Last week’s episode of Invincible once again concluded with a number of intriguing plot threads in play:
- Deborah has started to suspect that her husband had something to do with the Guardians of the Globe being murdered.
- Cecil knows that Omni-Man murdered the Guardians of the Globe, but wants to figure out why (and what to do) before revealing anything.
- Cecil also banished Damian Darkblood to Hell for nearly blowing his investigation. Unbeknownst to him, the demon detective left his notebook in the Grayson’s bedroom closet.
- Invincible managed to save a group of astronauts from being executed by Martians, but accidentally helped a parasitic race begin a takeover of the Red Planet
- Robot is having trouble running his new Guardians team.
- Robot also revealed that he’s actually a deformed human inside a stasis chamber who remotely operates his mechanical body.
This week, Mark starts to feel the squeeze of trying to balance his superhero and personal life. He also gets involved in a street level conflict with much higher stakes than he anticipated.
As always, the recap portion of this review will contain plenty of spoilers.
The episode opens with Titan (the rock-based supervillain Invincible barely defeated in the first episode) working as an enforcer for a criminal kingpin named Machine Head. He first makes quick work of a group of drug dealers, killing all but one of them. Despite the scared teenager futilely attempting to shoot him, he allows the young gang member to live, instructing him to tell his boss to keep his people off Machine Head’s turf.
The next day, after burning down a building for an insurance scheme, he provides the angry and displaced residents with money so they can find shelter. Titan’s bizarre mix of ruthlessness and humanity pops up again while he’s holding a man over a building who owes Machine Head money. After taking out the man’s wallet and seeing a picture of him and his daughter, he gives him two more days to make good on his debt.
Titan finishes his brutally efficient crime spree by breaking into a lab and stealing an advanced microchip. When the lab’s security force attempts to stop him, he persuades his would-be adversaries to allow him to leave peacefully so they don’t end up getting killed.
Titan delivers the chip to Machine Head, which the A.I. criminal inserts into his head with great delight at the processing upgrade it provides. Titan then informs his boss that he’s done working for him. Machine Head responds by explaining that despite his occasional flashes of humanity, he’s proven too useful to let go. When Titan tries to refuse, the robotic kingpin reminds his favorite enforcer that he can and will kill his family if he doesn’t continue to work for him.
Titan heads home and is greeted by his jubilant daughter and wary spouse, who immediately suspects that he wasn’t able to quit his illegal/dangerous job. When he confirms her fears are true, she angrily storms off. He then goes outside to be alone with his thoughts, but is soon joined by his daughter. When she spots Invincible carrying a captured villain through the sky and asks about him, Titan begins to form a plan to get out from under Machine Head’s thumb.
While all this is happening, Mark/Invincible goes through his own gauntlet of violence and personal conflict. It starts with him making quick work of Killcannon in a battle downtown. Unfortunately, this makes him 20 minutes late meeting Amber after school. He attempts to smooth things over with some Japanese cheesecake, but it’s clear that she’s growing tired of him constantly flaking out on her.
Later, Invincible is in the city taking down another villain (who I admittedly don’t recognize) when he accidentally causes a nearby apartment building to fall over. After saving the residents, Mark goes to his job at Burger Mart and gets chewed out by his manager for constantly being late to work. After having his hours docked, Mark decides to simply quit instead.
The next day, Invincible is holding a supervillain in the sky who refuses to reveal the location of a bomb. Omni-Man tells his son that he needs to work harder at scaring information out of his adversaries. He then takes the villain from Invincible, drops him, and casually waits until the last possible second to catch him before he hits the ground.
Following that horrific lesson, Mark is late getting to school, which earns him a trip to the principal’s office for this recent (and constant) tardiness. Later, during another fight downtown, he texts Amber to promise he won’t miss having dinner with her mother that night.
As you might’ve guessed, he ends up being late again, this time because of a training session with Omni-Man on how to divert an astroid from hitting earth. While that’s obviously important, Amber has no idea what her boyfriend was doing — only that he appears to have absolutely no respect for her time or what’s important to her.
Mark briefly considers telling Amber his secret, but ends up making a shallow promise to do better from now on. As he sullenly walks back home, Omni-Man calls to tell his son about villain the named Elephant committing a robbery downtown. Mark isn’t in the mood to jump back into his superhero identity, but Omni-Man firmly persuades him that stopping the crime would be good practice.
Deborah goes into her closet and finds Damian’s notebook. After looking it over for a bit, she remembers how adamant Nolan was about having his destroyed costume returned to him once he was discharged from the GDA hospital (back in Episode 2).
