For those of us who have stuck around for Apple TV Plus’s Invasion, the road has been long. I will be the first to admit the first several episodes were a little tedious. There were nuggets there that kept me coming back, but there was too much talking and not enough action for the most part. Science fiction doesn’t have to be space monsters and lightsabers, but there needs to be enough action to make me care about the emotionality of the character’s plight. Without beats of intensity, it is just one big drama-laden hour of irritating people. Somewhere around Invasion Episode 3, I began to really care about the four central storylines.
The thoughtful series is character-driven and alien lite. This has led to some less patient viewers annoyance. The slow-burn approach that required viewers to suspend their need for alien glimpses paid off in a big way in Invasion Episode 6. Not only did we get extended views of the massive spiderlike creatures, but we got up close and personal with one, and it was a game-changer.
Aneesha, played brilliantly by Golshifteh Farahani, is a married mother of two who found out in the worst possible way at the worst possible time that her husband is cheating. Worse still, he is a spineless coward. Her story, while the most relatable, was also the hardest to watch until Episode 6. Ahmed is so irritatingly awful he makes those around him hideous. For a while, he turns Aneesha into the shrill archetype of a helicopter mom intent on controlling her world by an iron will and organics alone. After finding out what her husband really is, she still seems stuck in a loveless marriage, a thankless job, and in a dynamic that isn’t working for anyone. All of that changes when she chooses to embrace her agency. In Invasion Episode 6, she stopped being a victim and started being a hero, and she became immensely more interesting.
The horrifying final act of the episode was spectacular. For five episodes, we only got the smallest glimpses of what might have dropped from the sky. That finally changed when Aneesha returned to the house to find it was under attack by the creatures from outer space. The homeowners and Ahmed with the children hid in the attic when the aliens broke in. Unfortunately, Aneesha had the bad luck of returning just in time to greet them. This scene works so well because as bone-crunchingly, oozing, seemingly unstoppable as the aliens appear, the homeowner’s wife is just as deadly.
All of the exposition and methodical world-building allowed this scene to resonate because although her response is abhorrent, it is understandable. Sometimes people panic and react badly to crises. Her poor decision led to many deaths and finally gave Aneesha the push she needed to break free of her disappointment, shock, and hurt. It also laid an intriguing question on the table. Why did Luke’s piece of alien artifact kill the giant black spider alien?
We still don’t know how he got it, where he found it, or how long he has had it, but we now have confirmation it is important. A Chekhov’s gun that hinted at important things without revealing any details yet, the artifact is fascinating. The only thing we know for sure is Luke can hear the aliens, and it appears that Casper can as well. Both of the boys have been affected by the alien signal. Casper appears to have epilepsy, and I will be curious to see if the differences in his brain chemistry and makeup make him more susceptible. Since both Luke and Casper have shown some unusual symptoms, it will be interesting to see how their abilities play out.
The English schoolchildren have easily always been the most watchable even from the slow beginning. The Lord of the Flies vibe was strong. As the hierarchy broke down, it became even more compelling. There is something so heartbreakingly vulnerable about Casper(Billy Barratt). He conveys the danger these children are in without having to say much. Equally fun to watch is Monty(Paddy Holland), who has found himself in the uncomfortable position of losing control of his fiefdom.
As with most bullies, he has a backstory that we are only just learning about. Jamila(India Brown), who is Casper’s crush, is the glue that holds the group together even as it falls apart. Now that the children have splintered into the chocolate lovers and the hikers, their narrative should crystalize further. The smaller group will allow for more backstory for each of them and give time to explore how and why Casper is affected by the alien signal.
Our soldier Travante Cole(Shamier Anderson) is utterly alone now. He has the smallest amount of dialogue and no one to play off of in Invasion Episode 6 but manages to pack each scene with devastation, futility, and grief. He has been left behind and is now on his own. Despite the fact that he would normally see the most action as a soldier, his story has solidified the most into a powerful emotional exploration of perseverance and endurance.
Lastly, the Japanese scientist Mitsuki Yamato(Shioli Kutsuna) finally has something to do with her grief. Her story held the most potential to propel the science part of the narrative. However, her arc was also the most quietly poignant. She lost her love when something destroyed the ship but couldn’t show her pain because it was a secret affair. She appears to be one of only a few people who know the space spiders are communicating. Now that she has confirmation that there is something bigger going on, her story should pick up. It is through her that we will learn what the alien’s agenda is.
At just over the halfway mark, there is a lot of story left to tell. The alien reveal was worth the wait and turned the entire series around. What was once about people relating to each other in a disaster became people fighting for their lives. I will be curious if Invasion tries to return to a more talk-driven format for the next couple of episodes. The aliens are out of the bag, and it will be hard to put them back into the box. Falling Skies did a brilliant job showing the inherent danger of invaders from space while still allowing for very human plot beats. Hopefully, Invasion can capitalize on our desire to see things through and dole out alien violence in appropriate doses. Apple TV Plus has doubled down on people-centric genre entertainment with the alt-history gem For All Mankind and the highly anticipated Swan Song next month. Invasion looks to be cut from the same mold. New episodes come out every Friday.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.