Not-So Spoiler-Free Thoughts On Invincible
Posted on May 5, 2021 Posted by Athena Scalzi 17 Comments
Exactly a month ago, I posted a spoiler-free look at Amazon Prime’s new animated superhero show, Invincible. In that post, only the first four of the eight episodes were out, and I was basically just saying it’s worth checking out and that I have high hopes for it.
Now, after finishing the first season this past weekend, I’m here to talk a little more in depth about it, and give my thoughts on it. So, if you haven’t seen it yet but are planning on watching it, maybe just stick with the spoiler-free post for now.
Here is your official SPOILER WARNING! Alright, let’s get started.
So, I’m mainly just going to be talking about the show overall, rather than focusing on each episode specifically, but will be pulling specific scenes and examples from individual episodes.
Personally, I loved Invincible. There wasn’t a single episode where I didn’t enjoy every minute of it. There were no episodes that dragged, or were boring, or where I thought, “I hope this gets better.” It was great straight from the get-go!
I think my favorite thing about Invincible was how realistic it was. I know it’s a bit far-fetched to think that an animated superhero show could be realistic in any way, but it offered a glimpse at what having superheroes among us would really be like. Much like Amazon’s other superhero (non-animated) series, The Boys. Superheroes in the world would mean tons of collateral damage. Whether it be from fighting villains and flinging them into the sides of buildings, throwing cars, using laser vision and accidentally slicing a pedestrian in half if they miss, there’s tons of things that can go wrong when you’re super-powered in a world full of non-powered people.
It also shows how heroes can’t really save everybody. Specifically, I’m thinking of Invincible’s first real fight, against the aliens known as the Flaxans. When he flies to the scene, people are in the middle of being massacred, and he freezes. He snaps into action when an old woman is about to get shot in the head. He grabs her and flies away, but crashes, and totally fucks her up in the process. He picks up her severely damaged body and takes her to the hospital, and we think, “at least he saved one person.” But she ends up dying anyways. Over 300 civilians died when the Flaxans invaded the first time, and Mark didn’t really save any of them.
Even the Teen Team was completely overwhelmed, and said that all that mattered was that they gave more people a chance to escape. They could only try to prevent more people from dying, and try to stop a tragedy from becoming an even bigger one. So, it’s pretty unrealistic to assume that if we had heroes in real life, they’d be able to save everyone all the time.
Another thing the show handles really well is making the main character seem like a real person. I mentioned in my previous post that Mark (while technically being a Viltrumite) is portrayed as very human. Compared to Superman’s perfection and inability to ever do wrong, it was interesting to see a character with Superman-like powers occasionally mess up and make the wrong call.
For example, in episode six when William wanted Mark to help him find Rick, Mark selfishly chose to go after Amber at a frat party, instead of helping his friend. This led to Rick being turned into a mostly mindless cyborg, and caused William to get captured, as well. William even brings it up later that none of it would have happened if Mark had just helped in the first place.
In this case, the superhero-thing to have done would have been to help without hesitation, to put saving Rick before everything else. But Mark isn’t a superhero all the time. He’s a teenage boy all the time. And in being so, it’s unrealistic to think that he wouldn’t be selfish sometimes, that he wouldn’t be a dick sometimes. Of course he’s going to mess up, and of course he’s not going to be perfect, because he’s human.
This concept also plays into the whole “I’m too important to deal with petty crime” narrative that Mark struggles with in episode five. Mark has this mindset that his job is to fight off alien invasions and save the planet from total annihilation, you know, big picture stuff. I believe this is partially due to his dad forcing this mentality onto him, especially when he says that helping someone is beneath him, because he could be saving millions instead of dealing with regular day-to-day crime.
What I mean is that of course Mark has an ego the size of Texas (like the meteor Omni-Man stopped from hitting Earth, hah), because he’s the son of the most powerful man on the planet, and can do incredible things. Of course he’s going to think helping one person isn’t important enough for him to deal with, because he believes he is meant for greater things. Wouldn’t you think that, too? Wouldn’t you think some lesser, not as cool hero, could stop bank robbers while you go deal with the big stuff? Again, Mark isn’t perfect, nor should we expect him to be.
Despite all his flaws, the show does a great job of making him likeable. Yes he messes up, maybe even a lot, but his heart is in the right place. He wants to be a hero, he wants to save people! Maybe he fails at it sometimes, or gets his priorities a bit mixed up, but he wants to do good. He wants to be good, and that’s admirable in anybody, superhero or not.
Aside from the main character, this show is truly amazing at fleshing out side characters and making the audience care about them. In fact, my favorite character is a side character! If you aren’t invested in the side characters, you’re not watching Invincible. Each one is so unique and has such interesting personalities and motives, you can’t help but want to learn more about them.
Personally, my favorite is Robot. There’s nothing I love more than a character that everyone believes has no emotions but they TOTALLY DO. Maybe I’m biased because I think Zachary Quinto is an absolutely amazing actor and I think he does a fantastic job voicing Robot, but Robot really is one of the most interesting characters to me. At first, you think he’s just a walking talking computer, but you start to be able to see glimpses of humanity in him, and wonder if there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s really cool!