Meanwhile, Amber’s parents are disappointed that she broke up with Rex, especially her father (who does most of the yelling while Mrs. Wilkins fearfully stands by his side). As far as he’s concerned, Rex was the only thing keeping his daughter safe during her time as a superhero. When she reminds him that Rex cheated on her, he counters that all guys “make mistakes” and that she should forgive him. As if that weren’t awful enough, he also says she can’t do this “hero bulls**t” on her own because she’s just an 18-year old girl.
Eve points out that as someone who can rearrange atoms on a molecular level, she can pretty much do whatever she wants. She also isn’t even sure she wants to be a superhero anymore — or a part of her family. She then cuts a family portrait hanging on the wall in half, creates a door in the side of the house, and flies away.
Elsewhere, Invincible enjoys some personal flight time that allows him to interact with a 747 passenger jet.
*Side Note: This is a great juxtaposition to his first flight back in Episode 1 when a 747 nearly killed him.
As Invincible glides over the city, he notices that someone has painted an abbreviated version of his name on one of the building’s rooftops. He lands and finds Titan waiting for him. Instead of a fight, however, the super powered enforcer asks for his assistance taking down Machine Head — both to help him get out from the crime kingpin’s thumb and for all the people he hurts running the city’s criminal underworld.
Invincible tries to brush him off, explaining that he mostly deals with planetary-level threats. Titans responds by offering to show the new hero the awful things he doesn’t see while soaring through the clouds.
After a hilarious scene of Invincible carrying Titan through the air in his arms, he gets a firsthand look at all the pain and suffering Machine Head causes. He also learns that the mob boss has a supervillain assistant named Isotope who can teleport him anywhere he needs.
The pair land outside the Well Community Center, where Titan reminds Invincible that taking down Machine Head won’t just be a good guy taking down a bad guy — it will provide real help to real people. When Invincible asks why he took money from Machine Head in the first place, Titan says it wasn’t for him before going to greet his wife and daughter as they’re exiting the Beckwell Community center.
That night at dinner, Mark tells his parents about his dilemma. While Deborah distractedly pokes at her food, Nolan expresses his belief that helping Titan would be a mistake. When he adds that it would be “beneath” their son to take on such a street level conflict, Deborah’s attention snaps back to the conversation. After pointedly remarking that people aren’t always who they appear to be, she also points out that helping others should never be something that Mark considers to be “beneath” him.
After their son goes up to his room to think on things, Deborah chides her husband holding such an arrogant view about making use of his and and Mark’s powers. When Nolan attempts to push back, she points out that he knew nothing about humans, their society, or what was important to them. She was the one who taught him those things, which makes it beyond insulting that he wouldn’t think she could teach those same things to their own son, as well.
Nolan switches tactics and claims that his real concern is Mark potentially putting his trust in someone (Titan) that he shouldn’t — especially when doing so is the opposite of the advice he’s receiving from his own father. Deborah appears to accept her husbands explanation for sounding so callous, but it’s clear her recent suspicions about him are continuing to grow.
Meanwhile, the new Guardians of the Globe boisterously return to their base after defeating the Lizard League. Robot looks on with dismay as Rex celebrates with Monster Girl before revealing a beer fridge he installed in one of the central room’s floor panels.
The group’s revelry is cut short when Black Samson uses a sonic blast to shatter all their beer bottles. Having gained their full attention, he chastises the young super heroes for celebrating what he considered a sloppy victory with far too much collateral damage and civilian injuries. He then has Robot pull up a hologram of the fight and breaks down how their inability to work as a team caused innocent people to get hurt.
Rex predictably pushes back with some douchey comments about Black Samson’s age. When Dupli-Kate admits that she agrees with the analysis, Rex storms off with the rest of the younger team members following close behind him. Before leaving, Monster Girl points out that she’s the only one of them who personally sacrificed something for the mission since it caused her to de-age by another week.
Her statement appears to hit Robot even harder than his teams unbridled dysfunction.
The Best Laid Plans
The next day at school, Mark complains to Eve about bombing a geography test. After reminding him that a flying superhero should know where the world’s continents/countries are, she opens up about how things at home have made her future feel even more unclear than before.
Their discussion is interrupted when Amber walks up and reminds Mark that he agreed to help her at the Beckwell Community Center that evening. She also reveals that the center was like a second home to her growing up with a single mom who often had to work late.
