What to Watch Verdict
The truth is out and it makes for an impressively brutal showdown.
💥J.K. Simmons finally gets to go full villain mode.
💥Steven Yeun manages to bring real emotion to the chaos.
💥Tackles familial abuse on a devastating scale.
💥Might be a little too bloody for the faint-hearted.
Who knew that the core story of Invader Zim would be so influential on the finale of Invincible. While we can't get too into spoilers here, if you're familiar with Jhonen Vasquez's cult cartoon then you probably won't be too shocked by the truth about Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). Someone who's shocked, though, is poor old Mark (Steven Yeun). Last week the teenager saw his dad murder the recently resurrected hero known as the Immortal, so he understandably has a lot of questions for the old man. Those all get answered surprisingly quickly here during a brutal action sequence that is easily the most impressively bloody we've seen yet. But, interestingly, this episode is more concerned with the fallout of Omni-Man's grim and long-running betrayal than the details of it.
At the core of this week's gruesome episode, though, is really a story about abuse and the cycles it creates. Mark has been abused and groomed by Omni-Man for a specific and brutal fate that belies everything the teen has been raised to believe. It's not just Mark either; this is a man who has abused his song along with his wife, Debbie (Sandra Oh), by manipulating them to be a perfect facade for his own violence and scheming. In one way, Omni-Man feels like a reflection of a serial killer who builds a perfect family so he's less suspicious. But in others he's just another pathetic man who wields power over his loved ones to make himself feel bigger, better, smarter, and stronger than he really is.
While we see Omni-Man physically abuse his son this week to the most extreme extent, the greater trauma for Mark is the gaslighting and emotional abuse that he's suffered. He suddenly finds himself in a world without rules, one where nothing makes sense and the man he always looked up to has now revealed himself to be someone completely different. Without all the superhero trappings it's a darkly relatable feeling for anyone who has grown up and realized that the adults around you are not what they seem. And that worse, sometimes these people who are supposed to protect you have been shirking that duty for years, actively harming you instead. Science fiction and comics specifically have long been used to tell analogous tales of human suffering and strife, and Invincible with this particular exploration of Mark's childhood and relationship with his father follows that classic tradition.
Though Mark's real family might have been letting him down, we do get to see the found family that he's garnered from his superheroic and high school life. It's ironic that in his father's grim quest, Mark gained his powers and a new support network that could potentially help him combat the abuse he's been through. Here that is in both the new Guardians of the Globe--who even after Robot's terrifying reveal last week are still a team and one that is intent on protecting their own--and, of course, Amber (Zazie Beetz), Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), and William (Andrew Rannells). While Invincible has yet to fall for the old "you're from two worlds which makes you an ideal leader" trope ala Aquaman, Underworld, and a million other sci-fi tales, you could argue that Mark's strength comes from the family and love that he has from both sides of his unexpected double life.
Overall, Invincible has been a little uneven. But this action-packed and emotional finale does set up a ton of the conflict for the newly announced seasons two and three. While the animation is beautiful and the characters are engrossing, the next season of the show needs to work on consistency. Hopefully, now that its central mystery is out in the open we can focus on story and character development for those around Mark. The final moments also tease a ton of other threads and faces that'll get comics fans excited.
Before we truly sign off on this season of Invincible, it's worth looking at what the show means in the landscape of superhero shows. If studios were comics publishers, it's ironic that tonally Amazon is carving itself out to be something akin to Image. Edgy, youth focused, and not afraid to push boundaries. The big difference, of course, being that Image was started as a space for creators to own their own inventions and have an escape from the corporate-owned comics industry, which is the antithesis of Amazon's corporate overlord mindset. As the only non-big two animated superhero comic book adaptation right now, Invincible is blazing a trail. It'll be very interesting to see what appears out of its wake on Amazon or otherwise.
You can watch all of Invincible on Amazon Prime Video now.
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.