Each Saturday, Kevin from @tastienfilm_bad will be recapping the most recent episode(s) of Invincible and giving us insight into the comics on which the show is based.
106: You Look Kinda Dead
Invincible, for featuring bodybuilding aliens and superpowered children, is really a show about relationships, at the end of the day. While the action and art are cool, and definitely keep you coming back, it’s the ways that the characters grow with, and apart from, each other that makes it truly worth the time. When characters feel real, and rely more on their characterization than cliche, it’s harder to guess what happens next (unless you have read the comic series before [which I have]).
This week’s episode felt like it leans on the dynamics between the characters to tell the story. There is still a lot of set-up to get through if they want to stick the dismount (there are only two episodes left on the season unfortunately) I will be honest, this episode was the first “meh” for me, even though so many great moments from the comics are depicted in it. Let’s dive in and I’ll explain more. Also, because it was so focused on character, I am going to write the recap moving from story arc to story arc as opposed to chronologically like usual.
Recap (Show-Level Spoilers)
Always good to start with the titular hero. The main reason I didn’t love this episode is for how long Invincible is out for in it (not very). I get that they probably want the guy the show is named after to be on the show, but it really downplays the severity of the stakes if he is totally okay after a quick opening montage. It just feels a little rushed (again something only giving them an eight episode first season would do) and misses out on some good storytelling. I think you could have had Mark out for the entire episode and spent it catching up and filling in the other players in the cast. They try to do that anyway, but it comes out as a lot of college-yeared melodrama (mixed with a kidnapping plot and murderous cyborgs, I still very much love the show)
But since he is up and running (and flying) five minutes in to the start, he spends most of the time out of the suit and trying to make amends with Amber. We deal more with the emotional fallout of the last episode rather than the physical. Which is fine, he’s Invincible. Do you like how I can walk myself out of my own rating in real time here? As Amber thwarts Mark’s advances and apologies, the university they are scouting out (Upstate U) is attacked by a gruesome robot human abomination. Mark ducks out, pulls a classic teenage superhero move and disappears when his friends get attacked. In the ensuing scuffle a few big dominoes fall: William catches a glimpse of Mark’s jaw in the Invincible suit and recognizes him, letting the secret out of the bag; Amber does NOT notice, and only sees that Mark fled the scene; and the robot itself seems to be giving Mark a run for his money. This was another annoying, but necessary, part of the episode. Mark gets his ribcaged smashed in by a galactic space lion wielding a mace? Sure cool, I can see how that would mess you up. But this was just some college frat bro melded with some unethical science. In my head it shouldn’t have been able to give Mark a run for his money. But in the comics, and it appears in the show, they use this moment as a watershed realization: Mark is strong, but he’s not strong enough. He’s been splitting the time between high school life and high flying adventure life and it seems he can’t do both forever. Also, Mark isn’t the only one to notice this. Cecil has some throwaway lines at the end that show just how impressive this new villain, DA Sinclair, actually is. Maybe we haven’t seen the last of him…
William is the thrust of the episode as it’s his boyfriend, decisions, discoveries, and arc that we follow closest and longest. There is something funny to me about Jonathon Groff playing Andrew Rannells’ hunkier, beefier boyfriend. Maybe it’s that to me, Groff feels like the pokemon evolution of Rannells IRL? Does that make sense for anybody but me? No? Well, anyway, the relationship between the two is really great, and something the show does well. Groff’s character does a good job of folding in storylines from the comic without having to take too much time to set up backstories. We get a little bit of development throughout (thinking of the DA Sinclair introduction during class scene) but not a ton. WIlliam goes from hapless teen to passionate day-saver more than once, and it’s nice to see him succeed like that. Good job, William 🙂
Oh there’s a moment in the comics, and later a recurring gag, where Mark flies William around for the first time. In the comics Mark says the VERY 2004 joke “ugh this is gay” The “ancient” early 2000s were a different time and it was played for laughs. They don’t have time for a full scene of sky-bussing William around, and they avoid the joke altogether with a quicker, funnier sight gag. Good choice imo! It wasn’t an offensive joke by any stretch, it would have just felt tired and hackey today if they kept it in.
Let’s talk about the episode’s main villain. A slick haired evil professor stuck in an Ezra Miller type body (voiced by Ezra Miller) He’s a genius and unfortunately knows and flaunts that fact. His myopia on his intellect sets up a dynamic of not understanding why it would be wrong to experiment on inebriated Freshmen even if it was for some “greater good.” The voice works, the character was never one I cared for in the comics, but the dynamic he brings to the table, especially later on, is pivotal to the future of Mark and his work with the United States Government. There’s not a lot I can say without spoiling future plotlines. So I won’t!
