Monday, June 30, 2014



Written by: Carol Barbee
Directed by; Sergio Mimica Gezzan

warning there are spoilers within.

"The Eye" is the second part of a trilogy that encompasses the first 3 episodes of our season.

Second acts are tricky because they neither begin the drama nor end the drama.  But they have the obligation to carry the drama that's been established and raise it to the next level.

I was very happy to have Sergio Gezzan in the second episode of the season.  As I'm sure I've mentioned before the second episode of a season is the trickiest for me.  I am directing while the prep is happening - and new seasons always bring new tonal and structural and dramatic changes.  I am less able to oversee the 2nd episode of a season than any other episode of the year.  That's why Sergio's presence brings me comfort.  Not only is he relentlessly responsible, but he cares deeply about the crafting of character and the drama of storytelling.  Sergio is the only director, besides myself, who has directed episodes of "Falling Skies" in all 4 seasons.

David Eick and writer Carol Barbee (who I worked with on the first season of "Touch" were telling a story of surveillance
and totalitarian oppression.  Carol really wanted a creepy mood, and a feeling of always being watched.  The concept of the eye that twisted and turned on the front of the air ship was important.  

The mysterious zeppelin that has been circling the ghetto were Tom is imprisoned, is examined in depth this episode.  What was very important to David Eick was to establish how the zeppelin is powered.  As the second act, this episode is largely about Tom and co. learning and plotting their unlikely escape attempt.

As you can tell.  Many new ideas and new rules have been brought in this season, and we were working hard to feather them in with the things that have already been established. The tethered zeppelin, of course, was a new concept and a new design, and while we had some time to design the exterior of the zeppelin - the interior was done pretty quickly. 

Rob Gray, the production designer (which means he designs and builds the sets and finds the locations we shoot in and overall designs the "look" of the series) and I felt that we should stick with what we've established as far as Espheni interior design.  Between with the interior spaceship in season 2, and the re-vamped power station in season 3 and Karen's lair in Season 3 and the big power station that we blew up at the end of season 2 - we had built a lot of spare parts for Espheni interiors.  They were literally laying around in a warehouse and we had used and re-used them many times.(Believe it or not the Falling Skies budget is really quite spare and recycling is a key part of our game-plan.)

Rob did have to design a new set - which meant having artisans carve (literally) styrofoam walls covered with Espheni veining.  With the lights on the set, when it was up was quite spare and incomplete looking, a mess of walls propped together with tubes and wires run everywhere.  Rob covered the floor with rubber pebbles.  As I say, it wasn't much to look at when well lit.  But when we turned the lights off and Director of Photography, Barry Donlevy added the signature orange Espheni cross-light, it came alive.   We also added ceilings and some depth with computer generated backgrounds.

One of the cool things in the episode, which I'm kind of proud of, was the way that Tom was transported up to the zeppelin.  The script just described an elevator that descended from the ship - with no further elaboration.  But, in our Visual Effects meetings - we spend a lot of time talking about things like "What would an Espheni elevator look like."  I was shooting, but my fearless former assistant, now associate producer, Ashley Shields-Muir came to me with reports from the VFX meeting - which had generally been successful, but which had stalled in this one area.  The idea of what the elevator should look like, just came to me in a flash - it should be a snaking series of tentacles that seem separate and alive.  The whole thing should descend like a mass of snakes from the ship and then let loose of the passenger as it lands.  To the harnessed human who comes down, this would be no big deal...  But Tom's ride up would be pretty creepy for him.

Sergio was very interested in the idea of the rebellion - and I have to credit him for both conceiving, designing and implementing the attack that the citizens of the ghetto.  It was a big scene that didn't really fit into schedule - but Sergio found ways to twist and turn the schedule and add a small splinter unit to make sure that it happened.

