Sunday, May 9, 2010
Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 21
Meanwhile, with strange drug overdoses all over Chicago, the team attempts to infiltrate the Chicago police departmentas DEA agents. Lieutenant Novak doesn't trust them, though, and soon manages to break their cover story. A call from the ever-referenced but seldom seen General Wilson (drink!) straightens things out with a new cover story; they're an anti-terrorist unit. But soon even that proves insufficient and Harrison tells Novak the truth. With some help from her mob contacts, they locate the alien base and storm it. What they find is a host of dead aliens and drug-addled victims of alien experimentation. The drug, you see, turns humans indiscriminately violent, and so the aliens abandon this line of attack as too risky to themselves.
The Good: There were some nice touches here and there. I rather liked the alien who was collecting human specimens. We first realize for sure what she is when she goes to press a button in an elevator and you see the rash on her arm. When we next see her, she's streetwalking and having much worse luck; her burns have gotten worse. "Can we call it a night? I'm falling apart," she complains, almost literally.
There was a nice transition, too, from the aliens experimenting in their makeshift labs to the nightclub where the above alien was dancing about, looking for victims. A human was hooked up to a contraption that rapidly showed him erotic and violent imagery, to test the efficacy of the drug on his systems. After he dies, the camera shows the images with some incongruous music. The scene then fades to a nightclub where said music is playing. A subtle touch, but well done.
I've got a thing for alien deaths - in this case, an alien guard gets killed by a prisoner with a toilet. It seemed very appropriate during a prison break somehow.
I rather liked the method of drug injection; in through the ear. It's nicely creepy and not at all how humans normally do things. It's also nicely dark when humans voluntarily bite down on glass containers of the drug, cutting up the insides of their mouths.
There were a lot of interesting ideas in this episode. It's clear that the writer wanted to explore the connection between sex and drugs and violence, as evidenced by the juxtaposition of the erotic and military imagery in the beginning and then the rampage at the strip club. There were also some odd parallels between the aliens and the Blackwood team; both of them were faced with challenges from a female authority figure. However ...
The Bad: None of those elements ever really gel together well. The sex and violence connection was touched upon, but never really explored in depth. Meanwhile, the parallels between the Envoy and Novak weren't used to illuminate anything about the differences in alien and human relations.
The alien's seemed a bit too human in this episode. Whether it was the pasty and constantly leaking (his eyes, ears and nose were always running) head scientist, or the trio of aliens collecting humans for experimentation ("We did pretty good tonight." "'We?' All you did was drive the van!") they seemed more petty than usual. It have been interesting if it went somewhere, long or short term, but as it is it just felt inconsistent with what had gone before.
Also, the vice cop, the same one who gets sent on a rampage, gets captured when trying to arrest one of the aliens for prostitution. It's true that she picked him up in a bar, but she never propositioned him, so what's the deal? A minor nit, but it bugged me.
When Sawyer goes bonkers in a strip club, the girl on stage keeps dancing. This strikes me as highly unlikely. I tend to think she'd have gotten off the stage the moment the dude with the baseball bat started swinging.
Also, why would it bother the aliens that the drug turns humans against each other AND aliens. Humans outnumber aliens by, what, 600,000:1? Besides that, what was their distribution model for this drug? It seems to turn people violent in moments, so how are they expecting to get it into the hands and ears of junkies everywhere? The plan doesn't seem well thought out.
Finally, the pacing seems really odd on this episode. I found myself wondering when it was going to be over. I think perhaps it's because of all the elements present. You have a lot of characters and a lot of themes, but overall the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts.
The Ugly: There were many disturbing images in this episode, but I think the shot at the end of the addicts clamoring about the floor to drink up as much of the drug as they can, their lips and tongues bloody from the glass shards, is going to get my vote.
There you have it. An episode with a lot of potential but, unfortunately, it fails to live up to that potential. Oddly, while the show seemed to hit its stride around the middle of this season, that energy seems to be slipping away somewhat as we barrel towards the endgame. War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season is available for sale on DVD.