The third season of "War Of The Worlds" will come to Epix On September 12 with Gabriel Byrne once again leading the cast in this gripping sci-fi drama.
Co-starring "Normal People's" Daisy Edgar Jones, it's a clash of civilizations tale that will have you glued from the opening scene.
Playing the brilliant scientist Bill Ward, Byrne's character finds a way to use the extra-terrestrial invaders technology against themselves to travel back in time to a date before they land, making a crucial change that stop their timeline from ever happening.
If you watched season two you already know that taking that dramatic step has fatal consequences for Emily Gresham (played by Daisy Edgar Jones, the breakout star of Sally Rooney's "Normal People"). It turns out her life is the price of humanity's continued existence.
As the new season starts a rip in the fabric of space and time hovers over the planet, where the actual future and the potential one are still battling it out for dominance. People are having hallucinations about other lives they could have lived that somehow seem as real to them as the ones they do live.
It's an unsettling fugue state between what is and what might be, and Byrne is now the only man on earth who knows what it all means. Having traveled into the past to change the future, he's given up his personal life and the love of his family to stop the world from ending.
He's a hero that no one knows about. Instead of celebrating him for cracking the DNA code that exposes the aliens' biggest weakness, the world believes he's just a cold-blooded killer who pushed a defenseless young woman to her death from a hospital roof.
Even his own wife and son no longer want anything to do with him and now he's been sent to a high-security prison to live out his sentence.
On the surface, as far as sci-dramas go, this is fairly straightforward storytelling. What really sets "War Of The Worlds" apart is the heavy-hitting actors who have signed up for the main roles.
Byrne is completely convincing as the world-weary scientist who refuses to let humanity go down without a fight. He's cast opposite celebrated French actress Lea Drucker who plays scientist Catherine Durand, one of the first people to hear the alien signal and warn the planet of a potential attack. Both turn in riveting performances.
Based very loosely on the H.G. Wells' classic tale, this new "War Of The Worlds" is updated for the 21st century and is an absolute thrill ride that will have you binge-watching the series as it lands.
It's an unexpected role for Byrne in many ways until you realize how long he's had to punt away from the broodingly handsome typecasting that began with his breakout role as Uther Pendragon in John Boorman's "Excalibur" in 1981 (Liam Neeson also had a breakout role in the same film).
Byrne is at a stage in his career where the roles that interest him are making a departure from the classic roles we associate him with. Comedy, for a start, seems to be calling his name.
“I suppose if I want to do anything from now on, it would be to do more comedy,” he told the press recently.
“When I started my career in the theatre it was in comic roles. Then I got cast in 'Excalibur', which was a serious film, and 'Miller’s Crossing'. People said: “Oh, he’s a serious actor.” That happens very quickly.
“So nobody’s ever asked me to do comedy. Bernard Cribbins (the celebrated English actor) died recently, a great hero of mine because he was funny but he also had a great compassion as a performer, a real depth and sensitivity. He could do Chekov on stage then be in a comedy like 'Two Way Stretch'. That to me was a beautiful career.”
It's time to update your idea of who Byrne is and what he can do, then. That's a message he's been busy sending himself, as his recent hit one-man show "Walking With Ghosts" (based on his memoir of the same name) attests to.
Alongside his career path, Byrne has been busy grappling with his private past lately too, the good and the bad of it, the humor and the sadness, in a show that had the critics and public raving internationally.
At two hours and twelve minutes long, it's certainly not a skim-the-surface event, but nothing he has ever done on stage or screen has ever been. He's not so much walking with ghosts as carrying them, both onstage and in his heart.
And although he has said that he does not feel particularly Irish the truth is he has always had a very Irish discomfort with the trappings of celebrity and fame. He simply doesn't believe in it, in all the plamas (Irish for insincere flattery) that is heard at film festivals where directors, studios and fellow actors all want you for their next projects.
He doesn't like what celebrity does to the people around him (fame doesn't change you, Richard Burton wisely told him once, it just changes the people around you). So no wonder that he's ready for a good laugh and is casting around now for a comic role, having seen where his brooding looks and high seriousness have often taken him in a remarkably successful career.
"War Of The Worlds" is not cheerful or funny in just about any way, but it is scary and wickedly entertaining. Season 3 of the show is successfully deepening the nature of the conflict that erupted between humanity and the extraterrestrials in season one, as it explores fascinating themes like time travel, alternate universes, quantum physics and the mind-bending theories science is leading us toward.
It's also just a really good yarn, well told. Byrne has picked a great vehicle to keep his name front and center as he explores the work that lights him up now. In our pandemic era, the themes and events of "War Of The Worlds" have taken on an eerie and unplanned relevance, which has only intensified as the story has progressed.
A reminder now that this Epix show is not to be confused with the entirely forgettable Tom Cruise film of the same name, or the recent and all too faithful BBC TV series of the same name.
Byrne's "War Of The Worlds" instead has a modern, gritty atmosphere that makes it both believable and brutal in its depiction of the extraterrestrial global invasion. It's scary as hell and it leaves you wondering about the direction that we are all going in nowadays, as it should.
Playing a haunted man who is tormented by what he could have done, as well as what he did do, is probably why Byrne was cast and is so good in the role. You'll believe he has the grit to save the world with one look at him. If you have been sleeping on this series now's the time to dive in.
"War Of The Worlds" season three comes to Epix and Amazon Prime on September 12.