Sheriff Tom Underlay -
Russell Varon -
Larkin Groves -
Mariel Underlay -
OTHER SCI FI INVESTIGATIONS
Eleventh Hour (UK)
Eleventh Hour (US)
Florida is about to be struck by the largest and most destructive hurricane it has ever witnessed. Those people that have not already escaped are battening down the hatches and making sure that their cats are indoors. All except Rose, who has chased the cat outside. Her father Russell, a park ranger, finds her in time, but not before she has seen the strange lights in the sky at the centre of the storm. Russell's estranged ex-wife Mariel didn't make it home after the storm and is found lying naked in the swamps. Russell's reporter wife is busy reporting and her brother Dave thinks it's all a government conspiracy. When he discovers a dead body locked in the grip of what appears to be a dead alien, it would seem he is right. Going back out into the swamp, he is attacked by something that glows in a way that alligators do not. Meanwhile, the sherriff, and Mariel's husband, is acting pretty strange.
Now this is the way that science fiction shows are supposed to start. A military plane is swept out of the sky by something that isn't the storm. The hurricane scenes are superbly realised and the aftermath stunningly realistic.
Then there is the aliens. There is no doubting that they are there from the start, but nothing about them is known, except for the body being kept in the boot of Dave's car. Much more sinister is the cover up that might or might not be taking place and might or might not be being led by the sherriff.
Always slick, well-acted,often intriguing, pretty tense in places and with at least one great jump, there is no doubt that we will be there for future episodes to find out if we can see clearly now the rain has gone.Top
As the shattered state of Florida tries to come to terms with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Eve, matters are getting murky for the characters stuck in the middle of it all. Russell finds an air force soldier in a wetsuit with a series of toothlike holes in him. Mariel pulls a strange stinger out of one of the holes. She is also feeling pretty wierd, and smelling wierd according to her daughter Rose. On top of that, she seems to have developed a fascination for water.
The sherriff is now the most important man in town, running everything with the military to clear up the disaster, but also keeping information about the air force man away from the press and everyone else, to the extent that the injured man disappears and the strange alien body is taken from the boot of the car.
This is really good stuff. The lynchpin is the sherriff (as it was in American Gothic also penned by Shaun Cassidy) and whether he is in on the cover up or knows more about the aliens than he is letting on. His wife is certainly affected, but does not appear to be fully aware of it yet.
The plot bowls along quite nicely, without giving up any secrets, but with the distinct impression that ground is being covered. INVASION is looking like a top show already.Top
Jesse and Kira come across a camper van upside down in the water. They immediately swim across to see if they can help, but Jesse gets attacked and ends up in the hospital. A blood transfusion from his mother almost kills him and the blood technician tells Russell that the tests on the blood show it to be more like the blood of a dolphin or a whale. Clearly a major testing error, except that Mariel is now spending most of her time running water over herself any chance she gets.
The sherriff's role in all of this is still not clear as he keeps popping up in all the wrong places and when he takes Russell's wife on a trip to nowhere, allegedly to show her what's really going on there is no telling whether he is on the level or out to do her some serious harm. Dave, in the meantime, is trying to track down the owner of a ring that is the only clue as to who stole the carcass from the boot of his car.
Another great episode with Jesse's attack being very nicely handled and the slow revelations about what is happening to Mariel being beautifully paced. There is a real sense of threat and tension when the sherriff takes Russell's wife out on a country ride.Top
Larkin is attacked by a complete stranger who claims that she is one of 'them'. Russell goes out to a remote animal research lab where he finds the janitor killed and all the primates gone. Concern turns to fear when an outbreak of asian flu is detected amongst some of the townsfolk and it seems that the baboons in question are the carriers. Whilst Russell and the sherriff are trying to track them down, Jesse and Kira go to a party. There may be a curfew, but no-one seems to be obeying it.
This third episode has less of the thrust and intensity of the previous three. The plot is about the no-entry zone that the sherriff has set up around the town and which the townsfolk are chafing about. When he is pressured into removing the zone, the flu gives him a chance to order a quarantine instead. It also seems that the question of whether the sherriff is involved in everything that is going on has been answered.Top
Sherriff Tom is called to a looting incident and ends up shooting one of Russell's friends. Russell learns that the man was married to a woman who turned up after the hurricane in the same shape as Mariel. He also learns that the sherriff is protecting the 'survivors' and has set up a self-help group at the church. In the meantime, Larkin has contacted an old boyfriend who just happens to be stationed at the local army base and is happy to give her a tour.
