War of the Worlds – 2.2: “No Direction Home”

The new HQ – Kincaid’s bunker.

So it’s not cloudy anymore. Guess we’re dropping that whole thing. No explanation is given for that.

Following the destruction of their cottage headquarters, Harrison, Suzanne, and Debbie (Suzanne’s daughter) are riding with Kincaid in his van when they spot a black car following them. Blackwood immediately goes for a gun. Because that’s something Blackwood would do. Kincaid manages to lose the car when it spins out of control and crashes. Although our heroes get away, the aliens snatch up a priest to use in their experiments.

Kincaid takes the others to his bunker, which will evidently serve as the new base of operations. For some inexplicable reason, control-freak overbearing know-it-all Blackwood asks Kincaid what to do next and what to do about Debbie, who is evidently in shock following the events of the previous episode. Kincaid tries to contact the military, but they totally blow him off. He lies to them about having been in contact with Blackwood and is generally evasive and uncooperative. He terminates the call and concludes that they no longer have the support of the government.

Like… what the shit?!!!!

“MY BALLS!!!”

Meanwhile, the aliens clone the priest. During the cloning process, the priest mentions God, which causes one of the alien scientists to scream like someone is squeezing his testicles. I’m not sure what that’s all about. The cute alien scientist chick reports to her boss that things are going well. “I hope so Commander, for your sake,” he tells her. “The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what he says. I’m not sure what’s going on there. The priest clone decides to devote himself to the one true god, the Eternal. Whatever that is.

Back at the ranch, things are dark and gloomy. Leaving Suzanne at home to knit them sweaters or whatever, the manly men rush out to do action. (I can’t help but notice that the only two cast members to get axed were people of color – funny, that.) They go to the warehouse where the aliens were holding Ironhorse and find the cocooned remains of humans. Two aliens show up and obligingly die when shot. Then Blackwood finds an icky thing on the floor and decides to keep it. He figures if they study the alien technology, they can find a way to stop the enemy. Kincaid thinks that’s dumb and would prefer to … I dunno, lose or something.

Gross! Lets keep it!

They take it back to the bunker where Suzanne realizes it allows you to read minds. That night, Blackwood and Suzanne don’t sleep well and wake up not feeling rested. They also discover that overnight the alien thingy has tripled in size. It also projects holograms of the aliens walking around. Because Kincaid is utterly stupid, he doesn’t realize they’re holograms and wants to shoot at them. Fortunately, Blackwood and Suzanne are able to stop him before he riddles the place with bullets.

Debbie is watching the monitor and sees the alley that Kincaid is spying on for whatever reason. A crazy guy is talking about a priest who’s not really a priest. The team figures out that the priest in question must be a clone and they race off to deal with him, taking the alien gizmo with them.

They find the priest clone, who his holding the crazy guy hostage. For some reason, they touch the gizmo, which for some reason causes the priest clone to double over in pain, allowing Kincaid to shoot him, which for some reason causes the gizmo to self-destruct. For some reason, the clone dying doesn’t kill the actual priest. Naked and covered in slime, the priest gets out of the cloning device and is happy. Evidently the aliens don’t care if he leaves, because in the next scene he’s back at the shelter fully clothed and thanking the team for rescuing him.

For no obvious reason, the team arrives back at the bunker laughing about something. Even Debbie, who I guess isn’t in shock anymore. She says she’ll miss Ironhorse and Norton, which for some reason makes the others smile.

Nothing in this episode made any sense. When the first episode didn’t make any sense, I figured they were just leaving certain things to be explained later. But now I’m convinced that those things are never going to be explained. Everything in this season so far is utterly half-assed, even moreso than season one. It takes a supreme lack of talent to make me long wistfully for the good ol’ days of season one, but new showrunner Frank Mancuso Jr. (of Friday the 13th fame) has pulled it off. We’re only two episodes in and things are not looking good.

With the Mortaxians dead and the team cut off from their military resources, the last elements from season one have been swept away. As incompetent as they were, at least the Mortaxians were loosely based on the aliens from the original film. At least we occasionally got to see the original war machines. At least Sylvia Van Buren made occasional guest appearances. At least we had John Colicos. I doubt we’ll see any of these things again.

As awful as season one was, it had a certain campy charm that made it kind of watchable. I’m not sure what we’re left with now. Boring villains, boring heroes, and boring plots. It’s got that early 90s vibe of generalized dullness that infected so many shows of that era. It’s just a bunch of people standing around in dimly-lit rooms looking glum while mood music plays. That’s not interesting. That’s not fun. That’s not art. That’s just boring.

A very different Harrison Blackwood (Jared Martin) heads up the cast of season two, minus Norton and Ironhorse.

And what’s up with Harrison? It’s like we’ve completely ditched his whole character. Season one Harrison was an arrogant overbearing vegetarian who hated guns and solved problems with a tuning fork. New Harrison is edgy, has a beard, goes for his gun at the first sign of trouble, and asks Kincaid, who he barely knows, for advice. Who the hell is this guy? Yes, season one Harrison was stupid and annoying, but that’s not the point. You can’t just arbitrarily change a character like that. Take Buffy Summers for example. In season one, Buffy is bouncy, jovial, and girlish. By season seven, she’s far more serious, more cynical, less innocent. What happened? Seven years of shit went down, that’s what happened. And yet as different as later Buffy is, at her core she’s still the same person. She still has the strength of character, the courage, the dedication to her duty, the loyalty to her friends that the season one version had. The core identity is the same, but how she behaves, how she interacts with the world around her, that has been changed by her life experiences. That’s called a character arc, kids, and it’s what makes stories interesting. I could buy that season one Harrison could evolve into season two Harrison. I could see a battle-weary Harrison who has seen too many friends die start to let his principles slip. But we jump over that narrative and just overwrite the old Harrison with the new. That’s sloppy writing.

Incoming producer Frank Mancuso Jr. seems to have adopted a scorched-earth policy regarding every aspect of the show. In replacing Greg Strangis as showrunner, Mancuso displays arrogant disdain for his predecessor. The on-screen execution of the advocacy for their incompetence even plays as a symbolic execution of the previous producer. It’s as if Mancuso were publicly saying, “You suck, Strangis! Let me show you how it’s done!” But in so doing, he has put his own balls on the chopping block, and if he doesn’t deliver, it’s going to end very badly for him. Well, snip snip, buddy, cause what the shit are you doing?

How do you get rid of body-stealing aliens only to replace them with more body-stealing aliens? How do you manage to serve up an alien menace that’s actually *less* threatening than the Mortaxians? The Mortaxians were global in scope. So far, these aliens seem confined to a single warehouse. The Mortaxians were stealing every body in sight, hopping from body to body at will and leaving a path of destruction in their wake. These guys seem to just be cloning people here and there. How many of them even are there? Are they global or is it just the handful we’ve already seen? What’s their plan? Are they seriously going to invade Earth by cloning one person at a time? What are they doing? WHAT’S GOING ON?!!!!

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