How often do the masterminds behind Falling Skies sit around the writers room saying, “OK, so how can we totally gross out our audience in this episode?”
“Oh, every day,” showrunner Remi Aubuchon admitted to EW following last weekend’s season 2 finale.
All that bouncing around of ideas about how to creep out the viewers at home certainly produced plenty of scares in the sci-fi TNT show’s first two seasons.
Here EW re-visits the six grossest, creepiest, most shocking moments of Falling Skies, with a little help from actor Drew Roy (Hal Mason) filling us in on how it all went down on set.
Some of these scenes have more of a creep factor, some lean more toward the shocking or the gross, but they all are memorable moments of quality sci-fi TV, made all the more tense nail-biters because all this is happening to characters whose fates we’ve become invested in.
Read on for my picks for the top six (in honor of our dear six-legged skitters) grossest, creepiest, most shocking moments on Falling Skies, plus Roy’s memories from shooting them and watching them along with the fans as they aired on summer Sunday nights.
6. Hal disguises himself as a harnessed kid (season 1, episode 5: “Silent Kill”)
In a significant development in Hal and Tom’s relationship, the father has to reign in his protective instincts and let his son go on a dangerous mission to rescue his other son.
Hal, disguised as a harnessed kid using Rick’s detached harness, sneaks through the halls of the hospital where the skitters are keeping the captured children, including Ben Mason. The Falling Skies crew supplied plenty to build the suspense of the scene: The patrolling mechs droning outside, the unnaturally dark halls of the pediatric ward casting shadows over the murals of smiling dogs and storks, the emotionless harnessed children shuffling toward their room.
Once Hal slides into the circle of sleeping children, we get precariously close to the skitter, who’s nesting on top of all the kids. Then – oh, ew – the skitter strokes Ben’s and Hal’s hair. The commercial break left us there, and when we returned, I was definitely holding my breath just like Hal surely was.
Even Hal’s victorious moment of stabbing the skitter in its soft palate isn’t without another dose of creepiness: All these harnessed kids are clawing at Hal, trying to protect this creature who they call, as we later learn, their guardian.
Drew Roy’s take: “I just had the best time sneaking in there and getting to pull off such a heroic move as stabbing a skitter in the mouth and fighting with it. That little fight sequence that went down — the guy in the puppeteer suit who’s playing the skitter can’t really see out of that mask. They actually have to put an oxygen tube in there in between takes so he can breathe. So he’s flailing around and popping me in the face. And I’m giving it right back to him. We get a nice little battle going. Every now and then he’ll hit you in the mouth. I had cuts and whatnot from my lips smacking up against my teeth. It was borderline a real fight.”
5. Rescue mission in the harness factory (season 2, episode 4: “Young Bloods”)
Halfway through season 2, we finally got to see the horrifying process of latching these harnesses onto kids. Many fans had been itching to see this for a long time, but we could have used the warning, “Be careful what you wish for.”
It’s a scene that had me curled up on my couch in the fetus position. The sheer helplessness of these kids trapped on the makeshift operating tables made this all the more difficult to watch. And the harnessing process was more gruesome that we could have imagined: Props to whoever came up with the idea to have the harnesses be creatures of their own, slimy things that slide their way toward these kids before striking them with their pointy spikes. That was such a close call for poor, little Matt – I was thinking, “The writers had Ben harnessed – who’s to say they won’t go there with Matt?” so I was really fearing for his safety there.
Drew Roy’s take: “We pick some of the creepiest, darkest, coldest, most industrial-looking sets, and this was definitely one of the best ones. It was incredibly cold at that point in the shoot, and for whatever reason, inside of this building it was like a refrigerator. It held even more of the cold in, so that kind of lent to the eerie feeling in there, almost like you have this ghost presence. And with those throbbing, orange-ish lights, it was a creepy place.”
4. Lourdes and Anne dissect a skitter (season 1, episode 8: “What Hides Beneath”)
The scene when Lourdes and Anne dissect the captured, dead skitter presented a shocking turning point for the series that set things up for the impending skitter rebellion.
Plus, this moment gave us the gross factor of a medical drama operation scene – except instead of human blood and guts filling our screen, it was the gooey innards of an alien. Lourdes and Anne saw, cut, and finger their way through the skitter’s exoskeleton, sinews, and veins to discover that, beneath it all, is a harness just like the ones that have imprisoned so many human children.
Then viewers got psyched out with the possibility “that maybe they weren’t always skitters… that this thing might have been something else,” as Anne theorizes – a chilling omen for what may become of Ben. But recently Aubuchon cleared up the mystery for EW, clarifying that the skitters actually have always looked like the six-legged creatures as we know them. So no humans morphing into skitters in season 3 – but we can look forward to the sure-to-be-creepy image of exoskeleton-growing “crusty kids.”
Drew Roy’s take: “There had already been a little talk on the set that that’s what was going on with the skitters. When one of producers first told me about it, it was a huge shock for me, but then when I read it in the script, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I know that,’ and I just kept going. So it didn’t have that big of an effect on me until I saw it when it aired, and I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot that this is it, this is the moment when we find a harness in a skitter,’ and that sort of opens up this whole door to what these skitters might be.”