It was also clear this season that the Espheni overlords were going to play a bigger and more specific role this year.  We meet the one who oversees the ghetto, and at the end of the episode we get a glimpse of a second overlord, who is mysteriously working with Lexi - to what end, good or bad, at this point we know not...  But practically, to us in production that meant more overlords.  Now, overlords have been our most expensive commodity.  They have been full done using CGI motion-capture , and they have cost many thousand of dollars per shot.  So as you look at past seasons the overlords have actually been used quite sparingly, and many magician's tricks have been used to limit how often we actually see them.   

But David made it clear that this year would be different.  We would need to see them much more.  So, with Todd Master's we began to devise a plan to create a practical, on-set, overlord.  Todd's practical creation of Cochise, applied on top of actor Doug Jones, had saved the day last year.  Had Cochise been full CGI last season, he would have been prohibitively expensive.  But Todd's suit with minimal CGI for Cochise's eyes and brow was a massive dollar savings.  So, we decided we needed to try it again.  Of course the overlords are 10 feel tall with strangely thin bodies, tiny feet and super long arms.  This was all no big deal when they were all CGI...  But practically this means we were not going to be able to replicate what we did with Doug - i.e. have an actor in a suit.  This project was going to involve a stunt, performer, who was going to have to walk around on short stilts with a robotic, radio controlled mask propped on top of his head.  It was a big project that Todd estimated would take 10 weeks.  Through no fault on TNT's part (we can't get financial approval of things until we are actually in production and have a budget.) we weren't able to start fabricating this creature until just a couple of weeks before we started shooting - and Sergio's episode came up only 4 weeks after that.

Long and short is that, for this episode, which was filmed 6 weeks after we sent Todd off to build the creature - we didn't make it!  Rushing as fast as he could, Tom did finish the rough exoskeleton of the overlord, and we did film this on set as a template on which to overlay the CGI character.  But what you saw in tonight's episode was 90% CGI.

More next week....

Director of Photography, Barry Donlevy and Director Sergio Gezzan

Days go by on set for Drew Roy

Noah gets to know his fellow cast members

Will Patton - Weaver's just hanging on to his sanity

On set at night on a crane

Me in the mirror in the producer's trailer

What do you call many Volm?  A gaggle?  A pride?  A posse?... 

Production Designer Rob Gray with Seychelle Gabriel

Scarlett Byrne and Sarah Carter between takes

Robert Sean Leonard and Connor Jessup between takes

"You looking at me?!"

Noah enters the belly of the beast (much of the set was CGI set extensions)

Collin rests between set-ups

Getting ready to rumble

Techtor's joining the party!


Otto Carius said...

Wow... This episode was supposed to be Creepy? I think that failed. All I got from it was a mild malaise (possibly James Bondesque-Nausea)and a case of boredom.

1) Why do the Espheni need guards in the Ghetto? They should have armed drones and neutralize threats from an altitude of 1000m or so. See no fuss no muss. This is especially true since they the humans trapped in a big fishbowl.

2) The Fence is now Electrical... So, you must be really talking about Plasma-- that is highly energetic matter that will conduct electricity nicely. Great... So Why are they climbing the fence? Why not create a Faraday Cage and tunnel under it? Use the Faraday Cage to bend the beams around the tunnelers and then tunnel out to covered position. (I'm not sure of the physics of this actually--but it fits the shows logic.) Secondly, once a guy climbs the fence he is out in the open wouldn't they have mechs guarding the perimeter of this location? I don't see how you wouldn't get captured in minutes doing Tom's plan.

3) If the children with the bio-tech didn't work out because of human tenacity and need for freedom? How then did they create a population of NAZIS Youth Camp Leaders in their early 20's? I'm sorry but I just don't an invaded United States really looking anything like the Wiemar Republic in 1924-1933.

4) No, Mr. Mason I expect you to die... Really, I love how the Espheni tell them the plan-- We want to use you! Right...

5) Espheni we're not bad-- we're just misunderstood?

6) The Riot-- pathetic.

Hyperion said...

First let me say I thought this was a much stronger episode than the premiere, largely because there was more focus on what must be the dual cores of the season, namely the Espheni game plan for humanity (via Tom's experiences) and whatever is going on with Lexi (via Ben for the most part).

