‘Invincible’ Season 2 Offers A Contemplative Look Into A Devastating Superhero World – Review
Invincible, the animated series adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s Image comic captured the attention of an audience eager for an adult look into a familiar superhero world. The show grew in popularity quickly as it reached a broad audience, many of whom had never heard of the comic but very much knew of the tropes it was riffing on.
The universe is a twisted perspective on what the DC Comics world could look like if certain canonical factors changed. Omni-Man is a nihilistic version of Superman, showcasing what could’ve happened if Krypton lived on and took on a General Zod view of universal domination. As enticing as this all seems, what engaged audiences was the grounded nature of the relationships that these superheroes developed. What would a super-powered teen look like? Should your powers only be used to stop “bad guys,” or can there be a more efficient use? Each character had a unique personality and raised real-world questions about this larger-than-life universe. Now, season two aims to take a step back from the insanity of Omni-Man’s brutal decimation of the human race to focus on the toll the tragedy of the Chicago massacre has taken on Mark and his mother, Deborah. Invincible season two takes significant steps forward in its storytelling but introduces an overused element that may hinder the heaviness felt in these first few episodes.
Season 2 opens up with Mark reeling from the trauma he faced in that ruthless battle with his father. Mark (Steven Yeun) had to overcome not only the emotional devastation of learning about his father’s deception and true fascist nature but also the callous murder of thousands of people. He is left in disarray, with nothing to do but help who he can when he can. However, the thought of turning out like his father proves to be more traumatic for Mark. Does he have the capacity to become a murderous conqueror? Is it his destiny to become his father? These questions torture Mark throughout his final days of high school. Mark’s desire to make up for Chicago leads him back to Cecil Stedman (Walton Goggins), the head of the Global Defense Agency, as he looks to fill these overwhelming thoughts with mindless missions that he enacts without question.
The other side of this trauma lies with his mother, who was married to Nolan/Omni-Man for 20 years, only to realize now that she was nothing more than a “pet” to him. Deborah (Sandra Oh) spirals into a depressive state, unable to find an outlet for escape. These contemplative looks into these primary characters already make season two stand out. Invincible prides itself in its stellar animation and detailed fight sequences, but the character development was always a strong suit. This character work gets even more in the spotlight, with four episodes showcasing the ebbs and flows of moving past a traumatic event. For Mark, his friends and his girlfriend help him along his journey of healing, but for Deborah, her pain and loneliness only increase as Mark goes off to college.
Another stand out of season two is the fantastic world-building. The Invincible season one finale briefly introduced us to Allen (Seth Rogan) and the Coalition of Planets, who were alerted that a Viltrumite was on Earth. We learn that this Coalition is more than aware of the dangers posed by a Viltrumite, having faced many of them in the past. This encounter is explored further with more information on the Coalition and its mission to stop Viltrum from conquering the universe. Season two beautifully balances this gradual world-building with enough mysteries and questions to pay off in the second half of the season.
Season 2 also introduces us to a new potential rival to Invincible, Angstrom Levy (Sterling K. Brown), a multi-dimensional traveler who sets in motion a twist in the story that sometimes feels overplayed. If there was one thing that Season 1 lacked, it was a more contemplative look into the weight of the actions of these heroes and villains; this season attempts to remedy that with more profound questions on the toll this life might take on you. Angstrom Levy ushers in a fun wrinkle yet slightly undermines the heavy lifting this season has been doing so far. Hopefully, the show keeps the energy that part one has established.
Invincible Season 2 unravels the overwhelming weight this world can have on a hero, from confronting horrifying massacres to taking on the responsibility of protecting the universe. It offers a much more reflective look into the devastation that trauma can have on an individual. How is healing achieved in an ever-changing, cruel, and bizarre world? These questions elevate season two into a more complete story. Although some elements recently introduced may seek to undermine some of these themes, the story offers plenty of moments and character interactions that feel rewarding after such a fast-paced and relentless first season. The second half of the season looks to have a promising pay-off after an excellent start.