are learning more and more about the harnesses and the harnesses’ effect, and that’s something we’ll continue to keep exploring way into the whole series, but certainly in the third season.
So Anne is pregnant! Tell me about why you guys decided to add a pregnancy storyline into the mix, as if things weren’t complicated enough for the Mason family.
Part of it is simply just that. I think it’s good, especially in a show like this, just to keep conflict and complications happening. I think it presents a challenge. One of the things I like about it is that it presents a challenge not only in Tom and Anne’s relationship but also in the world itself – in this post-apocalyptic world, the question of “How do we raise a child in a world like this?” And we all thought it would be an interesting way to go with it and also to give Anne some challenges herself. Now of course the grand irony of it all is that shortly after we filmed that episode, Moon Bloodgood, the actress herself actually became pregnant.
You didn’t know she was pregnant at the time you wrote this?
Nope. We had no idea. I said to Moon, “Boy, you are a method actress, aren’t you?”
Is the timing of Moon’s pregnancy going to work well with shooting season 3?
Pretty much, yes.
Tom seemed to take the news pretty well. He had some really sweet things to say to Anne about what it means to bring a child into this world. Do you think that’s the whole truth of how he’s feeling about this, or is he hiding anything about what he thinks about having another kid on the way?
I think you can see in that scene if you look at it closely that Tom’s saying the right things, but he certainly has his own doubts about the situation. Noah and I and Moon and Greg Beeman, the director, we all really sat down and talked about that scene for a long time, with the idea of hopefully getting some shading in there. I think Tom’s being supportive, and I think he actually does believe what he says. Tom Mason’s not a guy that just throws out platitudes, but I think that there’s a lot of doubt in his mind as well.
How often do you guys sit around the writers table and go, “OK, what can we do this week to really gross out and creep out our audience?”
Oh, every day.
You really brought things to a new level this season with the parasite in Tom and Hal, the harness factory, the crawlies. I’m almost worried you’re not going to be able to top the creep factor next season.
Yeah, well, that’s a good challenge. I’m willing to take that challenge. As you probably know, Steven Spielberg loves the show and is very involved in it, and we’ve had many discussions where a lot of the stuff that we did in the second season came directly out of those discussions, and sometimes he is like – which is what I think makes him a genius – he’s like a 14-year-old boy. We had one discussion about The Tingler, which is an old ’50s horror movie about this thing that would creep around and suddenly attach onto you and stuff. A lot of the harness factory came out of that discussion. And one day we were trying to think of how to come up with a clever way that we’ve never seen before that the aliens have somehow implanted something in Tom, and I think it was [producer] David Weddle one day sent us all a link of these parasite eye worm things in Brazil or whatever. I watched it and jumped out of my seat when I saw that, and I said, “OK, we’re doing that.” And the crawlies, well, that was a combination of everything. Steven said, “I want to see if there’s small aliens. Can’t we do small aliens?” And we started popping ideas back and forth and the writers and me and everybody. Then of course you get artists like Aaron Sims involved in the design of all that. It’s pretty amazing.
It’s always great to hear how involved Steven Spielberg is in the making of the show.
I’m convinced that he has a clone. I don’t understand how he does everything and still is able to send me notes on specific scripts. It’s quite remarkable.
You start shooting the new season on Wednesday. I think fans tend to overestimate how much influence their opinions have on their favorite shows, but you also mentioned that you do read what fans post on message boards online. How do you feel about being set to shoot season 3 before fans have seen the end of season 2?
First of all, I have been following the boards during the entire season and listened and tried as best I could to hear what the fans were saying. And I’m hoping that that will influence itself into the third season. Everybody has an opinion. And I have read many a posting that says, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life!” and scroll down to a comment that says, “This is the best thing that I’ve ever seen!” So I try very hard, and all of us try I think, to get the essence and the consensus of the fans’ feelings about it.
This is not my first genre show, and one thing I’ve often explained to colleagues who are working on shows that don’t have the kind of fan base that we have is that it’s suicide to not keep track of the pulse of the fans. I’ve seen them turn ugly on more than one occasion, and I want to be able to deliver to them what they like seeing most. Having said all of that, I’ve got a budget, I’ve got a network, I’ve got studio people all giving me input also. And at the end of the day, I’ve always stuck with the philosophy that I want to produce a show that I would like to see. Hopefully there’s enough people like me that want to see that show too.
Well, there were enough people like that to get it renewed pretty quickly.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome