SPOILERS AHEAD … AND SOME SNEAKY ALIEN STUFF GOING ON …
Remember that scene near the end of Die Hard (which is yes, a Christmas movie) where everyone including John McClane (Bruce Willis) thinks their Christmassy ordeal is over until, all of sudden, head bad guy Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) seemingly rises from the dead and tries one last time to take out the hero of the hour?
It’s like so much calm and then … BOOM! Very much NOT.
That is pretty much what takes place in the final four episode of Invasion season 1 – there is a second season incoming in 2023, despite the show’s middling ratings – where everyone breathes a sigh of relief when the aliens suddenly and mysteriously cease their forward momentum, an unexpected development which everyone attributes to the fact that the Japanese worked out where the signal was coming from and the Americans duly blew the source of the signal, believed to be a seized orbital JASA spacecraft to smithereens.
While everyone goes with that explanation since science wins over anything else, it’s more likely got to do with the fact that brave beyond his years English schoolboy Caspar (Billy Barratt), with the help of American soldier Trevante Cole (Shamier Anderson) who has made his way to London in a desperate bid to get back to London, has persuaded a doctor to induce the epileptic seizure he believes will allow him to speak to the aliens.
While the Japanese haven’t quite managed that, although we’ll likely never really know as they seem to keep flicking the switch to “off” every time communications specialist Mitsuki Yamato (Shioli Kitsuna) makes a breakthrough – is she talking to her “dead” girlfriend Hinata (Rinko Kikuchi) or is the voice simply an alien-orchestrated charade to lure the military to saying too much about Earth’s defenses – it’s clear that someone needs to get in contact with the enemy before we lose any and all ability to defend ourselves.
Although it begins to look more and more like military defenses may not be the issue here with evidence emerging that the aliens have begun to terraform earth to their liking quietly and without fanfare, something Aneesha Malik (Golshifteh Farahani) discovers after her husband Ahmed (Firas Nassar) is shot by militia types in a forest and she’s trying to get her two understandably frightened kids to safety, or an illusion of it, anyway.
Entering a clearing she finds what looks like a field of black blobby shapes emerging from the ground, all of which are emitting gases into the air that is slowly turning the atmosphere against us.
Even after it looks like the aliens have been defeated, Independence Day or War of the Worlds-style and everyone is in the streets celebrating, we see a two-person team enter a valley that is covered with the black blobs, testament that the war for our planet is far from over, something that’s confirmed when the final scene shows a giant ship entering our atmosphere.
Not exactly a sign of peace and victory now, is it?
It’s quite the cliffhanger to end things on – thank god there is a second series for this slow-moving piece of storytelling which has let the alien invasion seemingly play out in terrifyingly edgy real time – but the main focus of the first season has been less on the end of the world as we know it and more on the way it affects four very key groups of people.
Invasion may not have exactly set the world on fire, and there are times in its quest to take a thoughtful and measured, not to mention very human approach to something so shocking out of this world that everyone initially has no way to comprehend what’s actually happening to them, that it just feels too damn slow (and this is coming from a reviewer who revels in nuanced, careful narratives that don’t feel the need to race along like F1 competitors).
But one thing is has done consummately well is create vividly memorable characters who are given plenty of time to let us get to know them and to make their mark on the events of what is in some key ways pretty gripping TV.
Whether it’s Mitsuki working through her desperate impelling grief about Hinata or Trevante beyond anxious to get back to his estranged wife, or its Caspar and his schoolfriend Jamila (India Brown) trying to convince the world that his drawings are more than just scarily prescient artwork or Aneesha doing her best to save her family in a world now willfully inimical to the idea, Invasion goes up close and personal to a poignantly affecting degree.
This is alien invasion writ small in one sense, caring less about giant spaceships appearing over buildings or alien-transporting meteors crashing into the ground and more for the people caught in the way of an unstoppable force that confounds everything we know about life and how it acts.
What confronts all these people, of varying ages and backgrounds, and which comes to a head for them all in these four artfully shot and nuanced as hell episodes, is a reality that cannot be processed by what they know about the world to date.
Their reactions feels exactly like the ones you’d expect from people who know something bad, very bad, is happening and who, now they know its aliens are trying to work out how they can respond to news so outlandish it almost defies belief even when they are peering at the cephalad-like black extraterrestrial beings who operate on a hive mind.
It’s the hive mind that Caspar disrupts and which Mitsuki uncovers through her fevered attempts to get in contact with Hinata, and which Aneesha does her best to thwart when they, or people acting badly in light of the invasion, and it means life will never be even remotely the same again.
Invasion, for all its pacing and narrative flaws, which are clearly not fatal or this reviewer would not have lasted through all ten episodes, takes us to the human side of invasion, offering some social commentary along the way (cue Trevante being schooled in what invasion means by Afghan refugees) and giving us immersively stunning, atmospheric visuals, all while making it clear that while the invaders are indisputably alien, the people dealing with their unwelcome presence are fallibly, fearfully, human and it makes sense to focus the series on them since they will be the inheritors of what hell the aliens unleash now the calm has most definitely given way to the storm.