Invincible’s second season picks up hot on the heels of Mark and Nolan’s brutal bonding session from season one’s finale. Omni-Man has fled Earth, which allows Mark some important distance from his father as he figures out who he is as a superhero and as a person without being in his dad’s pitch black shadow. Mark takes on new personal and professional challenges as he continues to grow as Invincible, all while he comes to terms with the greatest obstacle of them all: proving to himself and the world that he’s not his father.
Oh, and there’s also lots and lots and lots of bloody, superpowered fisticuffs.
Legacy and family are often big themes in any superhero narrative, yet they’re particularly poignant in Invincible. Invincible’s second season sees Mark perpetually question whether he’s destined to be his dad or determined to overthrow him. “You’re not your father, Mark,” becomes this season’s dominant message, but there are just as many moments when Mark hears this as a question rather than a statement. Mark’ Viltrumite status means he’s practically invulnerable. However, this season examines the true nature of strength and if it’s more than just brute power and actually a reflection of inner resolve and confidence. Invincible’s second season takes all of these ideas and turns them into a meditation on the importance of fear and why it’s sometimes a necessary motivator, but also an internal obstacle for many. It’s an excellent sophomore season of television that does everything that it should and will leave season one fans elated.
Mark feels like a totally different person than the teenager who’s introduced back in season one. It’s remarkable how naturally he’s grown into all of this in such a short period of time. Mark’s teenage adrenaline makes his body think that he’s ready for anything, but his brain slowly drip-feeds him PTSD, which sinks in its fangs and doesn’t let go. Omni-Man’s absence means that Mark’s relationship with his mother has never been more important. Invincible gives depth to not only Mark’s relationship with his mother, but also her newly shattered life following Nolan’s exit. He may be gone, but his words continue to haunt her. Some of this painful material holds the most weight in the season. And there’s Donald catharsis, too! Donald fans eat well this season!
Mark’s double life often feels like it’s under control until the fragility of it all sneaks up on him and the audience. Mark’s fallout with his father oddly earns him sympathy from his high school peers, rather than vilified or ostracized like he expected. It’s important for Mark to recognize that humanity and Earth’s population do have compassion and understanding when given the chance to prove it. This also allows Mark to properly enjoy some tried and true teenage traditions, like spring break, as he wrestles over what means more to him between an education in school or on the battlefield.
As much as Invincible is Mark’s series, its second season is just as much Angstrom Levy’s villainous origin story, right down to how the premiere is largely built around Levy’s narrative. Angstrom Levy (Sterling K. Brown) is a wild card from another universe who brings Invincible into the multiverse fray, but in a completely unique way. It’s refreshing, subversive, and exciting rather than tired and simplistic. Angstrom introduces the compelling idea that each universe has one unique element that differentiates it from the rest and Angstrom has hopped between worlds to solve their respective problems through the knowledge that he’s gained elsewhere.
Invincible uses the multiverse concept as a reinforcement of identity and the things that make us unique and who we are, which elegantly coincides with Mark’s identity crisis and where he and his father diverge. It stays true to Kirkman’s comics, but Angstrom and the multiverse’s introduction during this particular internal conflict raises such satisfying parallels that carry across the season. This cleverly continues as Mark finds himself taking on new versions of old heroes and villains whose children have taken up the mantle to keep their parent’s name alive. It’s the exact opposite dynamic of what Mark has cultivated with his father. Everywhere he goes there are thematic reminders of the cataclysmic events of season one’s finale.
Similarly, season two really builds upon the entire universe’s staunch hatred for the Viltrumites. Season one slowly highlights their horrors, but now they’re presented as a massive problem that others have tried to exterminate for centuries. Mark may be miserable over the situation with his dad, but their Viltrumite heritage–and future–is now far bigger than their personal problems. This is a galactic epidemic. Mark’s feud with his father resonates on a small-scale interpersonal level, but their disagreement could dismantle centuries of Viltrumite oppression and literally change the course of the future.
Changes are also happening on a smaller scale, but one that’s still exceedingly important when it comes to the Earth’s future. The Guardians of the Globe go through a facelift that pulls in several new heavyhitters to pick up the slack, including their new leader, The Immortal. This season gives the rest of the Globe members touching emotional arcs so these episodes don’t entirely revolve around Mark. In fact, some of the season’s strongest moments are ones where Mark and Omni-Man are nowhere to be seen and the rest of these heroes get to do their part and further flesh out the show’s world.
