The series’ first season will be a total of eight episodes, all of which will be individually recapped and reviewed by yours truly. These recaps will also feature a large amount of spoilers, so enter with caution if you haven’t gotten to see a particular episode yet.
For those of you who are coming into this series completely fresh, Invincible starts out as what appears to be the most formulaic (yet very well written) superhero tale imaginable. There are great characters and even better dialogue, but its still feels like a giant mashup of everything we’ve seen before in comic book based media. As the story continues, however, it develops into something much more epic and complex that includes some incredible twist you definitely won’t see coming — starting with this episode.
Oh, and it’s crazy gory/violent, too.
Now that we’ve given the necessary background and disclaimers out of the way, let’s dive in.
The episode opens at the Whitehouse, where two security guards are discussing the superhuman defense training they have to undergo for their jobs. One of the guards brags that he won’t have to be there because he and his estranged stepson are taking a trip to London together.
Just when the mundane conversation takes a poignant turn, two giant blue men (the Mauler Twins) burst up through the street. Bullets from the Whitehouse’s drone machine gun defenses bounce off them harmlessly as they argue about which one is the original and which is the clone. The one thing the pair can agree on, however, is that the president must be executed for going after them.
After blowing away the Whitehouse’s defense with their own guns, one of the security guards fires his sidearm at them, drawing their attention. Just as he’s about to be killed for his heroic-yet-futile efforts, a team of superheroes (the Guardians of the Globe) descend from the sky to save the day.
To make it easier to identify who’s who, lets go through the roster.
From left to right:
Aquarus: Very short and fishy Aquaman.
Martian Man: Pretty much Martian Manhunter.
War Woman: Wonder Woman with a dash of Thor.
The Immortal: Slightly less powerful Superman, but can’t die…sort of.
Red Rush: The Flash
Green Ghost: Weird looking Green Lantern with a bit of Darwin.
Super-powered fisticuffs ensue. Darkwing nearly has to sacrifice himself to save a civilian, but is saved by the timely arrival of Omni-Man (who is a fully powered Superman proxy). Once all the nearby civilians and government officials are evacuated, the Guardians and Omni-Man make quick work of the Mauler Twins.
Meanwhile, Omni-Man’s family (Mark and Deborah Grayson) observe his heroics on the news with bored-yet-appreciative disinterest. Watching him take on super villains and save the world is clearly something they’ve gotten used to over the years.
As his wife and son continue watching TV and getting ready for the day, Omni-Man (aka Nolan Grayson) arrives home and is greeted warmly/intimately by Deborah, which predictably grosses out Mark. The teenager’s morning gets even worse when he learns that his dad will be flying his mom off to Germany for breakfast while he still has to attend high school like a mere mortal. Nolan assures Mark that his powers will kick in soon–even the “latest bloomers” on his home planet of Viltrum got them before their 18th birthday.
After Mark steps outside and watches his dad fly off with his mom, he makes his own futile attempt at flying by jumping up and down on the front porch. Unfortunately, it results in nothing more than a judgmental stare from their mail carrier.
Later at school, Mark is forced to listen to his best friend Will talk about how hot Omni-Man is (without realizing that he’s also talking about Mark’s dad). Their conversation is interrupted when the pair hear one of their classmates (Amber) being aggressively propositioned by the school’s resident douche canoe (Todd).
Despite Will’s warning that Todd is twice his size, Mark attempts to stick up for Amber and promptly gets his ass kick. Amber responds by kicking Todd in the nuts, forcing him to run away. She then thanks Mark as Will helps him up off the floor.
That night, Mark puts a cap on his horrible day by finishing his shift at the local Burgermart. While taking out the trash, he accidentally flings one of the overstuffed garbage bags into orbit, signaling that his long awaited powers have finally arrived.
Mark shares the big news at dinner that evening with his parents. Nolan seems stunned at first, but quickly snaps out of it (thanks to some prompting from Deborah) and says he’ll make some time the next day for them to do some proper training.
As Mark lies awake in bed that night, he thinks back on when he was younger and his father told him where he’s from. According to Nolan, Viltrum is a planet with a very similar makeup to Earth. Unlike humans, however, Viltrumites also have the powers of flight, super speed, and super strength.
When Viltrumites come of age, they venture out into the galaxy to help and protect lesser developed planets. Nolan/Omni-Man volunteered to go to Earth, where he met Deborah while saving her from a falling car. Young Mark reacts to learning that he’s half Viltrumite by getting all types of excited that he’ll be able to fly one day.
Back in the present, Mark decides to climb out onto his roof and make a solo attempt at his first flight. After gathering his wits and taking a leap of faith, he finds himself floating above the ground. Exhilarated by finally achieving his dream, he gleefully and awkwardly soars high into the air.
Unfortunately, his joyous trip into the sky is interrupted when he ends up in the flight path of a passenger jet. He manages to avoid a collision, but the aircraft’s jet stream sends him soaring into low orbit above Earth, causing Mark to pass out and crash back down to the ground.