But then his interest in Monster Girl leads to a super weird and uncomfy situation, and is probably my biggest issue with the show overall. Monster Girl is technically 25 but in the body of like, a fourteen year old, and Robot is 30, but makes himself a younger body to copy his mind into. So now he is in a teenage body but has the mind of a 30 year old, much like Monster Girl. He claims he wants to help Monster Girl escape her curse of getting younger, and says he and she share the same struggle, so he understands her. So, he doesn’t really profess love for her or anything, but it’s still… super weird? I’m not sure how to feel about it. Monster Girl ends up holding hands with him (it’s important to note she grabs his hand, not the other way around), but not before saying how strange the whole situation is and how she needs time to process it.
Like, yeah! That is super weird! Robot has only known Monster Girl as a teenage girl, and while she acts and talks like an adult, and in fact used to look like one, too, there’s no denying she is in her child-self’s body. So it’s weird that Robot takes such an interest in her, but on the other hand, it almost seems like more of a fascination and desire to help her rather than that he likes her in any sort of romantic or sexual way. Then again, he did specifically choose a human body that he thought she’d find appealing.
Anyways, it’s just really odd and makes me kind of uncomfy.
Besides that, I only have one other issue. I think Omni-man’s backstory/motive is super fuckin’ bad. Like, it’s the classic, “our planet is better than all the others so we’re going to go around the universe and make everyone become part of our empire but it’s a good thing because we’re pulling them out of the mud and making them more advanced and yes they’re basically prisoners but it’s just because we’re sooo superior.” Talk about overdone (did anyone else think of the Galra from Voltron or just me?)!
Part of me thinks that they did this just so we wouldn’t have any empathy for Omni-man and would want him to lose. If he had some actual good reason for all his atrocities, we might side with him, and we can’t have that happening when he’s the antagonist, now can we? So, maybe it was a strategic choice to make him basic and awful, that way we wouldn’t like him. If that isn’t the case, though, then I honestly think they could’ve done better.
Moving on; in all honesty, the last episode made me cry. The sheer betrayal Mark experiences from his father, who he believed was the pinnacle of greatness, mixed with the unbelievable trauma of him proceeding to beat the ever-loving shit out of him and murdering thousands while doing it and blaming him for their deaths? UNREAL.
But that’s not what did it for me. What brought me to tears was after all that happened, was when Nolan asked him, “what will you have after five hundred years?” and he replied, “I’ll still have you, dad.”
Like, BRUHHHH. I didn’t think Invincible would pull at my heartstrings so much, but damn. I mean they really wanted to hurt you with this one.
I don’t understand how they made Mark so “okay” with everything after he woke up from his coma? Like that boy has to be beyond traumatized after getting his head bashed through an entire subway train full of people, let alone everything else that happened. Yet, he seems weirdly alright.
So, yeah, this show will kick you in the heart and you’ll never see it coming. My mom even said, “I expected a fun superhero cartoon and got tons of gore and all the damn feels.”
Anyways, I cannot wait for the next season! This first season was so good. I had no expectations when I went into it, and it ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Invincible was truly enjoyable, and I highly recommend it. Even if you don’t typically like superhero stuff, or animated stuff, or superhero animated stuff, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something to love about it!
Did you watch season one? What did you think? Who was your favorite character? (Please don’t spoil anything for me if you’ve read the comics or something!) Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!
I LOVED this show, too. Just finished the last episode yesterday.
I agree that the Robot-Monster Girl situation is messy and strange, but I hold out some hope that they may prove right for each other.
I was actually MORE bothered by Amber. If she KNEW Mark was a superhero, then I don’t get her anger, especially not at the college where she totally watched him fight the cyborg monster, knowing it was Mark in the superhero suit, but lashed out at him as he’d run away all cowardly when he ran up to the scene with his cover story.
If she knew, as she later claims she did, then her reaction seems off base to me, and not in line with Amber as she appeared when we met her: exceptionally mature and self-aware for a high school girl.
I’m looking forward to more, and now want to go back and re-read the graphic novels because I don’t remember them all that well.
I’m with you on all your critiques. I’d add one more. With all the incredibly destructive stuff happening in every episode, why isn’t the city in a shambles?
I started watching with my daughter which was alright till, well you know and then it was from my cell phone and after she went to bed. I sort of predicted why Omni-man went bad but the story to get there was amazing and dark, season 2 can’t come quick enough.
I loved the first season, for all the reasons stated, except Amber’s angry reaction, exactly for the reasons Samantha J Bryant tells in her answer. It just doesn’t make sense.
I could’ve enjoyed a little less gore, but it didn’t really bother me. And, without spoiling the comics, I think the animated series is better and more focused.
