Invasion‘s second episode continued two of the series’ storylines while adding a couple more:
- Aneesha put her pathetic husband in his place and got the family moving in a direction that hopefully leads them away from danger.
- Mitsuki learned that Hinata’s shuttle was ripped opened, killing her along with the rest of the crew. As if losing her lover wasn’t hard enough, the space program’s director is trying to blame her for the incident, as well.
- A kid named Casper is tormented by a bully at his school, but things appear to be looking up when he and his crush end up connecting on a school field trip…so of course objects start falling from the sky and cause the bus to fall into a ravine.
- A soldier named Trev is out with his squad on a mission when they encounter the alien life form. They try to fire on it and are blown back into the desert.
- Sheriff Tyson is presumably still dead in the middle of a crop circle in Oklahoma.
That last plotline will once again be absent from the story. Thankfully, the other four will get a much more thorough exploration than we’ve seen thus far. As always, the recap portion of this review will contain plenty of spoilers. The sequence of events has also been streamlined for the sake of clarity.
The episode opens with Trev awakening alone, covered in sand, and badly injured. After finding his squad’s vehicle, he tries to call for support and track his squad’s locators, but is unsuccessful on both counts. The only thing he can do is place a bandage over a nasty looking wound before heading off into the desert to look for help.
After traveling by foot for a few hours, Trev becomes severely dehydrated and collapses to the ground, where he experiences a hallucination of his wife walking away before passing out. Some time later, the soldier awakens to find a man (Kuchi) offering him water. He treats the good samaritan as potentially hostile, but still accepts the liquid salvation.
Despite a massive language barrier, Kuchi is able to reveal that he saw Trev’s missing squad members nearby. It’s unclear if he offers to lead him there, but he does dress/treat the soldier’s wound and help him recover. After the sun sets, the two men share stories in different languages about loves they’ve lost.
For Kuchi, it was his beloved daughter Oranoos, who he named after Orion. She became sick one winter and died the next spring. For Trev, it was his estranged wife, who enjoyed looking at the stars. Although the men can’t understand each other’s words, they recognize their shared grief and are grateful to have someone to talk about it with.
King Size Fissure
Over in New York, Aneesha drives like a bat out of hell in an effort to get her family clear of the city. Unfortunately, she and everyone else in traffic are forced to stop when the entire city loses power and goes dark.
The next day, Aneesha takes her family to a crowded gas station. While Ahmed attempts to recharge their Tesla, she takes the children inside to go to the bathroom and grab some food. As a TV plays a report on the unexplainable devastation happening across the globe, she spots her husband getting accosted by a couple of racist douchebags who are trying to steal their car. She also notices a set of keys sitting on a nearby table that belong to a large family.
After taking a moment to ponder her awful opportunity, Aneesha grabs the keys, walks outside, and instructs Ahmed to let the men have their Tesla. Her husbands grabs their luggage out of the car and transfers it to the stolen minivan, which departs the gas station moments before its owners come running after them. As they drive away, Luke and Sarah are clearly jarred by the sight of their mother doing something so blatantly wrong despite it being for their own protection/survival.
That evening, Aneesha manages to find a hotel room for her family. Unfortunately, it only has one bed.
Things start to get weird when a news report they’re watching begins glitching out and something in the static appears to start communicating with them. Before anything interesting can happen, Aneesha changes the channel to cartoons.
Later, as the broken family attempts to sleep, Ahmed implies that his wife might have taken things too far during their escape from the city. She correctly points out that he has no room to talk after attempting to leave with one of their neighbors and abandon them. Ahmed responds by throwing a pity party about how everyone hates him. He also has the gall to imply he shouldn’t be faulted for wanting someone (his mistress) to love him.
Aneesha once again remarks on how she couldn’t have been a better wife to him. This time, however, she also takes a pointed/well-deserved shot at his adulterous relationship. This angers Ahmed enough to leave the room, go to the front desk, and attempt to call his mistress. When he can’t reach her, he returns to the hotel room and lays on the floor beside the family he doesn’t deserve.
Lord of the Flies
Remember that giant ravine that the bus carrying Casper and the rest of his classmates fell into? Well, everyone somehow survived the fall. In fact, the only person who sustained any series injuries was Mr. Edwards, who has a long metal bar impaled through his arm and is understandably in shock.
Jamila isn’t a nurse, but her mother is, which makes her somehow able to diagnose the severity of Mr. Edwards injuries and get him stabilized. Casper tries to help, but is roughed up by Monty, who blames his seizure for distracting their teacher and causing the accident.
*Side Note: It was actually the objects that fell from the sky, but no one saw that because they were all watching Casper.
Casper’s friends manage to save him from getting beat up by offering Monty and one of his goons some snacks. Another of Casper’s friends volunteers to try and climb out of the ravine to find help, but Monty forbids anyone from leaving. While the kids debate what to do next, Casper takes out his anti-seizure pills and sees that he only has a few of them left.
