Friday, January 21, 2011
Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 41
The Good: At its core, this is a powerful story. Brother against brother, dealing with grief and loss, trying to live up to a seemingly perfect role model... there are many terrific elements here. For the most part, the story coherently brings these themes together and explores them in a manner both mature and consistent with the science fiction backbone of the series. That counts for a lot.
Totally Real) she'd still be a bit of a cipher. Now, though, we find her as a lover of both Max and John, which also helps to further connect the two brothers. Her sacrifice, therefor, takes on a greater significance. I guess with the show ending soon, it's time to start cashing in these kind of chips. I'll miss you, Scoggs.
I do like the symmetry of the final confrontation taking place where Max died the first time. Indeed, he dies at the hands of the same aliens, Malzor and Mana. Those two don't often leave the base for a firefight, so I assume that their situation is getting pretty desperate. (The Obelisk, the series finale, will confirm that.)
John and Max have great chemistry in their flashbacks. I love the easy way in which they horse around, and the range of emotions they display. In short order we see Max's pride in his brother, John's admiration for his brother, Max's protective feelings, John's insecurities, and of course their underlying affection. It made their firefight all the more poignant.
Finally, John gets a real chance to grieve at a military funeral for Max. It's all fairly moving, much more so than the fakey funeral they gave us at the end of Among the Philistines. (I'm going to be charitable and not list it as a 'bad' that they're having it. I mean, the guy went on a rampage and killed a dozen soldiers at Fort Sepulveda, they wouldn't be giving him a funeral. Hmmm... Fort Sepulveda. It's not a real thing, but if it were it'd pretty much have to be in southern California. I guess we can assume that the nebulous city this season takes place in is Los Angeles. I've thought that before, especially when one of the roads was named something like Central Canyon Road, fairly reminiscent of many other SoCal roads. )
Colonel Bradley's subplot seems unnecessary. Yes, it alerts Blackwood and McCullough to the threat, but they'd have found out pretty soon anyway. It just took screen time away from the more important aspects of the story. Oh, and a nitpick: Colonel Bradley is incredulous about the idea of cyborgs, but back in Path of Lies the term 'military cyborgs' was tossed around pretty loosely.
This whole thing takes place on the one year anniversary of Max's death... yup, another coincidence. They use this as justification for a lot of flashbacks and reminiscing about Max, but I wonder if all that was necessary. At least using Max himself wasn't a coincidence, it was a specific choice on the part of the aliens. I can easily believe that Mana would have his remains 'on ice' for study. BTW, the flashbacks are in black & white, always a clumsy device. I didn't like it in Time to Reap, and I'm not crazy about it here. Perhaps it's not really a 'bad,' just a matter of personal preference, but it's not to my taste. Oh, but in one of those flashbacks, we General Wilson gets what may be his last namecheck in the series. Drink!
This one we won't QUITE find out about for sure till next episode, but an alien agent was actually in their home this week. Yet, there is no talk of relocating. Sure enough, next week they're back in the shelter. This strains credulity to the breaking point.
The Ugly: Plucking out his own eye? Gruesome! It was also a nice moment, him recapturing his humanity by mutilating himself. Cool stuff.
We're entering the home stretch, for sure. Max has been a gun on the wall since the first episode of the series, and now he's used to good effect. I almost think it'd have made more sense to save him for next week and set up the finale a bit more. Still, I won't complain about things like that. On the whole, this was a strong episode, ambitious but with enough punch to pull it off. It could have been more streamlined, for sure, and it really should have been more original, but nevertheless it manages to work fairly well.
War of the Worlds: The Final Season is available for purchase on DVD.