This War of the Worlds review contains spoilers.
War of the Worlds episode 8
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting… the Organ Grinder! In a shock twist, neither a Wellsian octopus, a Digby-sized massive robo-dog, nor a pulsing fist of Cronenbergian flesh, but a humanoid. Possibly even a human. Possibly even, by the look of him, David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth before he fell to Earth.
Few series finales have conjured that much tension in the approach to a cliff-hanger. For several episodes now, War of the Worlds has held its nerve, sticking with its careful, deliberate pace and delaying our gratification until the last possible moment.
The surprise was worth the wait. Whatever we were expecting Emily to find at the end of that long, slow walk down the sci-fi corridor, it wasn’t something that looked like us.
And also looked… pitiable? For a genocidal murderer, ‘The Alien’ (as actor Jonathan Gunning is credited in the episode) cut a remarkably sad figure. It was like seeing those post-capture photos of Saddam Hussein looking scrawny with the dishevelled beard of a Lord of the Rings extra. Trust this series to finally open the door to the villain’s lair and what’s inside is… feelings.
Feelings are central to this sensitive sci-fi, which, gunfire notwithstanding, has been an antidote to every macho, battle-heavy alien splatter-fest elsewhere in the genre. Put it this way, could you imagine this series having a videogame tie-in? If it did, it’d be one of those beautifully rendered indies where characters wander around artily desolate landscapes having emotional revelations rather than locking and loading and blowing up enemy bases. Remember what beautiful French fantasy The Returned did for the zombie genre? That’s War of the Worlds does for alien invasions.
That’s not to say War of the Worlds lacks action. Jonathan and Chloe’s chase was expertly tense, with the pleasant surprise of being accompanied not by a throbbing techno track as it might have been elsewhere, but by the same minimalist orchestral score as the show’s dreamier moments.
The robo-dog attack on the ski resort too, was high-tension. The switch in tone from calm to chaos was masterfully handled. The almost silent bullet took out the first soldier just when things seemed peaceful, his body dropping to the ground while we were all distracted by what promised to be an emotional thank you from Catherine to Mokrani.
Catherine turned out to be the one to thank, after her high-tension, real-time science-experiment gifted humanity with an actual weapon to disable the invaders. Though, as it was her signal that first drew the aliens in, perhaps we’ll just agree to call it evens. It seemed almost certain that Sophia was on the way out after big sis told her she was proud of her. Redemptive emotional closure not followed by immediate and bloody death? Keep the surprises coming.
The rest of the episode was about mourning and emotional connection. Bill mourned Helen. Colonel Mokrani literally carried the weight of his dead men around with him in the form of their ID tags. Bill and Ash connected over the loss of their loved ones. Sarah stopped trying to protect Tom from the world’s bleaker truths. And Chloe and Sacha talked out their whole complex incest/love/hate deal.
Speaking of Sacha, the Alien wasn’t our only surprise in the finale. Scroll down from that honeyed vision of Emily that Sacha keeps seeing and there’s an unmistakeably pregnant stomach (hers, to be specific, though we are in the realm of sci-fi).
Do the aliens want Sacha and Emily to breed? Is there something about their particular combination of genetics use? Is Kariem the father? Is vision-Emily pregnant by the invaders? Can the vision even be trusted? (On the subject of pregnancies, what a relief to see the babies alive and well – though, admittedly, yes, captive in an alien submarine.)
So many jumping-off points for series two, which is now a requirement.
H.G Wells didn’t write a sequel, you say? Well *Gallic shrug* it’s not as though he wrote any of this either. Doesn’t stop it being essential viewing. À tout à l’heure.