'Invincible' continues to impress with an effective balance of the domestic and super.
- 💛 Sandra Oh shines.
- 💛 Mark and Amber are a delightful couple.
- 💛 Original take on the domestic lives of superheroes.
- 💛 An awesome outer space adventure.
- 💛 Djimon Hounsou continues his campaign to be in every superhero project and we love it.
- 💛 Impossible to follow if you haven't watched prior episodes.
- 💛 Let's have some more women talking to women please.
This piece contains spoilers for Invincible!
Amazon is carving out a niche for itself in the world of dark superheroes. After the critically acclaimed The Boys, they've turned their hands to what at first seems like a more traditional cape tale but it has a sting in its tail. If you haven't already binged the three episode premiere and the newest entry, then read no further. You're still here? Then let's get to it! After the shocking reveal that Mark's dad Omni-Man / Nolan (JK Simmons) is the biggest bad in this beautifully animated world, we got to know the life of the young hero (Steven Yeun) who's blissfully unaware of the truth about his alien daddy. But that likely won't last too long as a demonic P.I. Damien Darkblood (Clancy Brown) is snooping around the family home asking Mark's mother Debbie (Sandra Oh) about her husband's suspicious activities.
For now, though, Mark is living in happiness as his father trains him how to be a superhero. It's a dynamic and engaging sequence playing on our own knowledge of the mass murder Omni-Man committed. It adds a bleak little bit of dramatic irony to the otherwise idyllic father son bonding. It's that layering that keeps Invincible interesting. While it looks like your average DC Comics movie--i.e. very nice and expensive--there's more to pick apart here. Expanding on Kirkman's original comics idea of creating analogs for iconic Big Two archetypes, the show has a ton of fun playing with our expectations. Damien Darkblood is a particularly fun example of that. Sitting somewhere between Hellboy and Constantine, he's an engaging foil for Nolan and a delightfully unexpected in-character for the audience.
One of the biggest issues with the original Invincible comics were their lackluster--and sometimes downright terrible--treatment and characterization of women. The writing team here seems keen to rectify that. While this episode barely reaches the heady heights (and low bar) of the Bechdel Test, Debbie, Amber (Zazie Beetz), and Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs) all have interesting personalities and are believably written. Debbie's sudden unravelling at the realization that her husband might not be who he thinks he is has added a depth to the show and particularly this episode, with Sandra Oh's powerful performance shining.
Speaking of old Damien Darkblood, Nolan goes to visit the trenchcoat-wearing gumshoe to threaten him. Interestingly, he doesn't deny his horrendous crimes against the Guardians of the Globe. The pair are pretty honest about their new agreed upon conflict, though Nolan does hint at his ability to potentially frame the demon for the crime. There's clearly history here which I'm hoping gets expanded on as the show moves forward. After confirming that the hell-spawn has been bothering his family, Nolan tries to confront Debbie, leading to a fraught argument. While it's a pretty overdone trope at this point, Invincible actually does a good job of making the domestic lives of superheroes as interesting as their heroics. Nolan clearly does love his family but he's also a cold-blooded killer and the villain of the piece. It's a simple twist but one that has so far proven incredibly effective.
With the old Guardians of the Globe dead, the new team continues training under the watchful and deceitful eye of Robot (Zachery Quinto). He's still up to no good, though it's not clear why he's so keen to keep tabs on the new kids or steal their blood, but he's doing it anyway. Back in the Grayson household, Mark volunteers to go to Mars in his father's place, which as you can imagine doesn't go too well. Who just lets a 17-year-old kid fly to Mars?? Superheroes can be bad parents too, apparently. He's not too happy about it as he'd rather be spending time with Amber. The pair goes on an absolutely delightful date that honestly made me long for a cartoon about cute maybe-powered superhero teens dating. But for now I'll be happy that someone at Invincible HQ clearly enjoys slice-of-life stories. While Mark is on Mars, his parents try to recapture that old romance. But Nolan shows his sinister side when he allows a dragon to demolish a building as he's "on vacation." He also comes half-clean to Debbie, letting her know he's under suspicion for the murders of the Guardians, even though he denies it.
It turns out that Nolan has an unexpected ally in his boss Cecil, who knows he killed the Guardians. He's willing enough to protect his charge that he comes up with an unexpected plan to get rid of the one person (err, demon) who actually knows the score--noooo!--so that he has the time to discover just what Nolan was doing when he gruesomely gutted his teammates. There's plenty to pick apart here, especially as we head into the final few episodes of the season. So, yes, we'll be keeping up with the Graysons for now.
Invincible hits Amazon Prime Video weekly on Fridays.
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