What to Watch Verdict
A strong lead in to what will surely be an epic finale.
💛 Efficient and satisfying storytelling
💛 One of the strongest episodes this season
💛 Sets up a ton of out of this world conflict for the finale
💛 Not enough Amber, Debbie, or Atom Eve
This post contains spoilers for Invincible.
Check out our last review here.
The dark and edgy superhero show has long had its moment in the sun. It's hardly an original take but Invincible has been doing a pretty good job at putting a refreshing spin on it. And one of its strongest plays is the exploration of how two superheroic men are destroying the lives of their loved ones with their terrible work/life balance. It's one of the most common conflicts in classic comic books, but those stories often paint the men as victims of circumstance. But here we see both Nolan/Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons) and Mark/Invincible (Steven Yeun) as the architects of their own misfortune. With every lie, half-truth, missed date, and deception, the pair move further away from the human women who ground them. And while both attempt to come clean this episode, it may be too little and far too late.
This penultimate episode is--in the long tradition of penultimate episodes everywhere--one that is most concerned with explaining ongoing plotlines and wrapping up some big mysteries. Because of that, we can't really get too deep into many of the major reveals this week. But it is one of the stronger episodes of the season, almost reaching the heady heights of that powerful pilot. Since that impressive debut, Invincible has been playing with our expectations and the notion of truth and the compromises we'll make for the greater good. Mark is learning that the hard way as he finally realizes that he should probably have told Amber (Zazie Beetz) he was a hero a long time ago. His father on the other hand has finally come to his senses, noticing his wife Debbie (Sandra Oh) is a crime-solving genius.
While being honest to your significant others shouldn't be a world-ending occurrence, in Invincible it does come with stakes that really are almost that high. But what's interesting here is that none of the people who've been telling lies are particularly empathetic, even if we're supposed to believe they've been doing it for the greater good. See, it's not just Mark and Nolan, but also Robot (Zachary Quinto) and the Mauler Twins (Kevin Michael Richardson), as well as Cecil (Walton Goggins) and well, pretty much anyone else who is coded male in the world of Invincible. You know who isn't lying, though? Lovely Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), who is living a chill life in a gorgeously animated treehouse, which gives us one of the only peaceful and non-deceitful moments of "We Need to Talk."
Throughout the season even when the storytelling has been lacking, Invincible has been incredibly watchable thanks to the stunning animation. Whatever your feelings about superhero stories or comic adaptations, there's something special that comes from watching dense and complicated dramatic stories told via the medium of animation. Sure, you can just watch the stunning array of anime coming out of Japan, but hopefully Invincible will whet the appetites of people who wouldn't usually click on a cartoon. The team is really showing off this week, balancing a ton of powerful character moments and intimate emotional scenes with superpowered action galore. Not only do we get gruesome gore, but we also get some badass and beautiful monster action, so really just good looking stuff all around.
Interestingly, as Invincible begins to tie up some of its many plots it also confidently introduces a few new threads. With a second season not yet announced, it's unclear if these threads will get to continue but the major new threat is an interesting one. While this season has been a little uneven as it's gotten further away from the pilot, this is a return to form and one that will hopefully engage viewers to tune in for the finale. Because if there's one thing this episode achieves, it's setting up a conflict that will have anyone who watches this week's Invincible hungry for more. While we get a fair few answers this week there's still a lot that needs to be resolved in the final episode. It's particularly invigorating for people who haven't read the comics, as this tale is twist-filled enough to surprise the most jaded of viewers.
But the biggest question is whether or not Mark will follow in his father's footsteps. Throughout this season, the young boy has been a subtle mirror for his father and his father's mistakes. Yeun imbues Mark with that special kind of naivety and charm that teenagers have. It's a broad juxtaposition with the increasingly bad choices he's been making. While redemption seems like the easy and appealing option, there's definitely room for Mark to continue to live in the wake of Nolan's destruction without learning from it. Or maybe, just maybe, the things he saw this week will finally clear his vision so he can see who his idol really is.
Invincible airs every Friday on Amazon Prime Video.
Rosie Knight is an Eisner-winning journalist and author who's been writing professionally since 2005. Her career has taken her around the world and, although she hails from London, she currently resides in Los Angeles where she writes full time. She began as a professional poet but transitioned into journalism, starting at the Eisner-winning WWAC in 2016. Since then she has written over 1500 articles for digital media sites including What to Watch, Nerdist, IGN, The Hollywood Reporter, Esquire, Den of Geek, DC Comics, /Film, BuzzFeed, and Refinery29. She also writes comics including The Haunted High Tops and Cougar and Cub. When she's not writing she spends far too much time watching horror movies and Hallmark films.