However, I have to say it still feels as though there is at least one too many "world" in this all-split-up scenario. David Eick is on record as saying that his inspiration was The Empire Strikes Back in which the main characters were split up for much of the film. However the obvious point is that in that film there were only 2 groups plus some Empire scenes. The four separate groupings in Season 4 is just too many to preserve narrative coherence unless you have really good writing. The writing was a lot better this episode but I think the theme of separation and reunion could have been better served with one less "world" to deal with.

The whole youth camp idea seems the weakest to me. It is fine to give Matt his own story line but the whole idea is executed in a far too cliched way. For example the team leader is just so ludicrously straight from Evil Nazi casting as to be almost comical. Could the writers/producers not have been just a little more imaginative in how this character would look? Indeed how the whole youth camp would look?

No doubt this is an environment which will become irrelevant soon enough. The same is not true for Chinatown which is probably the central venue for this season. This of course comes to the decision to have Lexi as the plot center. First off, I have to wonder what the writers thought they were doing having her with long blond hair which now just invites invidious allusions to GoT.

The biggest issue though is that Lexi seems to have literally magical powers. In the DVD commentary for an episode of Season 1 Mark Verheiden noted that there was a very early decision to have the aliens work with the same physics as we do, albeit they have far superior technology. So no magic. Noah Wyle sagely agreed with that on the commentary. So what is going on now? Just ditch one of the main things that kept the story grounded in a good level of plausibility? I am sorry to focus so much on this but the use of the Lexi character in the plot is evidently going to be the reason this season works or fails. As a genuine fan of the show I truly hope it works, but I am not yet convinced.

It would therefore be really great if the show can stick to its own mythology. Ben is able to bench press a car (see Season 3 discussion with Deni). So how could all those civilians in Chinatown actually stop him seeing Lexi. He could literally tear them apart, especially the not-exactly muscular Lourdes who is now officially the most annoying character, even beating out Pope.

The show needed to do new and different things but please keep consistency. Still it did have the best one-liner in any episode yet where Ben tells Lexi to stop talking liking a damned fortune cookie. You said it.

Aldenata said...

-Are y'all still doing 2nd Watch? I checked after Ghost in the Machine but I ain't seen any new episodes.

@ The Eye:
-How does that flamethrower work, anyway? It looks like it uses the nozzle from a power washer which implies a liquid fuel, but the canister on Tom's waist implies a gas, or maybe an aerosol of some kind.

(Turpentine would probably be my post-apocalyptic incendiary of choice if I couldn't get thermite. That, or fish oil.)

-Cool though it was to watch, converted skitters must be comparatively flimsy if they can die in a fire that easily. Fire is an excellent weapon: most creatures inherently fear it, and full-thickness burns are a terrible thing to experience (ultimately fatal in a post-antibiotics world, probably), but unless you're using something REALLY hot, fire is ultimately not the quickest means of actually killing things.

For that matter, how are those little wings of theirs able to loft that much weight? I would really expect something more batlike in dimensions ( least; square-cubed law is even crueler on flyers than it is on walkers).

-Annie's Marauders needs to get the horses from Season 3 back. They'd come in handy in the thick terrain of the Francis Marion National Forest, assuming they could be kept from sinking into the swamp.

Might also want to take to the water when they can. Roads are few in that area and the ones not washed out by now are likely to be patrolled. Best thing a guerrilla force can do is keep a full range of travel options, especially against an enemy who will doubtless have trouble copying it. A famous example would be the success of Finnish ski troops against road-bound Soviet motorized units in the Winter War.

-Interrogation scene reminded me of Season 1, and not in a good way. I can't blame Anne for what she did, but Anthony or someone else really should have... done something when it looked like Anne was going to stab their only POW (while one of their own was connected to it), even if it meant planting a rifle butt in her face.

2nd Mass needs to stop letting emotionally-compromised people interrogate prisoners. That, or find someone who's better at torture.