After Mark leaves, Amber asks Eve if she wants to come help that night, as well. It takes a bit of coaxing, but she eventually agrees to do it. Amber then asks if she’s noticed Mark behaving strangely lately. Eve agrees that he’s incredibly flakey, but assures her that Mark is a good guy and who genuinely cares for her.
Invincible meets Titan on a rooftop near Machine Head’s headquarters to go over their plan. While getting through the mob boss’ security will be tough, Titan has already eliminated their biggest challenge by paying extra money to a prostitute Isotope likes to help keep him busy. With Machine Head’s teleporter gone, they’ll only need to neutralize and capture the villain so Mark can turn him over to the GDA.
Before committing to their plan, Invincible asks Titan about his daughter and how much time she spends at the Beckwell Community Center. When he responds that it’s like her “second home,” that’s all Invincible needs to hear to be all in on the mission.
Elsewhere, Mauler is just completing the creation of his second clone when his secret lab gets an unexpected visit from Robot. After convincing them he’s not there to fight, he produces the blood sample he took from Rex and asks the genius twins to lend their expertise in tissue growth and DNA replication. He also promises to make it worth their while.
Meanwhile, Deborah sends her husband on a globe trotting grocery run as a ruse to get him out of the house. With only 20 minutes until Nolan returns, she frantically searches for any additional clues or information he may be hiding from her about what happened with the Guardians.
Just when she’s about to give up, Deborah notices a trash bag tucked away behind a door ledge near a vent. Inside is Nolan’s ripped and bloody suit from the night he slaughtered the Guardians. She manages to hide it away again just as her husband walks through the door with the ingredients for dinner.
Betting on a Brawl
Invincible and Titan easily make it through Machine Head’s mercenary security force. Upon breaching his office, however, the crime boss appears completely unconcerned by their presence.
After finishing up his last bit of paperwork, Machine Head explains that the processing chip Titan stole allows him to see/predict all types of likely scenarios before they happen, including this very encounter. He then reveals that Isotope is still with him. Rather than getting teleported away, Machine Head unveils a team of supervillain mercenaries he hired to take care of them.
They are, in order of teleporting appearance:
- Kursk: Can control electrons. Basically Electro with a worse costume, but a much better understanding of his powers.
- Battle Beast/Thokk: If this show really digs into the source material, then he’ll end playing a huge role down the road. For now, all you need to know is that he’s an insanely powerful alien on a never ending quest to find worthy opponents in battle — a task that’s nearly impossible due to his incredible strength, durability, and combat skills.
- Magmaniac: Made of magma, which he can also use to change his size/shape and as an offensive weapon.
- Tether Tyrant: Has a bundle of powerful tethers/tentacles that he became able to control after bonding with an organism in his armor. Pretty much a store brand version of Doctor Octopus that’s quite a bit tougher than you’d expect.
- Furnace: Has a body made out of living plasma that he uses with his suit to control and make things extremely hot. I imagine him and Magmaniac are either best friends or completely despise each other.
Invincible and Titan proceed to get their asses handed to them while Omni-Man watches things play out from a distance. Just when it appears all hope is lost, Machine Head’s probability calculations are turned on their head when the new Guardians of the Globe show up thanks to an “anonymous” call Cecil received.
The group puts up a good fight at first, but are eventually overwhelmed, as well. This is largely due to the efforts of Battle Beast, who complains about Earth’s lack of worthy opponents before walking over to Invincible and bludgeoning him so hard that his chest explodes.
Despite his suit malfunctioning, Black Samson attempts to avenge Invincible and charges forward. Battle Beast rewards his bravery by nonchalantly crushing his hand and hurling his across the room. Monster Girl follows up with a valiant effort, but Battle Beast quickly forces her down before crushing her head between two piece of rubble.
Upon seeing Monster Girl so grievously injured, the previously prone Robot springs back up and hammers Battle Beast with a blast that manages to knock him off balance. Fueled by anger and grief over their fallen teammates, the rest of the Guardians regroup and attack. After taking out the rest of Machine Head’s group, Battle Beast declares them all to be “pathetic” and says that there’s “no honor in killing insects” before departing via a teleporter on his wrist.
*Side Note: So after the depleted Guardians (without Invincible and Titan) manage to take down the rest of Machine Head’s crew AND get a decent shot on him, Battle Beast decides he’s too good for the fight and leaves? Laaaaaaame!
After Battle Beast is gone, Robot hurries over to Monster Girl. She reverts back into her girl form without a smashed skull, but is still very badly injured and unconscious. As he cradles her in his arms, Machine Head begins to call for Isotope to get him out of there. The teleporter doesn’t answer, allowing him to get knocked out by Rex, instead.
