Invincible Season 2 Episode 2 review: Bonkers & heartbreaking

Cameron Frew
Mark in Invincible Season 2 Episode 2Prime Video

Invincible Season 2 Episode 2 is the ultimate testament to the medium of animation: its unbound visuals allow for delightful, whacky set pieces, but it doesn’t inhibit the show’s consistent emotional welly.

Invincible’s nascency on TV is a definite asset right now. After the events of the bloody, traumatic first season, the world is very much its oyster (almost literally, in Episode 2): the cosmos and the terror of the Viltrumites loom over Earth, but those gigantic stakes are deftly juggled with Mark’s smaller-scale, friendly neighborhood superhero’ing and guilt.

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The premiere also let us peek into the multiverse, a concept worthy of a sigh in today’s deluge of toy-box stories… and it was chilling; our universe doesn’t know how lucky it has it, with Mark and Nolan’s partnership and conquest among the main defining traits of the majority of timelines.

After last week’s eek-worthy cliffhanger, Episode 2 smartly fleshes out Mark’s continued struggles as a hero under Cecil’s commands with monster-of-the-week-style battles, both of which are incredibly entertaining – and then it knocks the wind out of you when you least expect it.

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Invincible Season 2 Episode 2 begins with a graduation

Here’s the thing about Mark Grayson: he’s still a teenager. Cecil may be in his ear and ready to send him off into space, underground, or against any and all world-ending threats, but he’s got all of the woes of everyday life on his plate – including getting an education.

In the last episode, he got accepted into the same university as Amber, which means it’s time to graduate high school. While Amber, Eve, and William endure the beginning of the ceremony (including Principal Winslow’s rousing speech about “testing your limits”, finding out “how strong you truly are”, and distinctly un-Lincoln-y quotes), Mark is running late… thanks to the return of Doc Seismic, the lunatic villain who wanted to destroy Mount Rushmore.

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We last seen him falling into a pit of lava, but he somehow survived and has resurfaced to reclaim the Earth’s “stolen flesh” and seek vengeance for mankind’s crimes against terra firma – in other words, he’s raging buildings and structures like the Washington Monument being made of stone. “Isn’t that most buildings?” Mark quips, and Doc offers him anything that’s made of wood. “Everything else… we’re taking back,” he says, before launching into the air and firing shockwaves from his wrists.

He’s not alone: while underground, he amassed an army of magma knights (they look like mini-bosses from a lava planet in Super Mario Galaxy). While Mark fights them off (he falls into a pool of lava at one point, which begs the question of how durable he really is), Doc shatters the Washington Monument like Scratch from Ice Age, and it starts to sink into the ground. Invincible can’t get anywhere near him, deflecting in every strike by Doc’s wristbands, so he takes the route nobody would expect: he rockets up through the monument and out of the top, uppercutting the madman and saving the day… shame about the obelisk.

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Mark offers to pull it back out, but Cecil tells him to get lost, and before he’s too late, he makes it back to school in time to collect his high school diploma. Amber asks him where he’s been, and Mark describes Doc as a “case against higher education.” We also learn Mark’s full name: Markus Sebastian Grayson – one has to wonder if his middle name will play into a larger reveal.

Then comes the title cue: Winslow tells the students, “Be bold, be original, be…” before the red-and-black card reveals itself, cracked slightly with the original blue design underneath. What is this meant to indicate; that he’s just fought a bad guy who’s a maniacal seismologist, or that his colder, darker streak in the wake of his father’s disappearance is a facade that’ll inevitably crumble?

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Mark is always on call

Mark against Doc Seismic in Invincible Season 2 Episode 2Prime Video

Mark and his friends discuss how they’ll spend their summer before college. Amber says it’ll be “nothing but swimming pools and sleeping late”… except for all the time she’ll be working on Katie Giles’ state comptroller campaign. William wants to find a “trashy reality show and binge every episode twice.”

Amber sheepishly admits that she’s going to be working in and around Chicago to help with the reconstruction (Mark appreciates her tone); already, it’s impressive how the writers carefully weave in the fallout of the Omni-Man brawl – it’s like Metropolis in the SnyderVerse, only better. As for Mark, he’ll be working for Cecil – and that’s it. When his pals clink bottles, he refuses – so Eve makes him a Virgin Mai Thai.

