Last week’s episode of Invincible concluded with Mark beaten to within an inch of his life after getting played by Titan. Monster Girl and Black Samson are also in critical condition after getting shellacked by Battle Beast. Meanwhile, Deborah is on the verge of confirming that Nolan/Omni-Man murdered the Guardians of the Globe.
As always, the recap portion of this review will contain plenty of spoilers.
Operating in the Dark
The episode opens on the campus of the fictional Upstate University, where a douchebag named Dustin Cheston drunkenly hits on a group of sorority girls. After getting rejected, a figure emerges from the bushes and injects him with a sedative.
Later, Doug awakens to find himself strapped down to a gurney. He initially taunts his captor, but the sight of some dissected and robotically enhanced corpses hanging around him immediately turns his bravado into fear. Doug then looks down and sees that one of his own arms has been replaced with a metal claw, causing him to completely lose it.
After failing to heed his captor’s request to calm down, the man calmly slices out Doug’s vocal cords.
Back at GDA headquarters, surgical teams struggle to keep Invincible, Black Samson, and Monster Girl alive. After an unsuccessful attempt at intubating Monster Girl, Robot storms into the operating room and insists they let him take over the operation. The doctors initially refuse, but quickly relent after realizing he won’t take no for an answer (and that they have no idea how to treat her).
Over in the next room, multiple attempts to use a defibrillator on Black Samson are unsuccessful. On the final try, a strange power surge causes the hero’s vitals to stabilize.
While all this is going on, another surgical team attempts to repair the catastrophic damage Invincible incurred to his torso and spinal cord. Cecil and Doug arrive with Nolan and Deborah, who watch in horror as the GDA doctors frantically work on their son.
Six days later, Mark awakens to find his parents and Eve at his bedside. After learning how long he was out, Eve assures her friend that she covered for him with Amber, claiming that his medical emergency was the result of an unfortunate meeting with the frontside of a bus. She also tells him that Black Samson and Monster Girl are still unconscious, which Deborah tries to assure Mark is not his fault.
Nolan then goes to speak with Cecil, who’s observing Robot as he watches over Monster Girl. When he asks the GDA director if Damian Darkblood confessed to the Guardian murders yet, Cecil pointedly replies that his real interest is in finding out why he would do it. He also expresses amused disbelief that Mark attempted to take down Machine Head despite being advised against it by his father, who is the most powerful man in world.
Before walking away, Cecil reminds the Viltrumite that teenagers from Earth are prone to doing the exact opposite of whatever their parents tell them.
Go Your Own Way
After being discharged from the hospital, Mark goes to visit Amber, who admits that she was set on breaking up with him after he didn’t show up to help at the community center. He asks if they can start over, which she agrees to.
The next day at school, Mark’s best friend Will tells him that he’ll be visiting his friend/not-so-secret crush Rick that weekend at Upstate University. Mark decides that this is the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with Amber and asks if they can come along.
Despite some misgivings about adding another couple to his romantic getaway, Will agrees.
As Mark is packing for his trip, Eve flies up to see how he’s doing. He thanks her for covering for him with Amber before awkwardly inviting her to come to Upstate University with them. Eve declines, declaring that she’s decided to skip college all together. Working at the community center with Amber made her realize that she can do more for the world just by helping people directly instead of waiting for the next supervillain attack.
Mark is supportive of Eve’s decision, which surprises her. He explains that after what happened in his fight against Machine Head, the desire to do something other than being a superhero makes sense.
After Eve leaves, Mark heads downstairs and gets in the car with Will and Amber. One they’ve departed, Deborah gets her things to head out and do some errands of her owns. Nolan asks if he can join her, but she reminds him that he has a book deadline to meet and insists he stay home. After she leaves, Nolan retrieves the trash bag holding his tattered uniform from the night he murdered the Guardians only to find it filled with a white bedsheet.
*Side Note: It’s nice to finally see another reference to Nolan’s work as an author, which could end up becoming an important plot point if the series follows the comics. Also, why the heck would Nolan continue to keep such a potentially damning piece of evidence against him in a trash back behind a doorway overhang?
