NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Invincible” are present in this review

 

 

Invincible really felt like it was finding its groove by the end of its third episode, delivering a balanced selection of over-the-top violence, family drama and superhero satire that all blended together into a potent slice of adult animation for Amazon Prime Video. Despite that though, the series unfortunately backslid with the official move to its weekly episode format this week, with Invincible’s fourth episode once again struggling to find its tone, and piece together its narrative in a fully satisfying way. “Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out” still manages to have some solid fun with Mark’s first independent superhero mission, but the rest of the storytelling is too sluggish and messy to fully satisfy, unfortunately leaving Invincible to suffer through a bit of a stumble with its fourth episode, one that can hopefully be remedied next week.

This latest episode of Invincible appears to want to flex the show’s sense of humour most of all, which it primarily directs towards Mark, from two separate angles. The first is Mark debating whether to tell Amber his secret identity, something that Eve cautions will require a ton of intimacy and devotion, because there’s no going back once you do it. Mark’s and Amber’s first date to an international food market is pretty cute too, and seems to be the perfect springboard for Mark to finally confide the truth in Amber… But then he just doesn’t. In fact, it seems like there’s a couple of times in this episode where Mark is finally ready to tell Amber that he’s the new superhero in town, and yet it never happens. I get that it’s supposed to be a joke, but this joke gets strained pretty quickly, and the storytelling can’t find anything useful to do with it beyond wasting the viewer’s time with false tension.

At least the other humourous element behind this episode works better, wherein Mark volunteers to covertly supervise the first manned mission to Mars by a quartet of NASA astronauts. Cecil originally wants Nolan to go, as a cover for the GDA to investigate him in relation to the murders of the former Guardians of the Globe, but when Nolan adamantly refuses, Mark volunteers in his stead, even if it means taking two weeks off of school. Oh, but don’t worry, that issue doesn’t go anywhere either, because Mark isn’t ultimately gone long enough for anyone to truly notice. On the bright side though, the comedy behind this episode is definitely at its best throughout Mark’s mission to Mars, particularly in regards to its darkly hilarious payoff.

Predictably, Mark quickly ends up in over his head while trying to secretly look after the astronauts, making a series of silly mistakes right from the beginning even! After the astronauts appear to have been abducted by Martians however, Mark breaks cover and races to their aid, only to discover them alive and well in the Martian Emperor’s chambers. Apparently though, the Martians want to nonetheless execute the astronauts due to their risk of coming into contact with an aggressive alien species that could possess them, one that only needs one human host to conquer Mars. Mark responds to this by racing the astronauts out and helping them get away, and sure enough, one of the astronauts is infected. As Earth celebrates all four astronauts returning home safely, Mars thus drowns in a literal wave of alien invaders! I must admit, I did really enjoy how effectively this episode played with viewer expectations surrounding Mark’s mission, finding unexpected and amusing ways to keep exacerbating Mark’s issues, while ironically making him oblivious to the horrific consequences of his biggest rescue effort yet!

Outside of this humourous core plot with Mark, Nolan and Debbie also got a lot of focus in this episode, as well as a more dramatic tone. Once again, Invincible’s tone gets wonky here, but at least we do get more welcome insight into the relationship history behind Nolan and Debbie, which is also contrasted well with Debbie’s growing suspicion about Nolan’s potential involvement in the Guardians of the Globe killings. The two go on a romantic date and spend quality time together, reminiscing about their former history, but as Debbie points out, Nolan has been acting strangely ever since Mark manifested his superpowers. Nolan even goes as far as to ignore a dragon attack because he’s, “On vacation”, which is both a nice callback to Invincible’s first episode, and a great way to cement that something really is off with Nolan, especially when he actually trusts Cecil to take care of the dragon for him. Since when does Nolan let someone else hog the glory of a big save?

Not helping matters is the continued snooping of Damien Darkblood, which, unfortunately, marks the weakest subplot in this episode, even beating out the pointlessness of most of the Amber storyline. This is because this episode’s narrative can’t really find a cohesive or satisfying way to tie Darkblood’s investigation into ongoing events. Instead, Darkblood’s snooping eventually provokes the GDA, who lead him into their office, and then… Send him back to Hell? Okay, while this is a shocking turn for sure, it also renders all of Darkblood’s activity in this episode entirely pointless in the end! Not only is Darkblood now stuck in Hell for the time being (even if this episode’s epilogue does hint that he won’t be stuck there for long), but this entire subplot’s payoff doesn’t tell viewers anything that they likely didn’t already know; Cecil is shady as hell, and he’s obviously covering for Omni-Man for some reason. Even Cecil’s betrayal of Darkblood didn’t really add anything new to the story, beyond creating an investigation roadblock that doesn’t even feel like it will be a roadblock for very long.

Thus, Invincible unfortunately sputters with its subplots this week, leaving the series without some of the standout excitement that it had begun to build by its third episode. Even Robot’s latest shady act, stealing blood from Rex Splode in order to build what appears to be some kind of clone (on this note, the surviving Mauler Twin also rebuilds a clone in this episode, and does nothing else), doesn’t mesh with the rest of the storytelling at all. “Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out” is instead left to survive almost entirely on Mark’s eventful mission to Mars, with a bit of an assist from some of the Nolan/Debbie material. Outside of that though, Invincible unfortunately devolved into a bit of a mess this week, presenting a tone and narrative structure that felt like it was all over the map. Clearly, the series couldn’t maintain its former groove, and has once again gone back to trying to find steadier footing, something that becomes all the more crucial when you consider that Invincible’s debut season has now reached its halfway point.

Considering the mess that Mark left Mars in however, maybe that amusing storyline can come back into play next week. Hell, Omni-Man being necessary to protect Earth from yet another alien invasion, this one caused by his own son even, is probably going to make it harder for Cecil to reconcile what happened to the world’s murdered flagship superhero team.

Invincible 1.4: "Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out" Review
Invincible stumbles with a frustratingly messy, uneven episode this week, despite Mark undertaking an amusing mission to Mars.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Mark's frequently funny trip to Mars
  • Debbie fighting her suspicion toward her husband
  • Cute first date for Mark and Amber
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Too much false tension around Amber
  • Darkblood subplot is tedious and unrewarding
  • Narrative and tone get messy again
72%Overall Score
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