Some of the momentum that has been set up so far dissipates in this episode. There is more evidence of the sherriff's involvement with whatever is going on and a lot of character stuff involving the family of the dead man, but the plot does not move along at all. What really suffers in this episode, though, is the sense of reality that the show has built up to this point. This is done through Larkin's trip to the military base. Whilst it strains credibility that she just happens to have an ex-boyfriend on the base in question, it completely shatters it that he should point out the restricted area to her and then leave her with just enough time to go and take a look at it. This is even further destroyed by the restricted area happening to possess a door that is neither guarded nor locked. That she should break in at just the right moment to see the mysterious boxes from the last episode being taken away is just plain ludicrous. Unless the military is setting her up for something, this is very poor plotting, something not expected from what has gone before.Top
Russell has had enough and sets out to catch one of the lights in the water with conspiracy nut job brother-in-law Dave and relatively sane son Jesse aboard. It leads them a merry hunt, but what they find at the end of the chase in a remote homestead is worrying. Sherriff Underlay is worried by the way that Kira's boyfriend has turned his attentions to Mariel. The resulting confrontation adds some shading to the changes being wrought on the 'survivors'. Most worried of all is Larkin, who believes that she is under surveillance since the events on the military base and spends more time looking in the mirror than looking at the road ahead of her. Bad move.
And so another episode of INVASION passes by without us learning anything more of significance. Admittedly, the chase that the three men put up on the light in the water is pretty much fun and the surveillance on Larkin (if that is what it is) is pretty cackhanded, but there is a faintly disagreeable edge to the story of the young man lusting after the older woman. It's all very nicely played, but if something doesn't happen soon then that might not be enough.Top
Larkin recovers from her accident to find that she is trapped and the waters are rising. As Russell searches for her, Jesse is left with Mariel, who tries to bond with him again, much to his displeasure. When Russell finds the crashed car, Larkin is no longer inside. Struggling against her injuries, she comes across an abandoned car and finally gets a lift from a passing fisherman. Wouldn't you just know that her knight in shining armour would be something other than he seems.
The job of a scriptwriter in a Hollywood show is a difficult one. You only have a an hour (commercial breaks allowing) to tell a story that has to fit within an overarching tale . There are times, however, when you just want to take one aside and slap them hard. The cause, in this case, is a glaring oversight. Larkin is injured and trapped. Not once, but twice, she reaches out to try and get hold of the radio to answer Russell. Yet, when Russell finds the car it is empty. At what point did Larkin decide that it would be smarter to go walking barefoot through the everglades than to use the radio to call him back?
This lapse is all the more unfortunate because Fish Story is otherwise a pretty good episode. Larkin's situation is full of tension and some surprisingly effective moments (the whole sequence with the abandoned car is excellent and definitely not for the squeamish). The identity of the fisherman that picks her up is never sure and leads up to a killer of a revelation at the end.
Mariel's attempts to bond with Jesse are, by comparison, an annoyance.Top
Larkin is kept at home, recovering from her ordeal, and is feeling a bit put out that Russell is spending all his time with Mariel. Mind you, her has a good excuse. Someone has left a baby at his workplace and when he Sherriff finds the mother, she denies that the baby is hers. Then it comes to light that the girl had an experience during the storm just like Mariel's, but she ends up killing her mother-in-law. Whilst in the prison cell, she has a lot to say and nobody is happy to hear it.
This is a cracking story. The set up is deceptively simple and similar to other episodes, but when the truth about the girl starts to come out and then turns into murder good things start to happen. What we learn from her doesn't advance our understanding much, but it shows Mariel quite clearly the dark side of what she might be becoming, sending her for the climactic midnight swim. For the sherriff, she points out that not all the 'survivors' are turning into the same thing and they are not all under his control. That is why he is terrified for Mariel and won't tell her the truth.
Apart from the melodramatic (but pretty good) discovery in the lake, this is a slow burn, edgy episode that teeters on the edge of danger and violence. It's just about the most intriguing one yet.Top
Mariel is starting to come to terms with the fact that she is no longer who or what she was. After what she saw at the bottom of the lake, she starts to mistrust what her husband is telling her. At the same time, she starts to bond with Dave (yes really). Russell, on the other hand, has to try and regain Larkin's faith by revealing the truth about his past. He also has to do a necropsy on an alligator to find part of an alien inside it, an alien that turns out to be part made up of human DNA.
