I have watched Invasion religiously (or semi-religiously, anyway...) and mostly enjoyed it, but often found myself wondering why it isn't nearly as engaging as American Gothic (which I'm now watching on DVD). More than that, I've found the going so slow on Invasion that NBC's cheesy sea monster epic from the Pate Brothers, Surface, has actually eclipsed this show in my affections. My wife still likes Invasion more, and lectures patience.
Last night, the patience paid off, and Invasion came roaring back with the second great episode in a row, one that finally (F I N A L L Y!) doles out a little more information about what's happened to Dr. Mariel Underlay. I mean, anyone who's been watching the show knows that she didn't pick herself up out of the water the night of the hurricane and come back to Homestead normal. But the early weeks of the program were riddled with so many questions. Is she possessed? Does she know she's an alien? Hell, is she an alien? What are her motivations? How has she changed?
Well, last night's episode, "The Cradle" finally revealed what we've all suspected...that Mariel was somehow physically recreated by the aliens in a spanking new (and equally hot...) body. She boasts the same memories as the real Mariel, but the real, human Mariel is at the bottom of a pond somewhere...rotting. I enjoyed seeing that grisly image in last night's show. Very creepy. You know you're in trouble when you go for a moonlit swim, look down beneath the surface and see your own decomposing corpse. That's not a good sign.
Of course, maybe I missed something. Didn't Russell pluck Mariel's missing wedding ring off a different corpse a few episodes back? I mean, her body can't be rotting in the water and be the body that was in Russell's trunk, right? I don't think I dozed off or anything, but I feel there's a disconnect here.
Anyway, "The Cradle" was great, because we finally got a "replaced" person (an alien...) who was wiling to spill the beans. In a riveting sequence set in a jail cell, this young mother spelled out a lot of the details to Mariel about how she's changed, and at last the series seems to be moving towards something big. Which is good, because sometimes I think Shaun Cassidy's taken lessons in stall tactics from the producers of Lost.
I'm probably wrong to compare Invasion to Surface. Surface is much more an action-thriller than Invasion. So far, Invasion feels like a sustained mood piece...all texture and vibe, and little forward momentum. It's as though the first twenty minutes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers have been stretched out to six or seven hour-long installments. I certainly understand that a series needs to take its time (or it'll be off the air before you know it,) but I don't know how appealing this approach is to most viewers. I think some people may find the slow, methodical, clue-by-clue strategy a tad frustrating. I realize suspense is dependent on learning a bit at a time, but come on folks, we could use a little more red meat here!
At least this series doesn't get mired in soap opera flashbacks all the time. And last night's installment featured some real character fireworks (I like how both marriages went south and were played against each other...) The moment when Russell called Larkin "Mariel" was great, and a nice nod to realism. And Mariel's confrontation with Tom was good stuff too. Wonder why the good Sheriff is lying about what he saw in the lake? Seems like this would have been the opportunity to bring Mariel in on the "conspiracy."
But I'll wait and see. Next week we get another new episode, so hopefully the momentum will continue.