Falling Skies is back on Sunday (9/8c, TNT)... and Tom Mason will be too from his time away with the alien Overlord.
Tom (Noah Wyle) will return a changed man after the aliens make it pretty clear that his visit aboard the ship was far from a peace offering. In fact, the 2nd Mass will be in even more danger this season, which could actually be Tom's fault.
Still, there may be hope on the horizon when the outside world makes contact. Will the promise of a stable life and safety be too good to be true? TVGuide.com turned to Wyle to get the scoop on the second season, including the quick progression of Anne (Moon Bloodgood) and Tom's relationship and the inevitable, impending deaths.
What can you tell us about Tom's time away with the aliens and what we'll learn when he returns?
Noah Wyle: He goes on the ship essentially to find out a little bit more information about his son Ben. That's sort of his Achilles' heel, his family. But once on board, I think that he realizes, in the midst of this conversation he has with the Overlord, that there are no more negotiations to be had, that there's not going to be any kind of rapprochement or peace to be brokered, and so he gets off the ship with no illusions that there's going to be anything other than a fight to the last man or last stand. It really changes the character fundamentally from somebody who retains an aspect of hope that things are going to work out for the best to a guy who's far more of a realist. He comes back, in a weird way, almost enjoying a transference with Captain Weaver (Will Patton), who started off as a militarist but becomes humanist now that he's reconnected with his family, which we've seen in subsequent episodes. Tom takes the harder line about taking the military approach.
Do the humans actually stand a chance of survival if it is a fight to the death?
Wyle: It's an interesting possibility. Last year when we performed the autopsy on the Skitter that we captured, we find that they themselves have been a harnessed race. It begs the question maybe that there's some element of the Skitter population that are resistant to the Overlords, and may be sympathetic to the human cause. And if so, then an alignment could be made. That would really apply some leverage and tactical advantage to the fight.
How will the group react when Tom returns?
Wyle: Rightly so, with some suspicion. I think he harbors some suspicion — because he's let go under very strange circumstances — that he may be a security threat, that he may be a bit of a homing pigeon drawing the enemy back into the ranks of the 2nd Mass. Initially, his kids are really excited to see him, and Weaver's excited to see the second-in-command back, but underneath there is a nagging question about what happened on board the ship. The fact that he doesn't have total recall about all that experience is also cause for concern.
Tom has had a shaky relationship with his sons, especially since Ben (Connor Jessup) returned from being harnessed. What will we see for that dynamic this year?
Wyle: Those characters actually grow closer together because of the experience on the ship. He now has something in common with Ben, which is that they've gotten access to the aliens that nobody else really has and that has put them almost on the outside of their own group as a result. It's a difficult situation for Tom to undergo this season. Last season was about his eldest son Hal (Drew Roy) wanting to establish himself as a man, and a fighter in his own right, and exercising autonomy away from his father. This is Ben's turn, and it's much more difficult for Tom to let go.
What about Tom's relationship with Anne?
Wyle: The first season, that was a tricky relationship to write for, because every time you dedicate screen time to an interpersonal relationship, the story line doesn't have an ever-present sense of threat to it. You kind of dissipate the tension that you always want to be present. So we'd write these scenes where I'd be on guard duty, and she'd bring me a sandwich, and we'd talk about sweet nothings. Then we'd come to shoot them, and they just wouldn't fit. So it left really two choices: One, to have the relationship play across crowded rooms between two people who were very busy and wished things were different. Or two, go into a supply closet and consummate it very quickly. The first year we opted for the former, and the second season we opted for the latter. [Laughs]
What can you tease about where the 2nd Mass is headed this season?
Wyle: It sort of takes a page out of The Grapes of Wrath in that these characters hear about a magical Shangri-La of a society that's being rebuilt in Charleston, S.C., where there's running water, there's a semblance of a government, and people are living with the trappings of their former lives. Marriages are taking place, there's plenty of food for everybody.
So, much like Okies making a pilgrimage to get to the golden state of California in the '20s, our ragtag group wants to make this trek from Massachusetts down to Charleston, S.C., to see if it's true. That takes its own form in everybody's imagination. What's going to be waiting for them there when they get there? That's a pretty high state of expectation. And that's when we meet Terry O'Quinn's character in Charleston.
How will the 2nd Mass feel about hearing from the outside world? Will they think it's too good to be true?
Wyle: That's everybody's hope. In the back of everybody's head is, "Please tell me we're not the only ones left. Please tell me that Europe's still intact. Please tell me that there's pockets of resistance groups across the country that we might be able to align ourselves with." But they've been burned before. They got offered a pretty sweet deal in the sanctuary episodes last year only to find out that children were being brokered for peace with the aliens. So it's twofold. So they need to be very cautious about how quickly they embrace this because they've been led down the fool's road before.
What new challenges will the 2nd Mass face this season?
Wyle: Obviously, when you're dealing with such disparate personalities being forced to work and live together, tensions come to a head. The conflict between Tom and Pope comes to a head pretty early on in the season, whereas other characters develop much more of a simpatico with each other. I'm very proud of the way that we sort of moved Weaver and Tom away from the place of confrontation into one of really being comrades at arms, and finishing each other's sentences, and really being on the same pitch ideologically.
But really the twists and turns mostly come from being able to explore the mythology of the aliens, what their hierarchy is, and explaining a bit more why they're here and what they want, and this pilgrimage to get to Charleston.
Along the way, will we see more death?
Wyle: Yeah, quite a few. It's one of these shows that doesn't offer great job security [Laughs], and that's incumbent upon actors who work and play well with each other, and show up on time, and know their lines, because unprofessionalism won't be tolerated for long. You get a lot of bang for killing off your characters, especially one that people find endearing. So that's part of this world, is the constant state of stress. Anybody could go at any time, which makes the relationships that much more precious, and makes the episodes that much more harrowing.
Who do you think will die on Falling Skies?
Falling Skies returns Sunday at 9/8c on TNT.