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InvasionAppleTV+ShioliKutsunaAliens.jpg

A Spoilery Recap of 'Invasion' Season 2

By Alberto Cox Délano | TV | November 2, 2023 |

By Alberto Cox Délano | TV | November 2, 2023 |


InvasionAppleTV+ShioliKutsunaAliens.jpg

At a time when the MCU is considering bringing back the original Avengers because people are growing tired of the MCU, whenever someone is trying to do something new (in film, TV, music, etc.), I can’t fault them if they end up trying too hard and too much. At the very least, I don’t think that, in itself, should count against the work because I will always appreciate the intention of doing something new, even if the end result is messy.

That being said, and knowing full well that I’m contradicting myself, I think the showrunners behind Invasion are trying way too much.

The concept behind Invasion is compelling: What if we brought the melancholy tone and focus on the character’s psyche of Arrival, but in the context of an apocalyptic alien invasion? The story will be told from the perspectives of a set of characters from all over the world (all of them from the First World and half of them being American, but whatever), whose narratives eventually meet in a way that helps humanity figure out a way to fight back, adding in elements of Heroes, Babel and Independence Day. The concept was intriguing, and with a budget that only Apple could provide, the scope of the show looked massive, even when compared to other flagship, big-budget shows.

The first season was a lot in terms of narrative volume: It had to cover the emotional journey of four sets of characters across four countries, depict the impact of the invasion, find a way for some of them to meet each other, give us a glimpse into what exactly are these aliens plans and how they operate (mostly through killer drones, clever idea), and ultimately, provide a solution that helps humanity defeat them, only for them to come back with a vengeance in the final minutes of the season. All the previous ten hours of television were just the preamble.

I guess the only coherent way I can explain what happened in season 2 is to go through each character’s arc separately. Because even though there is a lot less of … everything in this season, as all the storylines end up converging together, it’s still four separate sets of lead characters. Shouldn’t be this hard for someone raised on the Brazilian-Chilean Telenovela format, but still.

Mitsuki: Played by Shioli Kutsuna, Mitsuki is the genius communications specialist at Japan’s space program. The first season had her contending with the loss of her secret partner, astronaut Hinata (Rinko Kikuchi), during the invasion, while her research becomes key in tracking and destroying the alien ships during the first wave. This season, she is summoned by the Earth’s president to study a ship that fell in the Amazon; basically, she’s ordered to save the world once again. In charge of the site is the arrogant, billionaire genius Nikhil Kapoor (Shane Zaza), who pushes her further and further to make psychic contact with the aliens. Her storyline becomes an exploration of survivor’s guilt and grief while she has to choose whether to remain an individual or fully let herself be absorbed into the alien’s hive mind in order to find their weaknesses. Trying to tie her into reality is the site’s head doctor, Maya Castillo (Naian González Norvind), who is obviously crushing HARD on Mitsuki because Shioli Kutsuna can light up a room even when playing depressed. Ultimately, she manages to connect with Casper in the hive mind and open a portal on Earth, fully surrendering herself.

Aneesha, Luke and Sara Malik: Played by Golshifteh Farahani, Azhy Robertson and Tara Moayedi, respectively. In the first season, Aneesha represented the viewpoint of the suburban everywoman, albeit with her background being that of an Iranian refugee. A stay-at-home mom (even though she is a doctor), she had to manage the whole “saving your family from the apocalypse” at the same time she had just discovered her husband was cheating on her. Her resourcefulness as both a survivor of political persecution and a physician helped her along the way. Eventually, her kids discover a piece of alien technology that keeps the drones at bay; Luke establishes a psychic connection to the alien’s hive mind, and her husband sacrifices himself to allow them to escape.

In this season, they are living off the grid (not that there’s much of a grid left) in the Pacific Northwest, stealing from shops and hiding in abandoned homes to escape from both the aliens and the Earth’s Armed Forces. After a run-in with the Army, she is rescued by “the Movement,” a loose organization of anti-World Government militias, whose local chapter follows the Extremely Dashing Clark (Enver Gjokaj). After confronting the alien drones, sweet Sara is kidnapped by the Earth Defense Forces (alongside the alien artifact). At the same time, Luke’s psychic bond with the aliens grows to the point he can stop the drones. This leads the Movement and Aneesha to head for a secret military installation in Indiana, close to where Mitsuki’s portal opens, and one which Luke can control with his mind. The series ends with the family, the Movement, and the Extremely Dashing Clark all reunited, so at least something ends well.