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Elsewhere at the USSA, astronauts are debating how to tackle the sequid problem; remember, they’re the parasitic aliens that Mark made a narrow escape from in Season 1? One of them suggests sending Invincible back up there, but the other is reluctant to start an interplanetary war.

Meanwhile, one astronaut named Russ is acting rather… strangely. When asked for his input, he jolts and shifts in his seat, before retreating to the bathroom. When his boss comes in, he gets increasingly frantic and hysterical, pulling countless sheets of toilet paper and falling to the ground and begging for mercy for no reason. “Christ on a Christmas tree,” he reacts – he doesn’t want to kill him, but he does force him to take a leave of absence until he “gets his head on straight” (amusingly, as the boss walks out, Russ grabs his head to make sure).

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Later, we see Russ in his apartment, clutching onto an uncooked frozen pizza and munching away at the frosty dough. His landlord asks for rent, but he doesn’t seem to understand what she’s asking – and it’s not some play-dumb ploy, he actually seems clueless. As the TV plays a tribute to Martian Man, now a year after the original Guardians of the Globe were murdered by Omni-Man, Jefferson smiles… before returning to his normal form, that being of a Martian.

Atom Eve’s powers can’t help everyone

In downtown Chicago, Eve catches sight of a construction crew slowly fixing an apartment building blown to bits by Omni-Man and Mark. Within just a few moments, the job is finished – but not everyone’s happy. “How do I know that’s to code?” the workers’ boss moans, but a nearby parent backs up Eve, believing she’s a necessary force to “cut through the red tape” in the city.

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She doesn’t stop there. A small piece of land beside the building is an absolute state; rusty, dangerous debris scattered across a derelict patch of broken concrete and dead grass. In a couple of minutes, Eve transforms it into a beautiful community garden, complete with a ritzy water fountain and a play park for the local children. It’s a hard month’s work in the blink of an eye, and Eve seems satisfied – until she gets a call from her mother.

Her dad lost his job when his building was destroyed by Omni-Man, so he’s started working at Burger Mat. Her mother is worried money, but here’s the thing: Eve could fix that instantly, but they refuse to accept any help, especially if it comes via superpowers. She turns an apple into solid gold and urges them to sell it, but they throw it in the bin.

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Eve returns to her parents later and acknowledges that it must be difficult for her dad to accept what’s happened, as well as eating out of a hand that could so easily ruin his life. There’s a brief moment where his frown lowers to an expression bordering on agreeable, until Eve tells him to give up the “man of the house” schtick.

He loses his temper, but with good reason: crumpled in his clinched fist is the day’s newspaper, showing a report about the community park Eve built – and it’s not good news. The whole lot was uneven, so it collapses and nearly resulted in several deaths. “Your powers don’t make you a hero, they make you dangerous,” he barks at her.

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There’s a compelling arc here between Eve and her parents. It evokes the same internal crisis of Captain America: Civil War in the wake of Sokovia, but on a more intimate, effective scale; no good deed goes unpunished, after all.

Mark and Debbie are still “raw”

Mark and Debbie in Invincible Season 2 Episode 2Prime Video

Mark hasn’t done anything wrong, nor has his mother – but things aren’t right between them. As they both sip on coffee, haggard and reluctant to speak, Debbie complains about the amateurish job of the contractors Cecil hired to fix the house. Mark thinks they should be grateful for the help, but Debbie resents anyone with any connection to Omni-Man.

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She suggests they both take some time off and go on a dream vacation. “Think of it as a graduation present,” she says, warmly, but Mark’s initial excitement gives way to the burden of responsibility. His mom says it’s his “last summer of being a kid”, and when he says he’s an adult, she tells him that means he should be making his own decisions – but he’s happy to take Cecil’s lead, given what happened when his dad decided to go his own way.

“You’re a good person, nobody thinks you’re going to end up like your dad,” she says, believe it’ll comfort him when it should be unspoken. Mercifully, Cecil calls Mark for help, so he leaves Debbie at home alone.

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At Guardians HQ, Immortal continues to put the heroes through their paces – but Rex Splode can’t take it anymore. “F*ck your training,” he says, but the Immortal snaps back: “Maybe if you trained more and complained less we could get back to saving lives.”

