There are few things I enjoy more than a good setup. I loved the beginning of Lost, when it was all questions and no attempted explanations. I like the step-ups in Stephen King books, when everything is creepy and weird and insinuating, more than the conclusions when he decides to either burn everything down or randomly introduce a character whose apparent disability is actually magic.
I think the first 45 minutes of War of the Worlds is one of the best things Steven Spielberg has ever directed, and when people mention that they hate the ending, I can usually pretend not to remember any of the details. Setups are a chance to watch the lightbulb go on in the head of a good storyteller, without needing to watch the filament flicker and fizzle under the weight of studio notes, test audience complaints or a simple surfeit of ideas.
The Bottom Line
Bore of the Worlds.
I enjoy a good setup so much that I’m confident that I’ve written multiple reviews with this exact same setup about enjoying a good setup.
By rights, then, Apple TV+’s new drama Invasion should be my favorite show of the year. Hailing from David Weil (Hunters) and Simon Kinberg (various X-Men things), Invasion verges on 10 episodes of setup so pure and unfulfilling that a better title would be Evasion. The show unfolds as a process of endless tantalization that I found amusing at first, then annoying and, finally, simply confusing. Sent all 10 episodes, critics can at least charge forward into the void, but audiences trying to find the impetus for weekly viewing will struggle to find anything to latch onto.
Structurally, Invasion is something like Independence Day meets Babel. Around the world, strange things are happening to unrelated people dealing with their own individual dramas, unexplainable events that relate to some cosmic phenomenon that will eventually have to do with aliens, but not at such a fast rate that I’d advise anybody to hold their breath. Over 10 hours, some storylines will eventually intersect, some new ones will be introduced, and some will stop abruptly and never be mentioned again — in a way that I’m sure reminded the creators of Janet Leigh in Psycho, but which comes across more like Carmen Electra in Scary Movie.
Don’t look for any main focal character or storyline here, though Sam Neill is the series’ biggest star, playing a grouchy Oklahoma sheriff investigating a bizarre crop formation (and other stuff) with his trusted deputy (DeWanda Wise). On Long Island, we meet Aneesha (Golshifteh Farahani), who set aside her medical aspirations to raise her two kids (Azhy Robertson and Tara Moayedi) with her hunky hubby (Firas Nassar). A bullied London teen (Billy Barratt’s Casper) has epilepsy, while Trevante (Shamier Anderson) is a distracted American soldier in Afghanistan. Finally, over in Japan, aerospace engineer Mitsuki (Shioli Kutsuna) is…
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