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?!!!!

War of the Worlds – 2.1: “The Second Wave”

Fascist aliens invade Earth in the original V (1983-1985).

Let me get this straight. The vastly superior alien invasion series V gets canceled after only 19 episodes and this crap-fest gets picked up for a second season? Who sold their soul to Satan to make that happen? Whatever.

The terrifying Martian invaders destroy everything in their path in the 1953 classic, The War of the Worlds, which this show does not do justice.

We open with Harrison and Suzanne standing on the terrace looking up at the night sky. They wax philosophical for a bit about the aliens and whatnot. And then Harrison spots a falling star. And another. And another. They’re coming down in a deluge – close. One of them lands just over the next hill. Horrified, Harrison realizes it’s a full-on invasion. The swan-shaped machines rise out of their pits, their heat rays spewing death everywhere they go. First New York falls. Then London. Then Moscow. City after city after city is wiped out by the merciless onslaught. Harrison and his beleaguered team flee their headquarters just as an alien war machine blasts it to smithereens. The military is powerless to stop the invasion, and this time Earth’s bacteria is useless against the aliens. Within days, humanity is brought to its knees. Harrison and company take refuge in a subway tunnel. As the aliens patrol the devastated countryside picking up stragglers for extermination, the ragged and demoralized team begins making plans. The first step will be to find any survivors they can and bring them back to the tunnel. Cowering in sewers and subway systems, Harrison and his people prepare to strike back. Somehow, though they don’t yet know how, humanity will rise from the ashes of their ruined civilization and take back their world.

An illustration from the 1906 edition of The War of the Worlds. I wonder what H.G. Wells would think of this show.

That’s what I wanted to see. What I hoped I would see. What I knew I wouldn’t see. Here’s what we got:

An alien planet blows up. A dot flies to Earth and makes it… cloudy. Or something. New aliens have arrived on Earth. They’re called the Morthren and they decide to execute the Mortaxians for being completely incompetent. Can’t say I blame them, because they’re not wrong. What I can’t figure is why the Mortaxians just obediently step into the disintegration machine. Well, whatever. The Mortaxians never were that bright. The Leader of the Morthren communes with a hologram of their leader, the Big Giant Head (a huge one-eyed tick), and receives instructions.

Harrison goes to an S&M bar to meet up with someone – we’re never told who. He gets into trouble and is about to get his ass kicked when some military guys randomly show up and bail him out. But they turn out to be aliens here to kidnap him. Fortunately some dude named Kincaid shows up and saves him. They go back to HQ where we learn that Ironhorse knows Kincaid and doesn’t like him.

Ironhorse goes to investigate a building where the aliens are supposedly hiding and gets captured. The aliens clone him and send the clone to wipe out Team Blackwood. Blackwood and Kincaid get worried and go to rescue Ironhorse. They find him and and escape together.

Meanwhile the Ironhorse clone kills Norton (!) and plants charges to blow up the building. He takes Suzanne’s daughter as a hostage. Harrison shows up with Kincaid and Ironhorse and they catch the clone in the act of abducting Suzanne’s daughter. Ironhorse concludes based on nothing that he and the clone are linked and kills himself, thereby killing the clone. The team escapes the building just as it blows up.

The boring aliens from War of the Worlds – season 2.
You don’t scare me. Work on it.

This episode was… confusing. Who the hell are these new aliens? What is their relationship to the Mortaxians? Why do the Mortaxians allow themselves to be executed? What’s going on with the clouds? Why are Ironhorse and the clone linked? The aliens say that the cloning process would kill Ironhorse. But if the clone dies when Ironhorse dies, how is that useful? There are a lot of new elements introduced in this episode. I don’t have a problem with that. The show needed a new direction. But they handled it very poorly.

Overall, however, I will admit this is an improvement over season one. For starters, they shot it on higher-quality video, so the picture is a lot sharper. It’s lit better and the production design is more inspired. The cheese factor is greatly reduced and the overall tone is darker, more serious. That could go either way. The stupendously awful train-wreck that was season one offered a lot in the way of unintentional laughs, which actually made it fun in a way. If season two lacks sufficient camp to make it funny and takes itself too seriously, it could wind up just being really dull. But this episode at least held my attention, despite being really confusing.

