‘Falling Skies’ Finale: Why the Series Ended on a ‘Very American’ Note (and How the Series ‘Almost’ Ended)
Spoiler Alert: Details from the Falling Skies series finale below.
After five seasons and three showrunners, Falling Skies, TNT’s alien-invasion series from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, concluded Sunday night with hero Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) killing the Espheni queen and surviving to celebrate a new and better world. In an exclusive interview, executive producer David Eick (who arrived in Season 4) tells us all about it.
In the end, it was a decisive victory for the Mason family and the 2nd Massachusetts. Was this your ending or was it passed down from the creators and Steven Spielberg?
It wasn’t pre-ordained by the network or Amblin, but it did become a collaboration with the folks at Amblin, including Mr. Spielberg. I presented him with a very broad strokes proposal about the character arcs, and how Tom Mason and the 2nd Mass would have to go a philosophical and moral place nearly as dark as the enemy in order to defeat them. That was very exciting to him and TNT. I also proposed the ending that you saw. He was in favor of it, offered some thoughts, which we used and it came out great.
You, along with Ron Moore, were responsible for that ambiguous mystical Battlestar Galactica ending; why such a straightforward finale for Skies?
There was an inherent supernatural element to Battlestar from the beginning. Falling Skies was very grounded and realistic, and ironically, terrestrial. So anything other than that would have felt contrived. That said, I’ve done a final episode that has an alien queen monster and exploding alien beasts in the sky, so it’s not exactly what I would call a documentary.
Is the ending a patriotic paean to can-do Americans?
There’s an unapologetic patriotism in its sensibility, but it’s not jingoism or a Deer Hunter polemic. It’s a very optimistic and hopeful resolution and very American. It’s also egalitarian, open and multi-culti in its approach.
When Tom ends his speech to the assembled multitudes, he says that humans have learned “we are not alone.” He seemed to mean that in an inclusive way, not a warning way?
“We are not alone” is the tagline from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s kind of meta in a Spielberg way, but also very appropriate to the message of the show.
You made the decision that none of the Masons or their closest friends would die. Why?
Before I got to the show, there were terrific episodes about losing members of the 2nd Mass, but by this season especially, that chord had been played. We know that the stakes are real. In the finale, one of our new members sacrificed himself and we got the very near miss with Anne (Moon Bloodgood). There was enough death in the episode.
Did you ever consider really killing Anne in the finale?
The nature of Falling Skies isn’t that hopeless and nihilistic. In Battlestar, we would have killed the mom and the child. Then played a game of poker. But it’s not the flavor of this show.
You went a bit supernatural with the newly arrived aliens, the Dornia, bringing Anne back from the dead.
Our rules for the Dornia were established in the first episode this season. In some mysterious way they were able to save Tom, which was so inexplicable that Tom was almost executed for coming back from space alive. In the final episode we learned that the Dornia, through their relationship with the water, could protect, reinvigorate and even resurrect. We never really say Tom and Anne are dead, just most likely near death, and through an organic method, healed.
You did absolutely kill Tom’s ally-turned-enemy Pope (Colin Cunningham). When he died, Tom barely acknowledged the fact. He tortured Tom’s son Hal (Drew Roy), but it still seemed cold.
Noah and Colin always had a bit of friction and that dynamic played nicely on camera. What we decided to do this season, with Spielberg’s blessing, was take Pope back to where we met him: a damaged individual. He came close to redeeming himself but after the death of the one woman he loved, he fell all the way back into bitterness and madness. That was really sort of the tragedy of Season 5. Tom was, more than angry at the end, he was just indifferent to Pope.
Was there a tiny bit of redemption for the dying Pope? He didn’t shoot Tom when he could have.
Exactly. He knew that his own death was the only gesture he could make that had any hope of making amends for what he did.
Was the Espheni queen digital or part puppet? She was a cool creation.
That was all a digital creation, enhanced terrifically by the voice of Battlestar’s Tricia Helfer. She really gave the character a soul. I had pitched to Spielberg that the queen had suffered a personal pain. It was assumed that the invasion was all about some galactic strategy and of course there was some military application, but in the end it was an emotional vendetta that the queen needed to exact. She was enraged that when her daughter first arrived on Earth, the people killed her.
And ate her.
Yes, ate her. The network was nervous about the consuming, the head on the stake in that story. But they appropriately gave in because those details helped you understand what motivated the creature.
Is there room for a spinoff series or a TV movie after this finale?
I was a hired gun here, and on my way to my next thing [a Syfy series based on Frederik Pohl’s sci-fi classic Gateway], so I don’t have any say, but I will tell you my original ending. We’re listening to Tom as he’s ending his speech and the camera goes up to the stars when he says “We are not alone” and then dives back down to the Washington Memorial. Earlier, when Tom broke open the vial and the creature goes into his flesh to poison the queen, the creature then crawled away. In the final scene, we would have found that critter and watched as he scurries away. Then cut to black. They didn’t want to do that. [Laughs]
That smacks of an Eick-style ending.
Because that’s who I am. [Laughs] But the final ending is in keeping with the style of the tone and show, which is hopeful, and as I said very American. I hope it didn’t feel too mawkish.