Invincible Season 2 Episode 1 review: Bloody brilliant
Invincible Season 2 Episode 1 is a gruesome, thundering tonic to the MCU’s hollow programming, and a superb reintroduction to one of the best shows on TV.
Invincible flew into our lives as a bit of an oddity; its opening episode, while charming, felt like a Pokemon-hued pastiche of other superhero stories – particularly the Justice League, with the Guardians of the Globe a blatant nod to DC’s team of icons.
It was the perfect disarmament; a sunny aperitif that set up the jaw-dropping climax of its pilot, with Omni-Man ripping his way through the world’s heroes in extraordinarily brutal fashion. This set the tone for the rest of the series, and while The Boys plays out as parody, Invincible’s winks to broader superhero culture aren’t the appeal here – this is a provocative, compulsively watchable story that upends expectations on its own devastating terms.
After an extraordinary closer to its freshman chapter, Season 2’s first episode doesn’t drop the ball – welcome back, Invincible. Spoilers to follow…
Invincible Season 2 opens Episode 1 with a real nightmare
Episode 1 begins with the hallmarks of a dream: stars fill the night sky, and its still clouds are punctured by a scrap between Invincible and Immortal. “I’ve been hit harder before,” Mark tells him, and Immortal says he’s just as arrogant as his father. The mere mention of Omni-Man seems to summon his appearance, and he makes light work of his former teammate, ripping off his arms and head before his corpse falls to the ground. “Immortal your way out of that,” Omni-Man quips.
Given Omni-Man’s reveal in Season 1 (that Viltrum sent him to prepare Earth for conquest, something Mark couldn’t abide) this certainly seems like a nightmare, especially when Mark seems to agree with his dad. “The Immortal lived for thousands of years. I thought he’d see the truth… like you did,” Omni-Man says, as the backdrop of a charred city is revealed beneath them, not unlike the desert of the real in The Matrix.
Buildings are battered and blazing, and the city’s residents are forced to listen to a recording of Mark over and over again. “You’re gonna be a part of the Viltrum Empire,” he says, promising the eradication of cancer, world hunger, and the guarantee of eventual peace. “The more you resist, the worse it gets.”
It quickly becomes clear this isn’t a dream – it’s really happening, albeit it’s clearly in a parallel universe. Angstrom Levy retreats from the surface to a bunker, where Atom Eve, Robot, and other heroes are hiding from Omni-Man and Invincible. Levy is convinced his newly-equipped “null energy” will make Omni-Man “have a bad day”, but when the father-son titans smash through the bunker, they brush off all of their defenses. “Someday, you too will die,” Robot tells Omni-Man, as the liquid from his incubator spills out into a puddle of blood. “Sure… but you should of died at birth,” the villain replies.
While Omni-Man deals with everyone else, Mark pursues Eve. “You and your stupid resistance have made us kill thousands of innocent people,” he tells her, but she refuses to back down. He doesn’t kill her – he grabs her neck and breaks it so precisely that it paralyzes her; that way he can keep her alive and visit her in a vegetated state. “Ah, so that’s what you were practicing on the protesters last week,” Omni-Man says with pitch-perfect gallows humor.
Omni-Man tells everyone in the bunker that they’ve doomed themselves to death by joining the resistance. “Justice will come to you,” Levy says, before disappearing through a portal in the ground. Neither Omni-Man nor Mark could care less. “Let’s finish this off, I’m starving,” his dad says.
Mark is disillusioned and angry in Invincible Season 2
We shift back to our reality, where Mark flies around Chicago in a haze of grief and anger to the tune of Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police’. He’s a friendly neighborhood hero, catching cop cars as they’re hurled through the air by street-level foes and duking it out with vastly inferior baddies – but while the lights may be on, nobody’s at home.
“We all remember that day: when titans touched down in Chicago,” a newsreader says, as the city tries to recover from the mass casualties and destruction of the Season 1 finale. But normality is resuming, and Mark and his mother Debbie are ready to return to school and work. “I think we’re both dying to get out of this house,” she tells him as they set off.
When Mark arrives at school, he’s pounced on by Todd… with a hug. “I’m sorry your dad got exploded,” he says, and as the PTSD from his fight against Omni-Man rings in his head, Amber arrives to usher him away. Mark says everything’s okay, but Amber responds: “Yeah, it’s fine, but are you fine?” He confesses that he feels guilty about all the people who died during the brawl with his father. “You don’t owe anyone anything,” she says. “I’m not so sure,” he replies.
He meets Cecil at Burger Mart and asks to be put back in the game – but Cecil says no, stressing that he should focus on his grades, comforting his mother, and being a good boyfriend. “You went through an emotional tumble-dryer. I need to make sure your head stops spinning,” Cecil says, but Mark then lowers the tone. “I don’t need your permission to be a superhero,” Mark tells him, echoing the dangerous attitude of his father, but he then urges: “I’m not my dad.”
Elsewhere, the Guardians face off against The Giant, who’s slowly punching and kicking his way through a city street. Robot believes he has the mental capacity of an eight-year-old – illustrated by his random blurts of wanting to be president and an astronaut – but they don’t show him any mercy. After a brief struggle, they plant explosives on the ground and send him crashing into an underground car park. “Why are you so mean to me?” he cries as he falls down.