One thing I enjoyed of the finale was the “potential threat heading to earth” was actually the guy Mark was told to go fight because his Dad was laid up but instead he talked to him. (Did OmniMan know that this guy was part of a “test our defenses” team?) – and it was resolved by sitting down and talking it out.
I kind of thought Omni-man’s true motive was intended as a commentary on what a lot of folks think right here on Earth. There’s a whole lotta “We brought you business and civilization*, why won’t you just do what we tell you?” from colonial powers at countries they invade.
*”civilization” as defined by the colonists
So I definitely didn’t find it a weak premise. It is far too real. (Is it overused as a plot device? Probably. But it’s been a super common excuse right here on Earth for at least the past 3000 years, probably the past 10000.)
Overall I absolutely loved the show, and I’m pretty sure it was your first “non-spoiler” review that prompted me to watch it.
I completely agree with Samantha’s observations about Amber. To the point where I wonder if there’s more to her story, if she isn’t quite who she pretends to be, much like Mark. Also, she’s a teen with a pretty big ego and who makes mistakes, so maybe she’s just being a jerk because teenagers.
And as E notes, yes, Omni-Man is Team America World Police, and jolly old Great Britain, and the mighty Roman Empire, and on and on. The only thing that doesn’t sit well is why he pretended so completely to be a Good Guy for all of Mark’s life up until the big reveal. Or maybe that’s something that will be explored more in depth later on, perhaps Omni Man has actually been a major a-hole for all that time, but Mark and his mom Deborah (and the world) have been in denial, have ignored the signs, because they -want- Omni-Man to be perfect, to be Superman. And maybe Omni-Man does too, he really is a decent person, except when he’s not, except when he loses his temper. Which sounds very human, for a Viltrumite.
I wasn’t that impressed with the gore, I always think that upping the gore levels is a bit tryhard and, along with the more or less absent in Invincible -so good for them on not doing it- gratuitous swearing, more like what a thirteen year old thinks is grown up. I did like the emotional toll that living with a violent abuser, albeit one who could also be charming when the mood took him, took on Debbie. I’d like to see more of her, and her story. Because that was the most realistic part of it for me.
It is a bit copaganda-ish with how it treats Cecil, who is creepy as hell throughout. I could do with less of that too.
I give Invincible a solid B, it tried and mostly hit the mark. Mostly.
Opening scene, episode 1. Someone drives up to the White House, through the open gate, past a couple of casual security guards (Secret Service?) who are arguing.
Realistic? Not in my world.
One defect that Invincible has – which it has in common with most superhero shows – is inconsistencies in how durable a Viltrumite is. We have scenes of Mark and his father being injured, and then we also have scenes of them being uninjured by impacts that seem to be at least as significant as those that injured them in an earlier scene. (Also, if Mark’s skin is durable enough to survive those impacts, how did they get an IV line into his hand when he was in the medical facility?)
I LOVE THIS SHOW!! KEEP IT RUNNING
I haven’t seen the series, but your remark “There’s nothing I love more than a character that everyone believes has no emotions but they TOTALLY DO.” immediately made me think of the Murderbot stories by Martha Wells. Have you read them?
If not, I think you might like Murderbot!
I enjoyed the show, I read the comics long enough ago that I didn’t remember all the details (other than the major plotline of this first season and Robot’s whole deal). I also wondered how they got an IV into Mark. Looking forward to Season 2.
Hi Athena! Ooh! Your post reminds me that we need to continue watching this. Also, special to me as the mom was voiced by Sandra Oh and I’m a Korean American mom with a teen hapa KA boy.
Question – I am wondering if you and your dad would do a post together about YA sci fi/fantasy that an emotionally mature, but BOO to all the romance! 13.5 year old nerd boy should read. Violence, insults, fighting, conflict is fine but no crushes on evil villains, ha!
He loves the Marvel movies, watched the extended LOTR movies but was bored by reading The Hobbit, we watched (but FF thru YA romance parts) Shadow and Bone’s Netflix series, he loves reading about dragons and fantasy and has read the YA Dragonlance books, loves Belgariad and Malloreon and The Princess Bride BOOK, but a lot of YA sci fi/fantasy has ROMANCE and he hates that. He would not like Marissa Meyer (too girly) I don’t think he’s ready for Mists of Avalon. I’m a general sci fi/fantasy reading myself of course. Thoughts would be appreciated!
“Talk about overdone”
This is my main critique, more generally. There were various aspects where we were hit over the head repeatedly, just in case me missed it all the previous times. Rex in particular grated. Yes, he is supposed to be obnoxious. They succeeded. Every time he appears, I am duly irritated. Just imagine working with him constantly. And what could Samantha have possibly seen in him?
You said “ I think Omni-man’s backstory/motive is super fuckin’ lame”
“Lame” is an ableist word. Based on everything I know about you from your writing,
I don’t think you meant to be cruel. I am not pointing this out to be unkind, but because pointing out unkind language and micro-aggressions is how we all learn to be better together.
Went in and edited the usage. Athena apologizes, as do I. In general we’re working not to use ableist language. Not always perfect, but we hope to get better.