In the Yemen, the dust blows up in strange patterns, frightening the camels; in Oklahoma, the crows hover over the field, tracing the formation of a crop circle beneath. In Long Island, the school music class is disrupted when all the children simultaneously develop nosebleeds, while in England a school trip is thrown into chaos when the bus plunges into a ravine.
Driven off the road by an explosion, flaming wreckage crashing down from the skies, far overhead the Hoshi 12 suddenly falls silent as it approaches its rendezvous with the International Space Station where Captain Murai Hinata was to participate in a study on the long-term effects of zero gravity a prelude to Japanese ambitions of deep space missions.
Each of these events seemingly random, inexplicable when considered in isolation, they are apparently linked, a prelude to an invasion though the form of which remains unclear, the witnesses unaware of the wider context of what they are experiencing, none of them in a position to report what they have seen to any form of authority who might be able to assemble the fragments into a grander whole.
Created by Dark Phoenix’s Simon Kinberg and Solos’ David Weil and launching with three chapters of its ten-episode season run, Last Day, Crash and Orion, the first two directed by The Alienist’s Jakob Verbruggen and the third by Outcasts’ Jamie Payne, Invasion positions itself as global event television, the cast led by Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill as Sheriff John Bell Tyson, frustrated by his impending retirement until called to attend the trouble in the fields and caught in the shifting sands of uncertainty.
A multilingual tapestry woven from the threads of five groups of people shot on locations around the world, Invasion presents itself as a grand, global story, but the pace is sluggish, begging for deep feeling with prolonged sunrises and endless gazing reflectively into mirrors but offering generic characters who have no emotional connection to the viewer, their forced separations, fears for their children and disappointment of a life unfulfilled perhaps intended to emphasise these are ordinary people but less than inspiring when faced with imminent cataclysm.
In Long Island, Aneesha Malik (Golshifteh Farahani) discovers her husband Ahmed (Firas Nassar) is having an affair with the Instagram food girl; in response, she cooks him one of his lover’s recipes. In Tokyo, communications technician Mitsuki Yamato (Shiori Kutsuna) must conceal her relationship with Captain Murai while contending with the rigid strata of JASA, the improbably named Japanese space programme. Separated from his unit in the desert, American soldier Trevante Ward (Shamier Anderson) threatens to shoot anyone he meets, rescuers bearing water, a nurse, even a herd of goats.
Each storyline concerned only with itself, if each offered clues to a grander underlying structure visible only from the perspective of an outside observer it might feel that progress were being made, but after three frustrating and fruitless hours each continues to plough the same parallel rut, a shapeless mess with day and night progressing inconsistently across the time zones despite the implication that each is shuffling forwards concurrently, bickering taking precedence over revelations, exemplified by the London schoolkids offering their own personal interpretation of Lord of the Flies as they fight over packs of crisps.
Aiming for the audience engagement of Lost with the big mystery which must be sustained at all costs, others have tried since that six year investment was ultimately betrayed, FlashForward, The After, most recently the veritable torture of La Brea, but a better lesson might be learned from the original mini-series of V, told without a wasted moment over three hours across two nights, the characters scientists, journalists and industrialists, offering insight and intelligent commentary as the plot hurtled forwards, an ambition and momentum which seems as alien to Invasion as the elusive menace of which there is as yet scant direct evidence.
Invasion premieres with three episodes on Apple TV+ on Friday 22nd October