Bottom line, though… this still has nothing to do with the 1953 movie or the novel it was based on.

War of the Worlds – episode 1.23, “The Angel of Death”

“Scene 23, take one.”

There’s a new player in town. A glowing ball of energy deposits a woman dressed in black who never, under any circumstances, stops doing yoga. She can fire energy beams from her hands and she is determined to track down the advocacy and eliminate them. She does this by finding all the aliens she possibly can, ordering them to tell her where the advocacy is, and when they refuse, killing them. She’s… not a very good tracker.

Team Blackwood gets suspicious when the alien bodies start piling up. Blackwood thinks maybe there are new aliens in town. They set a trap by luring some aliens to a warehouse, hoping the tracker will show up. She does and starts blasting everything she sees. Because they’re stupid, the aliens think Suzanne is the tracker and run off to report to the advocacy. The tracker disappears and everything’s back to square one.

“Wake me up when this episode is over.”

The tracker takes Ironhorse captive and amidst unnecessary yoga moves explains that she’s Q’Tara from the planet Q’arto and she’s here to stop the Mortaxians. Ironhorse decides they have a common enemy and can help each other. He rushes home to tell the others.

The advocacy decides to take the offensive, leading their troops into battle, and heads out to ambush their enemies.

The whole team goes to Q’Tara’s hideout to discuss strategy, but the Mortaxians follow them. A shootout ensues in which Q’Tara and all of Team Blackwood are gunned down. Having accomplished this, the Mortaxians leave. It’s not made clear whether the advocacy has been taken out or why they stop the assault after their enemies have been overwhelmed, but not killed.

Some time later, Q’Tara fixes herself – having been revealed to be a robot – and then heals team Blackwood. She has to go now, but promises to return in a year to continue the fight. Blackwood is delighted to have found new aliens who are friendly. But once he’s out of earshot, Q’Tara radios back to her planet that humans are still endangered as a potential food source. Uh-oh!

Q’Tara has to be the cheesiest thing I’ve ever seen in just about anything. Like seriously, Ed Wood himself couldn’t have out-cheesed this lady. Like so much in this show, she has to be seen to be believed. She’s just so over-the-top. She’s got some serious 80’s hair, sleeps leaned against the wall like a plank, and then there’s all the ridiculous yoga moves, a hilarious warble to her voice, and a stilted and laughable delivery for all her lines.

In addition, the whole episode is completely disjointed. Plot threads are introduced and then dropped, the action scenes are poorly staged and nonsensical, and the whole thing is just so utterly cornball that I challenge anyone to make it through without laughing. In short, it’s a fitting end to a season made up almost entirely of trash.

But we made it through! Hooray! We’re finally done!!

Wait, what? There … there’s another season?! …

SON OF A … !!

*sigh*

Okay.

*Does shot of whiskey, slams the glass down on the counter*

Let’s do this.

War of the Worlds – episode 1.22: “The Raising of Lazarus”

“Spread out, everybody! We’re gonna try and figure out the shape o’ this thing!”

We open with a construction worker who is totally losing his shit because he thinks he found a flying saucer. I got a bit excited for a second, thinking we were going to see a war machine, but alas, it’s just a tiny capsule. The military takes possession of the capsule and takes it to a bunker in a remote location. They contact Team Blackwood to have a look. No sooner do they get there, however, than an Air Force colonel shows up and takes charge, having been authorized to do so by authorities higher up than Ironhorse’s boss. Blackwood and his people are salty about it, but cooperate.

The colonel pokes and prods at the capsule with drills and lasers but can’t get it open. He’s ready to give up, but Blackwood suggests using sonic waves to get it open because Dr. Forrester had been working along those lines back in the day. They try it and it works. The capsule unscrews – just like the cylinders in the original film! That bit is nifty. Inside is a perfectly preserved alien and Blackwood just can’t wait to dissect it. But the colonel overrules him and decides to let the alien sit overnight. For… reasons.

That night the colonel sneaks into the lab wearing a Spider-Man costume and carrying some lube… No, just kidding. Actually he’s carrying a petri dish and a syringe. He takes some samples and sneaks away with them. For… reasons.


“No question… It’s using the air tunnels to move around.”