Excellent. Mariel's bonding with Dave who is coming under the influence of the survivors? The aliens in the water are part human? The sherriff has switched the body in the lake, so it has to be Mariel's? The questions keep on coming and the answers are still just as far away, but feel as though they are just beyond the reach of our fingertips. Russell's past history aside, this is quality science-fiction storytelling.Top
Origin of Species
Dave is kidnapped by a couple who say they want to tell him about the lights in the water, but seem more intent on sticking his head underwater. Russell tracks him down and together they learn that this is not the first infestation and the first involved a sherriff not so very far away. Said sherriff sacrifices up one of his men to the aliens when the deputy starts asking too many questions about the body dredged up last time around. When that deputy comes back with an amputated arm reattached, the sherriff must make a terrible thing happen.
Finally, we start to get some answers about what the hell is going on. The couple who have kidnapped Dave are in possession of a lot of backstory and duly fill it all in. The revelation of the identity of the first victim ever recorded doesn't come as a great shock as it has been alluded to before. What is shocking is the way that the sherriff deals with his newly two-armed deputy. It may not be quite within the realms of believability, but it is certainly a chilling resolution to the episode.
Also, for the first time, we get to see one of the lights up close and personal as it goes to work on the deputy. The pace is ramping up again and there is a sense that the truth is just around the corner.Top
Us or Them
The situation is unravelling for Sherriff Tom. After Russell shows her the skeleton of an alien wrapped around the remains of her husband, Mariel demands the truth from Tom. He takes her to the cove and explains how she was lost in the storm. She doesn't believe him, thinking that he sacrificed her up to the aliens deliberately. In the meantime, deputy Louis, back to one arm only, is coming to terms with his new situation. He doesn't much like telling lies, but after a heart to heart with Tom's daughter, realises that the sherriff isn't all he thought he was. Jesse is getting it on with a hot babe at the holiday place he, Larkin and Rose are staying at, not realising that she is a survivor. When Mariel returns home, though, to meet up with the kids she finds a note that Sherriff Tom has taken them somewhere and 'has plans'.
Wow, INVASION just took a big leap forward in terms of pace and excitement. There is so much going on here, but it all happens at the same measured pace that has been the series hallmark whilst still seeming to be breathless. Jesse's tryst has yet to come to something, but the events around Tom are hotting up rapidly. His deputy now thinks he's the devil, his wife doesn't trust him an inch and everyone thinks he's about to give his kids to the lights in the water. I say it again. Wow.
Waiting for next week's show is going to be damned hard.Top
Carrying straight on from last week's ending, Russell and Mariel look for clues as to where Tom might have taken the kids. What they find instead is a locked door that seems to lead to a whole other house full of objets d'art and books that indicate Tom has something of a God complex. Power freak doesn't cover it. The house is also plagued by phone calls from someone announcing how he has been betrayed (got to be the one-armed deputy), someone who won't speak at all and there's a prowler outside.
The kids, however, seem to be safe and enjoying an unexpected, but pleasant holiday. Until, that is, Jesse spots Tom carrying a very large and very heavy duffel bag about the size and shape of a body. Larkin, finally tired of all the lies and the time that Russell is spending with Mariel, goes over to the Underlay house, gets Russell to tell her truth and then promptly doesn't believe him. At the end of the episode, we find out that the duffel bag is full of guns and ammo and has been dropped into the hands of the survivor rejects.
We'll admit it, INVASION has got us hooked here at the SCI-FI FREAK SITE. The story isn't making much more sense and everyone's motives are as obscure as ever, but at least there's lots of stuff going on and a very real palpable threat throughout the whole of the episode, even after it's clear that the kids are in no danger. True, it's unbelievable that Mariel could be married to Tom for so long without ever going into the two (count them) locked parts of the house, and some of the personal stuff is getting a bit tedious, but it grounds the rest of the story which is zipping along quite nicely thanks very much.
