Falling Skies stars Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Colin Cunningham, Sarah Carter, Connor Jessup and Jessy Schram and showrunner Remi Aubuchon hosted a lively panel at Comic Con International, discussing the success of TNT’s sci-fi drama, and what’s really waiting for the Second Massachusetts crew in Charleston.
Wil Wheaton, host of the Falling Skies chat show Second Watch, moderated the panel.
Set in the aftermath of an alien invasion, Falling Skies follows a group of survivors struggling to survive the occupation of Earth. With no real idea of what the aliens want or if there's any other civilization left in America, the Second Massachusetts regiment is currently on a pilgrimage to Charleston, where they believe their last hope of salvation rests.
It's not all aliens and bloodshed, though, and the relationship between Tom Mason and Anne Glass, played by Wyle and Bloodgood, has been growing more romantic over the course of the second season.
Bloodgood described their relationship as "a very subtle romance; it's a secondary story. We're two adults who know each other but there are more important things happening in a post-apocalyptic situation."
Wheaton asked Patton why his character, the regiment’s captain, seems so driven to reach Charleston. "It seems like the best option right now," Patton replied. "But I think that Weaver has sort of a veil over him, you've seen something in his eyes. There are little clues being left for the audience about things that are going on with Weaver."
Wyle's character Tom has become something of a liability to the group since his return from captivity, but don't expect him to go away anytime soon. "The Second Mass. doesn't have the luxury of being choosey about who it asks to fight with,” he said. “Sometimes, the benefit of arming somebody and having them in your ranks outweighs the potential liability of having them in your ranks. Tom's value to the group outweighs the risk."
Roy and Carter, who play Tom's son Hal Mason and his girlfriend Margaret, are two people who seemingly would never go for each other in a normal situation. "That's one of the special things in their relationship, that they are so different,” Roy said. “Hal comes from a clean-cut all-American background and her background's really mysterious. We're not sure what it is. In this next couple episodes we're going to see more of where she came from. The layers are going to be peeled back."
"Maggie doesn't trust in general,” Carter added. “She doesn't trust people, but she does trust Hal. He's strong and he's got integrity. She's seen how he is with his family and she's seen how he is on the field."
With Tom absent for a chunk of time, Wheaton wondered whether Roy's character has had to step in to act as a father figure for his younger brother Ben. "I don't think he looks at it like he is now the father,” Roy said. “I think he does realize that somebody does need to step in that position and keep an eye on those guy. Everything Hal does is rooted in a deep love, especially when it comes to family and close friends. I think he's misunderstood a lot."
"I do think there is an element where everybody has kind of stepped up a bit," said Jessup, who plays Ben. "Nobody likes to be ordered around by their older brother, whether it's ‘Go clean your room’ or ‘Don't shoot that alien.’ There's gonna be a natural tension there. Last season, Hal was the reckless, stubborn, bull-headed, aggressive one, and now Ben is that character."
Cunningham received the biggest cheers from the audience when the panel got around to his character, John Pope. Wheaton, calling Pope a "chaotic-neutral" character, asked Cunningham what it's like to play the most rebellious character on the series. "It's a fascinating, wonderful character," Cunningham said. "Pope always speaks the truth, no matter what's going on. He's not encumbered by family or kids."
Wheaton then played a clip from an upcoming episode that featured Maggie and Hal discovering a field full of dead, naked bodies covered in leaves. Maggie finds a lone survivor that turns out to be Karen Nadler, played by Jessy Schram, who’s been missing since last season.
"We really wanted Jessy Schram to be here to talk about that," Wheaton said. "So here she is!"
Schram then walked onto the stage to thunderous applause from the audience.
She recalled shooting the scene from the clip, describe it as “a very cold day with a pasted-on leaf bikini, being sprayed by dirt and very dark paint all day."
Asked by Wheaton whether Karen was able to escape the Skitters, Schram replied, “We're gonna go with Karen is found in the leaves with a bunch of other de-harnessed kids, and now she's going to be reintroduced to the Second Mass."
Wheaton, telling the crowd to vote with applause, asked whether the character has really escaped. The audience just laughed. He then asked if her escape is "full of crap," triggering an eruption of applause.
Wheaton asked Aubuchon whether alien allies like Skitter Red-Eye and Ben's premonitions about an alien rebellion could mean the Skitters aren't really all that evil after all.
"What's fun about the premise of the show is we just don't know any more,” Aubuchon said. “We don't know if the aliens are good or bad, as we saw in last week's episode."
He added, "The other quick thing I'll tease out is if the rebellion isn't real, what's Karen doing here?"
Wheaton then asked a few questions "from a place called the Internet."
A fan wanted to know which Charleston the Second Mass was headed toward, South Carolina or Virginia. "It's Charleston, South Carolina," Wyle said. "Not to tease, we find Charleston, but it's really the pilgrimage that is the skeleton of the second half of the storytelling of the season."
"Each character has a utopian vision of what might be waiting," he added. "Tom hopes there's some sort of government structure and he might have a seat at the table to draft the set of documents that will set up the next phase of civilization."
