It’s a sunny late September day on the Vancouver set of alien invasion series Falling Skies, and director Greg Beeman is wishing there were more wind.
The cast and crew of the TNT sci-fi show are working on a long tracking shot of the Falling Skies heroes cleaning up after a battle in their home base of Charleston, where an American flag, for now, hangs limp on a pole in the center of town.
“I want that American flag to furl,” Beeman says. “Is it ‘furl’ or ‘unfurl’?” A crew member sitting next to him in video village assures him they want the flag to unfurl. The energetic director claps and chants, “Unfurl, baby, unfurl” before adding, “Raise it really quickly so it catches the wind and flows real pretty.”
Beeman commits several takes to making that flag in the wind a cinematic opening to the long shot through Charleston, but it’s about more than making it look “pretty” — the American flag is also part of some essential imagery for a show that has, since its beginning, loosely alluded to the American Revolutionary War. Humans find themselves fighting on their own turf for independence from aliens. When various infrastructures crumble after the invasion, for the survivors whose story started in Boston, the American flag remains “an iconic and tangible symbol of who they are and what they’re fighting for,” showrunner Remi Aubuchon said.
That nod to the Revolutionary War continues to evolve in season 3 — which premieres on TNT tonight — when the show picks up seven months after the cliffhanger of last summer’s finale: A new alien species called the Vohm has arrived, and they become Falling Skies’ own version of the French.
“[Similar to] the involvement of the French in the American Revolution, there’s this sense of having an ally, knowing full well that their agenda may not be our agenda, that they might not have cared that much for us, but we’re winning finally. What compromises are you willing to make? What are you willing to do in order to have a victory?” Aubuchon said. “The Vohm appear to be humanitarian or whatever that would be in terms of their race. They appear to be free in the sharing of their technology with us. But is there another agenda lurking in the shadows that we don’t know about?”
One of the Vohm, Cochise (played by Hellboy’s Doug Jones), is now a close ally for Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) in the battle against the enemy invaders. Tom has gone from history professor pre-invasion to second in command of the 2nd Mass — the show’s core group of resistance fighters — and in season 3 he becomes president of what remains of the United States, in its new capital, Charleston. Tom and Cochise’s relationship takes some inspiration from George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette.
“Washington was always wary of the French involvement. And Lafayette made him nervous,” Aubuchon explained. “And here’s a professor who suddenly finds himself in a leadership position. He’s always talked about leaders academically, but now he is one. And that changes him.”
Tom’s new position as president also impacts his relationship with his family. He’s less available to his three sons.
“For the last two years the [Mason] boys have been clamoring for some independence and some autonomy and to be seen as young men in their father’s eyes, and Tom has been very reluctant to cut those apron strings,” Wyle told EW while on set last fall during production of the fourth episode of the new season. “But now he has taken on this additional responsibility, and the end result is that he doesn’t really spend as much time with them as before. Hopefully what we’ll do is we’ll play out these individual story lines until they reach a moment of crisis where it can only be solved by the family going back together and finding those roots again.”
Aubuchon told EW that season 3 is even more complex and layered than last summer’s episodes because the new season juggles more conflicts: There’s something not quite right with Tom and Anne’s newborn baby – or so Anne thinks, which creates tensions between her and Tom and between her and Lourdes. There’s the alien parasite Karen placed in Hal, which complicates things for Hal’s relationship with Maggie. There’s Pope’s newfound power as the head of a black market and bartering system. There’s young Matt Mason’s blossoming rebellious phase. There’s a mole in Charleston who is feeding strategies and secrets to the alien enemy. And there’s the 2nd Mass’ continued adjustment to life off the road as they settle into Charleston.
But amid all the political intrigue, history allusions, and family drama, there is still of course plenty of sci-fi action, which is something the cast and crew get very excited for on set. During filming of a scene in Pope’s new bar on that September day in Vancouver, a buzz of anticipation was building for the impending battle scene. After the last take of the scene with Pope, Beeman bellowed, “Any problems? No? Good. Let’s go blow shiznat up.”
The blowing up of shiznat begins when Falling Skies’ season 3 premiere airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT tonight on TNT. Subsequent episodes following the two-hour premiere will air on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
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