So… guess what happens next. No, seriously, see if you can guess…

It’s alive! The alien’s not dead! Did you guess correctly? Of course you did. It pops out of the capsule and immediately goes into… wait for it… the air ducts! I guess while it was chillin’ in that capsule, it must’ve watched a lot of sci-fi movies.

Team Blackwood and the air force people discover that the alien is missing and begin searching for it. Needless to say, no one thinks to check the air ducts.

“Oh, this is better than injecting LSD into my eyeballs!”

The colonel decides to inject the alien fluid he extracted last night into the soft tissue under his tongue. I guess he figures it’ll get him high. Just kidding. He thinks he’ll absorb the alien’s knowledge. The alien overhears this from the air duct and thinks it’s a fantastic idea. It grabs a power cable and hacks into the colonel’s computer to tell him so. Encouraged by this, the colonel goes ahead and does it. And… nothing happens.

Blackwood is on the phone with Norton. The alien seizes the opportunity and grabs the power cable again, hacking into Noron’s computer and absorbing all their data. Now it knows about the Earth bacteria and how to defeat it with radiation. It makes a beeline for the bunker’s nuclear reactor and steals some plutonium. It runs amok, spreading radiation everywhere so it will be safe from the bacteria. Blackwood realizes what the alien is doing, watching the radiation spread on a monitor (man, that critter moves fast.).

“I sense… danger. And cheese. Lots of cheese.”

Realizing the soldiers are coming, the alien decides to hide by taking over the colonel’s body. But Blackwood uses his magic tuning fork to figure out the alien has done this. Having saturated the bunker with radiation, the alien decides to… leave. In a car. Ironhorse uses the air ducts to get to the lab, because I guess radiation doesn’t like air ducts or something, and uses the laser to fry the escaping alien.

By any objective measure, this episode is a mess. The story is as half-baked as anything else this series has done, a blatant mix of The Thing From Another World and Alien, only this time the production values are so shameless as to be downright embarrassing, even for this show. Every time we see the alien moving through the air ducts, it’s the same goddamn shot! At one point when it attacks someone, the shot of the alien pouncing is lifted from another episode. And the shot used is an exterior shot, inserted into an interior scene. I mean, it’s just pitiful.

All that said… I have to confess I enjoyed it. The monster-on-the-loose plot, though derivative, was entertaining, and the alien stayed in its natural form for the bulk of the episode, which was a refreshing change of pace. I’m not saying it was a particularly good episode, mind you, but it held my attention more than the previous several episodes, which have been pretty dull for the most part. So I guess the lesson here is that you don’t need good writing or production values to deliver solid entertainment. You just need a guy in a monster suit.

War of the Worlds – episode 1.21: “So Shall Ye Reap”

Let’s turn the humans into a bunch of Incredible Hulks. Great plan!

We open in a nightclub where a dude is trying to score. He leaves with a woman and they head for his hotel room. In the elevator, he reveals he’s a cop and puts her under arrest. For prostitution, I guess. Even though she never quoted him any rates or anything, so I’m really not sure what’s going on here. Turns out she’s an alien, though, and she cold cocks him and throws him in the back of a van with some other people. Seems the aliens are kidnapping people to do experiments on them in hopes of producing a virus that will send humans into a blind rage so they start attacking and killing each other.

28 days later, Blackwood wakes up from a coma… wait, no. Blackwood and the others are posing as members of the DEA to work with the Chicago PD, ostensibly to combat a new drug that people are dying from. Obviously in reality, they’re after the aliens.

The experiments aren’t going well, so the envoy from the Advocacy bumps off the lead scientist and takes charge of the situation herself. Because that’s going to end well for her.

“Should we let her know we’re a legitimate government operation? Nah, that would be too efficient.”

A homeless dude finds a body in a dumpster. The cops and Team Blackwood go to investigate and determine it’s another drug victim. While they’re at the crime scene, the lead detective gets a call – the DEA has never heard of Blackwood! She arrests the whole team on the spot for impersonating government officials. Uh-oh!

But it’s okay. She calls their boss and he clears everything and tells her they really are government agents and they’re after terrorists. “You know,” she says, “you could have saved us all a lot of trouble if you’d told me that up front.” Hey, there’s a thought.

