December 5, 2021

‘Invasion’ on Apple TV+ is a slow burn best watched at once

In the late 19th and early 20th century, a new genre of literature emerged from eventually realized fears that the world was vulnerable to massive global conflict sparked by foreign invasions. This “invasion literature” was a phenomenon that explored these conflicts through a terrestrial lens, exploring scenarios where France invaded England, or Prussia got randy with Germany; it wasn’t until 1897 that one such story looked beyond Earth for the next generation of fictionalized threat. That was the year H.G. Wells serialized War of the Worlds in Pearson’s Magazine and invented the alien invasion, arguably the single most influential concept in the history of science fiction.

The press campaign for Apple TV+’s new series Invasion frequently invoked War of the Worlds as a source of inspiration and tonal match for the project. On it surface they are similar — belligerent aliens from another planet attack the earth with weapons so superior they bring nations to their knees within weeks — but while War of the Worlds is primarily concerned with the invasion’s effect on England, Invasion follows six individuals in different countries to show the devastation from a variety of political, social, and emotional lenses.

That expansive approach to an alien invasion, a genre that already comes packaged with the burden of worldbuilding the extraterrestrial threat, is too much for a ten-episode season of TV. Invasion is aware of this, and packs those ten episodes with what feels like half of each character’s arc instead of a whole story. The obvious assumption is that Invasion will get a second season and continue the story, but Season 1 sacrifices resolution for suspense and cuts off some of its stories right as they’re about to get interesting.


As with many shows that follow multiple stories with an ensemble cast, some of Invasion’s storylines land better than others.

As with many shows that follow multiple stories with an ensemble cast, some of Invasion‘s storylines land better than others. The tragedy of a Japanese shuttle explosion, which at the time is unknowingly the first sign of the attackers, is the show’s strongest story. The center of that tale is Mitsuki (Shioli Kutsuna), a communications expert at the fictionalized Japanese space agency JASA, whose personal connection to lost astronaut Hinata (Rinko Kukichi) is heartbreaking enough to be its own series.

The sheer determination of med-student-turned-mom Aneesha Malik (Golshifteh Farahani) makes her journey through the United States’ deteriorating infrastructure interesting as well. Hers is the story through which Invasion shows the social and political devastation of the attack on a wider scale. The fear, lawlessness, and vulnerability of humanity is on full display when Aneesha is defending her children from alien or human threats, as well as when she clearly weighs the pros and cons of straight up killing her terrible husband (she should) multiple times along the way.

Other character leads have their moments, but almost all of them lose steam more rapidly and often than Mitsuki’s and Aneesha’s. There’s American soldier Trevante Ward (Shamier Anderson), who struggles through the desert for far too many episodes before finally arriving at a place that makes sense in the total narrative. A setup where British schoolchildren are stranded after a chunk of alien jetsam sends them careening down a deep ravine in a school bus looks to be the setup for a fascinating sci-fi take on Lord of the Flies, but it isn’t — the show’s younger actors are excellent, but the eventual purpose behind their plot line is Invasion‘s weakest conceit.

Like most Apple TV+ shows, Invasion will release three episodes on its premiere day and follow that drop with single episodes released weekly until the end. This is not the best format to enjoy what Invasion does well, and it exacerbates its less interesting qualities by dragging them out. Because of its slow burn and the necessity of splitting screen time between each story, Invasion would make a great one-and-done binge for anyone with an interest in the televised grandchild of invasion literature, but waiting each week for a modicum of progress in stories of different quality may be a hard sell.

Luckily, all of Invasion Season 1 will be available to watch in a handful of weeks, so waiting it out and watching it all is well within everyone’s ability. As long as the aliens don’t attack before then.

Invasion is streaming on Apple TV+.