Protip: Be nice for as long as possible; don't start beating on them until that stops working. Stick to yes or no questions; don't trust any answers involving names or places. Never threaten/imply that you're going to kill your victim no matter how bad you plan on hurting them; they're just going to blank out on you if they don't keep some hope of surviving the encounter. Work on the extremities first. Obviously they'll be some difference in physiology but it's a fair bet that a skitter has at least as many nerve endings as a human; you'll run out of questions long before you run out of nerve endings.

-Can't really say I'm surprised with what y'all've done with the only openly-religious character. I know that mainstream Catholics don't really "do" exorcisms anymore, but, well, I was kind of hoping that post-exorcism Lourdes would go Pentecostal. Rattlesnakes and all.

(Yes, I know that serpent-handlers are a minority even amongst the wildest of Pentecostals. So too is exorcism, as far as I know.)

I am surprised by Maggie. She seems to have moved quite arbitrarily from being another Lexian true believer to a fellow dissident along with Ben. Am I missing something? Was she putting on an act beforehand? Why?

Actually, the whole Chinatown thing seems odd, almost dreamlike. Since we're seeing it all from Ben's perspective, I almost wonder if he's the one with the screwy perspective.

-Human resistance finally putting homemade mortars into play. Good. Molotov catapults too? How very "Warsaw Uprising" of them. Didn't they also do that in Lucifer's Hammer?

(When I was writing Atlanta Burns Again, I took more inspiration from that than I did from Footfall. Falling Skies really is more post-apoc than alien invasion.)

Aldenata said...

-Is there some kind of shielding on that zeppelin? It looked like there was an electric discharge of some sort when one of the projectiles hit its underside, but I couldn't tell for sure.

-Where did these zeppelin come from? Was it built on planet Earth by whatever remnant of the Espheni remains, or was it brought here by a new wave of reinforcements? Or is it altogether from some completely different source (new faction in the Espheni civilizational structure, perhaps)?

-Mutating humans for use as Janassaries against a threat that even the Volm have reason to fear? Interesting. Sounds sort of like the Hedren Tyranny from John Ringo's Eye of the Storm. In that book, humanity had just finished fighting off a planetary invasion (BILLIONS of man-eating reptilian centaurs) only to be faced with a new threat: telepathic/psychokinetic amoebae and their enslaved races, invading our galaxy primarily as a means of escaping from an even scarier civilization that has overrun theirs. One of the characters muses that the great barbarian invasions of Europe may have once had their start from one tribe on the steppes displacing another tribes. One tribe gets pushed into another and before you know it Rome's being put to the torch again.

@ Otto Carius:
1. In all fairness, we haven't quite seen what kind of firepower might actually be on that zeppelin just yet. You're always going to need guards to deal with prisoners; there's too many variables in a job like that that could never be programmed into a machine (and Eshpeni computing technology has been previously implied as comparatively backwards).

2. Point. The more I think about it, the fence makes less and less sense. Must be a devil of a job keeping the thing functional in thunderstorms, to say nothing of snow.

Didn't the Espheni have an energy shortage in the last season? Thus the reason they were trying to retrofit the nuke plants and leaving their mechs underpowered when this failed?

3. My justification for that, flimsy though it is, is that the Espheni are lying and they've phased out those technologies because, for some reason, they are no long feasible. Of course full species conversion does seem like it would be even more resource-intensive, but who knows?

4. Point, though how much of the Overlord's speech can you really believe?

5. It does seem reasonable that they would think so... certainly there have been elements of humanity who wanted to somehow make the rest of the species "better" whether or not they wanted to be. (see CS Lewis, tyranny sincerely exercised and such)

6. Well, it was supposed to be a feint.

@ Hyperion
-I think all the imagination for the youth camp was spent on the decision to call it "Verheiden College" [Is someone saying that he hates his boss, there?]

Still withholding judgement on this one. I agree that the team leader is a joke and the theme doesn't seem to be working, but it still might turn out okay.

-I don't know if I consider psychokinesis to be a form of magic, at least no more egregiously so than faster-than-light travel.