The aliens succeed in creating their drug. They test it out on Cop Guy and he goes totally ape shit. They unleash him in a titty bar and he hulks out and trashes everyone and everything in his path. Maybe I’ve missed the point of this show. Is this actually a brilliant comedy and the joke just went over my head? Someone calls the cops. Evidently Cop Guy still has the presence of mind to know when to cut and run, so he hightails it back to the car and they take off with the cops in pursuit. Realizing they can’t get away, the the aliens drive the car into the lake.

The lead detective is really cut up over the death of whats-his-face, and for some reason she’s able to figure out that Team Blackwood isn’t after terrorists. Inexplicably, Blackwood decides to spill the beans to her about everything. They go to a mob boss that she has close ties with, who tells them where to find the aliens. Yeah, that makes sense.

“Ya wanna get nuts?! Let’s get nuts!”

The alien plan has backfired magnificently. A careless orderly leaves both a supply of the highly-addictive rage drugs *and* the keys to the cages within reach of one of the prisoners. It’s rage-a-palooza as the drug-crazed prisoners escape and rip the aliens apart. Team Blackwood and the police arrive just in time to find the aliens have already done their work for them.

Realizing the aliens are utterly incompetent, Blackwood decides there’s no need to keep hunting them and retires to the country where he becomes a beekeeper. This is the final episode.

No. No, it isn’t. There’s more.

This episode is stupid. There’s not much to say beyond that. It’s just bloody stupid. There’s no suspense, the premise isn’t interesting, there’s nothing noteworthy happening with the characters. It’s just some stuff that’s happening. There it is.

War of the Worlds – episode 1.20: “My Soul to Keep”

“Gotta love me!”

Uh-oh! The aliens are breeding! And the baby aliens are so cute! With their cute little cyclops eyes and their cute little spindly arms! Aww! We don’t see anything of their reproductive process – I guess we can be grateful for that. Despite my curiosity, anything this show would’ve come up with probably would’ve been stupid as hell. Anyway, the babies need to be kept cold, so the aliens decide to move them into a warehouse full of, like, liquid nitrogen or something.

In Washington, D.C., some douchebag goes into a Korean bathhouse, says some racist shit to the owner, then goes into the sauna. There he meets a shadowy figure in a bathrobe, his face hidden by a hood, who totally isn’t John Colicos. In a gravelly voice that is totally not instantly recognizable as John Colicos, the shadowy figure tells the douchebag that he needs to investigate the Blackwood project. Evidently Douchebag is a reporter looking for a story. When Douchebag asks why, Not John Colicos tells him his ex-wife is involved. It’s Suzanne! Gasp! He also says that Team Blackwood is rounding up illegal aliens and exterminating them. Which… I guess is kind of true.

“What? John Colicos? Never heard of him.”

While Team Blackwood hand-waves their way through solving the latest alien plot, Douchebag shows up to manipulate his family into giving them a story. He tells Suzanne he’s sorry and wants to make things right and blah blah blah vomit. He takes her out to dinner and continues to lay on the sleaze. When Suzanne doesn’t bite, he shifts tactics and tells her he knows the Blackwood project is killing illegal aliens. She should just laugh in his face, but instead she’s hurt and angry. At least she has the good sense to walk out on him.

Can you just look at the camera and John Colicos for a bit? That’s perfect. Print that.

Douchebag goes back to the sauna for another meeting with Not John Colicos. I forget what they talked about because it’s been a week since I watched it and I probably wasn’t paying attention anyway. I could go back and watch the scene again to refresh my memory, but I don’t care enough. The important part of the scene is that when Douchebag goes away, the camera dollies in on the shadowy figure as he pulls back his hood to reveal… he’s John Colicos! Gasp! Wait, not gasp. I already knew that. With his eyes wide, Colicos looks right at the camera and lets out that trademark cackle. Because he’s John Colicos and that’s what John Colicos is for.

Blackwood and Ironhorse track the aliens to the warehouse. They go inside and find a bunch of eggs that look like scaly nutsacks. They decide to take one back to base for Suzanne to examine. Once back at the lab, it hatches and attacks Suzanne. Realizing the aliens are breeding, they decide to raid the warehouse and kill everything in sight.

I feel like we’ve seen this hallway before. In like every episode.