Later, Cecil gathers the Guardians – but he’s anything but impressed with their latest efforts, calling out their “ongoing repeated f*ck-ups of monumental proportions”, and that was “the nice way of saying it.” In light of Robot’s “sub-optimal leadership”, now afflicted by feelings of fear after transferring his mind into a clone of Rex (“Before, it was all a video game to you,” he’s told), Cecil puts Immortal in charge of the team and adds “more muscle”, including Bulletproof. “I do everything you wish you could,” he tells Rex and pokes fun at his “grade school” name.
The Mauler twins meet Angstrom Levy
The episode cuts to a GDA prison, where the Mauler twins are pestering a guard over their “garbage” food when portals appear in their cells. With little else to do, they both walk through it and find themselves in a barren version of Earth, and face to face with Angstrom Levy. “A tragedy,” he says when asked where they are. “But don’t worry, this isn’t your world.”
Levy explains that he was born with the ability to travel between every dimension in existence, and while Invincible and Omni-Man have teamed up in most of them, they’re also full of “Shakespeares we’ve never read, technologies beyond our understanding… all of our problems have been solved somewhere else.”
He sees himself as a modern-day Prometheus who could save thousands of lives with the limitless knowledge of other worlds, so this is his plan: with his supersized encoder, capable of reading, writing, and copying human minds, he could transfer the memories that belong to all of his alternate selves into his own head. In return for the Mauler twins’ help with prepping the device, he’ll send them to their own private dimension without any superheroes, with plenty of good food, and where the population sees them as gods.
Mark gets back in as Debbie feels alone
Debbie returns home after her first day back at work to find Olga, the widow of Red Rush, in her kitchen holding a knife. She’s not there to kill her (poison would be a more effective choice, she jokes) – she’s there to make her a stroganoff and offer a shoulder to cry on. Debbie is still reeling over Nolan describing her as a “pet” – for her, he’s as good as dead. The portrait she held of her husband was a facade.
“He was a bastard, the worst kind, but he’s gone now,” Olga says. “It’s like acid eating me away until I’m hollow,” Debbie explains, so Olga gives her a mysterious card with morse code on it, just as Mark arrives and goes to his room with barely a hello or goodbye. “You can’t help him until you help yourself,” Olga tells her.
Mark bumps into Eve at school the next day, and they head up to the roof. Eve gives him a rundown on “life in the woods” and how she’s been a little lonely, but Mark isn’t as forthcoming with his feelings. Eve prods him, and he reveals his biggest worry: “When I was a kid, I always wanted to be my dad. What if that happens, what if I become him… and I don’t even know it?”
Buoyed on by Eve’s faith in him, Mark flies to Cecil’s headquarters and demands to work for him, but he promises to follow every order he’s given. As (bad) luck would have it, Levy’s machine has just started to power up, so Cecil tasks Invincible with putting a stop to it. “Somebody get this kid an earpiece,” he says.
Angstrom Levy’s plan goes very wrong
With all of his alternate selves strapped into the encoder like a giant amusement park ride, Levy takes his “throne” and prepares to “ride the lightning.” As the currents of knowledge crackle into his head, creating a storm of memories around him, he screams in agonizing pain, but also shouts a scarily apt Walt Whitman quote: “I am large… and I contain multitudes.”
Invincible arrives and begins fighting the Mauler twins. Levy tries to convince Mark that it’s “for the greater good”, but he understandably writes that off as the rhetoric of plenty of villains – except, on this occasion, he was telling the truth. Levy then summons other versions of the Maulers to take down Invincible, who quickly beat him to a pulp. Levy begs them to stop, but they keep pummelling him. “I won’t build my utopia with blood,” Levy says as he pulls off the helmet, incinerating everyone in the building – the Maulers, all of the Levys – except Mark.
The Guardians arrive as Mark stares at the ruins of Levy’s machine, with plumes of smoke billowing into the sky and blood dripping from his hands. “No, no, no… not again,” he mutters to himself, but Rex quickly consoles him. “Everyone here did this to themselves, and whatever they were planning, you stopped it. This is what happens when you follow my orders. We did good today, do you understand me?” Cecil tells Mark, before asking him to go home and ordering the Immortal and co. to sweep the remains for survivors.
Mark finds his mother asleep in the kitchen with wine spilled over the counter. She hands him an envelope from a university, so he heads over to Amber’s so they can open their mail together. Amazingly, they both got in. “I guess I get to keep my superhero boyfriend after all,” she says.
Mark then walks home, but he’s confronted by the Immortal on the street. He offers to help him whenever he needs it, but Immortal doesn’t trust him after everything Omni-Man did. “Cecil thinks you’re on our side, I’m not so sure. I’ll be watching you,” he says as he flies away, leaving Mark alone under a lone street light, reminded of his monstrous lineage just as he found a moment of happiness.
The episode cuts to the credits, but there’s another scene to come: we return to the wreckage, where one of the Mauler twins emerges with half his body melted away. He finds Levy under the rubble, but he’s been horrifically transformed by the incident, with brains spilling out his head and down his back like Ahsoka’s montrals.
“He killed so many people I knew, people I loved… millions died because of him,” he says, but Mauler tells him his head is scrambled with other people’s memories. “They’re all my memories,” he screams while puking blood. “I need revenge, I need to make him pay, I won’t rest until I’ve killed,” he shrieks, cueing the red-and-black title card, with the added crack of a tremor.
Invincible Season 2 Episode 1 review score: 5/5
Invincible Season 2 Episode 1 is perfect; it’s just as exciting, violent, and engrossing as ever – and it introduces a ghastly, incredible villain.
Invincible Season 2 Episode 1 is available to stream on Prime Video now, which you can sign up for here.
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