There are several shows on television that cling to the past and strive to reproduce what has previously resonated. While somewhat regressive, this popular next step is a relatively safe approach to gratify your existing audience rather than challenging them with where you take them next. Invasion, an Apple TV+ series, is not only not one of those shows but also reinvents itself in its second season.
The science fiction series’ ten-episode comeback treats its first season as a prelude to the tale it actually intended to tell. There are the same folks we left up with, but their world has changed drastically. Season 2 is a touch disjointed in how it establishes this, with several stories feeling less remarkable than the one the programme is examining at its centre, but it is still a considerable step higher from where it started.
Some of this is due to speed since everything moves at a much faster pace even after a difficult start, but the season also flourishes when it looks out to the expanse of the cosmos while turmoil unfolds on the earth below. It isn’t the finest science fiction narrative on the streamer by any means, since works like Silo and Foundation still reign supreme, but Invasion has evolved into one with its own potential to explore.
After exploring the early phases of an extraterrestrial invasion in Season 1, Season 2 continues months later, with the planet now overtaken by it. We are already months into the consequences of the mistaken attempt to launch a nuclear assault against extraterrestrials (did the ending of Oppenheimer teach them nothing? ), which only resulted in a false sense of security that was swiftly crushed.
The aliens are swiftly taking over everything, with the exception of a few tiny safe zones that the series utilises to explore alternative narratives and components of the world it is creating. Mitsuki (Shioli Kutsuna) is determined to fight back in one of the most dangerous zones in order to protect others on the front lines, but she is soon picked up by a helicopter and flown to a facility for a strange assignment that only she can perform.
At the same time, Aneesha (Golshifteh Farahani) is on the run with her children, and Trevante (Shamier Anderson) has returned home in relative safety, but he is still disturbed by what happened to Caspar (Billy Baratt) in London. While this isn’t the largest leap a sci-fi programme has taken, it is a significant one that Season 2 will employ to push into a new tonal area. There are a lot of growing pains, but it’s precisely what Invasion needed to warrant a second season.
Invasion Season 2 is at times more evocative of the finer portions of The Walking Dead, looking at the many survivors attempting to establish a living in the wreckage of the world they knew, although it does abandon some of the more grounded components. This is, in many respects, a misinterpretation of what made the first season so polarising. When done effectively, stories that take their time to emerge may be devastating, but it takes a spark to each moment.
In the first season, there were far too many episodes when this was absent, and tangents began to characterise the vast bulk of the experience. This second season abandons the original components of characters figuring out what was going on in order to go headfirst into a more action-packed experience defined by confronting the aliens. There is an unpleasant element to this, not just because the programme seems to indicate that something more intricate is going on, but also because cutting to the safe zones removes much of the essential urgency of the purportedly immediate threat.
One might argue that this is supposed to be a sort of reflection on how stratified the world is, with the brunt of the harm falling on the most vulnerable, however, it could have been performed a lot more easily. This is especially apparent when the season attempts to infuse some humour, such as a throwaway remark about The Exorcist that feels especially odd given how dismal that picture is and how this plot frequently tempers the comparable misery that it might have more fully submerged itself in. While the aliens are evolving, they are sometimes an afterthought, even being shunted offscreen to notably absurd effects in one fight scenario.
Everything that happens to Mitsuki compensates for this and becomes the story’s redemptive heart. She seemed to have developed some type of connection to the aliens after losing the love of her life. The more we look into this realm beyond, which leads to some of the series’ most captivating visual moments, the greater the effect. Much of what surrounds it is narrow, yet this centre throughline demonstrates that there is much more lying in the shadows.
The series is still mum on what impact this will have on the globe, so any evaluation must be done as well. There is an element of this that veers dangerously close to being unsatisfactory, especially given that most of the rest of the season is a more typical science fiction plot, but the season provides just enough more substance breadcrumbs to nibble on.
In many ways, Invasion is more interested in exploring topics similar in nature to Arrival’s achievement, particularly in terms of finding truth amongst the possible annihilation of all we hold dear, but without the same emphasis in order to be as effective just yet. Still, the promise is there – the series is no longer merely spinning its wheels and is actually getting someplace. Where that is remains to be seen, since there are many strands left dangling just as the planet hangs on by one, but Season 2 has piqued our interest in how they will play out in the still-expanding plot ahead.