The following contains spoilers for Invasion S1E6, “Home Invasion”
At something like a conceptual level, I can almost see what Invasion S1E6 is going for. It’s a home invasion story, as its title makes clear, and a straightforward one at that. After a first half of the season that started to make me think our protagonists were never going to come face to face with the aliens, we get action that aims for the style of a horror film.
The idea here—to lull the audience into a kind of comfort through five episodes of slow world building and quiet character moments, only to hit them with a tight half hour of visceral terror—is thrilling. Unfortunately I get the impression that no one involved in creating Invasion thought to check if the execution actually worked.
The decision to focus on the Malik family for the duration of the episode’s (shorter than usual) runtime should feel bold, and their peril as they fumble around in the dark unable to even get a good line of sight on a being they nonetheless wouldn’t have the concepts to comprehend should feel wracked with tension. But instead, I hardly felt like I cared, and when it seemed like Ahmed had been killed even gave a little cheer as I watched alone.
There is a reason why traditional home invasion movies have a dull first act where the kids having a slumber party eat pizza and play games or whatever. It serves to make the space feel familiar; to mimic that comfort of home that will then be disrupted.
Instead S1E6 has to spend its opening minutes getting Aneesha back to the house. Her turn from going along with the doctors to needing to get back to her kids feels a little undermotivated, textually speaking, but makes enough sense in human terms for us to let it slide.
Her journey should be harrowing and there are quick indications that it is, as when she happens on a bunch of dead soldiers and a jeep that won’t start, but Invasion passes on this opportunity for tension, cutting quickly to her arrival at the house, as if she just had to run a little ways to get there. This could have been her arc over a whole episode, interspersed with other stories. Instead S1E6 doesn’t check in with any of the other stories.
“Home Invasion” almost works on its own terms, in that the sound is quite effective and the visuals, while very dark, remain stunning. But it absolutely does not work taken in relation to what’s around it, and so fails even within itself. S1E6 is like a picture without a frame, or rather it doesn’t fit into the frame it has.
Perhaps if Aneesha had never left and we’d spent last week exploring some quiet moments of domesticity it would be different, but as it is the setting for the episode is a house we have spent almost no time in, and we’ve barely gotten to know the couple who took the Maliks in. There is nothing to make this feel like home.
By the time Aneesha arrives back, the alien attack has already begun, such that her reunion with her kids is undermined by Patrick shushing her. So there’s no feeling of “coming home” here, either.
Again, this could feel innovative but doesn’t. Tropes are tropes for a reason, and in order to subvert expectations you have to first establish them.
As Patrick and Kelly get angry at the Maliks, we could get to thinking about how perilous circumstances can bring out the worst in people, turning us against each other when our focus should be on a common threat, but everything happens a bit too fast for that. And for all we know the Mitchells were just always assholes to begin with.
And I guess it makes some sense that they should all be quiet as they hide from the monster in the house, but does it? Is this alien very stupid? We really don’t learn much about it at all, except that I guess only the hunk of space metal Luke has been toting around was able to kill it.
The fact that we don’t quite know what it wants should be more of a compelling mystery, but S1E6 stages everything too much in terms of it being homicidal for that question to take root in the mind.
Seriously, though, why didn’t it kill Ahmed? Is he just so smarmy it couldn’t tolerate the taste?
“Home Invasion” takes a big risk in ignoring the other characters that have populated Invasion to this point and I would love to be able to laud the show for that, but unfortunately the episode is a failure.
It doesn’t follow from last week’s episode in thematic terms, or even really in terms of plot. It feels shoehorned in and the differences in tone and pacing from the season’s first half just accentuate that feeling.
Invasion had built up wonderful tension, but rather than breaking that tension S1E6 ignores it to pretend it’s a bad horror movie. And I don’t mean it’s bad because it’s cheesy—though it is at times, that’s fine—it’s bad because it’s boring.
Somehow the episode where we finally see aliens attacking is the least engaging yet, and I fear that right here Invasion has lost what had made it so compelling.
We’ll have to see next week if that’s somehow not the case.