Looking to dive into a new series to take your mind away from toilet paper hoarding and social distancing requests? Check out the best new science fiction TV show you never heard of on EPIX, War of the Worlds.
An observatory in France discovers an unusual and strong signal coming from a barren part of space. Not long after a multitude of mysterious meteors fall to Earth mostly in populous regions. A post on Twitter from a government aide warns of an imminent attack but from who, and how? Moments later, the entire world is changed forever. How would you respond?
This new contemporary version of War of the worlds is set in France and England is about the human response to an alien attack.
Definitely not the Hollywood experience with massive action scenes and Tom Cruise ripping out grenade pins with his teeth and blowing up aliens, but still worthy.
“WOTW 2020” is about the human experience amidst the total shut down of infrastructure and near annihilation of the human population in one massive swoop and the small percentage of people determined to survive.
There are several storylines that follow the character’s responses revolving around survival, locating family, and discovery of what is taking place.
Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects) is part of a storyline twist that makes this telling a bit different. His character, Bill Ward, studies how the human brain responds to specific energy frequencies. This revolves around some key aspects to what the aliens are doing and also how it affects humans.
At the same time, he’s overly concerned about his ex-wife Helen Brown (Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey) and ends up doing something unconscionable in the first episode to rescue her, or did he? Almost every episode will have you questioning the character’s responses and reactions to their environment.
Along those same lines, the TV show begins the journey of demonstrating when, and how morality begins to blur when survival becomes a necessity; sort of along the lines of “The Walking Dead” sans the gore. What becomes important and what becomes necessity are explored through human interactions.
As survivors begin to gather in small groups, those who may have been undesirable as companions in a modern world become necessities to survival. Weapons, specifically guns downplayed as a societal evil in France and England, are now needed, but the characters seem embarrassed almost that they even have to touch one (except for the military). This is to be expected considering its an Anglo-French retelling and as such, the novelty of it compared to an American-like version is interesting.
Why It’s Good
Frankly, this story has been done a decent amount of times including just a year ago on the BBC. A lot of Americans missed that and with today’s lifestyle many might prefer to watch this type of story on a platform where they could binge it (especially if staying home for self imposed quarantine).
This WOTW, with “2020” attached if you search online in the title, is clearly the more compelling because of various story tweaks including what happens at the end of episode 4 and other surprises. The willingness of the creator, Howard Overton (Atlantis), to kill off what seems like key characters also contributes to a more meaningful and compelling story.
Despite there being other versions of this story out there in digital land to choose from, this one draws you in with thoughts of how you would respond and what’s important to you. I like the fact that it’s set in England and France, but more importantly it gets you thinking “What If,” which is the most compelling proponent of good science fiction.
Though it may not be as fast moving as some may like, the story beats are evenly paced, and well considered. All the performances are good, even the kids. The landscape is bleak, and not terribly big budget but well done nonetheless.
And as like all science fiction-esque stories, there’s always going to be moments where you question the character’s motivations and choices, like “Why isn’t he riding that bike to escape,” and “Why did that bullet kill that alien when 10 soldiers couldn’t get it done,” types of questions. WOTW – 2020 is still good nonetheless and actually there aren’t that many obvious plot holes.
How To Watch
The less known network Epix, supported on many sites like Apple, Roku, and Prime costs $5.99 a month. They have a 7 day free trial. You can watch as many as 3 episodes free without even doing the trial. However, I got sucked in with “Pennyworth” another fun show that deserves it’s own article of praise and became a subscriber.