But Douchebag decides to follow them with a camera crew. They witness the battle but are then attacked by aliens. Team Blackwood comes to the rescue, but they’re too late to save the camera crew. Sadly, Douchebag survives. Realizing Team Blackwood is killing aliens from outer space and not Mexico, he calms down.

God, I hope Douchebag is not going to be a recurring character. He is neither interesting nor fun. He’s just… a douchebag.

This episode really needed more John Colicos. But then *all* the episodes need more John Colicos. It was nice to see Quinn again, but also confusing. When we saw him last, he was trying to broker a truce to facilitate a peaceful transition to alien rule while preserving a small percentage of the human population. When Blackwood saved his life, it seemed they’d reached some kind of understanding, or at least a degree of mutual respect. But here it seems like he’s just generally trying to disrupt things. It’s not even clear what his end game is. Why tell the reporter that Blackwood is killing illegal aliens? What does he have to gain from that? If the reporter investigates, either he’ll come up empty or he’ll learn the truth. Either way, how does that advance Quinn’s agenda? It just doesn’t add up.

This isn’t a particularly good episode, but it’s not an especially bad one either. It’s just kind of ho-hum. Well, whatever. Hopefully the next episode will have more John Colicos. Not holding my breath.

War of the Worlds – episode 1.19: “Vengeance is Mine”

“…Oops.”

In a battle with the aliens, Ironhorse accidentally guns down an innocent woman. It’s an honest mistake, but it sends him spiraling into depression and guilt, especially after he attends her funeral. He visits a therapist but doesn’t find the sessions productive.

Meanwhile, the aliens have decided to arm themselves with ray guns. But a key component of the ray guns is rubies, and they’ll need a lot of them. One of the alien leaders proposes stealing the rubies, but the others think that’s too dangerous, so they decide they’ll all have to get jobs and save up. Or rob a bunch of banks. Because robbing banks isn’t dangerous at all. Sigh. Okay, moving on.

The husband of the woman Ironhorse killed goes totally batshit insane and decides to take revenge on Ironhorse. This works out nicely because Ironhorse is also going kind of insane. He alternates between being way too hesitant to pursue obvious leads because they might get someone hurt and being way too gung-ho on leads that aren’t promising. He snaps at his co-workers and practically has a nervous breakdown. Blackwood goes to Ironhorse’s superior and gets permission to order Ironhorse to take some time off.

Ironhorse leaves to go to Blackwood’s cabin, but before he gets there, the dead chick’s husband attacks with a radio-controlled helicopter and runs him off the road. He then takes Ironhorse to a secluded area to kill him.

“Mmm… rubies make me wet.”

While all this is going on, the aliens pull a bunch of heists on armored cars to get the money to buy the rubies. They go to a super-sexy green-eyed woman who practically has an on-camera orgasm at the thought of selling rubies to literally anyone. She’s a really, *really* weird character.

Ironhorse awakens tied up in a room. He distracts Crazy Guy with logic, managing to loosen his bonds while Crazy Guy is looking right at him. He then Captain Kirks his way out of the situation, beating the guy senseless and tying him up instead.

Throwing the guy in the passenger seat of the van, Ironhorse charges in to join the rest of the team, who are going after the aliens. Ironhorse catches up with the armored car the aliens have stolen and convinces Crazy Guy to use his radio controlled helicopter to blow up the aliens, since they’re the ones who are really responsible for his wife’s death. He does so and then I guess they’re friends now or something.

Alien-fighting gear now sold at Toys R Us.

This could have been a really good character-driven episode, and it’s nice to see Ironhorse in the spotlight, but it’s so sloppily rendered that it ultimately does a big belly-flop. For starters, the pacing is off. It’s just slow and ponderous. The scenes with Ironhorse and the therapist are awkward, with lots of lengthy pauses. I guess it’s supposed to be dramatic, but it’s just kind of bland. Ditto for the scenes where Ironhorse is breaking down in front of Blackwood and the others.

Conversely, the scenes with the aliens are ridiculous as usual, undermining what’s clearly supposed to be a serious dramatic episode. The woman selling the rubies has to be seen to be believed. She chews the scenery every time she’s on screen, coming across like Diana from V, but then she doesn’t do anything. I kept waiting for her to be up to something, to double-cross the aliens or otherwise do something unexpected, but she’s just weird and creepy for no obvious reason, then disappears from the episode without any kind of pay-off. What the hell, episode?!

