Invincible – Season 2 Episode 1 “A Lesson For Your Next Life” Recap & Review

A Lesson For Your Next Life

Season 1 Recap

Mark Grayson (Steven Yuen) inherits superpowers from his father, Nolan (J.K. Simmons) at age 17. Nolan, originally from the distant planet, Viltrum, immediately begins training Mark.

Nolan goes by Omni-Man, and Mark goes by Invincible. They fight crime, monsters, and more. However, Nolan refuses to be a part of the group of elite superheroes called The Guardians of the Globe. In fact, he murders all of them single-handedly. He keeps this from everyone, but his wife and Mark’s mother, Debbie (Sandra Oh), starts to suspect.

Mark joins a teen-hero group and meets many characters including Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs) and Robot (Zachary Quinto). The core group becomes the new Guardians of the Globe. Robot hatches a secret plot to transport his consciousness into the younger clone of a fellow Guardian named Rex. To do this, he employs the help of the villainous pair, The Mauler Twins.

Omni-Man is eventually found out by Cecil, the scarred leader of the Global Defense Agency (GDA) and by Debbie. He’s therefore forced to reveal to Mark that Viltrum’s true goal is to turn Earth and every other planet in the galaxy into part of the Viltrum Empire. Viltrumites are the strongest beings out there. They live thousands of years. They got this way by killing each other brutally for centuries, breeding out weakness. It’s their goal to do this to Earth. Mark tries to stop his father and is beaten to within an inch of his life before Nolan leaves Earth.

Allen the Alien (Seth Rogan) reveals to Mark that there’s a galactic federation of planets that essentially live in fear of the Viltrum Empire and that Mark may be a kind of last hope.

The season of this star-studded show ended with the promise of more. And now we have Season 2!


“A Lesson for Your Next Life” Recap

Episode 1 of Season 2 of Invincible begins with a blazing fight between Mark (Invincible) and Immortal. Omni-man (Nolan) joins in and quickly makes mincemeat of Immortal. Mark crushes his head to mist in his hands.

Mark has joined his Father in turning Earth into part of the Viltrum Empire. The city is an apocalyptic hellscape. Deep underground, Robot has helped build a sanctuary for the decimated, regular human population. However, he’s back in his deformed body. We’re introduced to Angstrom 646.

Mark and Omni-man bust in and take over. Angstrom escapes through a green portal. Mark paralyzes a ragged-looking Atom Eve. Cue a montage of Mark helping with various disasters set to Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police.’ It seems the world is not what it was at first. The world is moving on from the aftermath of Mark’s fight with his father in Chicago.

Mark and his mom, Debbie, try to resume their regular lives with Nolan gone (The GDA faked his death). The Mauler twins are back in prison, but they disappear- through green portals…

Angstrom can create portals between dimensions. He breaks the Mauler Twins out to get their help in a mysterious plot. Mark speaks to Amber about the guilt he feels over Chicago. She fails to dissuade him. Mark leaves school to speak with Cecil because he wants out of school and back into the action. Cecil sees Nolan’s anger in Mark and does not let him provide help that he desperately needs.

A world in peril

The new Guardians of the Globe subdue a giant with the mind of an 8-year-old. Robot, still getting used to being in his new body, struggles with the stakes of being physically present during fights. The Twins work to build a device for Angstrom. He reveals that in most universes, Mark and Nolan team up. He plans to access every alternate dimension. By doing so, he can be the Prometheus of the multiverse, helping whatever one universe lacks with knowledge from another, like the secret to curing cancer… and perhaps defeating Invincible and Omni-Man.

Debbie is struggling. Her husband slaughtered hundreds of innocent people, tried to kill their son, and referred to her as a pet. Cecil grills the Guardians for their lack of leadership. Because of this, he brings on Immortal and newcomer, Bulletproof. Robot struggles hard with his regression. Mark catches up with Eve, albeit with difficulty.

The Twins complete their trans-dimensional travel machine and speak tons of sci-fi jargon. Mark busts in to stop them. Angstrom summons variant Maulers to stave him off. In order to stop the Maulers from killing Mark and morally compromising his quest, Angstrom blows up the machine. Cecil and the Guardians assume Mark is responsible for the ‘victory.’

Mark comes home to his Mom passed out on the table. He rouses her for dinner. Mark and Amber discover that they got into the same college. Immortal comes to see Mark and tells him he’s not convinced Mark is “on the right side.” In the rubble of the explosion, a Mauler emerges. He finds a mutated Angstrom, whose mind and memories have been fused together. As a result, he’s crazed, and bent on revenge against… Invincible.


The Episode Review

Like season one as a whole, “A Lesson for Your Next Life” is an onslaught of Marvel-esque superhero stories. However, it’s a world that manages to unfurl its at times overdone plots and archetypes with deep and nuanced dialogue. Invincible carries an expertise and a seriousness that sets it apart from the slew of ‘theme park’ blockbusters. The show picks up right where it was dropped, and lands with grace.

The episode takes many opportunities to play with expectations. First, that Mark would be fighting Immortal, then, that Nolan returned… and they’re working together… uh oh. There’s another simple misdirect with Mark’s speech on repeat. Such a small thing carries a weight that lies heavy on the heart. Not only has Mark gone against what he nearly gave his life for, but what might’ve been a difficult speech is just propaganda on a screen.

Angstrom’s portal serves as clever foreshadowing. Multiple universes, dimensions, or whatever you want to call this many-worlds trend is quickly becoming overdone. But when done right, it’s emblematic of a new wave of social consciousness and expansive storytelling. Whether Invincible Season 2 is tired or trailblazing remains to be seen.

The initial jump between worlds is jarring. However, by the end of Mark’s savior montage, it’s clear. ‘Karma Police’ was an apropos if not simply incredible song choice for the montage. The use of flashback that coincided with the lyrics elevated Mark’s emotional struggle with his and his Father’s legacy. The dreamy yet dreary tone was all in sync. Radiohead is easily one of the best bands of the turn of the century, and their use in film and TV lends to their brilliance.

Name drop

When the plot points start to feel overly familiar, there’s always either a poignant dialogue exchange, a gorgeous piece of animation, or a funny joke to help you forget. That’s another way this episode plays with expectations: the title screen. Through season 1, the first time someone says invincible, they are cut off by the title screen. It’s a simple gimmick that oozes charm. When characters say Invincible, there’s a palpable pause before it comes out. Because of this, you’re left with an embarrassing amount of tension for nothing. The writers can grip an audience enough to mess with them. It’s impressive.

The return of characters that may seem rather tangential comes as a cheerful reunion to fans of the first season. Robot’s unexpected struggle with his new body is a welcome and strong direction to take. His motivation to make the change (his love for Monster Girl) was perfect to justify his actions, and the fact that it’s not happily ever after makes sense. Angstrom’s fall from grace feels like something out of a classic comic book. Robert Kirkman and the writers for the show are delivering a product that almost feels too good for its own sake.

Whether the common launch points of superhero stories are becoming played out is largely a matter of opinion, even if they are clearly identifiable. What is hard to dispute, though, is the sheer skill in every facet of this show. From the subtle changes in Mark’s eyes to show his trauma, to the song choices, to the voice acting, this is nothing less than a top-shelf show. Are you excited for more… Invincible?

 

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You can read our Season 2 Review of Invincible here!

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