Episode 8: “Where I really come from”
I was not emotionally ready for this one…
The season 1 finale of “Invincible” picks up immediately where the last one left off and as expected, adapts Issues #10-13. Everything has lead to this. And whether you’ve read the comics or not, it’s pretty clear that shit’s about to hit the fan… and it’s not gonna be pretty.
So just to recap: Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), the son of “the world’s greatest superhero”, Omni-Man aka Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons), gets powers of his own and starts trying to live up to his dad’s legacy. Mark gets a fancy new costume made by his dad’s friend, Art (Mark Hamill) and calls himself ‘Invincible’, to which several people jokingly respond, “A little optimistic don’t you think?”
Mark’s gone on a number of adventures and has had some close calls, from flying to Mars and back, to taking on a whole supervillain team up way before he was ready for it. He’s dealt with some relationship drama with Amber Bennett (Zazie Beetz), learned some life lessons from a super-powered henchman, Titan (Mahershala Ali), barely survived an encounter with Battle Beast (Michael Dorn), became good friends with fellow hero, Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), and even had a run in with an aloof alien named Allen (Seth Rogen).
Meanwhile, the Guardians of the Globe were all murdered horribly by *plot twist* Omni-Man himself! A new team is assembled to replace the original team, including: Robot (Zachary Quinto), Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas), Dupli-Kate (Malese Jow), Black Sampson (Khary Payton), Monster Girl (Grey Griffin), and Shrinking Rae (also Grey Griffin). Throughout the season, Debbie Grayson (Sandra Oh) has been piecing together that her husband has been keeping something from her, with a little help from Damien Darkblood (Clancy Brown), which of course turns out to be that Nolan is murdering psychopath. When Nolan snaps and destroys their house, Cecil Stedman (Walton Goggins), the head of the GDA (the Global Defense Agency), gets her to a secure location and reveals to Debbie that they’ve secretly been onto Nolan for months and have been trying to figure out exactly why he killed the Guardians.
Cecil and the GDA throw everything they have at Omni-Man: a bomb, a satellite laser weapon, cybernetic zombie soldiers, and even a kaiju – but nothing is close to stopping him! Right around then, Invincible and Atom-Eve show up just in time to see Omni-Man being attacked by a giant monster. Mark rushes in to help out his dad, not knowing what’s really going on, right as The Immortal (Ross Marquand) is revived by The Mauler Twins (Kevin Michael Richardson) and immediately goes berserk, violently attacking Omni-Man! Just as Mark breaks away from the tentacled beast, he watches helplessly as his dad kills Immortal, again, this time in front of the whole world…
We start where we left off: with Mark confronting Nolan – and he looks… *unhinged*!
Mark right away assumes that his dad is being mind controlled (understandably), but it quickly becomes apparent that that’s not the case. Turns out that Omni-man pulled an Obi-Wan with his “certain point of view” fairy tale about their home planet. Nolan explains his real backstory: he’s a scout for the Viltrum Empire – a race of brutal super-powered conquerors. When his son defies him, Nolan loses it and goes on a psychotic killing spree and it’s… it’s hard to watch…
Ok, so up to this point, this show has been amazing in every sense: the writing, casting, voice acting, animation, music, and just sheer next level storytelling have all been top notch. As I said in my review of the first episode, I think this might be the best comic book adaptation to date, because it stays true to the source material, improves on the narrative, expands on the characters, and actually manages to maintain the artistic style of the comic!
Now, I understand that this is one of the darkest, tragic, and most intense moments in the entire series, but if I have one complaint it’s that they maybe pushed the gore a little too hard on this one. This whole episode is straight up disturbing and even as a fan, it was really hard to get through it the first time. Now I get that the shock value is half of the appeal with this series (half the time I’m shouting, holy crap, did they just do that?!), but they really did lean into the ultra violence to a gratuitous degree for this episode. To be fair though, it was used to forward the story, and really drives the stakes, showing the human cost of a Superman-level hero without empathy.
Mark saves an ejecting fighter pilot only to have his dad crush the man’s skull in front of him. Nolan then punches Mark through downtown Chicago, killing at least dozens of people, if not hundreds. At one point, Mark desperately tries to stop a crumbling building from collapsing, but fails to save anyone. Then to really rub salt in the wound, Omni-Man grabs him and uses him to slice through an entire train full of passengers, just to prove a point.
The two continue to battle through the air, but Mark doesn’t stand a chance and Nolan is out for blood. Blinded by rage and fueled by a creed he was programmed with his whole life – only the strong are worthy to survive. His son begging him to stop, knowing human life is worth saving. These two warring ideologies collide, a metaphor brought to life with super sonic booms echoing through the atmosphere. This is not a fight Mark can win and it’s not looking good.
As Nolan continues beating the absolute crap out of Mark, he suddenly has a flashback to the moment when he first realized that he loved his son – Debbie and Nolan are at their son’s little league baseball game, where she’s encouraging him to see things through his son’s eyes, as he’s learning to empathize with others for the first time, she’s teaching him what it means to be human. What would have been a heartwarming moment of a dad cheering on his son skidding into home base is suddenly tainted by the present, as Mark lies in a pool of blood, with his broken teeth scattered about a mountainside.
Nolan stops short of killing Mark, but continues monologue-ing, pleading to his son to join his side, to see his point of view: “You’re fighting so you can watch everyone around you die! Think, Mark! You’ll outlast every fragile, insignificant being on this planet! You’ll live to see this world crumble to dust and blow away! Everyone and everything you know will be gone! What would you have after 500 years!?”
Mark weakly responds, “You dad… I’d still have you…”
Nolan looks at his blood-stained hands in horror, for the first time with the realization of what he’s done. Instead of finishing off his son, he launches into the sky, the blood burning off him, leaving Earth behind with a single tear, floating in orbit. It hits hard and it’s gut wrenching, but that’s what makes it brilliant.
Ultimately, Mark survives, thanks to the GDA airlifting him to safety just in time. The news mourns the thousands lost, as Mark recovers in the hospital, while his mom is barely holding it together. Cecil assures Debbie that they’ll be taken care of, before offering Mark a job as Earth’s new protector. Mark is a little hesitant at first, and just needs time to process everything. Time passes and things start to go back to normal, relatively. We get a few funny moments between Mark, Amber, Eve, and William, where William continues to be terrible at keeping Mark’s secret. There’s a great scene between Debbie and Art where he offers her a drink and they bond over their shared tragedy.
My Favorite Moment
Perhaps my favorite moment from this whole season though is the last one: Allen the Alien coming back to Earth to try and warn Invincible that there’s a Viltrumite on his planet, but Mark has him sit down to catch him up on the past several episodes, in a great reversal of that scene where they first met on the moon back in Episode 2. Allen points out that a Viltrumite abandoning his post is a big deal and explains that there’s an entire coalition of planets out there looking for an opportunity to fight back against the Viltrumite Empire. Mark tells him that it’s a huge relief finding out that there’s a bigger picture out there, because it makes his problems back on Earth seem that much more manageable.
What I love the most about “Invincible” is that what makes Mark Grayson ‘Invincible' isn't that he's completely invulnerable, it's his unbeatable spirit. Allen asks what Mark’s going to get next and we get this brilliant montage of all the various supervillain threats brewing (set to “Hate to Say I Told You So” by The Hives), before Mark just responds, “Probably finish high school.” It’s a great, light-hearted ending to a really emotional and brutal finale that leaves you
wanting needing to see more – and thankfully, there’s plenty more on the way!
Review by Erik Slader.