In INVASION (Apple TV), Earth is under attack in a story that leans into human drama, keeping the invasion itself pervasive but also subtle. The overall effect is quite engaging, but for me, the human drama was somewhat weak and stilted. I’ll watch a season 2 if it comes out, but it’s not a must-watch show for me. Let me explain. Note this review contains minor spoilers.
The show focuses on several characters: A retiring sheriff (the great Sam Neill) who suspects something big behind his latest case. A Japanese communications expert with JASA and the lover of the astronaut leading a shuttle crew that is about to launch. A Navy SEAL in Afghanistan. A housewife whose husband isn’t what she thought he was. And a bullied British schoolboy with epilepsy.
When the invasion comes, it becomes a catalyst for each protagonist to confront what’s holding them back and come into their own, thereby empowering them to take some part in resisting the invasion.
The show opens with a musical score by Max Richter, whose haunting melodies gave THE LEFTOVERS so much extra pathos, and you can see the makers of INVASION wanted the same gravitas for their series. They never quite reach it in my view, though I appreciated the attempt. I found the aliens pretty well done. I liked the drama of humanity reeling in confusion and disarray, as if the invasion is more of a global terrorist attack than a war. I also appreciated the focus being on the impact of the sensational stuff rather than the sensational stuff itself, making this the antithesis of films like INDEPENDENCE DAY. The protagonists sometimes make poor choices, but it often appears natural and very human, the result of shock or a character flaw or a personal need. Overall, A for effort for INVASION, I liked what they were trying to do, and they fairly succeeded.
The only problem for me was a lot of the human drama is often fairly stilted and winds up feeling a little empty. The strongest storyline is the sheriff, which cuts abruptly at the end of the first episode and never comes back. The other storylines suffer from repetition and social pandering, with the result that some of the protagonists either don’t come across as likeable or somebody I can organically grow to root for. There’s plenty of drama, it’s just not always compelling drama, at least for me.
Overall, INVASION was enjoyable for me, even though it claimed more pathos than it earned.