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Series / War of the Worlds (2019)

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You may be looking for War of the Worlds (1988) or The War of the Worlds (2019), different television adaptations of The War of the Worlds (1898).
A reimagining of H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds (1898), created and written by Howard Overman (Misfits, Crazyhead, Merlin (2008)), set in present day Britain and France.

Not to be confused with the 2019 BBC series, The War of the Worlds (2019), nor the 1988 US series with the name (also set in the-then-present day).

It follows five main sets of characters:

  • Bill Ward (Gabriel Byrne) and his ex-wife Helen Brown (Elizabeth McGovern) in the UK, who are trying to find their son Dan
  • Catherine Durand (Léa Drucker) and Colonel Mustafa Mokrani (Adel Bencherif), two officials with the French government trying to halt the alien invasion in France
  • Sophie Durand (Emilie de Preissac), who's Catherine's sister, trying to find her
  • Sarah Gresham (Natasha Little) in the UK, along with her children Emily (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Tom (Ty Tennant), trying to find their father/Sarah's husband Jonathan
  • Jonathan Gresham (Stephen Campbell Moore) (who was in France on a business trip at the time of the attack), who's simultaneously trying to find his family, and Chloe Dumont (Stéphane Caillard), a Frenchwoman whom he meets up with.

After its original broadcast in the UK and France, it was re-released for US audiences on MGM+ beginning in February 2020.

The show has aired two seasons, with the third (and last) season released in 2022.

