This War of the Worlds review contains spoilers.
War of the Worlds Episode 6
It’s been a few days since the world ended, and with the robo-dog threat somewhat allayed after the mutts’ core directive switched from ‘Kill Everyone’ to ‘Build a Massive Jenga Tower out of Babies’ (or whatever it is they’re up to), our survivors finally have some time to think. Why is this happening to us? What do the aliens want? What does it all mean?
This episode was a welcome change of pace for the series, giving us an overdue opportunity to really get to know this cast of characters. Helen, it turns out, is energisingly kickass with an appealingly ‘screw it’ attitude, and resourceful in a pinch. Colonel Mokrani, we learn, is a tortured soul with an innate sense of justice and a unique perspective on the evil committed in wartime. Knowing this stuff makes these characters pop into colour. They’re no longer Running Person A or Sighing Person B. They’ve come alive.
How long they’ll stay that way depends on the answer to the second question: what do the invaders want? A shedload of corpses would have been a sound bet based on their early behaviour, but now? They want to live, says Emily courtesy of her psychic hotline to alien central. They’re scared of dying.
What the baby harvest and the DNA scanning have to do with that fear is a connection yet to be made. Could the aliens be planning to create a them-us hybrid to ensure the continuation of their species? A sort of genetic cut-and-shut, half bubblegum-monster, half human? Is it, as Bill says, all down to Darwinism?
Wild speculation like the above shows just how far this particular apple falls from the H.G. Wells tree. Mysterious space-balls and callous execution of humanity aside, there’s really nothing so far linking this alien invasion to the book in the title. No journalist, no artilleryman, no Thunder Child, no colonial-critique subtext and as yet, no Tripods. We’re best off seeing it as an entirely independent story and ignoring the title. Give it a new title, even. Something moody and French like ‘Les Extraterrestres’ or ‘L’Invasion’ would work. Maybe ‘Alien Robot Dogs Killed Everyone but at least the Music’s Great’?
The music remains great. Episode six’s turn towards hope was reflected with a montage set to The Cinematic Orchestra’s gorgeous ‘To Build a Home’. Soundtracking a series of warm reunions and reconciliations – Durrand and Sophia, Sarah and Emily and the Spaghetti Hoops – it was a rare note of positivity for a drama that’s so far shown us a series of very elegantly filmed, very horrid deaths.
That’s not to say episode six was an all-out bath of human joy. It also had moments of supreme tension (Ash on the spiral staircase) and supreme exhilaration (Helen and Sarah on the spiral car park ramp). There was also the disturbing sight of a heavily pregnant woman being dragged off to an unspecified doom before bleeding to death, so don’t go thinking this show’s turning soft. It will do birthday cakes and parties, accepted, but only as long as there’s always a smudge of discomfiting blood on the football.
Not all of the relationships were warm either. Young Sacha (whose English, incidentally, is excellent. Imagine an English child stuck in the reverse situation. They might be able to tell their French-speaking apocalypse stepdad that they like to jouer au tennis à la bibliothèque, but it’s unlikely they could frostily assert their filial resentment while adjusting with remarkable ease to a new world of lawless emptiness without ever getting a tense wrong) was not happy about Jonathan’s presence in the chateau.
(Also incidentally, a chateau is absolutely the place to wait this whole thing out. Log fires, cheese, baguettes, wine and antiques? That trio’s on an upscale mini-break, not a do-or-die escape mission.)
“Do you think there’s a reason we survived?” asked Sacha, whose psychic connection to the aliens has been sending him JPEGs of Emily’s face. Does his genetically inherited disease link him to Emily in some way? Whatever human DNA the aliens scanned, did it not account for mutations like Emily’s or Sacha’s?
So many questions, with just two episodes of this classy series to go. And still no sign of the organ grinder…