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‘Invasion’: Expertly crafted sci-fi series takes a personal approach to a threat from beyond

Apple TV+ show focuses on a few people already living in turmoil as the mysterious attack begins.

Sam Neill stars as the sheriff in a small town in Oklahoma, one of several characters impacted by an event of global significance in “Invasion.”
Apple TV+

They have nothing in common. They’re living completely different lives in very different pockets of the globe.

In Idabel, Oklahoma, USA, Earth, the beloved and longtime sheriff, John Bell Tyson (Sam Neill), is preparing for his last day on the job while struggling with the feeling he never had that one heroic moment, never did that one something BIG to make the world a better place.

On Long Island, New York, USA, Earth, a first-generation Syrian immigrant woman named Aneesha (Golshifteh Farahani) gave up her promising medical career to be a full-time mother and wife to her husband Ahmed (Firas Nassar) — but she has just learned Ahmed is not the man she thought he was, and her entire life has been upended.

Now we’re in London, England, United Kingdom, Earth, where a bullied boy named Caspar is on a field trip with his classmates when the bus driver loses control of the vehicle and … we’ll just leave it at that.

Meanwhile, in the Arabian Desert, Yemen, Earth, and in Tokyo, Japan, Earth, and at a U.S. Combat Outpost, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, Earth, strange things are happening on the ground and in the skies. What in the world — or out of this world — is happening?

The reason I did the “USA, Earth” thing in describing these various locales is that’s how the title cards set up the various locales and storylines in the Apple TV+ series “Invasion,” a beautifully filmed, sometimes elusive, expertly crafted slow-build in which we get to know a half-dozen major characters and see how their lives are greatly impacted by the arrival of … something from far beyond. Those descriptions are early indicators “Invasion” does NOT subscribe to the theory we’re all alone in the universe. (The fact the series is titled “Invasion” and not “We’re All Alone in the Universe” would be another strong hint.)

In the early episodes of this 10-part series (the first three episodes debut Friday, with new episodes every subsequent Friday), there are impressively staged action sequences with big explosions and super storms and inexplicable craters showing up out of nowhere and there’s definitely a Ray Bradbury/Rod Serling vibe, but the majority of time is devoted to introducing us to the main players on this international stage. That makes it all the more involving when their personal struggles and family issues are suddenly overwhelmed by the increasing feeling of dread amidst the chaos, as it becomes apparent Earth is under siege, though nobody is quite sure who or what is invading, not to mention the nature of their mission.

The writing and the performances are so strong in “Invasion” that we’d be drawn to these stories even if the sci-fi element never came into play. Ever-reliable Sam Neill delivers subtle and strong work as Sheriff Tyson, a good man who still holds out hold hope he’ll be involved in something truly memorable before he rides into the sunset — but that quickly becomes a case of “Be careful what you wish for.” Shamier Anderson is all power and bravery and grace as Trevante Ward, the American soldier stationed in Afghanistan who in true emotional pain because he’s separated from his family.

The threat to Earth arrives just as Aneesha (Golshifteh Farahani) learns the truth about her husband.
Apple TV+

Golshifteh Farahani’s Aneesha is devastated when she discovers her husband is having an affair — and she lets him know she knows by literally serving him a particular dish, in one of the best two-hander scenes I’ve seen on any TV series this year. On the other side of the world, Shioli Kutsuna will break your heart as a Japanese aerospace technician who is secretly in love with an astronaut who appears to have died in a tragic accident in space — but maybe that’s not what actually happened.

We’ll have to wait to find out. There is so much unexplained in those first three episodes, and so many cliffhangers we can’t wait to see resolved.