Robot is doing the most to save the Guardians and staunch the bleeding from last episode, quite literally. He spends the most time, energy, and extra Robot suits to find a cure, or at least a fix, for Monster Girl. She had been badly injured in the fight, and her physiology makes it near impossible to operate on her. Robot seems to really be invested though, and does everything he can to save her. Good leader? Or harboring a crush? Could be both (it’s both), you should tune in next week to find out.
We also get snippets of the other aspects of his plan. He has the Mauler Twins working for him, though they don’t seem to trust him entirely. Whatever he’s been cooking up in the background of the show so far will come to a head in the last two eps of the season. I’m sure of it.
Eve’s storyline is, unfortunately, the weakest of the bunch here. I just never really cared about her parents. It’s a great flip of the dynamic of the Graysons. Here the parents are normies but actively terrified and troubled by their daughter’s powers. It plays out in similar ways to how some dads can’t handle their daughters maturing into women. Fear and ignorance pave the way for anger and indignance. Same thing happened with my dad and sister. Should I stop comparing all the dads on the show to my own father? Probably, but it’s all true! And I appreciate the show for feeling real like that.
Eve decides to take a gap year of sorts and sets about the country helping farmers grow their crops, hikers avoid rock slides, and other things on this more personal scale of heroism. One smart change they make from the comics is that Eve basically did a missionary trip and went to “Africa” to “save it.” To be honest, the comics’ depiction paints a pretty good mocking picture of activism in in the early 2000s (think Kony 2012 and the “save Darfur” campaigns) Having Eve fly to Africa to save it with her powers was a solid, subversive take, even if Kirkman didn’t intend for that. Here they keep her out of Africa and it makes for a much cleaner statement. “We have plenty to save in our own country, roll up your sleeves and help out.”
Nolan & Debbie
I have to say the thing this show does best, in my opinion, is how it handles the quiet terror of Nolan Grayson. How physically imposing he truly is. We know to be afraid since he genocided a planet in the first three episodes. But it’s FAR scarier to watch the way others, his closest loved ones, look at him from the corners of their eyes. The show does a great job of showing just how scary it would be to live with a God of sorts. Imposing father figures can be just like this, the fear of their presence entering the room before he does, and mine couldn’t even fly. Barely taught me how to drive honestly.
Anyway, back in the show. We see that fear play out as he corners Debbie and Art. Through some realy shaky pseudo pscience we find that Art was able to suss out Nolan’s real involvement with the murder of the Guardians and the cat is fully out of the bag. Even then, Debbie tries her best to give him some benefit of the doubt. But Art’s facts have no time for Debbie’s feelings and it soon comes to a head. As much as I worry for the safety of all the characters, it is Debbie that I pull for the most. We will find out what comes of these revelations next week, and I for one am looking forward to it with my hands covering my eyes. Call me excited AND nervous.
Whatever happens, come back next Saturday to hear me rattle on why it was cool.
Stray Thoughts & Theories (POTENTIAL FUTURE SPOILERS MAYBE IDK)
- Just realizing the Invincible logo doesn’t get rid of the blood from week to week. Genius and subtle and I feel kind of dumb for missing that until now.
- Sound design on the robots is so good and disgusting. Really made you feel like there was a terrified, fleshy human, stuck inside a nightmare of cogs and pistons.
- If you were going crazy trying to figure out if you recognized a character from a burp…you weren’t. It was Justin Roiland, from Rick and Morty fame. He voiced the trust fund victim from the cold open AND the grave digging idiot from the stinger at the end. I liked bookending the episode with two Justin Roiland idiots. He has such a specific tone and cadence, you always know you’ll get a weird line reading or two. Loved it.
- Let’s just take a second to appreciate this voice cast. This episode featured Steven Yeun, Sandra Oh, JK Simmons, Zazie Beetz, Andrew Rannells, Jonathan Groff, Walter Goggins, Zachary Quinto, Gillian Jacobs, and just casually added Ezra Miller to the cast. Just wow! Nothing to add, it’s just very impressive is all.
- OK so my spoiler warning is that we’re gonna see the CIA find a need and way to stop Mark soon. Once he finds out they are keeping Sinclair on the payroll, and commissioning him to make Mark-stopping super robots, it’s over for them. It’ll be just the pawn Nolan needs to get his son on the side of the Viltrumites. And then it gets real bad. Can’t wait! See you next week and thanks as always for reading.
- Remember to follow my Twitter @tasteinfilm_bad I post dumb jokes and nice pictures of movies. What’s not to love?