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He goes for a shower, bloodied and bruised, and he hears Dupli-Kate. At first, he says he has some “booboos needing dupli-kisses” (yuck), but she storms out and tells him off for “inappropriate language in the workplace”, before the real twist of the nuts: she’s not only dating Immortal, but having sex with him at that very moment.

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Invincible goes to Midnight City

Mark is sent to Midnight City, a perpetually dark, crimson dome that’s a “virtual no man’s land since the Midnight Magician cursed in ’02… summer on the dark side of the moon.” Cecil’s heard reports of Darkwing in there, which is strange, given Omni-Man brutally killed him in Season 1.

It’s one of the coolest locations in the series, with skeletons hanging from smokestacks and the architecture evoking the shadowy, hand-drawn artistry of Gotham’s skyscrapers in Batman: The Animated Series. Mark finds a punk styled like Bill Paxton’s goonies in The Terminator crying for help on top of a building. “I am helping make sure scum like you never hurt another innocent person again,” this new Darkwing tells him.

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Invincible swoops in and stops him, before discovering that this is Darkwing’s “assistant” (they don’t use the term “sidekick” as it’s “degrading”) Night Boy, taking on the mantle of his master after his death – but it’s clear he’s lost his marbles. As Mark fills in Cecil, Darkwing II says: “You hear them too… the voices.”

He then refuses to cooperate, leaping in and out of smoky portals and managing to hold his own against Mark in a fistfight – but as Invincible says: “I said I felt that punch… I didn’t say it hurt.” Darkwing II then grabs Mark and flings him into the “Shadow-Verse”, a mysterious grey void that’s home to “dark things… hungry things.”

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“I hope you like it, because you’re never leaving. I’m saving the world from Omni-Man’s son,” he tells him, something that rubs Mark the wrong way. “Don’t call me that,” he says, and before Darkwing II can return to the real world, Mark grabs his arm and threatens to feed him to whatever monster is lurking in the darkness around them. Darkwing II thinks he’s bluffing, but Mark isn’t afraid to take drastic measures anymore. “You have no idea what I’m capable of,” he says.

Darkwing II eventually submits and takes them both back to Midnight City, before Mark knocks him out. Cecil tells him to come back to HQ and swiftly ends the call… because Debbie has just stormed in, and she has a bone to pick with her son’s new boss. She doesn’t want him to become an errand boy for Cecil after what happened to Nolan, but Cecil assures her that he’s easing him back in and looking out for him wherever he goes. “At least he follows orders,” he adds, quickly realizing the pain he inflicts with such a remark.

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He apologizes and urges that he’ll look after Mark, but she’s distracted and disturbed by an unlikely face: Donald, Cecil’s right-hand man who was seemingly killed by Omni-Man last season. Cecil ushers her out the door, leaving Donald incredibly confused in the lobby. “Wonder what that was about,” he mumbles to himself.

Mark goes to Paris (sort of) and Atlantis

Queen Aquaria in Invincible Season 2 Episode 2Prime Video

While Amber tries to garner support for her state comptroller candidate, Mark arrives to take her for a surprise lunch. “Local politics may not be as sexy, but that doesn’t mean you’re the only one saving the world,” she tells him, before they take to the skies. When they touch back down, he removes her blindfold: they’re at the top of the Eiffel Tower… in Las Vegas. “You only got an hour for lunch and I can’t fly you that fast without your skin ripping off,” he jokes.

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They’re only sitting for a few moments before Cecil calls on Mark again, but Amber gets it; she’s with a superhero, and this is part of the deal. “Go save the world, Invincible,” she says, and Mark gives her a kiss before flying her back home. It is incredibly refreshing to see a love interest not reduced to a moan-a-minute emotional hindrance for a hero like Invincible; she’s supportive of whatever he does because the fate of the planet always depends on it.

Mark meets Cecil on a rainy cliffside. He’s received reports that the Atlanteans are still a bit sore about Omni-Man killing Aquarus and then vanishing “like a fart in a hurricane”, and as per custom, the only way for Mark to atone for the late Guardian’s death in his father’s absence is marrying his widow. Meanwhile, Donald sends in the Guardians to deal with the Lizard League, where they meet “the Shapesmith”, aka Russ in a new superhero disguise. He’s swatted to the side while the others duke it out against the various villains.