The impact doesn’t kill him (thanks to the super powers), but it certainly doesn’t feel good, either.
The next morning, Nolan takes his son through how to fly by focusing on where he wants to go and allowing the momentum he builds to carry him. Things go pretty well until Mark tries to land, which he fails at spectacularly.
Next, Nolan helps Mark improve his fighting by making use of his ability to pivot without the need for a solid object. During their sparring match, he accidentally hits his son so hard that it knocks the air out of him. Nolan feels bad and apologizes, but also reminds his son that if he wants to be a superhero, he’ll have to be prepared to take hits like that.
After the pair return home, Deborah asks if Nolan might be pushing their son too hard, causing him to uncharacteristically lash out at her. He then admits that Mark having powers is something he isn’t as prepared for as he thought…and that maybe their lives would be better if he’d never gotten powers at all.
Finding an Identity
At school that day, Todd attempts to get revenge on Mark, who calmly dares the bully to hit him. Although the punch hurts at first, he’s able to brush it off before calmly asking Todd twice to hit him again, eliciting little more than a small flinch. As his classmates look on in disbelief (and Todd runs away in shame), Mark decides that he needs something else to try his powers on.
That afternoon, he dons a makeshift costume, flies into the city (causing only a small amount of property damage), and finds a bank robbery being committed by two goons and a near indestructible supervillain. Mark gets knocked around a bit at first, but quickly recovers and takes the supervillain down (while also causing quite a bit more property damage).
As the police begin to close in, Nolan shows up and commands his son to follow him to a nearby rooftop. He then chastises Mark, explaining that he did far more damage than what was warranted or necessary for that type of confrontation.
Mark responds by demanding that his father hit him, explaining that he’ll be ready to take to punch this time. When Nolan refuses, Mark’s demands quickly morph into pleading insistence that he’s strong enough to be a superhero despite his father’s poorly masked doubt…and that he wants to be just like him.
After assuring his son that he truly does believe in him, Nolan takes Mark to Art Rosebaum, a tailor who makes “prom dresses by day, indestructible super suits by night.” As you can probably guess, Mark is all types of excited about getting his own official superhero threads. Before that can happen, however, he needs to to come up with a name.
That night, Mark is scolded by his mother when he leaves yet another crater in her backyard while practicing his landings. When she insists that he stop messing around and go to bed, Mark initially dares her to make him. Deborah quickly smacks that down with impressive mom authority, causing her son to bashfully admit how important becoming a superhero is to him.
Deborah assures her son that even though she can’t fly with him through the sky, she’s still there to give him guidance and support whenever he needs it. She also reminds him that he doesn’t have to live up to his father’s lofty reputation — he just has to be the best Mark Grayson he can be.
*Side Note: I’m not doing any justice to the fantastic dialogue between these two in this scene.
Beginnings and Betrayal
The next day, during a midair game of catch, Nolan explains to his son that it’s okay for him to be nervous about things. What he needs to remember is that while kids his age often think they’re invincible, he actually is.
As his father’s statement sinks in, Mark also realizes that he’s found the perfect name and rushes over to see Art.
Sometime later, we see Mark standing on a construction crane decked out in his iconic blue and yellow costume. He then departs on a breathtaking flight into the earth’s upper atmosphere and back down through the city. His revelry is interrupted by multiple explosions caused by a nearby supervillain attack. Mark zips over and makes quick work of the destructive menace before officially announcing his new name: Invincible.
Elsewhere, the Guardians of the Globe all receive an emergency alert to meet back at their base. When they arrive, however, they’re ambushed by Omni-Man, who brutally (and I mean BRUTALLY) slaughters them all. Even the Immortal is taken down, his last breath used to ask “Why?” before having his head removed from his body.
With the bloodied remains of his former comrades surrounding him, Omni-Man finally succumbs to exhaustion from the fight and passes out.
There’s no way you saw that ending coming unless you read the series first. While the gore and savagery is definitely shocking, the complete betrayal of everything we thought we knew about Omni-Man is what hits the hardest.
There are a couple of takeaways from the final scene that help show why Invincible is worth sticking around for. The first is how well it established all the Guardians in such a short amount of time before killing them. Each cut to one getting the call to assemble was everything we needed to know so that their death felt appropriately impactful.
Also, this fight sequence was exponentially more visceral and “real” than the somewhat bland/standard one at the beginning of the episode. Invincible‘s fight sequences aren’t always that brutal, but it does give you a pretty good idea of how intense things typically are.
As far as the rest of the episode is concerned, it was a well told story wrapped in a painfully generic pastiche of superhero tropes we’ve all seen plenty of times before. Those of us who’ve read the series know it doesn’t stay that way, but someone new to the series could be forgiven for thinking Invincible isn’t anything special at this point.
One area the episode does still shine, however, is the dialogue–particularly the interactions we see between Mark and his family. As you might imagine, that only gets better and more interesting over time, as well.
But enough reading about this one, though. Let’s keep moving and see how bad the fallout is from Mark’s dad single-handedly murdering his universe’s version of the Justice League.
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