Invasion braces itself for full-blown alien action [Apple TV+ review] | Cult of Mac

Invasion braces itself for full-blown alien action [Apple TV+ review]

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Invasion review: This sci-fi show has a soldier problem.
This sci-fi show has a soldier problem.
Photo: Apple TV+

Invasion finally says the “A” word as conspiracies become fact — and facts become dire. This week on the Apple TV+ sci-fi show, the Malik family gets caught in a web of lies, Mitsuki crafts her own, and Trevante winds up stuck in Afghanistan (and for once wants to get out).

Invasion gets ready for the fireworks by going small and emotional to lay the groundwork. Something big is around the corner, so this week it’s about biding time and digging in before the invasion really ramps up.

Invasion review: ‘Going Home’

In the episode, titled “Going Home,” soldier Trevante (played by Shamier Anderson) makes it back to his base in Afghanistan but finds the place a ghost town. There’s no sign of anyone else or, more troublingly, what happened to them all. He can’t raise anyone on the radio. But he does find a notice, torn up in the trash, about an emergency evacuation that took place after contact with the alien (the one that killed all of his men in Invasion’s second episode).

Meanwhile, in the United States, Aneesha Malik (Golshifteh Farahani), her philandering husband Ahmed (Firas Nassar) and their children Luke (Azhy Robertson) and Sarah (Tara Moayedi) seek shelter with Patrick Mitchell (Michael Harney) and his wife (Kathryn Erbe). Luke found their house after running away, and Patrick took the boy in sight unseen. But Patrick has a shotgun, and he seems reluctant to let Aneesha go to the store to resupply. I’m sure that’s nothing to worry about.

Of course, she won’t be around if Patrick goes full Tim Robbins in War of the Worlds. While on her supply run, Aneesha encounters some troops and lies to avoid being arrested. She says she’s a doctor, which isn’t a complete lie — she did study medicine but gave it up to have kids, something she now has to weigh against her marriage’s failure.

Nevertheless, Dr. David Barton (Noah Bean), the guy they pair her with in the emergency vehicle, seems to sense that her name isn’t really Angela Lockhart and that she isn’t a real doctor. But that’s gonna matter a lot less when they put her in scrubs and ask her to start suturing victims of some kind of attack. Instinct kicks in. The first guy she’s called on to stitch up has some kind of little organic spore in him. Could it be a clue to the alien menace?

While in the U.K. and Japan …

In the United Kingdom, bullied English schoolboy Caspar Morrow (Billy Barratt) and his classmates find an abandoned snack truck with an eerie metallic burn on the seat where the driver once sat. Something bad happened here, but they’re all a little too preoccupied with the emergency broadcast they hear on his CB radio to think much about it. The broadcast devolves into a high-pitched shriek before too long, and it nearly triggers one of Caspar’s epileptic fits.

And in Japan, Mitsuki (Shioli Kutsuna), newly galvanized by her meeting with her dead lover’s father, heads back to JASA headquarters to demand that her bosses take her inquiries into the chaos surrounding the shuttle crash seriously. She’s the first one to say the word “alien” when the higher-ups play her a clip of the frequency they picked up near the downed shuttle.

Something is talking to them through space, which should be impossible. Her boss gives her full security clearance and a deadline of a day or two before the Americans show up and take over the investigation.

Nothing could stop me

This episode of Invasion is all about frustration. Aneesha must go do surgery on strangers while she knows her family is in the hands of several people she doesn’t know or trust. So she spends most of the episode in a catatonic daze being pulled this way and that by the provisional authorities, afraid to speak up so she can see her kids again.

Mitsuki wants desperately to be angry at someone for the death of Hinata. But the more she prods at the people around her, the more she realizes there is no earthly enemy here. Her boss, who was ready to have her arrested for her attempted data breach, finally shrugs his shoulders and just lets her get on with the investigation herself. This is bigger than both of them, which scares them, but Mitsuki needs to have a goal or she’ll just be left with her grief.

Caspar’s dealings with the school bully finally hit a wall as he realizes that Monty didn’t actually lie about his abusive father. That’s why Monty doesn’t want to go home and keeps almost sabotaging their efforts to go back to London — his dad sucks. Caspar can relate, and it seems like they’re going to become allies even as they get on each other’s nerves.

Trevante is totally in the dark regarding what’s happening in the rest of the world. He, too, wants an enemy, especially since his best friend in the unit, Chavez, died in his arms last week. But he’s got nothing but the realization that he’s near to an alien force he can’t do anything to combat.

Invasion can’t stop saluting soldiers

I do wanna take a minute to say that one of the few real problems with Invasion is its constant valorization of soldiers and cops. We haven’t seen Sam Neill’s Sheriff Tyson for two episodes now. But Trevante’s U.S. soldier bravura is already tiresome, even if the show has to admit it didn’t really save him.

He continues to kill faceless Afghanis to give the show some extra fireworks, which is gross in the extreme. Indeed the whole Trevante storyline has yet to pull its weight beyond giving us a glimpse of the alien — and frankly we didn’t even need that.

Invasion has some explaining to do if its showrunners want to keep this stuff so front and center at the expense of the Tyson storyline. That stuff wasn’t exactly the most carefully rendered TV but it was more engaging than this, which feels like a more-serious version of the first Michael Bay Transformers movie.

Watch Invasion on Apple TV+

New episodes of Invasion arrive on Apple TV+ on Fridays.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.