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'Falling Skies' postmortem: EP answers burning questions and previews season 5

'Falling Skies' season finale part 1 "Space Oddity"
'Falling Skies' season finale part 1 "Space Oddity"
James Dittiger, used with permission

Talk about a big cliffhanger, right? "Falling Skies" season 4 ended on Sunday, Aug. 31, with lots of questions, and we turned to executive producer David Eick for answers. (If you haven't watched the finale yet, stop reading until you do because there are spoilers ahead.)

So what comes next? Check out what he had to say about that "Falling Skies" finale and what's to come in season 5. Is Lexi really dead? Will there be a time jump? What threats are still out there? We got those answers and so much more.

Examiner.com: Can you talk about Lexi's journey this season? Was the plan always to have her sacrifice herself?

David Eick: "Well, certainly, the plan was to have her involved in a critical way in the finale and the final kind of dramatic revelations and final composition. There was a sense that we wanted Lexi to play a role, to play a critical role to service the larger theme of family that has always been the theme of the show, but we wanted to, of course, punish our main characters, in particular Tom and Anne, as much as humanly possibly on the way there. So by having their daughter turn on them, that really gets any parent's deepest gut reaction because there's the sense that your children will always take your side, but in the end of course she does. I think that was always the intent, but again, the details of how we got there and exactly what it was she would do and not do were incorporated during [the process]."

Is there any hope she's still alive?

I would say there is always that hope, but that doesn't necessarily mean we'll see her or we'll see her in the way that we expected.

How is losing Lexi going to affect Tom moving forward?

There is a period of mourning, and there is a period of being galvanized. There is a point at which they're galvanized very early on by the sacrifice that she made. I don't mind telling you that Tom Mason will find his way back to the 2nd Mass – I don't think that's a big spoiler – but when he does, he has to find a way to strike a balance between being overwhelmed by grief versus using her death as a rallying cry for the final push.

So, moving on to that final scene. What can you say about it and what you've introduced that’s "beautiful"? Is that the "greater common enemy" Tom is told about in episode 2?

Well, it very well may be, but what that greater common enemy was and in what way it may play a role in season 5 is really the question, and it's certainly not an enemy in the traditional terms that we may have considered it and neither is this necessarily the answer to all our prayers. It's another mystery to kind of uncover over the course of the fifth season, but it is profound in terms of its impact on Tom's plans and on how their next move in defeating the enemy will take shape.

Can you say when season 5 will pick up? Is it going to be right away? Will there be another time jump?

I will tell you that unlike seasons past, which made use of a device of course I've used before on other shows as well, so I'm a fan of it, which is the break in between, the time cut to weeks or months later – I think on "Battlestar Galactica," we did a whole year later once in the course of an act transition, so it can be a very useful and effective device – but I felt like it was important this season to actually do the opposite, so we pick up season 5 literally moments after the end of season 4, and I think the audience will really feel a sense of propelled motion and momentum as season 5 kicks in.

How does the 2nd Mass cope with Tom gone? Are we going to see Anne step up as a leader because season 4 has shown her as a fighter now? Is that what it's been leading to?

Certainly, Anne has evolved as a character, and I don't think any of that changes. She is now both a warrior and a healer, and I think that balance – again, that's a word that keeps coming up when we discuss the theme of season 5. The theme of season 5 is about striking a balance, about sacrificing for the greater good and understanding that we're going to have losses and endure great pain on the way there because this is the final push, and if we can keep our heads straight and if we can keep our souls straight and not lose ourselves in either the vengeance and bloodlust and violence of the opportunity to win nor in the fear and terror and reluctance that comes with engaging in war, we have a shot, so that is a theme that affects Anne because she is now both a warrior and a healer and there's a bit of a tug-o-war within her about which side to emphasize as she embarks on this season. It's very interesting. It's a very internal struggle.

What threats are still out there from the Espheni even with the power core down? Are those who had already been skitterized one of them?

What we were saying at the end of season 4 is that with the destruction of the power core, that weapon was disengaged, those bombs were organic in nature, they wilt and fizzled up, the slugs that emerged from there were scorched by the sun's rays and that threat is now gone. …I will say that that is not the last you've seen of skitterized humans.

Do they have to worry about mechs?

