Invasion Review 2021 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
There are few things I enjoy more than a good setup. I loved the beginning of Lost, when it was all questions and no attempted explanations. I like the step-ups in Stephen King books, when everything is creepy and weird and insinuating, more than the conclusions when he decides to either burn everything down or randomly introduce a character whose apparent disability is actually magic.
I think the first 45 minutes of War of the Worlds is one of the best things Steven Spielberg has ever directed, and when people mention that they hate the ending, I can usually pretend not to remember any of the details. Setups are a chance to watch the lightbulb go on in the head of a good storyteller, without needing to watch the filament flicker and fizzle under the weight of studio notes, test audience complaints or a simple surfeit of ideas.
I enjoy a good setup so much that I’m confident that I’ve written multiple reviews with this exact same setup about enjoying a good setup.
By rights, then, Apple TV+’s new drama Invasion should be my favorite show of the year. Hailing from David Weil (Hunters) and Simon Kinberg (various X-Men things), Invasion verges on 10 episodes of setup so pure and unfulfilling that a better title would be Evasion. The show unfolds as a process of endless tantalization that I found amusing at first, then annoying and, finally, simply confusing. Sent all 10 episodes, critics can at least charge forward into the void, but audiences trying to find the impetus for weekly viewing will struggle to find anything to latch onto.
Structurally, Invasion is something like Independence Day meets Babel. Around the world, strange things are happening to unrelated people dealing with their own individual dramas, unexplainable events that relate to some cosmic phenomenon that will eventually have to do with aliens, but not at such a fast rate that I’d advise anybody to hold their breath. Over 10 hours, some storylines will eventually intersect, some new ones will be introduced and some will stop abruptly and never be mentioned again — in a way that I’m sure reminded the creators of Janet Leigh in Psycho, but which comes across more like Carmen Electra in Scary Movie.
Don’t look for any main focal character or storyline here, though Sam Neill is the series’ biggest star, playing a grouchy Oklahoma sheriff investigating a bizarre crop formation (and other stuff) with his trusted deputy (DeWanda Wise). On Long Island, we meet Aneesha (Golshifteh Farahani), who set aside her medical aspirations to raise her two kids (Azhy Robertson and Tara Moayedi) with her hunky hubby (Firas Nassar). A bullied London teen (Billy Barratt’s Casper) has epilepsy, while Trevante (Shamier Anderson) is a distracted American soldier in Afghanistan. Finally, over in Japan, aerospace engineer Mitsuki (Shioli Kutsuna) is all kinds of mopey because her astronaut girlfriend (Rinko Kikuchi, confirming those Babel vibes) is off for a jaunt at the International Space Station.
Each storyline is tied into the extraterrestrial incursion through the drama’s strange events, and they all have vague or not-so-vague links to the series’ overall themes, like when an Afghan citizen explains to Trevante that the locals are accustomed to outside invasions. Get it? Eventually, each narrative thread becomes its own all-too-familiar take on the alien invasion genre, one aggressively paying homage to War of the Worlds, another trying to channel Stranger Things, another playing off Arrival.
Individually, none of the subplots builds to anything shaped by the careful arcing of a good short story, much less to anything that gives you reason to invest in the main characters. Collectively, despite an initial eeriness, the cutting from one barely involving narrative to another drains the show of momentum, and that’s before you get to how badly Invasion handles the general passage of time or the specific existence of time zones. If you like, you could say the lack of cumulative emotion or intensity ties into a subtext about how, despite being the most technically connected society in history, we’ve become uniquely bad at communicating with one another. But nobody sat in a writers room saying, “How can we make this a puzzle in which none of the pieces fit together in the slightest?”
Oddly, while I won’t give Invasion credit for purposely stifling its own drama, I do think the science tied to the aliens and their methodology is meant to be borderline nonsensical, if not purely magical. There’s a bunch of confusion, and, based on the way we as a society respond to almost any catastrophe, confusion is more believable than competence.
The only sense of involvement I felt is the result of a couple of performances. Kutsuna is especially good at giving voice to audience frustration and selling the depth of a relationship introduced to us in less than five minutes of screen time. As the show’s most proactive character, Farahani generates a lot of sympathy, however illogical most of Aneesha’s actions may be. Relatively speaking, these characters’ storylines have fewer cliches and fewer nonsensical detours than the others.
There are definitely some pretty locations in a show that was shot in the United States, England, Japan and Morocco, among other places. But, borders aside, they could be labeled “Foreign Place A,” “Foreign Place B” and “Foreign Place C.” You want the international filming to offer more value, just as you’re eventually going to want more effects-driven science fiction. When we get around to seeing the aliens, they’re distinctive and just a little scary, but that doesn’t mean that Invasion is scary or exciting, with directors Jakob Verbruggen, Jamie Payne and Amanda Marsalis failing to mount any memorable set pieces.
Invasion is science fiction without much science or any real genre thrills. I like the idea of an alien invasion drama that focuses on how ordinary people might face the extraordinary, what resources they might tap, and where their pluck or intelligence or bravery might be insufficient. I even like the idea of an alien invasion drama that’s mostly setup, because blowing up the White House is so 1996. But setup has to be more clever and more empathetic than this, and the payoff has to be less anticlimactic and perplexing. I’m truly not sure if the 10th episode’s ending opens the door for a second season or if I care.