That evening, as the children are building makeshift shelters, Monty unexpectedly comes over and apologizes for his behavior toward Casper. The bully appears to fall back on his old ways when he starts making fun of Casper’s wheelchair bound mother, but the pair end up sharing heart wrenching stories about how both their father’s left. Monty divulges that his dad ran off with his secretary, an event that still scars him to this day. Casper reveals that his father was the one who crippled his mother before abandoning them both. He also admits that he watched it happened, too scared to do anything but remain frozen in place.
Monty appears genuinely sympathetic before cruelly admitting that his behavior was all a ruse (and that his family is still happily intact). He also assures Casper that the deeply personal story he share would be saved for a “rainy day” to torment him with.
The “rainy day” comes later that night when Monty’s self proclaimed authority is challenged by the rest of the students. When he demands that they vote on it and comes up one short, the boy king blackmails Casper into swinging the final tally his way.
After everyone else goes to sleep, Casper checks in on Mr. Edwards, who babbles incoherently about metal raining from the sky. He then takes his next to last anti-seizure pill, has a sweet moment with Jamila, and begins drawing her as she falls asleep.
He also totally misses a big cue/hint from his crush, but we should probably cut the poor guy some slack considering what he’s been through today.
Meanwhile, Monty goes outside and stomps out the group’s signal fire, determined to retain his status as the boy king of the ravine.
After taking some time to grieve alone, Mitsuki gets a text from her control center friend (Kaito) and musters the will to head back into work. She arrives to find government officials removing data and records so they can investigate what happened to the shuttle. When Mitsuki tries to tell the director that she wants to figure out what happened (and that she’s the only one who can do it), he digs in his heels and continues to blame her for the incident.
Instead of backing down, she rips off the director’s badge and makes a mad dash for the comms room. Kaito follows her (just ahead of the security guards) and gets inside the door, which she locks from the inside and resets the code. As the security team frantically tries to override the locks, she begins digging into the files to see what can be learned about the accident that killed her lover.
After decrypting the video files (and pouring over some painful images of Hinata alive and smiling before the end came) Mitsuki discovers that her lovers death was the result of something sudden and catastrophic — not the missed mayday signals the director keeps trying to blame her for. Moments before the security team finally breaks back into the comm room, she manages to extract an audio file of Hinata saying a single word…a word Luke also heard inside his head during the second episode:
The scene between Trev and Kuchi was absolutely beautiful. Watching Aneesha have to work with her adulterous husband to protect their family is all types of engrossing. The Casper storyline is still pretty ridiculous, but the scene between him and Monty was riveting (and I’m willing to admit that actor Paddy Holland fooled my cynical instincts). The Mitsuki plotline even managed to be interesting thanks to an exciting race against the clock and Shioli Kutsuna’s superb acting.
But damn it, when are we going to see some aliens for more than a few seconds? Better yet, when are we going to see the aliens in a context that makes them (and their invasion) a central component of the narrative instead of simply a background catalyst.
If we went into this expecting a high stakes version of This is Us or A Million Little Things, then great. But we’re almost a third of the way through a series (which may very likely be one season) and the “alien invasion” aspect of the story is not only muddled, but almost non-existent. Also, the aforementioned storylines are very well executed, but none of them on their own would make me want to continue watching except for Aneesha’s (and that’s a generous projection at best).
Look, I’m not such a meathead that I need non-stop action sequences and CGI monsters. I’m also more than willing to watch and fully enjoy a narrative that unfolds via a burn narrative. But all the great acting and top notch production values in the world won’t matter if Invasion continues to shove its most interesting aspect so far in the background that it doesn’t make sense.
For starters, we have absolutely no idea what these aliens want (aside from the series’ title) and how they operate. Sometimes they sneak up through the sand to kill people. Other times they go translucent like the Predator and knock people through the air like an orca slapping a seal. They also rocket through the sky and destroy random neighborhoods or entire cities without being seen, but have no problem showing up like Starro for a bunch of soldiers in the desert.
And spare me the counter arguments about how “humanity and/or grief is the real monster.” If that tired trope is really where the focus of Invasion lies, then you can skip the next seven episodes and rewatch any number of sci-fi television offerings from the last several decades, instead.
Also, some of the very well-executed human drama still has some major holes in it. The biggest one for me is how a preppy little snot like Monty wouldn’t want to be rescued just so he could rule over his classmates and die. I get that he’s a sociopath and this is his moment, but he’s also bound to get thirsty, tired, and hungry. No amount of snacks Casper’s friends snuck on the field trip are going to counter that reality — especially for a young/pampered narcissist.
Also, what the heck is going on with the Sheriff Tyson plot? Was that just a plot to have Sam Neill in the trailers so more of us would watch?
Maybe he or his partner will be back in the coming episodes. Or maybe we’ll actually see more of the aliens and they’ll become central part of the plot. I’d love nothing more than to eat crow on both those counts. For now, however, Invasion is dangerously close to being repelled from my watch list.
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