STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $59.98
RUNNING TIME: 907 minutes
• Missing scenes
• "Invading the Mind of Shaun Cassidy" featurette
• Gag reel

The Pitch

Even extraterrestrials are retiring to Florida.

The Humans

William Fichtner, Eddie Cibrian, Kari Matchett, Lisa Sheridan, Tyler Labine, Alexis Dziena, Evan Peters, Ariel Gade, Aisha Hinds.

"Honey, you know that since you’ve been replaced, you can stay underwater for hours, right?"
"Good, let’s hit the jacuzzi…"

The Nutshell

During a hurricane that slams Florida, a bunch of lights emerge from the ocean and rain down in the waters surrounding Homestead. Several people, including Dr. Mariel Underlay (Matchett), go missing, only to wind up the following morning near the water, completely naked and with no memory of how they survived. Mariel is the wife of Sherriff Underlay (Fichtner), and ex-wife of Everglades park ranger, Russell Varon (Cibrian), who himself is married to local news reporter Larkin (Sheridan). Russell and Varon share two kids, Jesse and Rose, and Underlay also has a daughter, Kyra. Rounding out the family is Larkin’s conspiracy theorist nut brother, Dave. In the following days after the hurricane, the two families start noticing changes in the behavior of those who went missing, including Mariel. Soon other clues like lights in the waters and a piece or two of some strange animals turning up around town portend that something about Homestead is definitely off. Pretty soon, Russell discovers that the Sheriff definitely knows what’s going on and things are really weird when the military gets involved. Eventually it’s discovered that Homestead is the beachhead for an impending invasion of creatures, possibly alien, that abduct people in the water and make perfect hybrid copies of them, with the possible purpose being to either offer the next step in evolution, or worse, extinction.

The new Steve Irwin attraction at Sea World may not have been the best idea…

The Lowdown

It’s not a surprise to me that Invasion was cancelled after one season last year. It was part of a crop of TV shows that sought to cash in on the Lost phenomenon of the serialized mystery / sci-fi / alien drama that included Surface, Threshold, and others that ultimately got the axe. What is surprising to me is that the show made it the entire season because, quite honestly, the first eight episodes or so are a crushing bore. Considering that another show that didn’t last the season, Night Stalker, started out much better and only made it to six episodes – on the same network mind you – it shows how fickle the Nielsen gods can be. The first third of this season is setting up the show for the hoped-for long haul, but peals the onion layer by layer just a bit too slowly. For a supposed alien invasion, there ain’t much alien nor invasion to be seen, only innuendo and hypothesis.

Finally the question of what happened to Britney Spears’ first husband has been answered…

But then something even more surprising happens, a one-armed deputy gets taken by one of the creatures, you see him being replaced and the show kicks it up a couple of notches and suddenly you’re riveted as the situation becomes more clear: the people of Homestead and beyond aren’t who they used to be and the minorities aren’t just Cubans or Black people, but humans themselves. Up until then I half considered stopping around episode 8 or 9 and faking the rest of the review. But if I had, I would have missed out on the conspiracy that works on several levels. First of all, the people who are changed don’t necessarily realize it at first. Part of the annoying story build up is that you know that Mariel is one of them, but she doesn’t know it and you know her husband knows something is going on, you just don’t know what.
Invasion was trying way too hard to establish the mythology at an X-Files pace and I think that audiences, yours truly included, have reached a critical short attention span faze in our development where we have to have the answers ASAP, and Invasion wasn’t providing them. I submit that if X-Files had started now instead of 13 years ago, it might not have made it out of the first season.

Clay Aiken showed up replaced and naked and, well…

Kudos should be given to the show runners who probably realized this and then got the show going to present some interesting elements of their mythology and where the show was trying to go. On one hand you’ve got the microcosm of the two interconnected families, the Varons and the Underlays, and how they’re dealing with the changes in their family and community. Then in the backdrop, you’ve got the conspiracy of the hybrids slowly but surely taking over the town. On another front, you’ve got the military, who know about the whole thing and are using Homestead for a petrie dish to see what the invaders are planning. The most interesting thing that Invasion posits is whether or not the invaders are indeed alien, or another form of sea life that we’ve never encountered before. And whether or not this is a Cambrian explosion – a sudden leap forward in evolution – or an alien apocalypse. Also debated is whether or not it’s necessarily a bad thing to be replaced. The hybrids possess several abilities that us mere humans lack, including a form of hive mind, the ability to stay under water for long periods of time, and advanced healing abilities. But they’re still essentially the same people, knowing everything and generally feeling everything that they felt before they were changed.

"Uh dude, I think you got changed a little too much if you know what I mean…"

But not everybody is changed in the same way. Some undergo radical personality changes, including a young mother who flips and goes all Natural Born Killers on those around her, including her mother-in-law. She’s also the first to present the possible threat of what happens when a hybrid gets pregnant, a period of time that only lasts three weeks by the way. However, others, such as Mariel, even when they find out that they’ve been changed, behave civilly and still maintain the same family and community ties that they had before. Nevertheless, there still emerges an “us against them” mentality as the town comes to realize that they’ve got some new old friends living amongst them. This is particularly prevalent when the kids return to school and hybrid cliques emerge.

In the center of it all is Underlay, who is definitely planning something with the emergent bad guy of the series, Eli Szura, who is getting together his own little hybrid army in one of the uncharted Florida keys. When a second hurricane heads for Homestead late in the season, all of the things that had been percolating all season long come to a boil and it’s up to the Varons to stop a mass replacement being plotted by Szura and his cohorts. And in typical fashion, the show ends in a fateful replacement that had promised to deliver the next kink in the story should it have been picked up for another season.

"I heard that they were here as soon as the hurricane hit."
"Well I know you ain’t talking about FEMA…"

I think I could see how the show might have played out if it had continued. It could have steered to legal issues and whether or not the hybrids would have the same rights as humans, which would be applicable to the current immigration situation. And while the question of what happens during a hybrid pregnancy was raised, the replacement that took place at the end of the season could have also gone in a new direction to address what happens when a pre-replacement pregnant woman is taken. To say anymore is to spoil it, but if you watched the show, you know whom I mean. I was kind of not looking forward to doing this review, because I thought that
Invasion was going to be some half-baked knockoff of Lost, seeking to cash in on a phenomenon that I understand is already starting to wear thin. Surprisingly, I don’t watch Lost, but I have a friend who goes on and on about how the second season is already dragging the show to unbearable delays in revealing the goings-on. So I didn’t have much hope that Invasion would be any better, and for the first third of the season I was essentially correct. But when the show got going, it did so in entertaining fashion and now I’m sorry that it’s going to remain another mythology that will probably never get resolved, something that’s becoming the norm rather than the exception.

"And the director was like, ‘whatever’ and I was like, ‘whatever’, so I called my agent and he was, ‘whatever’, so my agent called SAG and they were like, ‘whatever’ and so we were all like, ‘whatever ‘…

The Package

The show looks good, successfully recreating a hurricane-devastated Florida town and sporting some decent special effects, particularly the creatures. The sound is English Dolby Surround and is also fine. But one thing that continues to irk me is that the subtitles for this and many other discs (particularly Warners’) are in seemingly every language except English. So if there’s anything you didn’t quite catch, you have to look at the subtitles and then find the nearest translation dictionary. There’s loads of deleted scenes for the 22 episodes and they’re presented on the individual episode menus for easy access or as separate features. There’s also a good making-of feature: Invading the Mind of Shaun Cassidy, which ably encapsulates the season. A gag reel rounds out the special features.

Those hybrid keggers are murder, dude.

7.8 out of 10