This War of the Worlds review contains spoilers.
War of the Worlds episode 4
They took the babies. The babies. They took them. Just when we thought we’d seen every dirty trick those robot alien sniper dogs from outer space had going, they took the babies.
Why and where they took them, we don’t know. From what we’ve seen of those scuttling curs so far, it won’t be anything good. They’ll be using the babies to stuff up draughty holes in their spaceships, or extracting the babies’ natural juices to lubricate their metallic knees.
Predictably, War of the Worlds didn’t become any cheerier in episode four. The UK scenes were characterised by hushed fear and a lack of progress, while the French parts were largely side-tracked by a bizarre family incest drama, and more Nick Cave.
Down in Grenoble, Durrand put her science head on and did some complicated algorithm-signal-array-bounce business to track down the alien HQ. They were near, she discovered, and they were listening in.
It’s far from comfort viewing, this lugubrious story, but there are the odd flashes of warmth amid all the grief and graveness. Emily’s droll “That went well” when Kariem told her he’d come to England to escape Sudan’s civil war fighting was one. Another was Col. Mokrani’s admission to Durrand that yes, he felt fear, but had learned to hide it. These bursts of humanity and intimacies are a blessed respite from the heart-heaviness of it all. A few more would go a long way.
That was something the UK contingent didn’t manage this week. Ash and Kariem went in a circle, first escaping the hospital and then returning there to discover the dread sight of those empty cots. Bill and Helen made slow progress wheeling around a shopping trolley filled with dead alien robot sniper dog and lugging approximately the same weight of emotional baggage at the same time.
Speaking of baggage, Chloe’s brother-rapist storyline was an odd diversion from the matter at hand, as though it had drifted in from another script. Personal drama doesn’t just disappear in the apocalypse, is perhaps the point, but that was an unusual development for a story whose main message seems to be that in the end, family is what truly matters. With an eight-episode order to fill though, something else had to plump up the slowly creeping alien plot until the next big revelation.
A revelation is due. The past two episodes have established the threat represented by those heartless robot critters, now it’s time to move up a level. Cool as they look (and they do look scarily cool – as well as very Earth-based in design. Have the aliens been watching these Boston Dynamics videos like the rest of us?) now at the halfway point in this series, we’re ready to see something else.
Something to vary all the grief wouldn’t go amiss either. Understandably, that was once again the mode of the hour. Ash tried to distract himself from the loss of his girlfriend and unborn son, while in Northern France the question, “Where are Granny and Granddad?” was never going to lead anywhere good. Granny and Granddad are buried in the back garden, mon cherie, along with tout le monde whose brains were blitzed by the alien signal.
Curiously, Chloe’s 15-year-old son Sacha seems to have survived the brain-blitz despite not being underground/underwater/in a lift at the time it occurred. Like Emily – whose returning sight turns out to be roughly as reliable as a Yodel delivery slot – he can also hear the alien thrumming sound. Are some young people immune? It would be an apt reflection of What’s Going On Right Now if teenagers were the ones to save the world.
Onwards, for this chilly, quietly atmospheric tale…