In trying to comfort his kids, Ahmed promises Luke and Sarah they’ll “be fine.” “We are safe here together,” he says, and I am going to take a wild swing here and assume that’s not a guarantee! It doesn’t seem like the entire world has put it together yet, but something is attacking Earth and setting up shop in various corners of the globe: in New York, Afghanistan (continued sigh at this series’ use of MENA people for narrative props), and the U.K., because why else are we spending time with tween Casper Morrow (Billy Barratt)? And as we saw from the attack on that Japanese space shuttle and the far-too-quick exit of Rinko Kikuchi from this show, something might be patrolling the outside of Earth, too. Are they surrounding our planet? Choking us off from the rest of the galaxy? And if so, why?
Those are all big-picture questions that Invasion has not yet explicitly addressed. For now, we’re still setting up characters and exploring relationships, and I must admit that I am pleasantly surprised with how much focus Golshifteh Farahani’s Aneesha is getting. I had worried that her prominence in marketing materials for Invasion would be a kind of bait and switch, but no! Farahani actually has a lot to do! But on the flip side, do I think this second episode “Crash” is handling its “brown people: terrorists :: Earthlings : aliens” SAT analogy with any particular grace or nuance? Not really. In this, our year 2021, any TV show that continues to write scenes that basically amount to “American soldiers point guns at pleading brown people whose country they have invaded, whose language is not given subtitles, but who are intended to make us as viewers feel afraid” really feels purposefully ignorant. Are the aliens just like … ignoring Russia? South America? Africa? Would it be too difficult to incorporate other parts of the world into the worldwide story Invasion is telling, or is Orientalism just easier?
Anyway, all that stuff comes at the end of “Crash,” so let’s start at the beginning, back in Long Island. The Maliks try to hide their fighting in front of Luke and Sarah, but their neighbors, staggering out of their destroyed and burning homes, barely hide their suspicion of Ahmed when he ventures outside. Is this another September 11? Did a dirty bomb attack their neighborhood? All of these bougie New Yorkers are looking at Ahmed in a new — or maybe just a newly revealed — way, and they ask a valid question: “Why didn’t it hit your house?”
Why indeed, and what is Luke hearing inside his head that is repeating what sounds like “Waja” over and over? Ahmed proves his Absolute Worst Man bona fides again by leaving his screaming son in distress and calling his mistress Amanda when he claims he’s going to call 911. Once again, I wonder why Aneesha is not just like, “Best of luck during this cataclysmic event; we are leaving you!” Certainly, that would have been a valid response to Ahmed’s admission that he was going to abandon her and their children that week. But Aneesha is a good mom who is desperate to protect her children at all costs, so she lets Ahmed back in the Tesla, although he couldn’t figure out how to unlock it, and her shift into take-charge mode is understandable. Everybody should stop crying! This woman is trying to drive you out of the city. Stop complaining!
Meanwhile, in London, Casper, who looks like the real-life version of an animated Tim Burton character, suffers at the hands of lead bully Monty Cuttermill (Paddy Holland), an asshole Brit name if I’ve ever heard one. The main takeaway here is that Monty sucks, Casper has a crush on classmate Jamila Huston (India Brown), and their teacher and field trip chaperone, Mr. Edwards (Tom Cullen), crashes their bus off a cliff when he turns around to address Monty’s harassment and Casper’s oncoming seizure. By doing so, he misses what looks like a series of fiery asteroids (which I’m assuming are actually more aliens) crashing into the far-off landscape. The aliens have landed in Europe!
Over in Japan, Mitsuki’s grief is immense. Did she make a mistake in the communications coding that kept JASA from receiving the space shuttle’s distress signal? “I’m still on this planet, but now my world is gone,” Mitsuki says in a video blog she meant to show Murai when she returned from the International Space Station, but Mitsuki’s moment of emotional vulnerability takes on even more weight when she learns of her lover’s death. But again, no one in Japan suspects interstellar baddies. As Mitsuki’s boss (Shingo Usami) and coworker Kaito Kawaguchi (Daisuke Tsuji) speculate, maybe it was a “bigger cosmic storm.” What is this, Ad Astra? Guys! It’s aliens! And once Mitsuki is done (rightfully) telling her homophobic mom to get the hell out of her life and (maybe a little hurtfully) kicking her one-night stand out of her apartment, it’s clear that she’s going to devote herself to figuring out what happened to Murai. “Be clean, sweetheart,” her mother tells her, but this isn’t about sin. This is about guilt, and that’s a very different thing.
And finally, there’s the Afghanistan subplot, which follows a group of American soldiers as they try to find a missing unit. Given what’s been going on in the real world in the past few weeks, it was a struggle to put aside the strangeness of seeing American troops in Kandahar. Especially since those American troops are presented with all the typical machismo bullshit of barbecue, football, and shirtless wrestling that is often the de facto way pop culture imagines military service. But this whole segment of the episode is awash in cliches, from U.S. soldier Trevante Ward’s (Shamier Anderson) strained relationship with who seems to be an ex-girlfriend or an ex-wife, to the Afghan woman in a full-body black chador falling at Trevante’s feet and “not making any sense” (presented as a threat, rather than begging for help), to the show’s refusal to give subtitles to any of the Afghan characters in either the village or the school. Pretty annoying!
Anyway, it sounds to me like the kids are chanting “Khudaya,” which means God in Persian and Dari, while looking at the wall that was blown out, theoretically by the same beings who left the crop circle in Oklahoma and whose symbol that Afghan boy was tracing over and over again in the bloody dust. But when Trevante and the rest of the soldiers get stuck in that portal thing and pass through it to see what the aliens really look like, it’s another glimpse of what that Bedouin man had seen in the premiere episode “Last Day”: a three-pronged black figure with skin that seems almost like a metallic liquid, and with the ability to blow them all away. “What the fuck is going on, man?” Chavez (Alex Hernandez) asks, and we’re all right there with you, buddy.
We’re Talking Here About Your Future
• If Casper’s epilepsy ends up being some sort of connection to the aliens, I am going to lose it.
• It’s not like Nirvana ever went away, but between Casper listening to “Drain You” and the use of a slowed-down version of “Something in the Way” in the first trailer for The Batman, they’re feeling slightly omnipresent.
• That Japanese The Man Who Fell to Earth poster in Mitsuki’s apartment: tight.
• No Sam Neill this episode, no Oklahoma update.
• This show has now had two references to Disney’s Moana, and I do not understand why!
• The second season of The Terror was unfortunately pretty even, but Shingo Usami did consistently captivating work within it.
• The nagging lines Invasion keeps writing for Aneesha are only hilarious because of the pettiness Farahani infuses into her deliveries, and I am still laughing about her sneering, “I told you we should have never lived where we have to cross a bridge!”