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Invasion: The Complete Series DVD Review

Invasion: The Complete Series

August 14, 2006

Director: Thomas Schlamme, Lawrence Trilling, Bryan Spicer, Ernest Dickerson, ,
Starring: William Fichtner, Eddie Cibrian, Kari Matchett, Lisa Sheridan, Tyler Labine, Alexis Dziena, Evan Peters, Ariel Gade, Aisha Hinds, Nathan Baesel, ,

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DVD Review

Poor Shaun Cassidy. If he didn’t have bad luck he’d have no luck at all. In 1995, he created American Gothic, a creepy supernatural drama for network television that was unable to garner decent enough ratings to stay on the air. In 2005, he returned with Invasion, a contemporary spin on Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and was one of several genre shows that capitalized on the success of Lost. It was smart and scary so, of course the network cancelled it.

Hurricane Eve is wreaking havoc on Homestead, Florida and local park service ranger Russell Varon (Cibrian) is trying to get the residents evacuated while also making sure that his own family is safe. He has a tense relationship with his ex-wife Dr. Mariel Underlay (Matchett) and they constantly argue over custody of their kids, Jesse (Peters) and Rose (Gade). He’s remarried to Larkin Groves (Sheridan), a local T.V. reporter covering the storm while Mariel has also remarried to the town’s no-nonsense sheriff, Tom Underlay (Fichtner).

Some kind of extra-terrestrial force uses the hurricane and the chaos it creates to cover their landing. Strange things begin to happen in the wake of its aftermath. Mariel disappears during the storm and is found lying unconscious and naked in the water. People start acting, not exactly stranger, but a little off. Mariel, for example, looks and talks like herself but Rose claims that her mom smells different and even goes so far as to say that she isn’t really her parent. Mariel isn’t the only resident who disappeared during the storm. A local priest is found with the same disoriented behaviour that begs the question: are these people shell-shocked from the hurricane or is it something else?

Larkin’s brother, Dave (Labine), finds a strange skeleton in the water and this sets off his conspiracy theorist tendencies in a big way. At first, it seems like he’s watched too many X-Files episodes but maybe he’s actually onto something. Rose claims that she saw lights in the water the night of the storm that didn’t go out. So, Dave and Russell go out to the same spot the next night and see the lights. In fact, it grabs a hold of Dave and cuts up his legs before Russell can rescue him. It’s not long before the U.S. government steps in and imposes a quarantine and as the show progresses it becomes apparent that they play a significant role in all of this.

Invasion is the kind of show that calls for a subtle kind of acting as characters have to appear normal while also having a certain look in their eyes that suggests something is not quite right. As a result, cryptic phrases take on a whole new meaning as we try to figure out who has been infected (for lack of a better phrase) by the aliens and who is still a 100% human.

The always watchable William Fichtner is excellent as the town sheriff. He seems a bit of a cold fish right from the start which makes you wonder if he has already been taken over by an alien before the hurricane even happened and future episodes elaborate on this point. But Fichtner’s performance, the odd looks and things that he says, keep us constantly guessing as to the degree in which his character has been infected and the actor plays it so well. He is the master at being the calm yet menacing type and this is what makes Tom so unsettling at times.

In contrast, Eddie Cibrian, with his Dean Cain-esque good looks, is the hunky protagonist who we are obviously meant to root for. He plays well off of Fichtner’s creepy sheriff, playing a much warmer, more grounded guy who is in touch with the environment while Tom is always associated with civilization and technology. Both are authority figures but they couldn’t be more different. There is also a nice contrast between Larkin, the warm, bedwetting liberal journalist and Mariel, the cold doctor who seems to be conflicted internally. It is interesting to watch her character struggle against the changes she is undergoing.

Invasion aired right around the time of Hurricane Katrina and the clean-up and reaction to it is eerily mirrored on the show albeit with a science fiction spin. The writers effectively establish the cast of characters and their relationship to one another. They took advantage of the medium to flesh them out so that we become emotionally invested in the characters’ lives.

The show works on several levels using its science fiction premise to comment on the differences between economic classes while also telling a good old fashion mystery as Russell uncovers evidence of an alien presence. Like Lost, when Invasion answers one of its key plot questions, two more are raised in its place. Just when you have a character figured out, they do or say something that makes you question your assumptions. Sadly, we probably will never find out how all the various storylines would have played out as Invasion was cancelled after only one season. Out of the crop of new SF/horror shows from last year, it was the best. Hopefully, this DVD set will expose more people to this excellent show.

Special Features:

“Invading the Mind of Shaun Cassidy” explores the themes that run through the show with the cast and crew gushing about how much they loved his ideas. Cassidy says that he was interested in keeping the show grounded in notions of family and set them against the aftermath of a hurricane and an insidious alien invasion. Everyone touches upon the show’s mythology and clarifies a few things that were deliciously ambiguous in the show with Cassidy claiming that Invasion was not about alien invasion but human evolution.

Also included is a “Gag Reel,” a collection of amusing outtakes and blown lines.

Finally, there are deleted scenes for 13 episodes.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 91%

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