Meanwhile, Eve packs her bags to leave home permanently. Her mother and father try to talk her out of it, both of them begging their daughter to try being a “normal” teenager. Mr. Wilkins predictably says something awful and declares that the day she got her powers was the the worst of his life.
As you might imagine, this does little to dissuade her from leaving.
With her father yelling for her to come back, Eve says goodbye to her parents and flies off to a remote country, where she builds a treehouse to live in as she starts her new life. Over the next few days, she uses her powers to stop a forrest fire, save some hikers from an avalanche, and help a pair of grape farmers go from barely scraping by to a bumper crop.
Eve returns to her new home with a sense of peace and accomplishment that she hasn’t felt in a long, long time.
Crisis of Faith
Will, Amber, and Mark arrive at Upstate University and are greeted by Rick, who is just as cool/attractive as Will described him. After touring the campus a bit (and passing a poster with missing person notices for Dustin Cheston and another person), Rick takes the group to sit in on a biology class.
The professor’s lesson that day is about the ways the human body can be kept healthy for a longer period of time. Things immediately become tense when a student named D.A. Sinclair (who attends the school on a genius grant) interrupts the lecture and haughtily declares his belief that all human failings are simply engineering problems in need of a solution.
When Amber calls him out for being a jerk, Sinclair begins walking toward her, prompting Rick to put himself in the way and ask what his problem is. After complaining about how stupid and short-sighted the Upstate University student body is, Sinclair looks Rick over and admits to being impressed at his physique and “alpha male” characteristics.
The professor finally decides he’s had enough and kicks Sinclair out of his classroom.
Despite that bit of weirdness, Amber and Mark still manage to have a wonderful time touring the rest of the campus together. Mark enjoys the day so much, in fact, that he tells Amber he plans to apply to the school — and that he wants her to come with him. After expressing a bit of skepticism, she agrees.
Unfortunately, the nice moment between them is interrupted when a deranged man fitted with cybernetic parts (a Reaniman) bursts up from ground and begins wrecking havoc.
Amber immediately springs into action getting people to safety and helping an injured bystander. Rick goes to help another injured person, which draws the Reaniman’s attention. After the creature grabs him, Will begins throwing soda cans at its head, causing the Reaniman to drop Rick and pick him up by the neck instead.
Amber calls out for Mark to help, but can’t find him. Just as the Reaniman is about to kill Will, Invincible shows up and engages it. As they begin to fight, Will looks up and realizes that the superhero is also his best friend. Invincible tells him to run before repeatedly slamming the Reaniman into the ground. The creature easily recovers and attacks, eventually forcing Invincible onto the ground and pummeling him.
Just when it appears that he can’t take any more punishment, Invincible manages to rip off the Reaniman’s face covering. The creature cries out in pain and staggers toward a nearby fountain. Upon seeing himself in the fountain’s reflection, the Reaniman (which looks a lot like Dustin Cheston) leaps into the air and impales itself on a sun dial.
After taking a moment to recover, Invincible runs over to check on Will, who is excitedly freaking out over deducing Mark’s alter ego. Invincible begs him not to say anything before flying off.
Rick runs over to Will and thanks him for saving his life. A few seconds later, Mark returns in his civilian clothes and claims he ran away to get help. Amber can tell he’s lying, but doesn’t know/realize what he’s covering for. Instead, she’s justifiably furious at her boyfriend for abandoning her and their friends and breaks up with him.
Meanwhile, Sinclair picks up the Reaniman face covering and swears never to leave the frontal lobe intact on one of his experiments again. He then catches sight of Rick and decides that the “alpha male” would make a perfect new test subject.
Curses of Knowledge and Creation
Back at GDA headquarters, one of Robot’s drones returns from the arctic with a rare flower whose properties will significantly aid in Monster Girl’s survival/recovery. After instructing the doctors on how to extract what they need from it, he checks on Black Samson, who is surprised that a machine could care for someone the way he clearly cares for Monster Girl. Robot tries to pass this off as programming he has for all humans, but Black Samson can tell what he feels for her goes far beyond that.