To that end, Invincible continues to be full of smart superhero deconstructions and farcical parodies that are pitch-perfect with their humor. Matt Berry’s Seance Dog is a particular highlight this season. Invincible also introduces plenty of incidental superhero mayhem that’s reminiscent of Silver Age stories like a cursed Shadowverse and ceremonial fish weddings. This all makes it easier for Invincible to indulge in even bolder stylistic experiments, like “This Missive, This Machination.”
“This Missive, This Machination” is an old-fashioned sci-fi serial story set on Planet Unopia that begins as a playful storytelling device and cutaway gag, but turns into a powerful piece of world-building and a cautionary tale for what’s to come this season. It’s one of the season’s best episodes. However, it does create an imbalance in the season when a quarter of the content is a side-story episode that largely ditches the core cast for the bulk of its duration. “This Missive, This Machination” is still crucial to the grander story, but one wonders if it might have played better if it was tweaked and treated like an extra “bonus” episode between Parts One and Two, like how the “Atom Eve Special” was previously handled. It’s a standout entry, but one that’s unfortunately slightly weakened through the shorter episode run.
There’s an incredibly tense conclusion to Part One of Invincible’s second season. Mark leaves his friends and family behind as he heads into heroic territory to save billions of lives on Planet Thraxa that may not be as clear-cut as Mark initially thought. There’s beautiful symmetry to how these four episodes conclude and the final moments of season one that reflect such a grand degree of foreshadowing and thematic storytelling that bode incredibly well for the rest of season two and beyond. Invincible knows exactly what it’s doing and has near-flawless source material to pull from.
Invincible’s visceral and brutal fight sequences became one of the show’s calling cards back in season one, which puts some difficult expectations on these new episodes when it comes to gratuitous carnage. The series is just as violent as ever with plenty of internal organs making appearances during passionate fight sequences. That being said, nothing trumps season one’s infamous subway scene and it does feel as if these sequences went a little harder in season one. There’s still no shortage of “What the fuck!” moments that make up each episode.
Invincible’s second season still showcases stunning battle choreography where characters hurdle through the sky. These new episodes have such creative and gratifying action sequences that continually find new ground and explore superpowers in fresh ways. There’s precise use of light and shadow that’s now on a whole other level. Invincible has never looked more gorgeous. Invincible never struggles to compliment these pristine visuals with some amazing needle drops. There’s a powerful action sequence that kicks off the season that’s set to Radiohead’s “Karma Police” and a melodramatic journey through space that’s scored to a cover of Leonard Cohen’s moody “Avalanche,” to name a few.
The increasingly-popular bifurcated release schedule that some streaming services have adopted can be frustrating. There’s likely a large sect of the fandom who would rather wait longer and get all eight episodes at once rather than four now and four later in 2024. Fortunately, the first four episodes of Invincible’s second season feel substantial and not like they’re just half of a story. These episodes conclude on a rewarding cliffhanger that would likely be a season finale in any other show. It’s such a powerful narrative note that once again irrevocably changes the series’ nature and scope, just like so many standout sequences in Invincible’s first season. There’s exceptional, snappy pacing across these four episodes and the 45-minute runtime never feels gratuitous or padded. It definitely feels worth it to have some Invincible now rather than nothing and there’s more than enough to chew on in these four episodes.
This short half-season is almost reminiscent of the piecemeal release approach that was followed by Kirkman’s original Invincible comic. These four episodes feel like several comic issues that go out on big cliffhangers that inspire audiences to patiently wait for the next issue. This smaller episode batch certainly makes for an easier binge and it’s hard to not just barrel through these four episodes. That being said, this season will likely work best when these four episodes are watched right before Part Two drops so that it’s all experienced as one big story.
Invincible moves at such breakneck pacing where bombshell revelations are par for the course that the entire nature of the show can change in a single episode. This means that it may be too soon to claim that Invincible’s second season is superior to its first, but that’s at least the case with these four episodes. Invincible has so much seismic ground work that’s now out of the way so that it’s free to play and get deeper into everything now that audiences know this show and its world a little better. It’s an excellent expansion to what was already an encouraging season one. Invincible is more ready than ever to push boundaries and defy expectations rather than spin its wheels with superhero soap operas.
Part One of Invincible’s second season is available to stream on Amazon Video on November 3rd