With only a couple of episodes to go, we can't wait to see what happens next.Top
Tom Underlay hasn't made a lot of friends since the start of the show, so it doesn't come as any surprise when he ends up with three bullets in him and most of his blood on the hallway floor. Whilst Mariel fights for his life, he drifts in and out of memories of his own survival experience 10 years earlier. In the meantime, Larkin prepares to go public with the story of the hybrid whilst Russell tries to persuade her not to, not least because there is now a shadowy assassin out there looking for targets.
After the sustained menace of the last couple of weeks, we get a character episode that is all about the people and advances the main storyline not at all. The emphasis has switched from the threat of the aliens and their hybrid survivors to the government conspiracy that is keeping the whole thing quiet. That's less satisfying, but the episode is still a good one. Despite the flashback sequences being laden with symbolism, the character revelations are handled subtly and with skill whilst the relationship between the two married couples continues to be a deep and complicated one.
Direction is very much at the heart of what makes this show and this is a particularly fine example. The scene where Tom's hallway morphs into the crashing plane of his previous experience is startling. The appearance of a rogue assassin, however, is not to mentioned. There was enough otherworldly threat before without adding in this melodramatic touch.
Roll on next week.Top
All God's Creatures
Tom's out of the hospital and, despite his promise to Mariel, is out to find the man who shot him. When he locates his one-armed deputy, he finds his daughter Kira with him. Meanwhile, Larkin is surprised by a creature lurking around the house. Dave manages to get it cornered whilst Russell is being interrogated by Tom and is shocked by what he finds.
This had all the ingredients of being a fantastic episode, but falls short on a single count. Tom's search for his attacker follows a surprising route to an even more surprising conclusion and then just fizzles out. It is to be hoped that this strand leads to something more.
The lurker outside the house is a much better plotline and does have a decent payoff, but suffers from one major flaw. The half-glimpsed creature at the start of the show moves with shocking speed. The creature that is finally cornered couldn't move with any kind of speed at all, and doesn't. That aside, it's appearance is shocking and then becomes an event of pathos and sadness thanks to some great writing and playing.
Good episode. Could have been great.Top
Kira's feeling a bit left out. All of her family have been altered by the lights and she wants to be a part of that. Louis, won't help her, so when two of the less-balanced survivors appear and offer to show her what it's like to be different, she agrees. Theft and murder follow. Meanwhile, Mariel agrees to Russell carrying out some tests on her and it soon becomes clear that she has an alien ovary full of eggs.
Kira's story has plenty of action and some little tension as she gets tempted, taunted and threatened. Finally, she is taken to the lights. Mariel's tale is less involving, although we get another tiny bit of information about the creatures. This drip feed may not reveal too much in one go, but it is also difficult to sustain interest that way. We need some revelations, and soon.Top
Following what happened to Kira, the adults finally decide to let the kids in on what has happened to Mariel. Russell and Tom join forces to chase the psycho couple out into the swamps and discover a group of illegal immigrants being terrorised by those of their number that have been altered. When they catch up with their prey, they find that the girl has failed in her attempts to abort whatever is waiting to be born and is willing to take drastic action to survive. There is also another betrayal to be uncovered.
Well, there's a lot going on here. Larkin's got access to military secrets via her old pal at the airbase and family trauma is on the up. Kira's recovering, though we still don't know why she can't be changed and Tom is still up to his old tricks, even when professing to be working with Russell. The story of the runaway couple is driving the show at present and the interlude with the migrant workers is just a distraction. At least there is less of a feeling of drift in this episode.Top
Psycho Christina takes Mariel prisoner and forces her to carry out an ultrasound examination. It becomes very clear that she is carrying a number of whatevers and is getting very close to term. Russell is still trying to find out the truth that Tom Underlay is trying to hide and tracks down the locations of the camp where the bad seeds are being kept. Jesse is struggling with the fact that his mother is some sort of alien and now finds that he has a whole school full of them. On top of that, he learns that the sherriff took Mariel down to the water on the night of the hurricane. Then there's the assassin, who has an interesting way of delivering babies.
The feelings that this show is just drifting have been blown away by this episode. Tightly plotted, pushing the story forward and ramping up the pace, Christina's state (not to mention character) has given the show some badly-needed focus and that focus is tightened up throughout the episode. There really is a sense of the strands coming together that has been missing for quite some time.Top
Russell and Dave continue to investigate the camp set up by Underlay in the Keys. There, they discover a training camp that may be being used for purposes other than the sherriff expects. They discover evidence that the hybrids may be the next step in human evolution, something that happened during the prehistoric Cambrian explosion. Underlay captures an escaped soldier at Larkin's house and learns that the military have kept him out of the loop. They have been experimenting of hurricane survivors at the naval base, looking for weaknesses. Jesse is finding it hard to adjust to the presence of all the new-style kids at school. A fight in the library drives him to some decisions about his family and the gun that Tom gave him.
