Oh, damn it. Talk about an unresolved cliffhanger!! ABC’s Invasion came to an end tonight with an episode appropriately titled The Last Wave Goodbye, with no concessions or last-minute changes made to the fact that the show had been cancelled mere days ago. As such, we wind up with a monumental cliffhanger, leaving one major character’s life hanging in the balance – and really no clues from which to interpolate her fate. Egads!
All of this would probably be better if the show had ever found an audience, but it didn’t; it seems to be common knowledge that Invasion was the favorite new 2005-06 show of the network’s president, and that’s probably the only thing that kept the show on the air for its entire season, and kept the network from yanking the promotional rug out from under the show’s feet. But it’s hard to argue with the bean counters when you can’t get the Lost audience to stick around for the show right after it. (And in terms of its serialized storylines, over-arching mysteries, and breathtaking tightening of just about every dangling plot thread at the end of the season, Invasion was not dissimilar from Lost – to be truthful, I just don’t understand why this show couldn’t hold Lost’s viewers, unless you’re asking me to believe that a huge chunk of that audience abandoned their TVs immediately after Lost to go hit their chat rooms, instant messengers and The Fuselage to talk about the episode of Lost they’d just seen.)
Anyway, with talk of the CW rescuing Invasion fading away faster than the life of that character, I suppose a post-mortem wouldn’t be too premature. I’d love to be proven wrong.
What Invasion Got Right
- Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. Good Lord, this show was loaded with atmosphere. As with a previous Shaun Cassidy-produced one-season wonder, American Gothic, Invasion took full advantage of that legendary steamy underbelly of a small southern town with all of its quirks. One already didn’t know who to trust, even before the aliens arrived.
- Casting. Teriffic casting on this show. William Fichtner and Kari Matchett mastered the kind of creepy distance-from-the-rest-of-humanity that typified the hybrids. In fact, this almost created a problem in that some of the guest players on some episodes couldn’t hope to live up to those two performances. Eddie Cibrian did a fantastic job of playing Russell as haunted and increasingly paranoid – had the show continued, I would’ve felt cheated if we had been denied some kind of story that showed his emotional/psychological “detox” from that constant hunted feeling. Kudos to Tyler Labine (Dave) and Evan Peters (Jesse) as well.
- Getting out of the studio. Of course, I say that, and now watch the whole town be an elaborate set. The show’s locations were a huge contributor to the atmosphere factor, to say nothing of believability. I’d put them on a par with Lost’s Hawaiian locations.
What Invasion Didn’t Get Right
- Too close for comfort? One of the biggest problems with the show’s writing was the bizarre relationship between Russell, and his wife, and his ex-wife. This started out quite deliberate, to raise a question mark over Russell’s current marriage, but toward the end of the season, Russell went out on a limb a few too many times for his ex, and seemed to assume just as often that his current wife – his pregnant current wife – could take care of herself. We might have a sophisticated and tolerant viewing audience, but that wishy-washiness might’ve been just too much of a character flaw to impose upon the show’s leading heroic figure.
- American Gothic? Even I smelled, very early on before I was pretty well hooked on the show, a strong whiff of Cassidy’s American Gothic in Invasion. The steamy southern small town, the intensely creepy sheriff (Fichtner’s Tom Underlay was even an eerie physical echo of Gary Cole’s sheriff in AG), and dark supernatural goings-on intertwined with uneasy family frictions. It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Cassidy couldn’t get over losing American Gothic the first time around and was trying revive it, this time mixed in with Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case, but I can see where some would.
- Lousy timing. The promotional push for this show, whose pilot centered around a violent hurricane that provided the camouflage for an alien invasion of Earth, started weeks after Katrina…and mere days before Rita made landfall. I’m not saying that ABC wasn’t right to rethink its promotional strategy in a hurry, which also meant completely removing this show’s promos from the air for about a week, but even then this uneasy coincidence may have cost Invasion some eyeballs. And that’s not really anyone’s fault – it’s just lousy timing. I couldn’t help but notice how far the concept of another hurricane hitting Homestead, the linchpin of the suspenseful series of cliffhangers leading to the finale, was buried in promotions and even in press releases about the series. There’s no way anyone could’ve know, but this was a crappy year to launch a show where hurricanes bring about the end of the world. (Indeed, Invasion’s first several episodes date themselves pre-Katrina by showing a competent relief effort in the wake of the storm. But that’s a whole other tirade…)
So many factors, so many good points, and just as many bad – stuff that could’ve been solved in the scriptwriting stage, some which cropped up at the network, and some which were quite literally beyond anyone’s control.
Adios, Invasion. And thanks to Shaun Cassidy, the cast and crew for what was, for the most part, quite an enjoyable show.