He no nuts. He crazy!

And then there’s Crazy Guy. He’s so over-the-top, acting less like a grieving husband and more like a serial killer. Seriously, the dude has a real Francis Dollarhyde vibe. It’s hard to feel any real sympathy for him because he’s just so damn creepy. Also, he clearly understands that not only was his wife’s death an accident, but that Ironhorse feels deeply guilty about it. He sees the look of horror and shame on Ironhorse’s face when they’re putting his wife’s body into the ambulance, and then he sees Ironhorse attending the funeral. Ironhorse was in uniform during the incident, so it’s not like he was some mugger or psycho. He was just a soldier doing his duty. The incident is tragic, yes, but an accident, and any reasonable person would know that.

It’s rather unfortunate, because there’s real potential here. I can only imagine the weight of guilt soldiers and police officers must feel when they’ve accidentally gunned down an innocent person while performing their duty. That’s certainly a topic worth exploring. But it’s all so melodramatic on the one hand and fairly superficial on the other that it really doesn’t address the issue in any meaningful way.

And we end with Ironhorse and Crazy Guy just standing side-by-side as if they’ve had this great reconciliation. Never mind the fact that this guy is clearly unstable and guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder. But I guess we’re not going to address that. I know Ironhorse feels guilty for killing this guy’s wife, but come on, man, there’s public safety to consider here.

Jesus Christ, this show is stupid.

War of the Worlds – episode 1.18, “The Last Supper”

“I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here tonight.”

Team Blackwood hosts a meeting of representatives from around the worlds to exchange information about the alien threat. Blackwood hogs the show, however, recounting his various adventures via flashback.

Turns out there’s an alien hidden among the dignitaries who tells the aliens where the meeting is. The alien army shows up and the building is under seige. Blackwood uses his stupid tuning fork to focus his thoughts and he gets the alien to out itself by suggesting they surrender to the aliens. There’s a shootout and the aliens are of course defeated.

The bulk of this episode consists of clips from previous episodes and essentially serves as a recap of what’s happened so far. So… I guess just re-read my previous reviews.

The best line of dialogue occurs in the alien lair when one of the alien leaders is watching TV and says, “I don’t understand why I enjoy watching this!”

War of the Worlds – episode 1.17, “Unto Us a Child Is Born”

You gotta be kidding me.

………………………….*sigh*…………………………..

Okay. We start with a trio of aliens planning to disperse some kind of toxin in a mall. They booger it up and get caught by a mall guard. Two of them bolt but one of them is a slow poke because the plot necessitates it. Turtle Martian winds up in a clothing store and we have an uncomfortably rapey scene where he takes over a pregnant lady. Now we have a pregnant alien. In the episode’s only cute moment, the newly pregnant alien shouts “I hate this!”

Pregnant alien is rushed to the hospital and gives birth. The alien/human hybrid child looks perfectly normal until it starts rapidly growing, reaching the size of an eight-year-old within hours. Team Blackwood shows up and cordons off the hospital. And that’s pretty much all they do in this episode.

The hybrid child suddenly mutates into a ridiculous-looking monster and starts killing everything in sight. Both humans and aliens search the hospital for the creature. Mama alien decides she needs to re-absorb her child for whatever-the-fuck reason, but the other aliens don’t like that idea so they kill her.

Monster baby kills a bunch of redshirts until Blackwood finds it and throws it on the floor. It splits open like a pinata and a normal baby comes out. What should have been the baby’s grandparents show up and take possession, but they’re aliens.

And that’s about it.

Jesus…. This. Episode. Is. Dumb.

It’s pretty much a knock-off of “It’s Alive” but without the campy charm. A nearly endless series of scenes where no-name characters wander off to die. There’s nothing remotely interesting about this episode. It’s not even especially fun. So I guess we have our answer. Those two good episodes were evidently a fluke and we’re back to the normal level of terrible.

God, this show sucks.

