The third season of Falling Skies could turn into either War of the Worlds or E.T. — which just happen to be two movies directed by Steven Spielberg, an executive producer of the TNT alien-invasion series. A new ally from outer space has given the human resistance the upper hand in their battle for survival against the Espheni, but not everyone is so trusting, especially given recent evidence of a traitor in their midst.
Seven months have passed since last year's finale, when the Volm, a new race of aliens, touched down in the closing seconds. Instead of another threat, the Volm turned out to be Earth's apparent saviors. Cochise, their leader, came to the 2nd Massachusetts regiment with an offer to help battle the Espheni, the aliens that attacked Earth and had similarly invaded the Volm's planet. So far, the results have been encouraging: Thanks to the Volm's knowledge and weaponry, the 2nd Mass managed to defend its new home in Charleston, South Carolina, and stay one step ahead of the Espheni. Until now.
A recent string of compromised missions has led to a wariness among the survivors. "Some in the ranks suspect that these new allies are tipping the Espheni off," says Noah Wyle, whose former history professor Tom Mason has reluctantly become president of the United States in the interval between seasons. "But Tom trusts Cochise's story: Displaced by the colonizing species, the Volm have chased the Espheni from planet to planet to disrupt their war machine."
Earnestly optimistic as always, Tom is giving Cochise the benefit of the doubt. "Tom has an intrinsic fondness for Cochise," says Wyle during a break in filming on a cold and rainy October day deep in a mountainous preserve outside Vancouver. "He really believes that the Volm have no aims beyond destroying the Espheni."
Nobody is more skeptical than John Pope (Colin Cunningham), the fan-favorite renegade ex-con who leads the 2nd Mass's volatile Berserkers gang. His suspicions peak following an ambush by Espheni aircraft that brings down Pope and Tom's plane as they are returning from a top-secret meeting with an important preinvasion U.S. official (7th Heaven's Stephen Collins). The two unlikely bedfellows are stranded in an unforgiving wilderness hundreds of miles from home.
"This episode is like the old movie The Defiant Ones," says Cunningham of the June 30 installment. "Two guys essentially hate each other, but they need the other to survive." Pope isn't helping that prospect much: He won't even help Tom build a fire. Not that anything could warm the chill that has lingered between them since Season 1. "Pope tried to abandon Tom in the woods before, among other sins," Wyle reminds us, "so there's lots of bad blood between them."
Tom, of course, has his own actions for which to atone. "If the first season was about dealing with the initial trauma [of the invasion] and the second was the resolve to survive, the third is about fighting and winning — but at what cost?" says executive producer Remi Aubuchon. "That's what we're exploring through Tom, who is making decisions that could affect the entire human population. But at the same time, he's neglecting what he was fighting for in the first place: his humanity and his family."
As Wyle puts it, "Tom is too caught up in the pageantry of making history" to keep tabs on his three sons or his girlfriend, Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), who gives birth to their daughter, Alexis, in the season premiere. "They're all vying for his attention, but he's being pulled in a million different directions," says Bloodgood, who was seven months pregnant with daughter Pepper when she filmed Anne's birth scene. "His family is trying to be stoic, but they miss Tom."
Middle son Ben (Connor Jessup) must decide whether to remove his spikes, the remaining part of the organic "spine" that tethered captured teens to their alien oppressors but also gave them superhuman strength and senses. "Ben has always hated his spikes," says Jessup, "but he understands that the enhancements serve an important purpose in saving lives."
Wheelchair-bound oldest son Hal (Drew Roy) needs Dad's attention most. "He's trying to deal with his internal demons," Roy says. His first love, Karen (Jessy Schram), now a powerful tool of the Espheni, deposited an "eye worm" at the end of last season that infiltrated his brain, paralyzed his legs and could be confusing his loyalties. "What is happening to Hal keeps snowballing through the season," Roy hints.
Even infant Alexis has disturbing secrets. "Anne quickly notices that something is very amiss with the baby," Bloodgood teases. At just a few weeks old, did she really stand up and say, "Mommy"? Or is that in Anne's head? "Everyone believes that Anne is going off the deep end, but she's determined to figure out what's wrong," the actress says. "And if need be, do whatever it takes to protect her child."
Aubuchon promises that the baby will play a very important part this season. "She fits into one of our ongoing questions," he says. "How do we deal with the fully evolved harnessed kids who are no longer human?" As if being a parent wasn't already hard enough.
Falling Skies premieres Sunday, June 9 at 9/8c on TNT.
For more scoop on your favorite summer sci-fi shows — including True Blood, Teen Wolf and Defiance — pick up this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine on newsstands Thursday, June 6!