Yes, but not in the way that people are accustomed to. There are different challenges for the 2nd Mass and different tactics that the Espheni are forced to use for a great deal of time after their war machine has effectively been unplugged, but that doesn't mean that some of the weapons that we've seen in the past don't come into play. They just do so in ways that we're not expecting. And I will say that season 5 is more focused on the biological threat of the Espheni weaponry, which is to say, skitters, black hornets.

We've always said that the Espheni's main obsession has been genetic and mutating and combining species and enslaving species through mutation and so forth. I think that becomes much more their focus in the fifth season, that left without any other devices, left without their high-tech war machines, they are nevertheless still a formidable threat because of their expertise in those categories, so we'll see other evidence, other uses of those tendencies in the form of new threats in the fifth season.

When I talked to Noah Wyle last week, he said that he always felt the clock was ticking on how long Tom and Pope let each other live. Is that something we could see play out in season 5?

Absolutely. I think in season 5 you're going to see a definite heating up of the tension that is created from Pope's role in the group and how our people responds to that and how the audience responds to Pope and what compels him to begin pushing that sense of himself, that side of himself that we remember from when we first met him is a big part of season 5.

This wasn't the best season for Hal and Maggie's relationship, and in the finale he brings up just being friends. Can they just be friends?

I don't know. It seems like a pretty complicated relationship, but it is certainly a wrinkle in the emotional cosmos of the show that I quite enjoy and I think the network has been very supportive of, and as Tom Mason's character says in one of the later episodes of season 4, I think it may have been episode 10, "you know, you're not the first two brothers to fall for the same girl." It's a timeless theme that goes back to early literature and theater and I think it's a lot of fun to play that. The actors are tremendously affective and emotionally compelling and they weren't expecting this. They were really thrown for a loop when we introduced this and they just responded brilliantly.

Can you talk about Ben and Maggie's relationship? How much of it is because of the spikes?

I think that's in the eye of the beholder. I think that most of the audience is probably going to assume it's from the spikes, but I want to maintain a sense of what – to continue the sense of the argument that Hal makes in season 4, which is, they're just an excuse, everybody's got their version of spikes, they're what you're blaming your inability to control yourself. Whether that's just wishful thinking on his part or he's being petty and angry or whether there's truth to that, I think it's an interesting question.

Will Weaver's heart problem be addressed again?

Well, it never struck me as the kind of major plot point that required – I think he's an every man, and like a lot of men, he has chest pains and heart problems that he's gotta – we presume that there's some measure he's taking to prevent himself from getting worse, but it's not going to stop him like it doesn't stop a lot of people. So I think it's always going to be part of his character, but not something that I want to sort of emphasize or fall into because I think what's more important is that he overcomes it.

Regarding two characters' fates. We see Mira run off on the ship and in the beginning of the second part of the finale, we hear Dingaan yelling for Denny in the woods. What happened to those two characters?

Only what we see is what we know at the end of season 4. We don't see what happens to Denny, and we do see, nevertheless, that the ship that Mira is one was immolated when Lexi kamikazed it into the power core, so I think it's safe to assume that that kind of thing isn't survivable, that you're not going to see Mira again. But for Denny, we have to wait and see.

What did you set out to accomplish this season and with the finale?

Two things, really. To answer the questions that have been sort of – or to address the mysteries that have been teed up and have been carried through the four seasons prior to it, prior to the final season, of course many of which were done by other folks, so tying all the loose ends together and not just carrying through the overall game plan, some of which was established from the earliest creation of the show, but also to incorporate the twists and adaptations and evolutions of those plans as they become mine and my staff's and as that sort of pride of ownership vibe kicks in, you're grateful for the infrastructure of the game plan that was established, but you're also trying to find ways to make it specific and to make it cool.

So the first thing is to address the mysteries and the second thing is really to finally illustrate and dramatize in a powerful way and in a deserving way Tom Mason's emergence from a school teacher to a warrior to really what is a savior. Before anyone thinks that sounds like a civics class, I just mean, the cool presidents, like Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt and guys like that, could shoot somebody in a duel and then go sign a piece of legislation. That's sort of the model that Tom Mason has been built to evoke or reflect, and I just think we want to legitimize that in the last season, and so there's a lot of fun and a lot of compelling, I think, and unexpected character turns to get to some of those ideas.

"Falling Skies" returns next summer for its fifth and final season on TNT.