Meanwhile, Deborah visits Arthur Rosembaum, who she provided with Omni-Man’s shredded costume from the night he murdered the Guardians. After a careful analysis, the tailor reluctantly shows her a mountain of forensic evidence pointing toward her husband’s guilt. Deborah instructs Arthur to keep what they’ve discovered a secret. He agrees, explaining that it won’t be a problem since he’s too scared to tell anyone.
Unbeknownst to them, Omni-Man is floating above the tailor shop and fully aware of what his wife and good friend have just learned.
Later, Robot visits the Mauler Twins to check on the project he gave them, which involves growing cells from the DNA sample of Rex he provided. After deeming their progress to be only “satisfactory” the twins demand to know what he’s doing this for and whose DNA he stole.
When Robot refuses to tell them, they threaten to sabotage the project, prompting him to assure the pair that they’ll receive their payment (a mysterious set of schematics) when the project is completed.
After Robot leaves, the Mauler Twins decide they need some insurance in case Robot tries to double cross them.
Back at Upstate University, Amber declares that she will not be staying in the same room as Mark before storming out of Rick’s dorm to take a shower. Rick tells Mark that he can sleep out in the living room with him and Will before heading to the store to get some beer.
Once he’s gone, Will begins interrogating his despondent best friend about being a superhero. Mark tries to ignore him, but Will persists, eventually demanding Mark take him flying (which he does for all of three seconds) and asking if he can try on the Invincible suit.
Meanwhile, Amber is leaving the dorm showers when she’s approached by an attractive man named Kyle, who invites her to a nearby fraternity party. Despite that not really being her scene, she decides to go.
Later, Rick makes a FaceTime call to Will after picking up the beer. As the two are discussing what type of pizza to get, Rick suddenly disappears and drops the call.
Will runs into the living room to find Mark face down on the floor and holding the fraternity party invitation that Amber got from Kyle. He tells his best friend that something happened to Rick, but Mark shrugs him off and decides to go after Amber, instead.
Over at GDA headquarters, Black Samson is finally back up and on his feet. He’s also surprised to feel better than he has in years–almost like before he lost his powers. After he leaves, Monster Girl finally wakes up. She’s initially shocked to see Robot there, but genuinely touched that he remained by her side.
Arthur is closing up his shop when he receives an unexpected visit from Nolan, who invites him to have beers on the roof. After reminiscing for a bit, Nolan asks his friend if anything’s wrong. When Arthur tries to explain his nervous demeanor away as stress from a particularly hectic work week, Nolan cryptically mentions “how quickly things can fall apart.”
He then says he wanted to make sure that their partnership is still going strong and offers Arthur another drink.
Later, Nolan arrives home to find Deborah sitting at the kitchen counter and downing glass after glass of wine. When she asks why he murdered the Guardians, he denies her accusation. He also brushes off her distraught state as being due to alcohol. Deborah says she knows he’s lying and hurls the bottle at him (which he catches) before giving him a hearty “f*** you” and heading to bed.
After watching her go upstairs, Nolan shatters the wine bottle and punches a hole in the wall. He then sits down alone and contemplates what to do next.
Back at Upstate University, Will decides to go searching for Rick himself. He eventually finds Rick’s broken phone and one of his shoes near a manhole, which he descends into the sewers. As he begins his search, a red light begins to glow nearby.
Meanwhile, Amber arrives at the party and is immediately bored with the douchey aesthetic. Things get better once Kyle shows up, but her mood is tempered a bit when he reveals that he has a girlfriend who is transferring in next semester.
Mark arrives at the party and sees Amber talking with Kyle. Before he has time to process things, he receives a frantic and indecipherable FaceTime call from Will that unexpectedly cuts out. Mark decides to leave the party and check on his best friend, who (unbeknownst to him) is in the process of being carried by a Reaniman to an underground lab. After being strapped into a gurney, Sinclair appears and says he’s about to do the same thing to him that he did to Rick.
Mark changes into his Invincible costume, flies over to the hole the Reaniman version of Dustin punched through the middle of campus, and flies down into the sewers. After searching the tunnels for a bit, he’s ambushed by three Reanimen. Their fight ends up punching a hole into Sinclair’s lab, bringing him face-to-face with the mad scientist standing over his best friend.
