'Falling Skies' season 3 finale: Showrunner answers burning questions!
The third season of Falling Skies has kept viewers on the edge of their seats as the stakes were raised for the Mason family and other beloved characters, but Sunday the TNT sci-fi show wrapped up for the summer.
EW has answers to your burning questions about tonight’s finale straight from showrunner Remi Aubuchon.
SPOILER ALERT: Stop right there, move no further, as if a Mega Mech just stomped into your path, unless you’re ready to read details of tonight’s season finale of Falling Skies.
Though Falling Skies had quite the creepy and cliffhanger-filled season 2 finale to live up to, the season 3 capper delivered both action-packed and intimate moments, and it satisfactorily closed some season-long arcs while opening up juicy new storylines.
The end of season 3 marks the end of Aubuchon’s tenure as the show runner for Falling Skies. His departure from the series will afford him more time to work on his debut novel. In season 4, Battlestar Galactica alum David Eick will take over showrunning duties. Aubuchon filled EW in on the making of tonight’s finale, titled “Brazil,” and though Eick was unavailable for an interview, Aubuchon provided some teases for what’s to come on Falling Skies in season 4.
Read on for why Aubuchon decided to kill off Karen in the way he did, what’s going on with Lexi, how a scientific advisor helped the writers craft the yet-to-be-revealed Espheni end-game, and whether season 4 will feature a new love triangle.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, this is it. How are you feeling about saying goodbye to Falling Skies?
REMI AUBUCHON: I have a huge amount of mixed feelings about it. From a point of view of my personal journey, I probably made the right decision. I have a lot of pain and nostalgia [laugh] – we’ll call it separation anxiety. Comic-Con killed me in many ways emotionally because when you’re in a room with 3,000 fans who in some ways know the show even better than you do, you get all of that energy and you just don’t want to stop. That was kind of sad in some ways for me. But good too.
How are things working from the transition from you to David Eick showrunning? Have you talked with David about a lot of your ideas for season 4, or are you leaving it totally in his hands?
At the beginning we had several conversations. David and I are friends, so we’ve known each other for a long time. I actually recommended him for the job. And we sat and talked about mythology. We talked about where I was going, what I hoped to leave on his plate for him to make some amazing meal out of. But once that initial conversation was done, I kind of left it to David to figure out what to do. And David and Carol Barbee [who will also join Falling Skies in season 4 as a producer] and the rest of the staff there have years of experience, and I feel really confident that they’re going to come up with something really cool for the fourth season.
To be honest, when I took over in the second season, I watched the finale of the first season and I kind of went, “Tom getting in a spaceship – okay.” I asked everybody, “What were you thinking [would happen next]?” and they go, “Uh, we don’t know.” I wanted to leave David with a little more than that.
The Volm initially want to send the 2nd Mass to Brazil, away from the warzone. What is the writers’ picture of how things look in Brazil? Is it less affected by the invasion than the areas we’ve seen on the show?
We’re always trying to open up world a little more, and while we didn’t explore it in great detail, the implication was that a lot of South America hadn’t been as affected by the Espheni invasion as the rest of the world was. Part of that is just that strategically it probably didn’t make sense for the Espheni in preparing for the inevitable Volm conflict. I just like the notion that there might be some spots in the world that are relatively free of the war, as has happened in almost every giant conflict in the world. The Afghans have a very different point of view of the war there than we do.
Most fascinating in this Brazil storyline was watching Cochise in these scenes with his father, seeing how torn he is. How did knowing you had these scenes to lead up to impact how you developed Cochise’s arc throughout the season?
That’s one thing we knew right at the beginning that we were going to do – that even Cochise knew right from the beginning [about the plan to send the 2nd Mass to Brazil]. And we talked to Doug Jones [who plays Cochise] about this as well, that Cochise knows what’s going to happen. He doesn’t want to talk about it because he’s under orders not to. But he knows exactly what’s going to happen, and when it finally comes up, you can kind of see right at the beginning that Cochise is a little uneasy about everything. Even when the spaceship lands, everybody’s cheering, and Cochise is kind of, “Okay, well, now I’m going to have to really finally face what’s coming, which is my father telling these guys, ‘We’re shipping you off.’” And he tries to make the best of it. There’s a couple things I love about that scene when his father is telling Tom and Colonel Weaver that they’re going to Brazil, and you can just see how Cochise is squirming, and it’s just one of those lovely moments. What’s fascinating to me, of course, is that Doug Jones is actually playing both characters, and even though we later re-voiced his father’s character. It’s just one of my favorite scenes – it makes us really like Cochise.
