Invincible Season 2 Part 1 Is a Superb Start to an Action-Packed Return

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Invincible Season 2 Part 1 Is a Superb Start to an Action-Packed Return

We might be drowning in a wave of superhero media-related fatigue, but even in the midst of Hollywood trying to fold in on itself, there is a blood and guts-covered hand breaking the surface of the murky waters we’re constantly trying to escape. 

Prime Video’s Invincible Season 2 hits the ground running, picking up a few months after the aftermath of Omni-Man’s brutal beating of his own son and the partial destruction of Chicago. To say that no one is doing well would be an understatement. Mark (Steven Yeun) is constantly crushed by the guilt he feels over the thousands of deaths his father caused trying to defeat him, Debbie (Sandra Oh) has had her entire reality flipped on its head and run through a woodchipper, and the two of them are both trying to cope with the fact that Nolan Grayson’s (J.K. Simmons) entire identity was a lie.

The most prominent hallmarks of the series are the excessively violent and mind-bending action scenes, and they are just as gut-churning and bloody in the first half of Season 2 as they have always been. Invincible has always had the same level of realism in its on-screen gore as The Boys, but this series being animated makes it work better. If anything, Invincible being animated is its greatest strength. Seeing viscera in live-action leaves a feeling of disgust more than anything else, but there is something about animation—probably the fact that it’s two-dimensional and in no way trying to look real—that makes it easier to watch. There is the added benefit of there being no physical limitations either, and that leads to one of the most creative action sequences in the whole series so far in the final episode of the first half of the season.

Fortunately, Invincible is not just a vehicle for wild fight scenes and disemboweled friends and foes. The emotional arcs take center stage this season, and even with the internal darkness that everyone faces, none of their development weighs down the show. At its heart, Invincible is a coming-of-age story about Mark Grayson, and it’s one where he’s constantly in turmoil. Mark simply wants to have a purpose in life, and having powers allows him to find one in helping people. Unfortunately, his desire to be a good person—something he undoubtedly is—clashes with the fact that he only has his powers because his father is part of a genocidal, eugenics-driven, intergalactic empire that wants to destroy everything he has ever known and loved. At the same time, Mark is still just a teenager who wants to have as normal of life as he can have while still doing his best to save the world. He was unable to balance his civilian life and relationships in Season 1, but even with the pressure he puts on himself to make up for the atrocities his father committed against humanity, he still manages to make time for William, Eve (Gillian Jacobs), and Amber (Zazie Beetz), even if it isn’t as much as he would like.

Something very nice that comes with that development is that Amber is treated much more kindly. While some might say that her character faced an unprecedented amount of backlash from fans of the show when the last season aired, I think it is safe to say that the hatred was, in fact, precedented. There was plenty of chatter about how Amber was controlling, a hypocrite, or annoying and immature without turning a critical lens back around at Mark’s wishy-washy behavior and chronic flakiness. Female characters are often slammed for having reactions that are well within the realm of reason when they are treated poorly by men in all forms of media, and that outrage is exacerbated when you add the element of race. Amber is one of the multiple race-bent characters at the center of this series, but unlike the rest of them, she is the only Black female character who gets a regular slot in the spotlight. Ironically, the way Mark treats her in Season 1, specifically when he lies to her about his identity as Invincible, is similar to the way that Barry Allen treats Iris West in the first season of The Flash, and the backlash that Iris  faced for the eight seasons that followed took the same tone, drawing a parallel between these two Black female protagonists and the outsized backlash they have each faced. Luckily, the similarities between the pairs seem to stop there. Amber is on even footing the second she shows up this season, and if there’s one area of his life where Mark has it mostly together, it’s with her. 

One of the nicest surprises of the season is that the second large emotional arc goes to Debbie. Mark might be going through it, but he has easily accessible coping mechanisms—even if they aren’t healthy. Debbie is trapped in a phase of processing her entire life being a lie and she has no one else to turn to. She emotionally closes herself off from the world and, while she doesn’t completely shut out Mark, neither of them is in the place to drag the other out from the nightmare they’re living, and seeing her deal with her grief parallel to him makes for some incredible character-driven storytelling that we don’t get to see in a lot of superhero media.

The only true flaw of this season of Invincible is that it’s split into two parts and is still only eight episodes long. Thankfully, each episode will actually get its time to shine due to its weekly release schedule, but the end of the fourth episode comes so quickly that the immediate thought is, “That’s it?” I hold a strong opinion that no season of TV should be shorter than eight episodes, and that a story will undoubtedly suffer without enough time for everything to fall into place naturally. To be clear about Invincible, the writing itself doesn’t suffer because of the season being split down the middle, but the way the audience experiences the pacing of the season at large absolutely will. 

By the time of its conclusion sometime in 2024, it is unlikely that this season of Invincible will be regarded as anything but great, but the viewing experience is something that plays into how we think about what we watch, and the ending that serves as the finale for Part 1 of Season 2 doesn’t feel like a finale or a midseason finale in any way. In the long run, that is probably for the best, but for now? The back half of this season deserved to be released hand in hand with the amazing opening four episodes. 

Invincible Season 2 Part 1 premieres November 3rd on Prime Video. 

Kathryn Porter is a freelance writer who will talk endlessly about anything entertainment given the chance. You can find her @kaechops on Twitter.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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