Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, May 19, 2006
      ( 5/19/2006 09:09:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"EVOLUTION SWALLOWS US ALL!" – Invasion aired its series finale this week, and while the show ended with plenty of unresolved questions, I did not feel as frustrated with its finish as I did, say, the cut-short finale to John Doe. Episode writers Shaun Cassidy & Charlie Craig remained true to the show's central theme – the imperiled American family in a time of frightening change – even as they rang some decent variations on it.

When the series began, it looked to be yet another modernized Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the residents of a sleepy Florida town were replaced under cover of a hurricane by sinister (alien?) duplicates with a strong affinity for the water. Yet as the season progressed and we learned more about these "hybrids," the situation grew murkier: some of the transformed, we were told, in the past had gone psycho and murdered their human families, but others were driven to reassert their human memories and re-live their "normal" lives. Thus, we had Mariel Underlay (Kari Matchett), the recently hybridized doctor wife of secretive Sheriff Tom (the screen-grabbing William Fitchner), struggling to hold onto her role as wife and mother – a task that was complicated by the fact that that her two birth children, Jesse and Rose, had to divide their time with her ex- Russell (Eddie Cibrion) and his very pregnant second wife Larkin (Lisa Groves).

Last night's finish rang a few fresh changes on this storyline by giving us a quartet of pregnant hybrids about to come to term – with Dr. Mariel feeling driven to help them get through the birthing process while her ex- expresses understandable doubts about the wisdom of this decision. ("We may not want them giving birth!") At the same time, pregnant human Larkin is shot by a self-proclaimed "revolutionary" townsperson. To save her, Sheriff Tom is forced to take her down to the water: a long and lingering moment that is wonderfully played as both creepy and sad. "What did you do, Tom?" we hear both Russell and Mariel asking as the episode ends and we see the sheriff standing by himself in the ocean.

Though unresolved in the way we expect series television to end, the ending didn't feel tacked on or arbitrary: it's clear Cassidy and his writers had been building to it from the beginning (unlike the cliff-hanger finish to John Doe, which was clearly designed to shock and bring us back for a season that wound up never airing.) Too, the way it was presented gave us enough information to draw our own conclusions about what had happened: I'm favoring a somewhat downbeat finish myself, but then that's just me. Though the show always has been deliberately slippery about the nature of its characters' change (much like the original Body Snatchers, come to think of it), we have enough to know that hybridization involves killing the original body and replacing it with a form that retains the source human's memory. She's not my mommy and she is, young daughter Rose asserts at one point in the finale. In that uncertainty – the realization that we can never fully know each other's deepest selves – is the creepiest part of this doomed and decent little horror/sci-fi series . . .

NOTE: Surfing this a.m. to check the actors' names, I learned that actor Nathan Baesel, who played one-armed Deputy Lewis Sirk on the show, has his own blog.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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