Invasion Season 1 Recap: A Slow-Burning Sci-Fi Disaster Drama

The first season of Apple TV+'s sci-fi drama explores the global implications of an alien invasion. Here's how.

Golshifteh Farahani, Azhy Robertson and Tara Moayedi in “Invasion,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
Photo: Apple TV+

Invasion, Apple TV+’s science fiction epic, returns to screens on August 23 with its second season. Now is the right time to binge season 1 and be grateful that you don’t have to wait two years to find out what happens next. For those viewers who’ve seen the show and need a refresher (and everyone else who is just curious), here’s a recap of what happened in Invasion season 1.

The Alien Invasion Begins … Slowly

With its dramatic scope and global perspective, the show explores the first week of the aftermath of mysterious events that leave Earth forever changed. Chaos and confusion reign, and it takes a few days for humans across the globe to realize that the jagged-metal meteor showers, power outages, and communication disruptions are caused by extraterrestrial forces. 

Invasion offers a mélange of intrigue, character development, and slow-burn pacing. Co-creators Simon Kinberg (Deadpool) and David Weil (Hunters) may be known for blockbusters that explode with action, but Invasion takes a preamble approach with the word “alien” making its first appearance midway through the first season’s 10 episodes.

Visually, Invasion impresses with its high production values and diverse geographic locations. The cinematography captures the beauty and eeriness of the affected landscapes, adding to the show’s overall sense of atmosphere. The extraterrestrial elements are designed with care, ranging from enormous, oscillating metallic gills and scales to needle-limbed, roving slug creatures, all of which is only seen in glimpses. The show focuses more on human reactions rather than overindulging in CGI spectacle.

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Strange Occurrences 

Invasion circles the globe by offering character-driven storylines–from a small town in the United States to a remote, mega space satellite facility in Japan–the show captures the ways people respond to inexplicable phenomena while still trying to live through the reality of their personal lives and the trauma of school bullies, intolerance, retirement, loss, and infidelity. One of the show’s strengths is its exploration of human nature under extreme circumstances. As the series unfolds, it delves into themes of survival, empathy, and the thin veneer of civilization. Viewers are presented with thought-provoking questions about how individuals respond to existential threats and the lengths they are willing to go to (or not) to protect their loved ones and their fellow Homo sapiens.

The initial episodes effectively build an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty as governments struggle to make sense of the situation, while individuals grapple with personal upheavals. The strange occurrences include schoolchildren with spontaneous nosebleeds, a preteen with seizures that produce visions that may predict the future, a space shuttle with a ripped belly that may not have killed the astronauts onboard, a neighborhood destroyed by a “bomb” while the neighbors-of-color are passive-aggressively blamed … and a crop circle.

The Five Protagonists

Jim Bell Tyson: The Short-Lived Sheriff

Where would an extraterrestrial mystery be without the desecration of a corn field? In the first episode, “Last Day,” it’s an Oklahoman field that marks the grave of the most well-known actor in the series, Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), and the last day of normal life on earth. In one of the most anti-climatic hero set-ups in TV history, Sheriff Jim Bell Tyson (Sam Neill), a small-town sheriff who is depressed and frustrated by his 45 years of stalwart community service, barges out of his retirement party mid-speech to search the crop circle for crime clues. As he digs frantically in the earth, hoping to find a lead that might define his career and give him new purpose (and more notoriety), he is swiftly “snuffed” out and never again seen after episode 1. Do we, however, know for sure that he is dead and gone? Absolutely not. But he probably is…    

Aneesha Malik: The Powerhouse Matriarch

In episode 2, we meet Aneesha Malik (Golshifteh Farahani), a well-to-do, Long Island homemaker who sacrifices her education and career to the extreme in order to be a “good” wife and mom. The strength in her ability to forfeit so much becomes poignantly evident as she takes control of her family’s nebulous escape plan and not only saves their lives, but also the lives of strangers. Along the way, she is quick to steal a car without concern for the family who is left stranded, claim that she is a medical doctor (she almost is, really), and then she abandons the triage unit after removing a foreign entity from the innards of a patient in surgery by running for miles until she is reunited with her family. Meanwhile, her husband is trying to connect with his Instagram foodie-influencer mistress. Aneesha is shattered by the discovery of his betrayal on the same day that her neighborhood is shattered by a “bomb.” She is the unlikely warrior of the show, aided by a piece of debris that may be the only weapon on earth that can slow down the alien incursion. 

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Trevante Cole: The Complicated SEAL

Trevante Cole (Shamier Anderson) is introduced in the same episode as Aneesha and is a Navy SEAL stationed in a desolate part of Afghanistan. Trevante invades the screen in an unlikable fashion and, while his gun and his hostile attitude get pointed at innocent civilians, this ugly and cold mask is a deep-fake concealing a wellspring of pain as well as potential. It’s not until the end of season 1 that we learn that Trevante lost a child to illness, and that he copes with the resulting PTSD by abandoning his wife and returning to the battlefield. When his team disappears after encountering a gigantic alien entity in the desert, his protective instincts and tumultuous guilt at allowing his men to lose their lives drive him recklessly, but successfully, across thousands of miles, until he finally reaches London where he meets a child who needs his help getting to the hospital. Trevante would rather drink himself into a stupor than help another child in a hospital, and he outright refuses until he sees the child’s drawings that look exactly like what he and his men encountered in the desert.   

