Falling Skies Season 2 Preview: Expository ETs! Tom's Chilly Welcome Home! And a Ray of Hope?

When last we tuned into TNT’s Falling Skies, history prof-turned-2nd Mass hero Tom Mason (played by Noah Wyle) had boarded the alien invaders’ mothership, leaving behind his many brothers in arms — including his own three sons and percolating romantic interest Dr. Glass (Moon Bloodgood). But within the first moments of this Sunday’s two-hour Season 2 opener (starting at 9/8c), Tom returns from his out-of-this-world odyssey, seemingly no worse for the wear. (But who’s going to buy that?)

New showrunner Remi Aubuchon (Caprica) shared with TVLine this sneak peek at the sci-fi series’ sophomore run, which will be teeming with suspicions, new alliances, the delivery of some most unexpected news and more skeevy Skitters and malevolent Mechs then ever before.

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TVLINE | Putting Tom on the ship at the end of the first season was a huge card to play. As the new showrunner, what was it like to “inherit” that?
When I was asked to run the second season, I was shown all the episodes in one Saturday at DreamWorks. I was going along thinking, “Oh, this is cool…. This is cool…. This is cool.” And then I got to the end and saw that final moment and I went, “Oh my God. I am in big trouble.” When I called up everybody to say, “What the heck?” the truth is that there were many, many alternatives that they had considered, but at the end of the day they felt there needed to be some sort of game-changing finale that would really spin things in the second season. As I pointed out to them, “You guys did a great job. Thanks a lot.”

TVLINE | Among other things, the early scenes between Tom and the alien leader solve the issue of them being able to communicate with each other.
Yes. The first season was like the shark in Jaws — we don’t know what its purpose is but we haven’t got time to stop and think about it. And one of the rules that [Falling Skies executive producer] Steven [Spielberg] gave the show at the beginning, and we’ve tried to follow faithfully, is that we don’t get to learn anything about the aliens that our characters don’t know. So given that rule, we had to find some way in which our characters could interact with the aliens so that we could actually, as an audience, learn what the heck is going on. Tom being on the ship gave us that opportunity to do that.

TVLINE | What can you tease about what we see happen on the ship with Tom?
If you’ve learned anything about Tom Mason from the first season, it is that he’s not just going to sit down and politely listen to what an alien has to say. There’s going to be some give and take and some strong dialectic going on between him and the alien. But I don’t think that it’s going to turn out the way Tom expected it to turn out.

TVLINE | What sort of welcome home does Tom get?
You know, if you or I went on a spaceship and disappeared for three months, I think there’d be a lot of feelings about what that means. Certainly his family will be welcoming him back with open arms, but I don’t think that everybody — and I’m thinking of John Pope (Colin Cunningham)  in particular — is going to be too happy to see Tom just sort of saunter back into town.

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TVLINE | In his absence, have any of the dynamics within the 2nd Mass changed?
They’ve changed dramatically. If anybody has been paying attention to the digital comic that will eventually be published here as a book… many, many things have happened and lots of positions have changed. The Mason boys have certainly been affected by not only their father’s absence, but also Ben’s sudden prowess and his ability to fight the aliens….

TVLINE | Yeah, Ben (Connor Jessup) has gotten quite plucky.
He’s gotten very plucky and also at the same time kind of almost a fanatic about wanting to kill the Skitters. Part of that is his own self-hate issues, but he’s also become sort of this Skitter-killing machine that has been exploited by the 2nd Mass. And there’ve been a lot of losses also. A lot of people have been killed.

TVLINE | Captain Weaver’s plan is to get to the Catskills to make camp for the winter and just lay low — yet that would seem to make for a very quiet Season 2. Why do I get the feeling they’re not going to make it to the Catskills?
[Laughs] That is what’s interesting about Weaver’s character this season, that he is a man who is very much torn and in some ways tortured. He wants to keep fighting but he keeps looking at this group and realizing they’re exhausted. But you’re absolutely right, that sometimes fate lends a hand…

TVLINE | Or someone in a prop plane…
Or someone in a prop plane.

TVLINE | What do you want to say about that pilot and the ray of hope that is offered to the 2nd Mass in the June 24 episode?
Is it true? Isn’t it true? Who knows. But what the 2nd Mass needs is a glimmer of hope. They’re so tired and so beaten down and so isolated by the time we start the second season that they’re willing to grab onto anything that might be hopeful — and that includes the lure of Charleston, South Carolina, the idea that the United States is building itself up again… all the promise that Avery the pilot (played by Rookie Blue‘s Camille Sullivan) brings to them.

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TVLINE | Now that the show has one season under its wing, I have to imagine that a lot of the infrastructure’s been set up, including the computer models that were created for the Skitters, the Mechs…. Does that allow you to have more effects shots in Season 2?
We do have more effects shots in Season 2. And yes it’s true that we built up some of the assets, but we actually have a lot of new surprises coming in terms of what we’re doing with our aliens and also with our effects. I would say that we roughly doubled our effects budget this season and I think we used every bit of that on the screen. I’m kind of excited about it.

TVLINE | Speaking of the aliens, are we ever going to give a real name to them?
Yes! In the Season 2 finale, we’ll find out what they’re called.