3. Crawlies attack the 2nd Mass (season 2, episode 7: “Molon Labe”)
Oh, Falling Skies, how you like to toy with us. You give us a long-waited-for romantic moment, then rapidly switch gears to creep-out mode.
“Molon Labe” (that’s Greek for “Come and take them,” made famous by the Spartans’ invasion of Thermopylae) featured a new alien, but it wasn’t a tall, looming creature like the overlords. These new little critters took arachnophobia to a new level. Just after fans were treated to some Hal/Maggie smooching, the crawlies start invading the 2nd Mass’ hospital sanctuary-turned-prison. The majorly squirm-inducing, spider-like creatures didn’t just haunt our nightmares with their ability to bore through metal walls with their rows of little teeth – they also harkened back to the fears implanted in us by films like Alien, the fear of being eaten from the inside out by slimy, extraterrestrial creatures. The image of crawlies climbing out of the mouth of a bloodied Jamil certainly sticks with Lourdes, utterly breaking her and her will to hold onto hope for survival and victory.
Drew Roy’s take: “Before we shot the scene, they told us [the crawlies] were going to be sort of spider-like, and they showed us about how big they were going to be, but as far as exactly what they were going to look like, we didn’t know. All I needed to hear was, ‘They look kind of like spiders,’ and I thought, ‘Well, I hate spiders, so we’ll go from there.'”
2. Tom’s parasite (season 2, episode 2: “Shall We Gather at the River”)
It is very rare that I will turn my head away from the TV for a single second of Falling Skies. There isn’t much that makes me really, truly squeamish, but I have to confess, the way to mess with me is to make a mess of eyeballs. This scene had me hiding behind my hands, timidly getting an occasional peek at the screen from between my fingers.
This scene foreshadows the finale’s scene of another Mason’s encounter with an alien parasite. That one leans more toward creepy. This one, though, is just disgusting.
The tiny parasite slithers not beneath Tom’s eye, but actually within his eyeball. “Take it out!” Tom yells, to which Anne responds, “Hold on. You don’t know what this involves. If I get this wrong, you could lose sight in your eye.” So the stakes are high for one of the 2nd Mass’ best marksmen, but the skilled Dr. Glass succeeds in her emergency extraction procedure, though not before we were thrust a close look at the parasite being pried out of Tom’s eye, as Anne tweezed it out from just beneath the iris.
Drew Roy’s take: “I showed up on set the scene after they shot that. Everybody just had this look in their eye, and I knew that they had just shot the scene, so I asked a couple people how it went, and everybody kept commenting on how Noah’s scream was so excruciating that everyone was just cringing. No CGI yet, nothing – just Noah’s scream alone had people’s stomachs churning.”
1. Hal’s parasite (season 2, episode 10: “A More Perfect Union”)
In last weekend’s season finale, fans were left with a cliffhanger for the eldest Mason brother – one final frightening image of Hal that’s sure to stay with us through the long wait to season 3.
When that parasite crawled across Hal’s face, I was yelling at the screen, “Swat it off! Swat it off! What are you doing just standing there?!” And then it cut to that look on his face, and I thought, “Oh. Ohh nooo.”
As if it wasn’t enough to gross us out with a parasite alien crawling underneath Hal’s skin, plus an extreme close-up of a parasite alien crawling out of Hal’s eye and across his face, with its black tail swishing back and forth and its six tiny legs, then we had to get chilled to the bone by this series of looks on his face: First, pleasure, as if he’s getting some kind of soothing massage, and then a slight nod of the head like he’s listening to whatever that slithering creature is saying in his brain (Nooo! Don’t listen to it, Hal!), and then that creepy, creepy smile (I never thought the adorable smile of our favorite high school jock-turned-alien resistance warrior could look so evil, verging on manic), and finally, a stony, ominous look of determination to accomplish whatever horrific mission this parasite has set out for him. Creeepy!
Drew Roy’s take: “They actually gave me quite a bit of artistic freedom on this one because when they wrote it, they had ideas of where they could take it, but truthfully, we didn’t know the exact direction it was gonna go… Since it was Karen who had planted this bug in me, I wanted to sort of go for a sensual kind of feel with this thing going into his brain, kind of like an endorphin explosion.”
As for what the future holds for parasite-infested Hal, Roy told EW that his prep for the shift in the role has included watching The Shining and Take Shelter.
Beyond that, he teased only this: “There’s gonna be a very blatant shock as to something that has happened to Hal, but it won’t be in a dark, creepy way that you might be thinking. That’s gonna unveil itself in the first episode. Then this second thing that’s revealed will just have you scratching your head and thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, how are we gonna get Hal back?'”
So, Falling Skies fans, what moments from the series gave you the heebie jeebies for days after you first watched them on TNT? Freaked out by Tom’s ascent into the overlord’s ship in the season 1 finale? Still haunted by the first time Ben stretched out his arms to communicate with the skitters? Still battling conflicting feelings about the bat-faced new alien in last weekend’s episode? Head on down to the comments section below, and tell us about your favorite gross, creepy and shocking scenes in Falling Skies.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome