Invasion gets gory as the alien mystery deepens [Apple TV+ recap]

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Invasion recap: We learn some interesting things about Trevante (Shamier Anderson) this week.
We learn some interesting things about Trevante (played by Shamier Anderson) this week.
Photo: Apple TV+

This week on Invasion, the humans and the aliens seem just moments away from some kind of break in their standoff, but fate is about to throw an 18-car pileup between them.

The Apple TV+ sci-fi series is about to bring back the fireworks in a big way. The Maliks are being shuffled to the Defense Department, Trevante is off to the hospital with Caspar and Jamila, and Mitsuki has to think hard about what’s floating in space.

Invasion recap: ‘Full of Stars’

In this week’s episode, titled “Full of Stars,” at long last we get a flashback to the courtship of Mitsuki (played by Shioli Kutsuna) and astronaut Hinata Murai (Rinko Kikuchi). It’s a beautiful scene, and presages the revelation that Murai’s been floating safely in space the whole time (or has she?).

She finally makes contact, but U.S. military authorities aren’t convinced it’s still really Murai talking. It could be an alien using her voice, or some such thing. The Americans want to launch nuclear weapons, and the prospect horrifies the Japanese. But even they can’t agree whether the voice on the other end is really her or not.

It’s all about destiny

Meanwhile, Trevante (Shamier Anderson), who has landed in London after his misadventures in the Middle East, has found and team up with Caspar (Billy Barratt) and Jamila (India Brown). They need to get to a hospital but they have a hell of a time convincing the neurologist to induce a seizure on a little boy without a reason. The reason they give — this boy can see the future — doesn’t wash at first, but Trevante lays on the destiny talk pretty thick. He’s a believer now – after all if he’s not here to save the world, what else is he here for?

When they finally get Caspar in the MRI ready to induce his seizure, he and Trevante have a heart to heart and we learn that he lost a son, too. That makes this personal for him as well. The procedure works so well, that Caspar can now flit in and out of a trance and know exactly where the aliens are and where they’re going. And maybe do more than that….

And then there’s the Maliks. The military sequesters Aneesha (the outstanding Golshifteh Farahani), Ahmed (Firas Nassar) and their kids, Luke (Azhy Robertson) and Sarah (Tara Moayedi), after running some tests using Luke’s piece of scrap metal. (They use it to kill some of the alien spores they’ve collected.)

The authorities don’t know what the metal is or anything else except that somewhere in the mix lies the power to defeat the aliens. Whatever the case the Maliks must all be kept safe, so it’s off to the Pentagon for them. Or it would be if not for the caravan of armed yahoos who show up and open fire on them.

The truth is out there

Rinko Kikuchi, who plays lost astronaut Hinata, gets about five minutes of screen time in this episode, and it proves that she’s worth her weight in gold. The seduction scene where she first goes to Mitsuki’s apartment and undresses her (verbally and literally) truly brings the heat.

Kikuchi has figured out this particular kind of strong, silent, slightly awkward operator in her bones. Every turn of phrase packs this magnificent alpha calculation, like she’s done this before — but also like she’s making it feel brand new. This is some of the best stuff Invasion has yet given us. Shioli Katsuna does very good work this week too, as her character Mitsuki reacts painfully to having a chance to hear her lover’s voice again — and faces having her efforts at communication thwarted by the Americans.

A word about ‘Space Oddity’

Which is good, because there’s a callback to the David Bowie poster that’s cringeworthy in the extreme. There has got to be some kind of moratorium on using Bowie’s classic song “Space Oddity” in media, period — and especially in movies and television shows about space.

It’s a way to cheat meaning into stuff that wasn’t this poignant a minute ago. I call bullshit, but this isn’t the first time Invasion creator Simon Kinberg has cheated so he can show off his iTunes playlist. Everyone always thinks they’re going to be the one who really makes a song iconic again, but that’s a tedious arms race if ever I saw one.

Blood spatter and other messy stuff

This week’s hospital siege is pretty excellent — gory and tense and claustrophobic. The alien design makes sense, and is suitably alien, but it’s also just not super-scary, considering how they continually and without remorse absolutely destroy everything they come across. There’s more blood spray this episode than there has been before.

And there’s yet another incident where it seems like they’ve killed Ahmed, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m still not sure what the writers are doing with him; he never meaningfully atoned for any of the shit he pulled on the first day of the alien invasion. So, no, I don’t think they killed him. And I’m getting sick of the writers keeping him around for fake-outs.

All in all, despite the excitement, the decent action direction and some marvelous performances (and a final image of Mitsuki that’s half-brilliant and half-terrible), this week’s episode doesn’t stand as the best work this team is capable of.

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.