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Inner demons

Mariel and Russ

Invasion is the introspective counterpart to Surface. If Surface is a quest for answers out there, Invasion is corresponding quest within. If Surface is about external monsters, Invasion is about inner demons. In many respects, Invasion is superior to Surface. Its characters are less romanticized and more realistic, the acting is dead-on, and the mood is more mysterious, though it lacks the humor and optimism of Surface.

Invasion is almost entirely character-driven, and centers on two families related by divorce and remarriage. Russ Varon (Eddie Cibrian) is a park ranger in the Everglades, and Larkin Groves (Lisa Sheridan), his new wife, is a reporter pregnant with her first child. Dr. Mariel Underlay (Kari Matchett) Russ's ex, is an MD who recently married Sheriff Tom Underlay (William Fichtner). Russ' and Mariel's children Jesse and Rose alternate between their homes, and Kari (Tom's daughter by another marriage) lives at Tom and Mariel's house. In addition, there's Dave Groves (Tyler Labine), Larkin's brother and often babysitter, who is also the local conspiracy theorist.

The pilot episode saw Hurricane Eve striking Homestead, Florida, affecting several residents in strange ways: Rose, the youngest of Mariel and Russ's children, saw lights coming from sky and landing in the water during the storm. Mariel was missing during the storm, and found the next day, lying naked on the shore, and disoriented, but without a scratch on her, as was the local priest, Father Scanlon. Dave found a strange skeleton which he believes is extraterrestrial, and which later disappears. And strange lights continue to be seen in the water.

Mariel quickly goes back to work as the community is in urgent need of all their doctors, but finds herself strangely feeling different. She becomes distant to her children, starts taking long baths at every opportunity, and seems to be mesmerized by water. At the end of the pilot episode, her husband Tom whispers to her "the first few days are the hardest."

Who are we really?

Invasion deals with a subtle, primordial fear, not of national, or planetary invasion, but of personal invasion. At its core is the fear that something can change us, usurp us, possess us, that we are really not in control of ourselves. The reason this is a universal fear is because it is true that we really are not who we think we are. Most of us identify with our mind as being “us”, but even a small amount of practice in meditation makes plain that we are not in control of our thoughts, they come of their own accord. Who we really are is a continual mystery, but most of us are virtually possessed by the false notions of our “identity” and our past, so we don't see it.

Sheriff Tom Underlay is an unusual character that might be called "the creepy good guy." Yes, Tom seems to sincerely care about all the town's citizens, and he acts decisively to protect them. And just as undeniably, he is creepy, very creepy. (Think of Christopher Walken's character in The Dead Zone.) In a later episode, he helps the priest organize a survivor's group and encourages his wife to join it. At the first meeting, he told the attendees that he's been through what they've been through, when nine years ago, he was the sole survivor of a plane crash in the area.

Tom and Russ

But on the other hand, immediately after the hurricane, he quarantined the town instead of having all roads open for relief supplies. He tips Larkin onto the story that the Air Force has been secretly recovering strange things from the water. When she's nearly killed for pursuing the story, he calmly assures her that it won't happen again, because he's "made some calls." And when Tom's wife discovers a body in the water, which looks like her, she asks Tom to investigate, and although he immediately finds it, he lies to her, saying he didn't see anything.

Invasion feels different from any other show I've ever seen on television, and it's sci-fi element seems much more than a mere Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, although that's part of it. Yet these "snatchers" don't seem to be very aggressive. Mariel feels she's changing, but subtly. Few suffer a sudden personality displacement. Are these people being slowly "remodeled" instead of "evicted?" Or is it merely something that releases inhibitions and makes people show their true colors? Does Tom know the alien personalities that may be cohabiting these human bodies from the time of his accident? Are these bodies even human or are they copies? What's really going on in Invasion?

Update: I had been hoping this series would last, but unfortunately it was not renewed for another season. This left it ending on a strangely unresolved note, which is a shame. It was one of the most original things ever presented on one of the old networks.

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Introduction | Surface | Invasion | Threshold | War of the Worlds
Still photographs © 2005 ABC Studios.