Caspar Morrow: Played by Billy Barratt, this storyline is basically a very English take on Amblin’s “Kids vs. Aliens” movies. Or as Zoomers would call it, “a Stranger Things rip-off”. SIGH. The first season saw Caspar, his friends, and his bullying classmates become stranded after an alien attack. As they try to make their way back to London, he eventually becomes psychically bonded to the aliens to an extreme degree, falling into a coma. With Caspar out of commission for the first half of the season, the storyline focuses on Caspar’s love interest Jamila (India Brown), his friends Alfie (Cache Vanderpuye) and Darwin (Louis Toghill), who set off from their refugee camp to find their friend, who is being held in a Parisian hospital alongside other children who are connected to the alien’s hive mind.

Along the way, Casper’s former bully Monty (Paddy Holland, brother of Tom, but who looks exactly like Rick Astley) tags along, with her little sister in tow. They cross the Chunnel on foot and make their way to Paris, where they find an awakened Casper, left behind after the hospital was evacuated. Later on, they find the group of psychic kids and their guardians. Casper turns out to be one of the keys to opening up a portal to the alien’s mothership. The children achieve this, helped by Mitsuki (we’ll get to her) by way of a weird seance, with Casper falling into a deep trance.

Trevante Cole: Played by Shamier Anderson, the first season saw his character, a gentle Navy SEAL, facing the alien invasion while deployed in Afghanistan. Cut off from his FOB, he manages to survive and return to London, where he will meet Caspar and save him from the aliens, establishing a lone wolf and cub dynamic right before the latter’s psychic connection to the aliens puts him in a coma.

Trevante returns to the States with a double case of PTSD, his marriage falls apart, and the in-between months, he keeps having dreams about Caspar and the visions. He eventually sets off for the military facility in Indiana, hoping to finish the job. He is arrested and taken to the police precinct of a nearby town, where he meets Rose (Nedra Marie Taylor), a staff member at the precinct who has been desperately trying to find a series of missing locals. She helps him escape and infiltrate the facility. They are arrested once again, but they’re freed by the Movement as they arrive to rescue Sara Malik. As everything falls into chaos with the opening of the portal, Trevante chooses to go into the mothership alone to destroy it. Inside, he runs into an … astral projection of Casper? … who offers to guide him to the core of the machine. But as Casper turns to the camera one last time, his eyes glow blue. Has he been possessed by the aliens? Let’s hope we get a third season … hopefully less stuffed.

See what I mean? Even though every story is given enough time to unwind, the pacing is so uneven that sometimes you just space out. I completely lost track as to why so many people were psychically connected to the aliens and how that was supposed to help humanity open a portal into their spaceships. It would seem the aliens have terrible firewalls. Ironically, for a show where each storyline has a different pacing, almost every episode this season seemed to end in a breakthrough, generally on Mitsuki’s camp, but that breakthrough would end up being a dead-end until they eventually find the final-definitive-this-is-the-one way to get into the alien’s sanctum.

Invasion is a show with a lot of heart, sincere to a fault about its character’s emotional journeys. But its brain is all scrambled; it lacks a scaffolding of ideas that could help direct and focus all the things it wants to do. All the stories it wants to be. For example, how about interrogating Trevante’s role as an imperial agent while the Earth is being colonized and destroyed? Or what was the point of the rebels of the Movement in this scenario? You can clearly tell it’s an American writing this, fueled by the myth of the Revolution. Newsflash: the one case where global authoritarianism might be acceptable is during an apocalyptic alien invasion people! Luckily, this Movement is a multicultural set of charming rogues who only use minimal violence and avoid killing soldiers. In reality, the Movement would be made up of white supremacists trying to cozy up to the aliens, more so if they are from the Pacific Northwest.

Invasion is carried on the backs of a sublime cast, all of them believable and all of them heartbreaking and in dire need of a hug. Now, if only their characters could be given direction.

Alberto Cox, for one, would like to welcome an alien hive-mind as our overlord.