War of the Worlds – episode 1.16, “The Meek Shall Inherit”

Ann Robinson returns again as Sylvia Van Buren

Needless to say, as we sat down to watch this one I was paying close attention to the credits to see if John Colicos was going to be in it. Sadly, he’s not, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again soon. However, there were two pleasant surprises. One is that Ann Robinson once again returns as Sylvia VanBuren, this time in a more prominent role. The other is that this episode was penned by the legendary D.C. Fontana of Star Trek fame. So even though I was disappointed that Quinn wasn’t back, I had a feeling this episode would at least be above average. And it was.

The aliens decide to target Earth’s communication systems, figuring that would be a good way to disrupt the opposition. In one fell swoop, they knock out long-distance communications throughout much of North America, causing some explosions and killing a few people in the process. It’s probably the most effective attack they’ve pulled on the show thus far. But it’s only one strike, and to continue the assault, they’ll need a mobile power source. So they dispatch a team of three to obtain a vehicle with a generator large enough to run their equipment.

Diana Reis offers up a memorable guest appearance as the homeless Molly.

The trio decides to steal the bodies of some homeless people in the Portland area who have access to a lot where a bunch of tractor trailers are kept. But there’s a witness to the body-snatching – Molly, another homeless person. She goes in search of help and winds up at the care center where Sylvia lives. The staff is mean to her and Sylvia, in a rare lucid moment, steps in to take Molly under her wing. Later, when Sylvia has an episode and the staff is rough with her, Molly witnesses the event and decides she and Sylvia would be better off elsewhere. She also overhears Sylvia screaming about aliens, so she figures she can be open with her about what she saw.

When Blackwood gets word that Sylvia has gone missing, he loses his shit and instructs the team to drop everything and aid in the search. He has Norton hit the web while he and Suzanne pound the pavement in the Portland area.

Meanwhile, Sylvia and Molly arrive at the spot where the body-snatching took place. There’s little of value that can happen here, but Sylvia does sense that something bad happened here, which gives Molly some measure of validation. They head for the truck depot where Sylvia manages to score some bread for the both of them.

Sylvia delights in new experiences and bonds with her new friend.

Around this time, the aliens are having problems of their own. They’re harassed by a mean-spirited security guard who doesn’t want them hanging around the depot. And they can’t kill him – at least not yet – without attracting unwanted attention. The bodies that the aliens thought would allow them to operate under the radar have in fact become a liability because they’re “unwanted.” Eventually, though, the time is right and they eliminate the security guard, leaving them free to complete their mission.

After lots of false starts, Blackwood and Suzanne get a lead on where Sylvia might be. It’s a long shot, but they decide to try the truck depot, since lots of homeless people go there for handouts.

Molly happens into the wrong place at the wrong time and the aliens kill her. Sylvia witnesses it and is both horrified and terrified. The aliens chase her and it looks hopeless, but Blackwood and Suzanne arrive just in time and take her to safety. She tells them the aliens are here, they call Ironhorse for backup, and the whole thing is wrapped up pretty quickly. But not without a personal cost to Sylvia.

Poor Molly comes to an untimely end.

Coming on the heels of the rip-roaring adventure of the previous episode, there was probably no way this one wasn’t going to feel like a let-down. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt that this was a different but no less effective story. It emerged as something of a heartbreaking look at the bleak lives of the homeless, and the death of Molly after such an empty existence really hit home. Guest characters die all the time on this show, but it’s usually a joke at best or boring at worst. But this time it actually had an impact. Even the aliens experience the unforgiving cruelty of a society that views some lives as having no value. The whole episode is set against a snowy winter backdrop and you can almost feel the biting cold. It’s perhaps an obvious choice, but an effective one.

Ann Robinson really shines in this episode, from her quiet compassion when she first meets Molly, to her quivering terror as an alien wearing her friend’s face tries to kill her, to sheer childlike joy at a new experience: “I’ve never ridden in a truck before!” Up to this point she’s been little more than a plot device, but in this episode she gets to be a person. That’s nice to see.

Even the usually bland Team Blackwood thrives under Fontana’s skilled supervision. Other writers have tried to write playful banter for these characters, but it’s always forced and tacky. But in this episode it flows naturally and is actually funny. The core group, usually wooden and dead, is suddenly alive and believable. The value of a writer who knows what they’re doing cannot be underestimated.

So that’s two in a row. Does this mean the producers finally realized they needed actual writers to deliver a quality show? Will this winning streak continue? I guess we’ll see.