Recap: Invincible (S2, Ep2) — Messy but Enjoyable Episode Does Too Much at Once

Invincible's storytelling can be weird. On one hand, the pieces it lays out in each episode tend to combine in the end to form a fantastic and fully realized conclusion. On the other, the process of laying those pieces out can be...messy. The worst part of Invincible's first season are the episodes that follow the pilot, mostly because they follows up a stunning hook with a lot of world-building and forced plot progression. However, the show still maintains a sense of fun action and visual flair.

The same experience is had with this episode. While nothing bad or boring happens here, there sure is a lot happening. Superhero Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) has three separate fights, his mother Debbie (Sandra Oh) struggles with the revelation that her husband is a duplicitous psychopath, Mark's hero friend Eve (Gillian Jacobs) tries and fails to help the world with her powers, and that's not even mentioning the new characters that show up. There's a lot going on here, and while it does make for a less-focused episode than the premiere, it's still a pretty good one.

Mark's conflict over how much of his father is in him is illustrated excellently through the episode's three fights. The first shows his ingenuity in the field. A guy who is obsessed with rocks tries to sink the Washington Monument, so Mark flies under and through it to catch him by surprise. It's a demonstration of why Mark is a hero—he thinks critically when the situation requires it and uses this to save the day. The second has him up against the unhinged sidekick of a hero his father killed in season one, and it's the idea of his father that drives him here. The man believes Mark is going to turn out just like his father, so Mark gives in, muttering about how "you have no idea what I'm capable of" as he threatens the man's life.

(Side note, one of my favorite things about this series is the random power scaling. This normal guy can just...send people to purgatory? Sure, whatever. Go for it.)

But it's the third fight that reinforces the fact that Mark is absolutely not his father, when Mark's boss Cecil (Walton Goggins) asks him to go to Atlantis (yes, Atlantis is a thing in this show) to uphold diplomatic relations. Like with the sidekick, Mark is here to pay for the sins of his father—their king has also been killed, and he has to fight a gargantuan sea creature to make up for it. Things get out of hand and Cecil tries to pull him out, but Mark chooses to stay behind and save the Atlantians despite their avid dislike of him. Unlike his father, he chooses to do the right thing not to preserve the image of a hero, but because he actually is one.

While Mark fights internal and external battles, Debbie has already lost hers. She tries to go back to work as a realtor, but it's a doomed effort from the start. She complains to Mark that their cabinet, rebuilt after a brutal fight in their kitchen, refuses to close fully—and when she tries to sell a house, the mailbox there refuses to close too. Her estranged husband's presence follows her, and it makes itself known when she sees a potential homebuyer degrade his wife, causing her to rightfully lashes out. It's a sad, well-paced, and moving story that doesn't overstay its welcome, and was probably my favorite part of the episode.

On the flip side is Eve, who tries to use her matter manipulation abilities to help the world, but only makes it worse when the structures she builds collapse with people inside. Eve has never had enough time devoted to her to make her struggles interesting, try as her origin special might've, and focusing on her already unlikable parents' financial troubles don't really help this at all.

There are new elements here too—a Martian (Ben Schwartz) tries to blend in and introduces himself to a superhero team as a shape-shifting hero. The universally mocked Lizard League's villainous leader returns, and dimension-hopping Angstrom Levy (Sterling K. Brown) visits an alternate, evil Mark and learns how to defeat him. None of it is bad, but with so much going on, it feels like the episode drags its feet a little. However, it's still Invincible, and is therefore still super well animated and very fun to watch. Nevertheless, knowing how good the show's third act storytelling tends to be, it makes me wish that it could be a little cleaner at the start, too.

This episode of Invincible is now available on Amazon Prime Video.

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Sam Layton

Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.