Each week, MTV Geek will sit down with the writers of TNT's alien invasion drama "Falling Skies" and in a spoiler-heavy interview about the developments in the latest episode. Who lives, who dies, and what strange new factions will develop in the third season as the 2nd Mass escalates their conflict with the alien invaders.
MTV Geek: What was the genesis behind putting Tom and Pope in a such a fraught situation together?
Jordan Rosenberg: Isn't it obvious? This is a love that couldn't be denied! But really, my first instinct is to ask what I want to watch in an episode. Because, as the writer, you're the first audience - and you want to give the viewing audience something truly fun and twisted and sick and revealing. I mean, my family watches this show - I don't want to get a call saying they were bored!
Along those lines, I need a story to play out in an unpredictable way, especially for me. And you never know what will happen between Tom and Pope. Remi Aubuchon, our fearless leader, wanted to do this story for a while - the idea being, Tom usually has the Masons and the Presidency to lean on, Pope has the Berzerkers and the Nest. But not in the wilderness.
Obviously, it's an explosive pairing. The maxim that people can't stand in others what they can't stand in themselves plays out quite a bit here. These guys are, in some respects, mirrors of each other. Both intelligent, natural alphas, with a strong sense of loyalty to their respective causes. Of course, Tom pushes himself to take the high road, Pope wallows in the low.
What surprised me in the writing was realizing that Pope doesn't exist without Tom. You can't live on the fringe if there is no center. I believe Pope comes to see that truth, despite his endless protests. Tom antagonizing Pope to leave him and save himself doesn't surprise Tom - but Pope coming back for Tom, at risk to his own life? I don't think Pope knew he'd do that.
Geek: Has Matt Frewer's exit been in the works for a while? With Bressler gone, the dynamic back in Charlotte is more like the old Will-Tom dynamic of the 2nd Mass.
Rosenberg: Poor Bressler, huh? One thing characters like Lars, Crazy Lee, and now Bressler have proven this season - is that death is hanging over everyone's head on "Falling Skies."
As far as us having some grand plan to impale this particular character with a tree… I think it was just the right move given the place the story and character were in at the time. Matt Frewer is awesome, and Bressler's had a really interesting arc. He starts out as something of an antagonist, and by the time he dies, we've peeled back several layers of the guy and seen he hasn't made his choices lightly. Was there more to show about this character? Absolutely. But he crashed a plane into an alpine forest. Realistically, not everyone's going to walk away from that.
That realism is the master I think we serve more than anything. Yes, we want to shift power dynamics. The audience needs us to keep things fresh - but there are lots of ways to do that without killing people. Death just happens to be part of the landscape on this show, and we can't shy away from that.
Geek: Several of the other writers have suggested that the 2nd Mass as a whole is suffering PTSD--particularly Pope. Is that's what's being manifest this episode?
Rosenberg: Oh yeah. The 2nd Mass is an emotional disaster! Just look at Matt, blowing the hell out of abandoned houses. Now that they have settled down in Charleston, all that repressed emotional darkness is bubbling up. And Pope is no exception. He has a definite undercurrent of PTSD that dictates his quasi-nihilist behavior. His sense of not giving a damn about anything is almost a preemptive strike on the world. He'll hurt it first before it hurts him.
But in this episode, I think we're going deeper than just the trauma of the war. Yes, he's still reeling from Crazy Lee's death, and he blames Tom for what he sees as his part in all of that. But I think this episode is more about airing the dirty laundry and confronting what's at the source of the fundamental antagonism between Tom and Pope. What made them tick even before the war.
Geek: What kind of conversations, if any, did you have with Noah about Tom's breakdown this episode? He seems hopeless here.
Rosenberg: I personally had no conversations with him. But Noah is flat-out amazing with anything you give him, and we knew he would pour in two-and-a-half seasons worth of pain into this performance.
Geek: Could you talk a little about some of the points of inspiration for Hal's gradual transformation over the last two episodes? The most interesting thing about "head" Hal is that he's less malevolent and more just... cocky.
Rosenberg: Well, that's obviously Drew Roy just playing himself. The mask is off! (Kidding, Drew's the world's nicest Southern gentleman!)
But Drew's take is a pretty great one, isn't it? He definitely didn't want to just go for mustache-twirling evil, and neither did we. As a viewer, now watching the show several months after we wrote it, it feels to me like the eye bug is a piece of malicious software that's hacked Hal's hardware. And it almost feels like it's trying to be an "undercover" version of Hal when it takes over. Which is nothing if not CREEPY.
Now as far as a lack of malevolence, I would say just stay tuned.
Geek: Finally, we now have a better sense of the scope of the weapon that the Volm are building. Only five episodes in, and it feels like a shoe is already dropping in this storyline, adding to the sense that you guys are really burning through story beats this season. What kind of discussions have the writers had about pacing and laying out major beats this season?
Rosenberg: Yeah, we're burning through beats. But one thing I admired about "Falling Skies" from afar, and then from inside the writers room was that the show doesn't put the brakes on. It's a hard launch, and things just keep rocketing forward. We can do that because we have ten episodes. We don't do filler, so whether the episode is more plot-heavy or character-heavy, we are always positioning the pieces on the board for the season's final confrontations.