Lexi now appears to be six years old, and she has the power to extract eye worms. Are there other powers she has yet to show us?
To be honest, that’s as far as I got. And so, who knows what they’ve got in mind for the fourth season? We had an inkling that Lexi was a special child. And I think that the big question that is a little subtle but is definitely there is, is that Anne and Lexi? Tom saw them dead. It’s a little coincidental that all of the sudden Anne and Alexis show up in the middle of the woods. I really don’t know what’s going to happen in the fourth season, but certainly our thought was to leave that as an open question. Is that even Anne? Why is she sleeping all the time?
Do you know how big of a time jump there will be from the season 3 finale to where season 4 picks up?
I really don’t. I’ll tell you that one of the reasons that we decided to make a seven-month jump at the beginning of this season is that when you have a limited number of episodes, you really want to make sure that you’re going to get the maximum impact of the story that you’re going to tell episode-by-episode. The real technical reason why we jumped ahead seven months was just to get the storytelling going at an exciting point instead of it being five episodes of learning about the Volm and learning about Tom becoming president. I’m not saying those aren’t valid stories, but they’re just not as high-impact stories as “Oh my God, there’s a mole, and we’re under attack, and what do you mean Karen is now the new overlord?” It just seemed like a better place to start, so I wouldn’t be surprised if David is planning a similar jump because it’s just smart storytelling.
At Comic-Con you got a sense of just how ready fans are to see Karen dead, even if that scene you screened turned out to be Tom shooting Karen in a dream. Why did you decide it was finally time?
It was partially driven by Tom’s journey and story. He had been through such hell this season. And believe me – we went back and forth on it a lot. Even though that was a notion that we had right at the beginning, we often kept trying to talk ourselves out of killing Karen, and one of the main reasons is because we just love Jessy Schram so much. Not only is she the nicest person on the planet, but she is just so wonderful as Karen, and we really didn’t want to get rid of her, but at the end of the day, we really felt that Tom needed that victory. And even though it may be a hollow somewhat muddy kind of victory, we just felt like he really needed to be able to – for lack of a better way to say it – just kill that bitch. But it’s of course bittersweet because Karen was one of us. Just as she’s dying and she’s asking for forgiveness – of course that’s when Maggie just goes, “the hell with this” and puts her out of her misery – it’s bittersweet because she was part of the 2nd Mass, and we loved her, but she finally turned so much to the dark side that that was that.
Tell us about watching footage of Maggie in the moment she shot Karen, staring down Hal with that intense look as she does it. How did that compare to what you imagined when you wrote it?
What I love about my job is watching actors take things you write and interpret it. It was very close to the moment that I wanted for sure, but what Sarah [Carter, who plays Maggie] does with that moment, there’s so many things going on in her face that I would have had to write 30 pages to get all of that in. It’s so complicated in that look of helplessness on Hal’s face. It’s just a beautiful moment.
Maggie and Hal’s relationship is on the rocks in the finale. Also in this episode we see Hal closer to Lourdes than we’ve seen him before. I’m sure they can really relate to each other now since they’ve both been controlled by eye worms. Even though Karen is gone, is there still room for a love triangle in Falling Skies?
Hmm, maybe. It was certainly our intention to complicate that relationship. And the thing that is interesting – this is kind of a behind-the-scenes thing, but it’s worth talking about a little – I’ve always been a huge fan of Seychelle Gabriel [who plays Lourdes]. Not only is she a really good person, but from the minute I saw her onscreen in the first season, I said, “There’s something about that actor that’s really great.” But the character didn’t really allow us to expand very much on who she was because she was kind of always on the sidelines and she wasn’t always involved in the direct action of it. We really wanted to find a way to exploit the talent that Seychelle has, and so we had made the decision from the start [of season 3] that Lourdes was going to be the mole. We weren’t exactly sure when we were going to be revealing that, but we had an idea that it was going to be three-quarters into the season. We told Seychelle pretty much on the first day of shooting. And I think that, as you can see, Lourdes already is a much richer character, and I think that where there probably could never have been a chance for romance between Hal and Lourdes, all of the sudden, as you rightly observed, there’s a little spark going on there because of some sort of shared experience. So who knows what’s going to happen there? But I would imagine that something‘s going to happen.
Why did Lourdes not use her position as a doctor to infect the entire Charleston camp?