I hear you about it being a bad idea to cast Lourdes as some kind of power behind the throne; her characterization gives no previous hints of her having the desire or ambition for that kind of role.

(Maggie, on the other hand...)

That said, Ben doesn't seem like the kind that would easily resort to physical violence against a former friend, even if he could snap her like a twig. Strength means nothing unless you have the convictions to use it, and it seems that a more fanatical Lourdes beats him in that field (Will to Power and all that stuff. Ask Otto.)

And I like Pope.

-My favourite one-liner was Tom saying that you have to change with the times even if it's backwards.

adimike55 said...

Sorry for not checking in sooner. I've been battling a return of my kidney cancer and have been a bit distracted. It has thrown my focus off a little bit and I have only been blogging about some personal things.

However,it is so good to have the show back and to finally not hear all the snark aimed at the show for only doing 10 episodes (now 12) a year. Of course,now I'm hearing from people disappointed that the show isn't just constant blowing up of Skitters.

Quick thoughts on the first two episodes. I really like how you've not only mixed up pairings of characters, but actually put those new pairings into different scenarios. With having to create 12 episodes this year, it allows the story to expand,and the new dynamics allow characters like Anthony and Tector to come a bit more to the foreground.

I also love how this still has a feeling of reference to past history, specifically World War II, right down to my thinking Steve McQueen when Tom broke out the motorcycle. Also loved the opening of the first episode with Tom hiding his wall map by scratching out the Gettysburg Address.

Treva Etienne's character intrigues me. If I am reading him correctly, he is there for a purpose,for a mission,and suggests that others elsewhere have sent him for more than just getting past the fences.

I also liked Bryce Hodgson as the harnessed Espehni mouthpiece. I loved Ricky from Season One (Daniyah Ysrael) because he was able to act his role, to communicate his part, with just his voice and his eyes, which is tough to do. Bryce seems to be able to do a similar style and it works well.

While there is a lot of focus on Lexi and her powers, I still lean in the direction of Lourdes actually being in control. Even the scene of the mayhem in the sunglass shop makes me wonder if it was Lourdes' anger causing the mayhem, not Lexi. The person behind the person in power is usually more in control,much like a puppetmaster.

Still a bit early to decide how I feel about Matt's new storyline. I think the world of Maxim,and it is great to see him growing out of the tagalong little brother role. While his story seems to be the most obvious and derivative of Hitler youth, I suspect that it is still early in the actual storyline.

Cochise(Doug Jones) seems to be softened a bit from his detached authoritarian feel last year. This year, I can feel the sadness of the cold relationship with his father, almost as if The Mason's are becoming his surrogate family. It also looks like his costume is more realistic and less CGI.

I love Dr. Kadar. Good to see him back. His "nutty professor" aura really helps make a bigger impact when his scenes become deeper.

In a coincidence, I had talked with Maxim on Twitter last year when Robert Sean Leonard had first joined the show. I told Max I had met Robert back in the 90's when I had my video stores. Disney held an event centered around the video release of DEAD POETS SOCIETY which was filmed near me,in Georgetown Delaware. I had stores in the Philly area. Robert and others from the cast were there and I briefly met all of them.

I also recommended SWING KIDS to Max, because not only did it star Robert, but Noah Wyle had a small role in it. When I recommended a film to Max centering on Nazi youth and its rebellion, little did I realize that his storyline this year would go in a similar direction.

Two quick questions: is there a hidden meaning to the MOB SUNGLASS window that Lexi's blood splatters on?

Also, does the "333"on the youth uniforms have any meaning?

Thanks again, Greg, for a great show and a cast and crew that is great to interact with. As I continue to battle my illness, I get to relax with friends and fans of Falling Skies and that means a lot

Nunya Bidness said...

Thank you for getting this show back on track. Last season was lost in the teenage soap opera, but so far we're back to the action and history that made this show great. Please get rid of Lexi and Anne so that we can concentrate on the real Masons.

Aldenata said...

-Cancer? That sucks; best of luck.

