Season 1 Episode 4, “Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out”, raises the stakes to cosmic heights for Invincible.
As with the previous episodes, there are just as many punches thrown thwarting evil as there are scenes of engaging human drama. Almost everyone’s in conflict with one another about something, and while some of that tension is seemingly resolved, some of it is clearly laying the foundation for fisticuffs down the line.
We begin with a superhero training session between Nolan and Mark which continues to again escalate the stress between the two characters. Nolan’s ego is slowly becoming more prominent in his interactions with Mark, Debbie, and Cecil. The uncomfortable father-son dynamic is one of the most interesting aspects of this show so far, and while it doesn’t get as much focus here, seeds are still being planted for what I presume will be an emotional showdown later on.
Luckily though, Mark has a brief but impactful respite from his superhero duties when he goes on a successful carnival date with Amber, who embraces his awkwardness despite showing signs of frustration with him constantly ducking out all the time. Eve informs him that dating non-powered people is essentially a fool’s errand, but Mark persists he can make it work.
Invincible Goes Intergalactic
When Nolan refuses to go on a space mission to rescue endangered astronauts, Mark takes his place unaware it’s a 2-week commitment that will cause him to miss school and be away from Amber. He concocts a lie to explain his absence, which she begrudgingly accepts, and off to Mars he goes.
Back on Earth, Nolan and Debbie start to hash it out over Nolan’s extended superheroing creating an ever-widening rift in their marriage. For the first time in the series, Debbie stands up to her husband about his lack of communication with her since the emergence of Mark’s powers and the ongoing government investigation, to which he responds by taking her on a romantic date. However, the romantic mood is somewhat diluted when he refuses to stop a giant monster destroying the city right behind him to Debbie’s worry.
This episode quelled my uncertainty over whether Invincible could handle the balance of wider-ranging superhero action with grounded human drama. While previous episodes had been Earth-focused, this one provides some welcome and unexpected worldbuilding, without losing sight of the characters at its center. While it’s not rare for superhero properties to mine drama out of the day-to-day stresses when their leads are out of costume, Invincible has somehow managed to combine the expected (and often gory sci-fi spectacle) with an exploration of the strains being a superhero would have on people in the real world.
I also appreciate the show is an R-rated superhero drama series whose R-rating is earned not from juvenile humor, but rather from its mature violence and exploration of adult themes. Many of which aren’t ordinarily discussed in mainstream genre entries (let alone Western animation). Here’s hoping Invincible continues to soar as a grounded and thoughtful superhero drama whose greatest strength is its willingness to explore the dark, human side of superheroics.
Invincible is available to stream now on Amazon Prime. What did you think of “Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out”? Let us know what you think in the comment section below or over on our social media!