Halfway through this first season of Invasion, and finally, someone says what we’ve all been thinking: alien. Thank you, Hashimoto! I believe you would do anything to save your wife from some kind of grievous threat, and I hope it never comes to that!
This series’ approach to the concept of an extraterrestrial attack continues to be a puzzle and a challenge, with the halfway point “Going Home” once again emphasizing some of Simon Kinberg and David Weil’s stranger choices, murky character development, and agonizing pacing. Did they really just tell us that the boy with epilepsy is also some kind of radio antennae for extraterrestrial transmission? It seems sort of offensive, no? In terms of nonsensical behavior, it does not track at all that in the midst of what is clearly a widespread global invasion, Trevante’s ex would be like, “No, don’t come home from war, stay over wherever you are!” There might be threats everywhere, and this man has military training and guns. Whatever caused the dissolution of your relationship becomes sort of null and void in a life-or-death situation! And now that I know Kathryn Erbe is playing Kelly Mitchell, the wife of Michael Harney’s Patrick, I am consumed with one query: They couldn’t get Vincent D’Onofrio to play that character so we could have a Law and Order: Criminal Intent reunion? Why are we being denied nice things!
The most interesting element of “Going Home” is actually yoinked from a beloved pop culture property, and I am almost impressed by the audacity of Kinberg and Weil to so openly mimic it. On the one hand, I am intrigued by how little it takes for Aneesha to leave her family and be coaxed by those soldiers into becoming a field doctor, performing emergency surgeries in mobile medical units. This is the life she might have wanted once upon a time, before Ahmed and before Luke and Sarah, and suddenly it is thrust upon her with little fanfare — like the opportunity was waiting all the while, and all Aneesha had to do was wake up and take it. On the other hand, my immediate reaction to this new development was, “Isn’t this Doctor Zhivago?” I won’t “spoil” Boris Pasternak’s 64-year-old CIA op novel or David Lean’s 56-year-old cinematic masterpiece adaptation because you should read the former and watch the latter. But all I will say is that I appreciated Golshifteh Farahani’s perpetually dazed look in that sequence before she snaps into focus during surgery, and I hope we never see Ahmed, Luke, or Sarah again. I’m sorry, but the rest of the Maliks do not matter to me in the least! Goodbye to you, I hope forever!
“Going Home” does a fair amount of borrowing, actually, primarily from Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival and Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day. One could copy worse things, to be sure, and Invasion’s international approach allows various subplots to put their own spins on this subgenre’s classic tropes. So we have Japan going the linguist route, with Hashimoto acknowledging finally that Mitsuki was correct in her insistence that the “Wajo” sound was some kind of transmission. And we have America going the “band together now, more than ever” route, with a female president (of course) giving a speech televised all around the world that touches on the importance of caring for strangers in these unexpected times. That sense of duty drives Aneesha, Trevante, and Mitsuki, who all pursue their own means of making a difference. But why do I get the sense that if Sam Neill’s rural cop character is still alive after his brush with that crop-circle alien entity, he’s probably not going to be on the side of humankind? Can this show finally give us a wellness check on Dr. Alan Grant, please?
We begin sometime soon after the events of “The King Is Dead,” with everyone still trying to regroup from their changed circumstances. Let’s go location by location. In Afghanistan, Trevante appears back on the U.S. base to find it completely abandoned. He’s devastated by Chavez’s things, can’t raise anyone on the radio, and eventually comes across what looks like a torn-up fax from WARCOM, or the United States Naval Special Warfare Command. They knew the soldiers had “encountered an unknown hostile contact” that “left traces of a substance unknown to us and found corrosive,” and they had ordered the soldiers to relocate to Kabul Airbase for extraction. So after burying Chavez and a truly befuddling conversation with his ex (again: just let this man come home and then work through your issues!), Trevante is set to hit the road to the airbase. “There’s some very real shit going on here,” he says to himself, and surely the information Trevante could give the U.S. military about what they encountered in the desert would be useful. Where did the other soldiers who were alongside him when they wandered through that portal go?
