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Invasion - The complete series (Review)

Invasion

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

INVASION promised much when it first aired on Channel 4 following a wave of hype but it sadly failed to deliver as thrilling a series as many had been hoping.

Inspired by the likes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the show boasted an intriguing premise and some strong performances but was let down by some dubious pacing that made its middle section feel very slow indeed.

It was subsequently cancelled by ABC in America at the end of its first season, making the cliffhanger ending all the more disappointing.

The premise was certainly a cracker, especially for sci-fi fans still lamenting the departure of programmes like The X-Files.

Set in the aftermath of a hurricane in Florida, the show followed the fortunes of US Park Ranger Russell Varon (Eddie Cibrian) as he gradually became aware of increasingly strange occurrences.

His daughter reported seeing mysterious lights in the sky, while a significant proportion of the town’s populuation began to act strangely.

Desperate to understand the events, Russell enlisted the help of his conspiracy theorist brother-in-law Dave Groves (Tyler Labine), and his current wife, Larkin (Lisa Sheridan).

But he also had to contend with the disappearance and re-appearance of his ex-wife, Mariel (Kari Matchett), and the bizarre activities of her new husband, the mysterious Sherriff Underlay (William Fichtner).

Invasion established a nicely eerie atmosphere and certainly put forward an interesting variation on the alien invasion theme.

But it dragged when it ought to have thrilled and became over-populated by annoying characters. Sheridan’s heavily pregnant reporter, Larkin, was particularly irritating and inept, while the reluctance of Cibrian’s Russell to acknowledge the obvious also hampered the story’s progression.

The show was saved, however, by the enigmatic Fichtner, whose memorable Sheriff Underlay remained a compelling presence throughout. Clearly involved with the extra-terrestrials (and quite possibly one himself), Underlay was both sinister and sympathetic – appearing creepy and manipulative when he needed to be, yet sensitive and tragic at others.

Fichtner elevated many episodes above the average and succeeded in delivering a genuinely complex character that audiences had fun attempting to work out.

The backdrop of the hurricane also provided a daunting presence, given its proximity to real life events in New Orleans.

Series creator Shaun Cassidy also made sure that the final few episodes fairly zipped along, especially when the full extent of the aliens’ plans were revealed and both Russell and Underlay had to put their differences aside for the good of their families.

The final few episodes of the show contained a very dark subtext and even succeeded in throwing in the odd surprise, so that the fate of every character hung in the balance and became genuinely exciting.

Unfortunately, the show had lost too many viewers by the time it had reached that point and was never able to recover enough to warrant a second season.

For sci-fi fans, however, it remains an honourable failure – one that does provide the odd chill, some thrills and a truly memorable character in Sheriff Underlay.

Had it taken a few more risks early on, we might be looking forward to the prospect of a second series – as things stand, you’ll be left to reflect on and lament what might have been…