In a real invasion, how would Patton react? "That's interesting to me," Patton replied. "What would we do? What would I do? As a real human being with real flesh and blood, what would responsibility mean? What does responsibility mean under adverse circumstances? Sometimes I think just being alive is an adverse circumstances. It calls in to question, what does it really mean to be a human being in a difficult situation? I think it's an important question."
Carter refused to spill any details on how Karen's unexpected return might affect Maggie and Hal's relationship. "Tune in next episodes!" she said.
"Karen is Hal's first love, so that's gonna be complicated," said Roy, who was a little more forthcoming.
"Maggie's past is a hard pill to swallow," Carter added. "So part of Maggie's inclination is just to step back and watch and see what happens. She doesn't want to get in the way of something real, but she's also stepping back because she doesn't trust that thing."
"For me, well, sorry, Maggie!" Schram said.
Wheaton then opened up the panel to questions from the floor.
Wyle revealed that he thinks heading toward Charleston is the right choice for the Second Mass, even if it turns out to be a concentration camp. "The idea of making this pilgrimage, to give people something to focus on, seems to be the best decision tactically to keep the group cohesive," he said. "I think we are just excited that we are not an isolated group anymore, that there are other groups out there that have been more successful in establishing some sort of infrastructure."
Aubuchon teased Charleston further, revealing that Terry O'Quinn will play one of the characters they meet when they get there.
"Charleston's not exactly what we think it's going to be," he said. "It is one of those things where you have your expectations and your fantasies of what it's gonna be. I don't know that any of those fantasies or expectations are gonna pan out. One big surprise is that when we do get to this place we will meet someone who Tom knows very well from his past and that someone will be played by Terry O'Quinn. I will tell you that Charleston is not an island somewhere and he does not have a knife in his mouth."
Wheaton then revealed there also will be "a fairly major character death this season.” “Don't get mad at me about it,” he said. “I'm just reading what's on the paper."
A fan asked where each character draws the line in what they're willing to risk to survive.
"With Tom, it's certainly his family," Wyle said. "You start really small. It's weighing risk against yourself, your family, the group, the resistance movement, and it sort of extrapolates from there."
"I lost my whole family in the invasion, so I think, in a way, I have nothing to lose," Bloodgood said. "Anne always trusts, though, she comes from a place of positivity."
"There are very few people that Weaver can trust," Patton said. "He's opening up a little bit to a few things, but in terms of trust there's not a whole lot there. There are some people. Some. Some people I can trust but not a whole lot of trust at this point."
"Ben's conflict is all about trust," Jessup answered. "He doesn't know whether he can trust himself or not. The confusion and fear that comes from that drives everything he does. The reason he's grasped so quickly on to this idea of a Skitter rebellion is that it could be redemption for him."
"As much as Hal and Pope hate each other, I think they're really not that different,” Roy said. “I think I would see the situation just like Pope does."
"Maggie's way of trusting herself is to not trust anyone," Carter said. "She knows through life experience that people can change in a moment and Pope is the best example of that. She has every reason not to trust him, but because she trusts herself so much, she's not going to kill unless it's absolutely necessary."
"I don't think there's anybody on Falling Skies with a secret agenda," Cunningham said. "Even though you could say, 'You can't trust Pope,' you can trust Pope to be Pope. I can trust Tom to be Tom."
"One of the fun things about this show that's different from other apocalyptic stories is that this is a story about a bunch of people who are desperately trying to hold on to their humanity and keep their heads where everybody else is losing there's,” Aubuchon said. “It's very easy to go to the story of where all chaos hits the Earth and everybody tries to kill everybody."
Deciding who lives and dies is a tough process for Aubuchon. "It's not eeny-meeny-miney-moe,” he said. “I have to be really honest, the decision to have Jimmy die was really hard for us in the writers room, as well. We loved the character and a lot of people identify with that character. All of us have been that kid who makes mistakes and people still care for them and love them and tell them it's OK. But I think this season we wanted to demonstrate to our audience and to us is that this is a serious world where people can die. As a fan, I've always hated it when a character is introduced in the first act of an episode and by the fourth act you know darn well he's gonna be killed. You don't have anything invested in him. In the parlance, it's known as a 'red shirt.'"
"If I may interject for a moment, sir," Wheaton joked. "It's actually from Page 8 to Page 10."
Aubuchon revealed that the Second Mass soon will start finding ways to using the alien technology for their own purposes, "but its much more complicated than that and I think you'll see there are some really interesting ways that works. The aliens don't have the greatest tech either, or else we wouldn't have a cast!"
The panel closed with another clip from an upcoming episode. In it, Bloodgood's character is in an abandoned hallway attempting to help a young man who is suffering from an unknown type of seizure. As the kid passes out, dozens of football-sized insectoid aliens crawl out of his mouth and chase Bloodgood in to a storage room at the end of the hall. As the scene faded to black, you could hear the crowd gasp in anticipation.
Falling Skies airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TNT.