It’s been over a year since “War of the Worlds” wrapped its first season on Epix — so fans of the sci-fi series, headlined by Gabriel Byrne and Daisy Edgar-Jones, might be a bit rusty on plot details.
But Season 2, premiering June 6 (9 p.m.) on Epix, does a nice job in its opening moments summing up last season’s invasion of Earth by those horrific, dog-like, metallic creatures that killed tens of thousands in the UK and France with their nail-gun-type skull piercings.
For reasons unknown, the intergalactic invaders showed an affinity for one of the human survivors, Emily (Edgar-Jones), who — through some sort of intergalactic ESP — seemed empathetic to what passes for emotions in these killer creatures. In the season finale, she boarded one of their ships anchored in the Thames and was whisked away to points unknown.
That’s where Season 2 picks up the action.
It’s six months later. London is littered with rotting corpses and there are bands of mercenaries planning attacks on the creatures’ strongholds, including their ginormous submarine-type vessels (there are four or five of them). Professor Bill Ward (Byrne), whose wife Helen (Maureen McGovern) was killed last season by one of the whirring creepy crawlers, is still trying to codify their very human-like DNA (they have soft-tissue innards) and figure out a way to exterminate them while they continue to kill — and take human babies and embryos to grow organs through stem cells (or something like that).
Meanwhile, Emily has returned, apparently none the worse-for-wear after her six-month sojourn (she says she can’t remember anything); she now has a weird tattoo emblazoned on the back of her hand. Over in the French Alps, an injured man, near death, treks through the snow to the observatory from which the alien invasion was first detected last season. He shares DNA with the creatures (“He’s one of them,” someone says) and he’s carrying a notebook with indecipherable mathematical formulas that, he insists, Bill needs to see.
That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as Season 2 kicks off, and the premiere episode doesn’t disappoint in pushing the storyline forward while, at the same time, introducing twists and turns directly connected to both Emily and Bill that will play out through the rest of the eight-episode season. Season 1 took its time to map out the scope of the attack, its aftermath and its impact on the show’s core characters, and I expect that will continue this season, since the “War of the Worlds” narrative appears to be taking several new directions.
The grey, almost colorless cinematography (it’s never sunny here) lends an added air of menace to the atmosphere. The series, created by Howard Overman and based on the classic HG Wells novel, is an international co-production — explaining, in part, its European flavor — and it’s got quite a big cast, with pivotal co-stars Léa Drucker (Catherine), Natasha Little (Sarah), Stéphane Caillard (Sophie), Adel Bencherif (Col. Mokrani) and Stephen Campbell Moore (Jonathan) all returning.
A few scenes are dulled by science-speak gobbledygook, particularly when Bill tries explaining his theories on how DNA links the creatures to humans. But that’s both a minor quibble and a familiar sci-fi trope — and it takes nothing away from what promises to be a continuously twisted journey into the hellish “War of the Worlds” apocalypse.