Meanwhile, Titan walks over to Invincible (who is barely clinging to life) and apologizes, explaining that he “didn’t mean for it to end this way,” but he has to take care of his own. He then tells him he hopes he makes it before departing the scene.
Later, the GDA arrives and begins working to try and revive the fallen heroes. Cecil walks in, shuts down Machine Head, and pulls the microchip from him. He then orders Donald and his team to do everything necessary to save Invincible. He also has them take a blood sample “just in case.”
As an unconscious and battered Black Samson is loaded onto a stretcher, Robot promises Monster Girl that he’ll find a way to “fix her.”
Invincible (Amazon Studios)
While all this is going on, Eve arrives at the Beckwell Community Center to help Amber. As you might imagine, Mark doesn’t show up, prompting Amber to conclude that he truly doesn’t care about her.
Later, Eve receives a call about what happened and struggles to hide her emotions while explaining that she has to go. Before leaving, she assures Amber that Mark loves her. She also cryptically states that if he could have been there, he would.
That night, Isotope teleports back into Machine Head’s penthouse and congratulates his new boss for duping Invincible into helping him. Titan explains that he plans to use his new position as the city’s kingpin to make life better for a lot of people, but not before making sure his family is taken care of. The elevator opens to reveal his wife and daughter, who excitedly runs into Titan’s arms as they celebrate their new home and financial security.
In a mid credits scene, a group of scientists tell Donald that they still haven’t found a way to harm the blood sample from Mark. Donald encourages them to keep trying before stating his belief that Viltrumite blood is “still the answer.”
Since this episode was so good, we’ll get my one major grip out of the way first.
It was definitely a fun surprise for us comic fans to see Battle Beast so early, but his reason for leaving the fight (and not finishing off the fallen heroes) was incredibly lame. There’s no way he’d turn tail after Robot & Co. took down the other mercenaries and got their first good hit on him. If anything ,they proved themselves to be a better challenge than their initial attack indicated.
As for those who haven’t read the Invincible comic series, I imagine they were even more perplexed/exasperated at Battle Beast’s exit — especially after what a badass character he turned out to be.
Aside from that, however, Invincible‘s fifth episode was its best by far for a number of reason.
First off, the animation and voice work was superb. The top notch animation is plain to see (especially for for anyone who watched that incredible third act fight scene), but the voice acting doesn’t always get it’s due. It’s easy to get lost in the story without thinking about that part of the production, especially with a show like this one that’s both highly entertaining and juggling a ton of plotlines.
But a big part of what makes Invincible’s characters of so engaging is the incredible talent behind them. Steven Yeun (Mark/Invincible) and Mahershala Ali (Titan) delivered powerful performances that made the episode’s conclusion even more of a punch to the gut.
— INVINCIBLE (@InvincibleHQ) April 7, 2021
Same with Sandra Oh, who has managed to make Deborah into a stand out/fan favorite despite being a mere mortal surrounded by super powered gods. Despite the fact that we know Omni-Man’s crime, her journey from struggling to believe he could do it to full blown suspicion has been one of the best parts of the show.
I should also note that I unexpectedly found myself liking Rex (Jason Mantzoukas) by the end of this episode — especially the part where he and the new Guardians regrouped. This was the first time we saw him display an emotion that was based on empathy (and understandable grief/rage) rather than narcissism. It also wasn’t a mistake that he told the mercenaries “you just messed up” instead of “f***ed up” before attacking.
As for the script, Invincible once again manages to pay homage to the superhero genre’s most common tropes before completely flipping them on their head. One great example of this is how Mark struggles to balance his superhero life while hiding it from his significant other — a pretty standard plotline in this realm. Yet instead of revealing his identity or breaking up, the story puts us right in the middle of a messy situation complicated by love and trust issues.
Then there’s Titan, who appears to be following a typical redemptive story arc only to use Invincible (who completely got his ass handed to him) in a way that’s definitely nefarious, but oddly tempered by the villain’s desire to help his family and be a more benevolent crime boss than his deposed predecessor.
Add in the Robot/Mauler Twin mystery, Omni-Man’s increasingly menacing behavior, and Eve’s domestic conflict, and you’ve got the ingredients for a great story cooked up in a beautifully blood-soaked production. If this is how good the rest of the series is going to be, then as far as I’m concerned Battle Beast can come and go as he pleases.
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