Meanwhile, back in the U.K., the kids come across an abandoned truck full of junk food. Only Casper notices the deep gauges in the driver’s seat and the reactive material embedded inside of it, and no one mentions the hole in and cracked glass of the windshield. The kids are too busy chowing through chocolate and crisps and then too frightened by the radio messages about a widespread emergency that Monty insists is a terrorist attack to really examine their immediate surroundings. (Casper, meanwhile, is having his epilepsy triggered by the aliens’ frequency, and again … this is a Not Good development in terms of ableism and how this show views neurological conditions. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given how little it seems to care about the right way to approach or develop certain things, like, say, Afghan characters?) I’m thinking the chances are low that Casper, Jamila, and the others who leave ever again see their peers who stay behind, but I’m hopeful that maybe the show is setting up Jamila as the tweens’ leader. She’s logical, she doesn’t have beef like Casper and Monty, and this is a show that has already committed to the woman-president angle. Jamila rising up the adolescent hierarchy ranks seems feasible.
Most realistic, though, is Aneesha’s decision to leave her family. I can tolerate criticisms of this storyline given that Aneesha has seemed very devoted to her kids, and also because Luke is carrying a hunk of space metal that I’m sure will be important later on. As much as I am irritated by the remaining Maliks, I do not think we are done with them. But Invasion has been so focused on anxiety, fear, and emotional upheaval up until this point that Aneesha’s growth was a welcome change of pace. In that ambulance, she reinvents herself, introducing herself as pediatrics specialist Angela Lockhart (did she pick that out of an Agatha Christie novel?) to orthopedist Dr. David Barton (Noah Bean), who later assists her during surgery. That metal jellyfish-looking thing that Aneesha/Angela pulled out of that guy’s wound had real The Matrix vibes and raises an array of questions. Does the metal kill us, or transform us, or open us up to the aliens somehow? What is their deal?
Speaking of “What is their deal?”, let’s end in Japan, where Mitsuki breaks into JASA again to raise the alarm again on the “Wajo” signal. Now Hashimoto is on her side, and she trusts him enough to share her relationship with Murai and her obsessive need to figure out what happened on the capsule. The presence already of linguists, and the fact that the Americans are coming to Japan, elevates Mitsuki’s timeline — maybe if she can recreate what happened in terms of the capsule’s communication system, she can get some answers on who or what they encountered. So while Hashimoto and Mitsuki can’t quite figure out the “language without sound” approach of the aliens, they think that the “Wajo” transmission might mean Murai is still alive. I must admit that this conversation wasn’t exactly clear for me, because didn’t we see Murai and the two other astronauts get blown out of the capsule? Or are we supposed to know that and know that Hashimoto and Mitsuki will fail?
Once again, Invasion has been so inconsistent in its alien stuff that it’s hard to tell what’s what. Instead, Jamila’s sarcastic description of Casper and Monty’s softening toward each other is really what applies here: “All the sob stories you want.” If Invasion could shift into the next phase of this narrative already and maybe ease up some on all the turmoil, that would be great.
• I simply think that if a bully has made your life a living hell for years, you should not go high but low. Monty sucks! Casper being nice to him is completely unnecessary! You think if Monty finds that journal in which Casper has (unknowingly?) sketched Russian text, he would leave the kid alone? You are setting yourself up for failure here, Casper.
• Does the Hippocratic Oath really involve the Bible? There’s been some scholarly discussion of how it syncs up with Judeo-Christian values and whether that’s influenced “modern” or Western medicine, but Dr. David defaulting to that “Surely it was Christianity!” idea is a little problematique. If they have Aneesha fall romantically for this man, I swear …
• Speaking of actor Noah Bean, who plays Dr. David, he used to be on Damages. Good TV show! Worth a rewatch.
• “There’s nothing to be worried about,” says Aneesha to Luke after telling him he’s the man of the house now (although Ahmed is still alive), and at a certain point, I would think all this forced denial is just bad parenting.
• Similarly: “I’m sure he’s alright if he isn’t here,” the kids decide of the truck driver. Why would that be the case!