Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Invasion, Season Two, on Apple TV+

Evidently, alien invasion tourism will inevitably take you to an Oklahoma cornfield. It does have the advantage of being off-the-beaten path, like pretty much everything else in Oklahoma. However, the frontline for the human resistance is in the Amazon, outside a crashed but not always dormant alien ship. The far-flung characters introduced in the first season start to get together to fight in season two of co-creators Simon Kinberg & David Weil’s Invasion, which premieres today on Apple TV+.

Some of the people we met in season one were really smart and some were just sort of average, but they were thrust into extraordinary circumstances—even more than the rest of the everyday Earthlings forced to deal with an alien invasion. Mitsuki Yamato is still the most interesting of the bunch. She is the one who brought down the alien ship by hacking its code. Since then, she has been fighting to avenge her astronaut lover old school-style, with Molotov cocktails. However, Nikhil Kapor wants to recruit her for his team.

Kapor, also the best new character, was the sort of callous tech titan who would have said genocide is “below my line” before the aliens came. He really has not changed appreciably, but the prospect of saving the world appeals to his ego. He could also afford to put together a cutting-edge facility to study the strange transmissions that inexplicably emanate from the wrecked ship.

Meanwhile, former Navy SEAL Trevante Cole is home, but his mind is back in London, where he saved weird Caspar Morrow from the aliens. Morrow had visions of the nasty ETs and sometimes appeared to have the power to ward them off. Unfortunately, he slipped into a coma—and his survival prognosis is particularly bad, after his doctors are unable to evacuate him when the alien monsters attack. Nevertheless, his ambiguous school friend Jamila Huston feels compelled to save him, because of messages she believes Morrow is sending through her dreams.

Former doctor-reluctantly-turned-housewife Aneesha Malik is still determined to save her children and her teen son Luke is still a total pill. However, he also has a bit of that alien “shine.” In fact, there might be more kids like him and Morrow out there. She does not want any part of the resistance group known as “The Movement,” which sounds uncomfortably cult-like, but she might not have much choice. Regardless, Cole is coming to her general area, armed with Morrow’s notebook and looking for answers.

With its combination of rural and far-flung international locations, the moody
Invasion often feels like Stephen King’s The Stand re-conceived as an alien invasion epic. That is meant as a compliment. Invasion is far superior to its fellow Apple streaming-mate, Foundation, because it combines several familiar elements into something that feels very distinctively its own thing (instead of copying from Dune and pretending it is based on Asimov’s Foundation books).

The cast is also considerably better. Shioli Kutsuna is even more spectacularly neurotic as Yamato, while Shane Zaza is entertainingly arrogant and elitist as the snide Kapor. Golshifteh Farahani still solidly anchors the series as the Malik, the desperate mother trying to protect her often uncooperative children. Shamier Anderson broods hard as Cole, while continuing to exhibit convincing action chops. Unfortunately, the younger thesps are often annoying, except Paddy Holland, who is terrific as Monty Cuttermill, Morrow’s former bully, who agrees to help rescue him.

However, Kinberg and Weil’s depiction of the American military gets tiresome. Service, discipline, and sacrifice are the bedrock realties of life for our military personnel, especially during times of crisis, so it is rather insulting that would they expect our uniformed men and women to act differently amid an alien invasion.

Nevertheless, Kinberg and Weil devise some dramatic ups and downs for the war against the aliens. Yamato and Kapor also target them through their crashed ship in a more sophisticated ways than you typically see in less ambitious alien invasion yarns. This time, the special effects are also bigger, reflecting the second season’s more cosmic scope. Recommended in spite of its cliched portrayal of the military, season two of
Invasion starts streaming today (8/23) on Apple TV+.