Our thought right at the top was she was given a very specific assignment. It wasn’t necessarily to create complete and utter havoc, but it was to prevent the Volm from using that weapon. And she did a lot of subtle things to make sure that was the case. If she’d done anything more overt or larger in scale, she would have been detected, the objective of the Espheni would have been lost, and her mission would have been over. It’s only towards the end when things get messy that she starts to take huge action because none of the subtle action she’s done has been able to prevent that from happening.
That and things we’ve seen in previous seasons seem to indicate that the Espheni’s goal is not to wipe out all humans. It makes me even more curious to find out why the Espheni invaded.
It’s interesting because one of the things that I love – one of the rules that Steven [Spielberg] gave us was that we could only see what was going on from the point of view of our characters, that we never broke away to figure out what’s going on. I’ll tell you that we have worked out all of that big mythology and know what the big picture is in what’s happening. We even had our science advisor, Kevin Grazier [who also worked with Battlestar Galactica writers], build a 3-D model of the universe so we knew where the Espheni came from and where the Volm came from so we could kind of get an idea of what strategically they were doing. That’ll all be revealed, maybe even in the fourth season, but I felt like we needed to know all of that stuff rather than just faking it, which I’d seen other shows do, but we didn’t want to do that.
In the finale, several characters discuss the question of how they’ll deal when the war is over and they’re done with this life of fighting they’ve grown used to. That’s a question for the show as well – should Falling Skies keep the war going longer and longer as the show gets more season renewals, or eventually could Falling Skies tell a story of reconstruction and what happens to Earth after the war?
This show lives in a world where the backdrop is war because a lot of the stories that we’re exploring are about how a trauma affects people and how we’re able to survive in a world that seems turned upside down. I certainly think that there’s plenty of stories to tell about the post-invasion and trying to pull things back together. But I don’t know if those are the right stories for this show. I’ve always envisioned that whenever we knew it was going to be the last season – which I hope is not for a long time – that at least for the last couple episodes we would show how lives are going to be put back together at the end of it. But I’m not so sure that the series lives in a post-invasion world. It would be interesting.
Checking in on the status of a few characters: Where’s Marina Peralta during the events of the finale? Will Gloria Reuben be back for season 4?
I don’t know that. I know that Gloria has another series that she’s doing, but that doesn’t mean that she’s not available. We had always assumed that when she became the president of the new United States that’s based in Charleston, that that is where her place is going to be. I know that the 2nd Mass is going to inevitably have interaction with Charleston in the coming season, and I would imagine that Marina would be part of that, of course if the actor’s available. I hope she is. I love Gloria. I thought she did a wonderful job this season.
What about Ben’s friend Deni? We saw less of her in the latter half of season 3.
Part of that was an actor availability issue. I love Megan [Danso], and I love that character. We knew that she wasn’t going to be in every episode. I really wanted her in the finale, and it just didn’t end up being possible. I would love to see her back in the fourth season. I hope that happens.
Doug Jones has a three-season option, so it seems like there’s reason to hope we’ll see more of Cochise, or at least Doug Jones playing other Volm characters.
I can’t really speak to what David’s plans are, but I will say that I love that character. There’s more for that character to do in the big story of Falling Skies. We had toyed with various ways in which we were going to leave Cochise at the end of the season. At one point we had him joining up with the 2nd Mass, which might have been okay, but then we thought, “Well, then isn’t he just the token alien who’s hanging out with the fam?” So I really hope that we’ll be seeing him because he’s a wonderful character, and Doug is an amazing actor. And you’re right, he could be playing any Volm, or another alien, or a human character for that matter.
Looking back on your two seasons with Falling Skies, what episode or moment are you most proud of?
There are a lot of little moments. I will say that in the second season, I really loved episode 6 where Karen comes back to the group where they’re holed up in the hospital there. I loved it because there were so many psychological things going on, so much manipulation. We never quite knew what Karen was doing there, why she was there, and watching the way she plays Ben and Hal – everybody did such an amazing job. It’s also notable because, as people, pointed out, there’s no aliens in that episode, but there actually is – and it’s Karen, but we don’t know that then.
My favorite episode was episode 8 this season, which is inside Tom’s head. [Writer] John Wirth had pitched me the bare bones of that idea within the first week that we started, and I loved it. The only trick was to figure out where that was gonna happen and why it was happening. Once we figured that all out, everything really came together, and John just wrote a terrific script. I thought David Soloman did a wonderful job directing it. Because I’m a nerd, those are some of my favorite kind of science fiction stories, where reality is being bent and you’re not quite sure what’s happening, and I just love that.