Caspar Morrow: The Child Artist

That child is Caspar Morrow (Billy Barratt) and he is the connector between Invasion’s protagonists. Through his epileptic seizures, he sees, and then draws, otherworldly phenomena that predict the future encounters these humans experience with the aliens. Caspar is bullied by a group of boys at school and, when their field trip goes awry, the situation becomes a hallmark Lord of the Flies scenario. Their bus is bombarded by metal meteors raining down on them, which injures the driver (who is also their teacher and lone adult on the field trip), and causes the bus to fall into a deep, sheer-faced quarry. 

The children set up camp, start a fire, and create a large S.O.S sign out of stones, but no help comes for them. The bullying only gets worse, which propels Caspar to scale the quarry and inspires the other children to follow suit, effectively denouncing the bullies as leaders. The kids begin to walk the long road back to London when they encounter a wrecked cargo truck filled with snacks, chocolate, and sweet drinks. Here they split with many of the group choosing to stay with the truck while Caspar, his friend Jamila (India Brown), and the former lead-bully continue on. It’s on their homeward trek that they encounter a frantic woman in a car who reveals the true nature of the attack to them and gives them a lift to the city.

Caspar and Jamila intend to get to the hospital where her mother is employed, and they enlist Trevante’s reluctant, not exactly sober, help along the way. At the hospital, they convince a neurosurgeon to induce Caspar’s seizure. The seizure opens up the line of communication to the aliens, and they come hunting for the boy. Trevante attempts to hold the aliens off but, just when all hope seems lost, Caspar seizes again and telepathically communicates to the aliens: “Stop!” 

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And they do – they freeze and life seems to be sucked out of them, like the species-hive in Falling Skies (TNT, 2011-2015). It’s intentionally left unclear whether it’s Caspar’s telepathic, mental connection to the aliens that stops the attack, dries up the oxygen-sucking black substance that the “meteor showers” have spread across the globe, and provides peace and celebration as humans revel in the (assumed) conclusion of the assault. Or maybe it’s the simultaneous explosions of nuclear bombs launched by a global effort and directed at the alien presence in Earth’s orbit.

Mitsuki Yamato: The Pure-Hearted Lover

Mitsuki Yamato (Shioli Kutsuna) offers the sole window into outer space in season 1 as the communications guru for Japan’s space program (JASA). The purity of her love for astronaut Hinata (Rinko Kikuchi) underscores her morality and the rogue actions she takes to communicate with her secret lover, whom she does not believe has died in the orbital shuttle accident. What she ends up doing is establishing first contact with the aliens through a language more akin to telepathy (think Arrival, 2016) than to letters and sounds. She not only hopes to find Hinata, but also to prevent the nuclear attack. Her contact, however, doesn’t override Earth’s desire to bomb the alien’s to smithereens. 

The First Day: Season 1 Ending Explained

The season finale is titled “The First Day,” which bookends the premiere episode’s title, “The Last Day.” Like most of humanity who celebrates the end of the alien invasion in the penultimate episode as the nukes explode in the skies and the alien entities fall silent and unmoving, we would be wrong to assume that everything has come to an end and the threat is gone. This “first day” carries all the weight of what’s to come when the real invasion begins. Like the classic film Independence Day, the presence of aliens is (finally) announced in a way that is unmistakable and visible to the naked eye, setting the stage for future developments foretasted in the final few moments of the last episode as Aneesha and her children remain in hiding under a mother’s gut instinct that it’s too soon to celebrate while Trevante and his wife look up at a giant alien ship in orbit that fills their sightline above the ocean’s horizon.  

Invasion season 1 leaves audiences with a mix of answers and new questions: is Caspar really dead? If so, why is he dreaming that he’s Mitsuki, letting Hinata’s compass guide him North? Trevante assures his wife that he’s going to get a new job. But will that be possible now that the enemy has made itself seen in a way bigger and more threatening than anything experienced so far? Will they stay together if he goes back to the battlefield? When Mitsuki rushes back to a transmitter and makes contact again in the final episode, who (or what) is she communicating with? And what’s up with Aneesha’s son, Luke (Azhy Robertson)? He blames his mother for his dad’s death at the hands of bad men in the most irritating way possible. Yet it’s his little hand that holds the piece of glowing debris that may be humanity’s only salvation in what’s to come. 

As viewers prepare for the second season, Invasion has the potential to evolve into a must-watch for fans of character-driven, science fiction drama.

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Invasion season 2 premieres Aug. 23 on Apple TV+. New episodes stream Wednesdays culminating with the finale on Oct. 25.