-I'm mixed on more episodes. I said last year that Sci-Fi shows tend to have even fewer episodes compared to other genres, and the worst thing that can happen to one is running out of ideas before it runs out of time. Star Trek: Voyager, anyone?

-Blowing up skitters: I'll admit that I enjoy that part, but even I know that it can't be all combat, all the time. I remember John Ringo saying that he had to quit the Posleen series until he could think of new ways to say "And then Posleen dies and their yellow blood spilled everywhere." I think the amount of killing they have going on right now is quite acceptable.

In terms of bodycount per episode, Falling Skies is probably bloodier than Stargate SG-1 (they're far more willing to actually kill main characters; the fact that people seldom died and never stayed dead on SG-1 was something that always annoyed me). It's not necessarily more fighting of aliens that I would want, it's less fighting of humans. Less drama. You might note that even the non-combat portions of SG-1 generally focus on needed preparations for combat. That's what Falling Skies should do too, and fortunately it seems to be more and more what they are doing.

-Historical references: they've been doing implicitly this since Season 2, after people complained about Tom Mason explicitly. It makes me happy either way. Do you remember the speech he made at the end of Season 2, with the National Anthem engraved in the background? All four verses, no less.

-Treva Etienne: The South African? I agree that he has a purpose, but don't know what it is. Espheni occupation forces always struck me as being fairly localized, almost like feudal feifdoms (remember them saying that Karen controlled the "entire" seaboard of Eastern North America? So she's a bigshot in a world[s]-spanning empire, and administered less territory than Arnold Schwarzenegger). It seems odd that they would send someone from another continent to come to this one and break out of multiple prisons, all in or near the Carolinas. You'd think the wardens would catch on to his strategy.

Hmm, remember my earlier theory, about Matt's girlfriend being a narc? Right now I'm remembering something my dad once said about someone you've never met before who can give you whatever you want, and they ask for in return is your trust.

-I hated Rick, and frankly I don't know how the other characters managed to go so long underestimating both the usefulness and danger of harnessed kids. Potential supersoldiers? Good. Potential fifth columnists? Bad.

I agree that the actor did the best he could with his character, but I just can't imagine anyone allowing such an obviously-unstable/treasonous individual to run around unsupervised in a warzone. Especially after his dad was out of the picture.

The mostly coldly-logical thing to have done would have been to feed him a load of buckshot... which, ultimately, is exactly what they did!

If you want to do the whole "bleeding heart" thing the smart way, then assign a permanent handler for him and offer whatever treatment you can to help him deal with whatever mental problems he clearly has. Of course this means feeding and housing two nearly-useless individuals, one of whom may or may not be planning to kill you in your sleep.

Middling ground? Straightjacket, or a cage. Which is actually what they did with Lourdes.

-I agree that Lourdes might really be the one in charge, but it still seems like an odd role for someone with a personality (melancholic?) like hers. Personalities are pretty hard-coded and very difficult to change even if someone really wants them too. Right now I think she's acting more phlegmatic than anything.

(A previous infestation of eyeworms might could screw with the brain enough to alter or even annihilate a previous personality; lobotomy by nanite, an idea which is actually quite horrifying.)

Aldenata said...

-I too am withholding judgement on Matt, and I also agree that Kadar and Cochise are two of the better of minor characters being developed so far.

...only, if Cochise and friends are supposed to avoid combat, why are they out on what looks like a combat sweep?

-333: might it have something to do with this?

...I highly doubt it.

@Nunya Bidness: Agree on the family drama. Lexi and Anne? Meh; I like what they've done with Anne, and am still withhold judgement on Lexi.

Notice that the Eshpeni she was talking to was wearing a big black cowl? Much like Cochise and friends? Hmm.

Space-fairing Benedictines?

adrianhickman said...


Thanks for the reply. Definitly some great points there.

Aldenata said...

Thank you, Adrian. Glad to know someone wants to hear my rants.

(Greg Beeman himself probably wants me to just go away; I ain't much nicer than Otto and am far less erudite.)