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A ship emerges from the water to take Mark to the seafloor for an audience with Queen Aquaria (hilariously voiced by Tatiana Maslany). “Welcome son of thee who slayed by husband,” she says, before Mark implores her to reconsider the wedding – but it turns out the Atlanteans abolished that “barbaric custom” long ago, and Aquaria has no need for a king when she’s been ruling over Atlantis for decades.

So, what’s the new rule? “Trial by combat” against the Death-DDweller, she tells him, before a cute little seahorse-looking creature rears its head from a pit. However, much like the bright light dangling from an anglerfish’s head, it’s not that simple: this is the mere appendage of an enormous monster with crab claws and sharp teeth, and it starts battering Mark.

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Mark tells Cecil what’s happening, and GDA forces provide support by firing underwater rockets at the Death-Dweller. This accidentally frees its chain, and as Mark flies towards the surface, he sees the monster killing Atlanteans in the arena and smooshing them into fish paste. “I can’t leave them to die… all they wanted was justice for what my dad did,” he says, defying Cecil’s orders and returning to save the queen.

Mark powers up an almighty punch that cracks the Death-Dweller’s chest, before hitting it with a flurry of blows and throwing its remaining chained pillar back into the pit, dragging the creature down with it – but, in a clear nod to the Balrog in Lord of the Rings, it slings its squeaky tailpiece around Mark and pulls him into the abyss too.

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Thankfully, Mark not only survives, but Atlantis calls it even thanks to his bravery. Cecil tells Donald to transfer the recording of the Death-Dweller fight to the GDA’s research apartment, but Donald asks why Debbie seemed so “distressed” when she saw him. Cecil gives a polite, but dismissive answer, and as Donald walks away, he gives him a suspicious look – something incredibly strange is going on (we actually know the answer already, and you can find out here if you want to spoil it for yourself).

Debbie needs help

Debbie returns to work, but the universe is determined to ruin her day. First it’s the mailbox that won’t shut on the front lawn, and then it’s an abusive boyfriend who bosses his partner around and cuts her off anytime she speaks. “She’s not your pet,” she angrily whispers, and before it can escalate, her colleague tells her to take the rest of the day off.

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She goes home and pours herself a glass of wine – but that damn cupboard door still won’t shut. It’s the final straw: she slams it over, and over, and over, soon ripping it off its hinges before collapsing onto the tiled floor, surrounded by glass, wine, and tears. She sobs even harder when Mark walks in still in costume, blood dripping from his nose, cuts and tears still fresh.

How many times was Nolan confronted with this sight after a long mission? There’s a heart-aching parallel in this scene: even after being abandoned by her husband, her only comfort is in the arms of a superhero. When Mark kneels down, she places her hand against his chest – she’s hesitant to accept sympathy from her own son, and this tiny moment seems to hit Mark like a train. It’s a moment of extraordinary tenderness that’s quietly harrowing, in no small part to the brilliant voice performance of Sandra Oh.

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Before the episode ends, we see the Lizard League reconvening after their Guardians slap-down. “We will rise again any day now,” Supreme Lizard tells his adoring crowd, promising to ignore “what social media says” and revive the league. Suddenly, he’s shot in the head. “If anyone is going to turn this organization around, it’s going to be King Lizard,” the returning villain says, before the episode cuts to credits.

There’s a post-credits scene too, so make sure you stick around.

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Invincible Season 2 Episode 2 review score: 4/5

Invincible Season 2’s second episode verges on being overstuffed, eagerly hopscotching between boss fights, side characters, the somber through-line of the story – but each and every scene works, whether they’re funny, thrilling, or heart-wrenching.

Invincible Season 2 Episodes 1-2 are available to stream on Prime Video now, which you can sign up for here. Check out our other coverage below:

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About The Author

Cameron is Deputy TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He's an action movie aficionado, '80s obsessive, Oscars enthusiast, and a staunch Scot. He earned a First-Class Honours Degree in Multimedia Journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University, accredited by the NCTJ and BJTC. He began his career at UNILAD, starting as a Junior Journalist and becoming Entertainment Editor prior to joining Dexerto. You can contact him at cameron.frew@dexerto.com.