The following contains spoilers for Invasion S1E8, “Contact” (written by Simon Kinberg, David Weil & Gursimran Sandhu and directed by Amanda Marsalis)
I feel a bit like Invasion wasn’t given the chance to be the show it wanted to be. Whether that was due to external pressures or internal failures to carry out the idea that served as its creative spur I do not know, but it’s hardly relevant.
The first five episodes gave us a slow boil character drama. In writing on Episode 5 I hazarded that perhaps part of the idea was to keep us on the margins of the action, experiencing it through the perspectives of individuals who were more indirectly affected by what was going on than in the thick of it.
That’s interesting, and Invasion had a chance to be something truly novel if it had followed that path, but Episode 6 immediately closed it off.
It’s as though the show couldn’t resist the pull of cliche sucking our characters into its orbit. Of course they must become involved directly in warding off the alien attack.
Invasion S1E8 makes clear they are further the most important people in the world, laying into the worn trope of how some special few can save us from a seemingly ineluctable and terrible fate.
Casper’s visions, Luke and his shard of debris, Mitsuki’s connection with Hinata…one can see the pieces coming into alignment and it is all too easy to guess where this story is going.
For a moment early on in the series, I thought Invasion might be a narrative that dared to allow humanity to lose; that this might be a creeping burn in the direction of extinction. Something about that imagined story would have seemed weirdly fitting—and oddly cathartic—in 2021.
Instead I’m sure Trev will help Casper and Jamila get to the hospital, where his visions will unlock a secret. Mitsuki’s transmission of videos of her beloved will somehow have struck a chord with the alien hivemind to reveal some underlying misunderstanding at the root of the conflict. And that one shard of alien metal will somehow provide the key to humanity’s salvation.
At least I think that’s what will happen, and it’s boring. But I suppose there is some thin hope that I’m wrong and Invasion has a subversion of those expectations in store for the closing episodes of the season.
There are a few questions that could tie into such a possible twist. We don’t know where or how Luke got that shard of debris, for example. Neither do we know why the transmission in earlier episodes was saying ‘wajo’ even if that was Hinata speaking and not the aliens. I wonder further about the spore thing Aneesha found in a wound in Episode 5 and about what exactly the aliens are up to given how we see London half-destroyed in S1E8 but now they seem to be pretty absent. Are they having a nap?
Regardless, I can’t help but find certain story elements in Invasion that are coming increasingly to the fore to be a bit disturbing. Casper is swearing off his meds because he thinks they’ve been blocking his ability to save the world, for example. That’s the kind of thing that someone with a severe mental illness might do, and I’m not sure it is helping anyone to present a story wherein he will be right about this.
Mitsuki’s obsessiveness and obstinance equally seem to be paying off, implying that it can be a good thing to refuse to listen to reason or communicate your plans, following an idée fixe to the point of abjuring all rules. Which, again, seems to be working and Mitsuki has been my favorite character in Invasion since the beginning, so I’m almost seduced by it, but the implied lesson here feels problematic.
And to be clear, I’m not trying to insist that every work of fiction have some kind of lesson or be read as such, but these storylines in Invasion can’t help but imply such morals, whether the writers would defend them in the real world or not. The notion that something is “just entertainment” isn’t much of an excuse, particularly when it isn’t terribly entertaining, and Invasion seems at risk of reinforcing some pretty pernicious ideas.
But perhaps that’s not quite where this story is going. We have two more episodes in the season, so we’ll see how bad this gets or if they can somehow turn it around for the finish.
See you next week.