War of the Worlds provides examples of:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: It turns out that all of the aliens are descended from Emily and Sacha's child. However, this is kind of inverted with the fact that the humans try to prevent this by going back in time. Also, unlike many examples it's a plot point that they have harmful mutations (though ascribed to Emily and Sacha having genetic disorders, realistically inbreeding alone would do it in enough time).
  • Adaptational Villainy: The book indicated the aliens had imperial ambitions like humanity, and would be content with a Vichy Earth, while here they clearly intend to kill all humans.
  • Alien Invasion: Naturally, one occurs. However, it differs from the usual depictions as the aliens try to kill most humans first with an EMP attack while also disabling technology, after which they send in robots for the rest.
  • Alien Sky: In the Season 2 opener, Emily sees a vision of three people on another planet under an eerie-looking golden sun which is looming over them.
  • Apocalyptic Log: In Season 2, one is found left by a young Englishman (after his corpse is discovered). Unlike many such cases though, it's not used to explain what happened (that's known already) and it doesn't show how he died exactly (though it's implied as a possible suicide). It takes the form of video diaries.
  • Awful Truth: Sacha's paternity is one for him. He's actually the result of his mother being raped by her brother.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The second season ends will Bill arrested after he uses the Transhuman Alien tech to go back in time before the aliens showed up after pushing Emily off a building roof.
    • The third season ends with Bill working with Catherine to close off the black hole that appeared after the former went to Earth prior to the alien invasion in order to stop Adina's plans. The alien attack was stopped for good, but a lot of people died in the two Earths (original and pre-invasion) in order to make it work.
  • Britain Is Only London: All the British scenes have been set in London, although much of the show was filmed in Bristol and Cardiff.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Chloe's brother raped her and got her pregnant.
  • Cast Herd: The show has three separate groups of characters - a group of survivors in London; Catherine and the French soldiers in the French Alps; and Chloe and her family in Northern France. Jonathan, the father of one of the London families, is with the family in Northern France, but otherwise there is no direct connection between the three groups.
  • Clairvoyant Security Force: Kariam tries to rob an abandoned shop of its food - only to discover it isn't quite as abandoned as he thought.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Catherine and Sophie's parents died in a car accident. Due to this, Catherine had to raise Sophie, who later became a drug user whom she worried for greatly. However, after taking another orphan under her care, Sophie's gotten clean and become much better.
  • Death of a Child:
    • In Season 1, a French girl Catherine took under her wing is murdered by the scout bots.
    • Tragically, Season 2 sees Theo, the boy who's basically adopted by Sophia, killed by one of the aliens. It's especially hard as she's Forced to Watch, and she'd given up her drug habit caring for him (which was quite difficult). She's devastated by his death.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Emily rather matter of factly asks Kariem if he'll have sex with her. He quickly accepts.
  • Easily Forgiven: Kariem holds Emily at gunpoint so that her mother will go get him help with his injury. Shortly after, she's not only over this (though it helps that he's quite remorseful) but she propositions him and they have sex (albeit Emily does ask if it's too soon, but he unsurprisingly doesn't object). Her mother and brother though only begrudgingly accept him.
  • Easily-Overheard Conversation: Sacha is able to overhear a pretty shocking revelation from his mother and uncle's conversation when in the bathroom while they speak nearby.
  • EMP: The aliens use one that fatally shuts down most humans' brains along with their technology first. In the series the characters who survive were either immune to this or sheltered by metal at the time.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Chloe's son Sacha overhears her speaking with his uncle while he's in the bathroom next door. Due to this, he learns Chloe's brother not only raped her, but Sacha is the result. It appears that this was accidental eavesdropping, though it's unclear.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Sophie gets pregnant by her boyfriend in Season 2. At first she gets abortion drugs, feeling that bringing a child into the current world would be wrong. However, she's hesitant and doesn't use them right away. After her sister Catherine learns about it, she convinces Sophie to have the baby, saying she'd be a great mother (having already basically adopted a boy earlier) and her having a child will give them both something that will help them keep going. Nathan, her boyfriend, is also delighted on learning she's pregnant (he wasn't privy to the discussion). However, she's not actually treated as bad for having considered abortion, so this is a largely downplayed example.
  • Good Parents: Bill, Helen, Sarah, Jonathan and Chloe are all parents seeking to find or protect their children while aliens invade. Sarah in particular is always reluctant to help others, despite her daughter Emily urging it, because she's concerned with Tom and Emily's welfare over all (plus finding their father/her husband Jonathan). Catherine is also a surrogate parent to her sister Sophie because they lost their parents in Sophie's childhood, who's anxious to learn what became of her. Sophie later essentially adopts Theo, an English boy who's lost his parents to the aliens too, and is a loving dedicated mother (she even gives up using drugs for him, despite suffering withdrawal).
  • Happily Adopted: Theo has been adopted in all but name by Sophie after his family was killed, and he's very happy with the situation, as she's a caring, devoted mother to him. Her sister Catherine is very impressed by this, as she'd been a pretty irresponsible drug user until the invasion. Adopting Theo made her go clean and grow up significantly.
  • Human Resources: It's indicated throughout Season 1 and then confirmed in Season 2 that the aliens are using human fetuses or infants for something which they need. Bill concludes it's stem cells after finding out they're dying of mutations, and are using this in treatments. There's no DNA incompatibility as they're human too.
  • In Name Only: Despite having the title "War of the Worlds", the series does not have tripods, no invaders from Mars, and involves time travel.
