Invasion was a curious addition to the sci-fi TV landscape when it debuted in 2021. For much of its runtime, it barely felt like science fiction at all. We all knew something alien was happening — it’s right there in the show’s title, after all — but the story was much more focused on the human-level drama going down as the world steadily succumbed to the invading forces. The result was a show that started very slowly, though things did eventually pick up mid-season. Ultimately, season 1 felt like a prologue to a much bigger story.
With all of that setup out of the way, the second season starts out much more exciting — and it doesn’t let up for the first few episodes.
Note: this write-up is based on the first five (of 10) episodes of season 2. I’ll have more on the full season later on.
One of the most notable things about Invasion is its structure. The show follows a handful of characters spread across the globe, each dealing with the invading aliens in different ways. Season 1 was all about survival for pretty much the whole cast, whether it was a mother in America trying to keep her kids alive, a bus full of students stranded and alone in England, or a Japanese communications expert desperately trying to contact a lost astronaut who also happened to be her secret girlfriend. But in season 2, most everybody has a bit more direction, and it makes the show move forward with more purpose and intensity.
The new season picks up a few months after the spiky alien blobs first made their presence known, and things aren’t going so well. Major cities look like war zones, with most people having fled or died, while those who remain struggle to fight against the very tough to kill invaders. If it weren’t for the looming spaceships on the horizon, the show could be mistaken for any number of postapocalyptic series early on. And once again, the cast is spread across the globe, dealing with the invasion — and their own personal struggles — on various fronts.
For example, in the first episode, the aforementioned comms expert Mitsuki (Shioli Kutsuna) finds herself on the frontlines of the conflict, fighting in the streets and using Molotov cocktails to keep the alien invaders at bay. But very soon, she’s picked up by an organization called the WDC (World Defense Coalition) and transported to help research the only downed alien spacecraft on Earth. Her attempts to reach her astronaut lover in season 1 made her the only person on the planet to make contact with the aliens, and here, she’s able to continue that work.
The scenes in and around the alien craft are great. Everything about this species is just so, well, alien; the ship is organic in nature, and anyone who spends too much time inside starts to get a little loopy. Her attempts to make further contact with the aliens feel like a mix of Annihilation and Arrival, and eventually, they have a big impact on humanity’s ability to fight back, with a few scenes reminiscent of Independence Day.
But as much as season 2 can feel like other more prominent sci-fi stories at times, it does a great job of mixing that with the grounded human drama that helped make season 1 stand out. The other half of the first episode follows Aneesha (Golshifteh Farahani), who is living on the run with her two kids, heading north and doing her best to avoid other people in the name of safety. She also happens to still be in possession of a piece of alien metal that the government really wants to get its hands on. Her story is much less about the actual aliens and more about navigating the dangerous new social landscape on Earth.
The show manages to smoothly jump between the slower character development moments and storylines that are rushing toward something with urgency. Basically, it’s still the same Invasion from season 1, except there’s a lot more forward momentum, which in turn, makes it much more exciting. And it gets much deeper into sci-fi weirdness, with dangerous new aliens and a strange goopy creature that Mitsuki forms a connection with. So far, it fulfills the promise of the first season, which was a very long setup for an epic sci-fi story. Now, we’re seeing that story unfold.
The beginning of Invasion helped us understand the humans at the heart of its story. Now, season 2 is helping us understand the aliens that they’re running from.
Season 2 of Invasion premieres on Apple TV Plus on August 23rd.