As the three Reanimen attack, Invincible rips off one of their faceplates, revealing it to be the reanimated corpse of Rick. Will tries to call out to him, but Sinclair tells him it’s no use since he removed the Reanimen’s ability to feel emotions (while pointing to a random clump of brain on a nearby table).
*Side Note: I get that Sinclair is a genius, but that’s a pretty quick turnout time on the complex operation it would have taken to make Rick into a Reaniman.
The Reanimen begin to beat Invincible without mercy. Will attempts to get through to Rick by reminding him of the first time they made love, but to no avail. When Sinclair begins cutting into him with a bone saw, however, Rick begins to cry and rips a processor from the back of head, giving him enough free will to fight back against the other two Reanimen with Invincible. After they rip out both their processors, Will chases down Sinclair and begins wailing on him. He gets away long enough to give a brief speech about how his work was the good of humanity before Invincible shatters his jaw.
As Mark collapses from exhaustion, Will attempts to connect with Reaniman Rick, who merely grunts and turns away from him.
Later, the GDA arrive to clean up the scene and take Sinclair into custody. Invincible apologizes for losing it on the mad scientist, but Cecil tells him he would have done the same thing. He also assures Mark that they’ll be locking Sinclair scientist away (while marveling over his tech) and that they’ll do everything they can to help Rick.
After Cecil and the GDA leave, the pair head back to Rick’s dorm room, where Will collapses into Mark’s arms and begins to sob.
In a mid credit scene, the White House guard’s stepson (Matt, who we last saw back in Episode 2) and a friend have located the Immortal‘s grave and are attempting to dig him up. Matt is uneasy about it, but his friend insists that the Reddit post he saw about drinking from Immortal’s skull to obtain his powers is legit.
Before they can start digging, however, the Mauler Twins show up and menacingly advise the boys not to believe everything they read on the internet.
Fans of the Invincible comic will definitely be pleased to see D.A. Sinclair and his Reanimen arrive. In addition to adding a fantastic horror element to the series, it will also (presumably) pay narrative dividends down the road — especially with regards to Mark and his relationship to the Global Defense Agency and Cecil.
Unfortunately, the compressed nature of this 8-episode first season made Rick Sheridan’s introduction all types of disappointing. From a broader standpoint, we barely got to see any of his relationship with Will before he was troped into a plot device. Rick was certainly likable, but the impact of his loss would’ve been much greater if we knew him for more than one episode.
There’s also the issue of how Rick went from buying beer and pizza to having his body undergo a complex cybernetic surgery in a matter of hours. Some details — like Mark being able to change from his Invincible costume into civilian clothes in under five seconds — can be ignored, but that’s a bit too much to overlook. Same with him inexplicably figuring out how to rip the processor from the back of his head and the other Reanimen, who were affected in a completely different manner.
Thankfully, this episode still had a lot of other things going for it. The interaction/chemistry between Mark, Will, and Amber was very good. The way Mark caused Amber to justifiably break up with him was heartbreaking, but even better.
My favorite scenes, however, were the ones featuring Deborah, Nolan, and Arthur…although I must once again point out how bizarre it was for Nolan to keep such a damning piece of evidence hidden in a garbage bag near his living room. That ridiculous decision does end providing some incredible moments, but it’s hard to overlook the ridiculous circumstances that made it possible.
That being said, Sandra Oh (Deborah) and J.K. Simmons (Nolan) made the moment we’d all been waiting for even better than I’d hoped.
It was hard to find any fault with the hospital sequences, which were genuinely moving and viscerally unnerving. Zachary Quinto deserves a ton of credit for all the emotion and depth he packs into Robot despite his character not having the benefit of facial expressions.
It should be interesting to see how things play out with him and the Mauler Twins, especially since their “insurance” plan looks to involve the Immortal. Even if this particular plotline gets compressed from the source material (like the Rick/DA Sinclair plot), the folks behind the series have proven they can still craft a powerful and exciting narrative.
Let’s hope the great job they’re doing gives us a blockbuster final two episodes along with a much longer second season.
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