  • Invisible Aliens: The aliens were never shown in Season 1; we only see their cyborg army, although only a vague remnant of one. Subverted in the end of Season 1, and then in Season 2; they're Transhuman Aliens.
  • Kill All Humans: The aliens are clearly intent on this, first wiping out most humans by EMP and then sending in killer robots to hunt down survivors.
  • La Résistance: Most of the main cast in the UK join up with anti-alien resistance forces consisting of survivors who were able to survive the initial attacks by the start of the second season.
  • Left for Dead: Bill accidentally pushes Helen's partner Chris down the stairs whilst trying to convince him about the upcoming attack. He leaves Chris for dead and rushes up to Helen's flat to warn her.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The killer robots whom the aliens send to kill all surviving humans.
  • Militaries Are Useless:
    • While the EMP attack killed most humans (including a majority of military and defense forces), Colonel Mokhrani's leading a platoon of surviving French soldiers trying to combat the aliens on French soil. Though thanks to the lack of reinforcements, the Colonel has to face the reality that his soldiers are outmatched against the scout bots.
    • The end of the first season has some French troops leaving their post in the French Alps. Justified as they're trying to seek out their immediate families.
    • Averted with what's happening in the UK. Sarah and Tom encounter surviving British soldiers securing Hammersmith from the scout bots near the end of the 1st season. These survivors become more prominent in the 2nd season.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: After having sex, Kariem and Emily have a blanket over them both up to chest level.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Micah opposed the genocidal plan his people had, and he was killed for it.
  • Noble Shoplifter: The group in London becomes this, raiding now-empty shops for supplies.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: When talking to Catherine, Mustafa speculates on the aliens' motives. He concludes that, along with coming to take our planet, they simply might like killing, as many humans have.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The aliens never appear throughout Season 1. This adds to their menace. However, in an episode where the team is sent to investigate a crash site, we see what appears to be the charred remains of an alien. But since what's left of it is just a charred lump of flesh buried under some twisted metal, it's impossible to tell what it originally looked like, at least throughout Season 1.
  • Organ Theft: Not an organ as such, but the alien robots take a fetus out of a pregnant woman.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Bill and Helen discover their son Dan was killed by the aliens when they attacked the British base. Rachel, the government minister, also lost her two young children in the same attack.
  • Patricide: Sacha leaves his uncle/father to die in revenge for raping his mother, which had conceived him.
  • Police Are Useless: In France, there were some surviving Police Nationale officers trying to get around and help survivors. Otherwise, most of the human race was wiped out, including police officers.
  • Setting Update: The story is moved to the modern day, with the aliens coming from somewhere unknown.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Emily and Kariem's tryst is off screen. After they're shown getting undressed, the scene fades to them lying beneath a blanket together afterward.
  • Slut-Shaming: Chloe's rapist brother tries to excuse him raping her by saying she walked around wearing only her underwear and had often slept with many different boys.
  • Stable Time Loop: The aliens are descended from Emily and Sacha, who only meet because the aliens come back in time and invade.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: Emily and Sophie are both unexpectedly impregnated by their lovers (around the same time too).
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Colonel Mokrani warned Catherine that the soldiers stationed at the observatory were beginning to desert the ranks and taking what they can. This was likely due to their morale being low thanks to their colleagues being killed by the scout bots, anxiety and worry over the survival of their family/neighbors and the lack of communications with the rest of the French Armed Forces thanks to the invasion/worldwide EMP attack.
  • Taking You with Me: In Season 3, the group of the aliens who followed Bill into the Alternate Timeline are all dying, without any hope of a cure now that they don't have the ability to harvest stem cells from billions of the dead. So they decide to create a black hole in the atmosphere that will wipe out humanity in spite.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: It's not immediately obvious (except she is shown using a white cane in her introductory scene), but Emily is blind. Somehow, the alien signal makes her see again (though only intermittently), when she'd been diagnosed with a condition that was said to leave her permanently blind.
  • Time Travel: Season 2 reveals that the aliens are future humans (genetically divergent enough to qualify as Transhuman Aliens), who have returned to kill past humans and take their organs, since they're dying from mutations. The protagonists later go to the past too, hoping they'll undo the invasion. Bill kills Emily so she'll never have the child from whom the aliens descend. Sophie discusses the fact that her own baby will never be conceived as well, since she only met Nathan, the baby's father, after the invasion..
  • Token Minority: Mustafa Mokrani, a Frenchman of Arab descent, and Kariem, a Sudanese immigrant to the UK, are the only characters of color on the show.
  • Transhuman Aliens: The aliens are human-like invaders from another world. In fact, descendants of Emily and Sacha in another timeline.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The first episode has most of the human race wiped out from the EMP attack after the UFOs made landfall.
    • The third episode suggests that Catherine may have been responsible for indirectly making contact with the aliens through a song that was transmitted. The British underground bunker was also raided by the quadrupedal cyborgs dispatched in the UK. The lone survivor, Rachel, killed herself since her children were caught in the crossfire, leaving the British without (partially) a chain of command in government.
    • The first season's last episode suggest that Emily has a personal connection with the invaders.
    • The last episode of the second season has Bill push Emily off a building roof in order to ensure that the Transhuman Aliens don't come to exist. However, he's arrested by the Metropolitan Police for murder.