The Jesse strand of this week's episode is the most interesting and is starting to carry the most sense of foreboding. As he begins to unravel, there is a real sense that trouble is coming and he is likely to be either a major victim or the main cause. Tom finds out about the soldiers being experimented on in a wonderful scene where he is confronted with his own being effectively tortured and learns that the army know all about him. It's a study in underplaying, but all the questions and emotions are there to see. Russell and Dave's trip brings some answers, at last, but are they real answers or just somebody's theories?Top
The Son Also Rises
Jesse's had enough, so when Russell confiscates his gun, he bands together with some other normal folk to kidnap Sherriff Underlay and get some answers about how to stop the spread of the hybrids. Unfortunately, the goons have taken Deputy Louis instead and Jesse is forced to take a stand quite the opposite of that he expected. Russell has been suspended, but it turns out that Tom is not the cause of it. The psycho assassin now has his army underway and they're coming for the town under cover of another tropical storm. Tom wants to stop him as badly as Russell, but the townsfolk know that the storm's coming and that something's coming with it.
There's too much talking in this episode, making it much like the padding that there was early in the season. Still, once the wrong law enforcer is kidnapped, the action perks up a bit and the scene starts to be set for what promises to be the big showdown.
I could really have done without the 'Riders on the Storm' motif, though. It's a little obvious.Top
Run and Gun
The new hurricane is bearing down on the town, but everyone seems to be trying to keep that information from making the news. Szura the psycho assassin gets himself arrested by Tom, but then is released by the deputies. The sherriff can no longer trust his own men, so when his family is threatened, he bundles them up and gets them all out of town. Only Russell remains to help him. Together they set out for the newly-discovered hiding place of Zura's army of hybrids, the storm clouds racing above them.
Talk about your storm and fury signifying nothing. There is plenty of activity in this episode, but not a lot actually happening. Everybody is pretty much mad at everyone else, but what it boils down to is everyone gets upset whilst packing and then the two alpha males set out to save humanity, or maybe just their families.
The switch that leaves Tom, for so long the controlling force for the hybrids, alone and uncertain is completed in this episode and so it comes down to two heroes against the bad guy and his army. It's taken a long time to get here, but the last two episodes ought to be good ones.Top
The storm hits and Tom reveals that his plan was for the folks from the camp to be dressed like soldiers to aid the new hybrids in their transition. Szura's plan is a bit more proactive. He has them round up all the people they can find, including Tom and Russell's families, and take them to a processing centre where the pregnant women are all about to give birth. And then the lights starts to fall from the sky.
Everything comes together at last. Tom's plans are all subverted and Larkin and the children are faced with the prospect of becoming hybrids. There are too many for Tom and Russell to take on alone and Dave and Louis have problems of their own.
The pace is high and the cliffhanger is fantastic, as the humans are herded out into the rain and the lights start to fall. This is what INVASION should have been all along.Top
The Last Wave Goodbye
Szura's stormtroopers are pushing all the humans into the water. Jesse, Larkin and Rose are trapped with the others. Tom and Russell make like Rambo and go in there guns blazing. Just when it seems likely that they are in their own last scene of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid the military arrive to save the day. The story ends.
Except, of course, that it doesn't. Szura gets away with Mariel and some of the pregnant hybrids. Some of the humans who have lost their loved ones decide to take action and the focus of that action is the perceived leader of the hybrids, Sherriff Tom. You just know that it's all going to end in tears.
It is such a shame that INVASION wasn't renewed. Admittedly, it was a great six-part mini series dragged out over 22 episodes, but the last few of those episodes were class and this one is too. The cliffhanger leaves room for a whole new race of hybrids not to mention one character whose fate remains unknown. There are also a whole load of new hybrids that have been created in the last storm to consider.
There is something criminal going on when shows like this and THRESHOLD get cancelled and so much other pap gets renewed. Infuriating as it could be, INVASION was a class act and will remain in the memory when others have faded.Top
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