The first nine episodes of Falling Skies‘ second season have been a tense thrill ride, except arguably the one episode that was devoted entirely to people chatting in cars. And, granted, fans of special effects may also noticed to their chagrin that last week’s episode, “The Price of Greatness”, didn’t feature a single live Skitter. I also find it immensely distracting every time two characters ostensibly hundreds of miles apart just happen to bump into each other. Otherwise, thrills have been a-poppin’ and tension has been mounting.
The addition of special guest stars Terry O’Quinn (Lost) as the first post-apocalyptic politician and Matt Frewer (forever Max Headroom in my heart) as an unthinking military man was certainly a step in the right direction away from staleness. Based on the promo for the season finale (enclosed below), it’s safe to say we can expect great, hopefully unpredictable things are in store for us. So far, I’ve been pretty satisfied with where the show has been steered of late, thanks in large part to season 2 showrunner Remi Aubuchon, whose previous work on NBC’s Persons Unknown was a big hit in our household and apparently nowhere else. (I still think of the show every time I’ve seen Reggie Lee pop up in other things like Grimm and The Dark Knight Rises. Seeing our heroes undergo Level 2 would’ve been a real treat.)
What if things had gone differently? What if Aubuchon hadn’t been available to helm Falling Skies because he was too busy wrapping up Persons Unknown season 3 after it magically found an audience? Imagine infinite versions of the show by infinite showrunners, perhaps in worlds where the fates of many a TV creator ran along a much different career track than they have in the reality we know and love.
In some of those alt-Earths, the Falling Skies season 2 finale, titled “A More Perfect Union” in our present reality, might be reimagined by those alt-producers like so:
Joss Whedon: One of the Overlords is finally given a name and a distinct, engaging personality. Season 2’s Big Bad is revealed at last, and happens to be the CEO of an evil galactic corporation. The season concludes not with another cliffhanger, but with a satisfying firefight that looks really expensive but was done on a shockingly modest budget, while at the same time offering deep-rooted closure to the season’s ongoing themes of distrust between allies and compromised freedoms. Also, because Tom has a happy relationship with Anne and is a great father to his boys, he obviously has to die quickly and brutally at the end. Season 3 will see the show renamed Maggie the Skitter Stomper, and Hal coping with his grief by developing unhealthy addictions to black clothing and expensive hair care products.
Chris Carter: Tom and Anne’s relationship is immediately downgraded back to irritating will-they-or-won’t-they status. The finale introduces four new kinds of aliens, six new supporting characters, and eight new conspiracies, ending after much sound and fury with an alien-war cliffhanger and a “To Be Concluded” placard. It is a placard of lies.
Amy Sherman-Palladino: After nineteen straight episodes of near-flawless heroism, Tom spends some time revealing all his fatal flaws and making sure we know he’s no hero to be praised or followed. This culminates in a harsh argument with Weaver in which both characters are required to recite entire speeches’ worth of dialogue at each other, longer than the Declaration of Independence and at 400 wpm. Weaver eventually convinces Tom about his wrongness just in enough time for the two of them to nab a pair of empty front-row seats at the Charleston Elementary production of My Fair Lady, in which li’l Matt closes the show with a heartbreaking rendition of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”. Eliza Doolittle is played by his new harnessed girl-pal from two episodes ago, who’s seen the error of her ways and begrudgingly joined the 2nd Mass after all. Forgiveness and healing are all but certain, as are countless tossed-away joke references to hip, erudite topics such as The Fantasticks, Secrets and Lies, Tamagotchi, The Decameron, and Steve Urkel.
Shonda Rhimes: Fifteen minutes of relationship angst and forty-five minutes of sex scenes. Noah Wyle will glisten and preen like he’s never glistened and preened before. Every female character will become insufferable.
Dick Wolf: The finale is a fully self-contained episode, except half the cast die or quit the rebellion. Their replacements in season 3 will be played by desperate but totally terrific Broadway actors at half the cost.
Alfred Gough and Miles Millar: Hal suddenly realized he’s still in love with Karen, was meant to be with Karen, and will never give up waiting for Karen, even though the best viewers will waste countless hours disagreeing with him via the Internet. All other characters will moan, groan, and keep pointing him toward Maggie in vain. Pope’s chaotic-good repartee will become three times zingier, and Pa Mason will spout more aphorisms than ever. Frustrating cliffhanger ending is mandatory, and won’t see full closure until eight episodes into season 3.
Vince Gilligan: Tom goes underground to meet the dregs of what’s left of American society. He discovers a way to destroy the invaders from within once and for all, but it may require him to sacrifice the life of one of his sons. He goes forward with it anyway, as the darkness begins to form slowly in his once-pure heart. Anne is strangely on board with every bizarre decision he makes. The Noah Wyle that America once knew and loved as the benevolent Dr. John Carter gets really scary to watch.
Frank Darabont: The first fifty-eight minutes will be the characters standing around wreckage, staring into space meaningfully, pausing to reflect and mourn at length, holding conversations about compromised freedoms, and ending every other sentence with, “…but at what price?” The final two minutes are super awesome alien wartime nonstop explosion cinema extravaganza that blows the fans away, costs $60 million to film, and requires a now-penniless TNT to cancel all its other original series except Franklin & Bash, whose two stars are willing to forgo paychecks and work for vending machine snacks.
Veena Sud: One solid hour of everyone standing, staring, pausing, and generally hanging out on lots of dull grey sets. Smiles are forbidden. Dale Dye and all other officers above Weaver will admit they’re no closer now to understanding the aliens’ motives than they were when the invasion began two seasons ago. In the only real plot development of the entire episode, Tom is relieved of command when he admits he has no idea how to use a gun, and has just been getting really lucky all this time.
Thankfully none of these realities are ours, for we live in the greatest reality of ALL TIMES. Enclosed for posterity is that brief season finale promo that may or may not contain all the hints we need to predict what’ll happen this Sunday night.
My amateur predictions:
1. Charleston will burn.
2. A minor recurring character will die. The easy money’s on Tector.
3. The firefight will look spectacular.
4. Lourdes hopefully stops mourning and gets back to representing for the faithful.
5. Just as the battle is nearly lost, Ben returns with a veritable cavalry.
6. Pope quits and leaves for good, and then returns again, and then quits and leaves yet again, and so on.
7. My wildest prediction, most likely to be wrong — Dai will have at least three whole lines. You heard it here first.