Brief Thoughts On ‘Invincible’ Episode 5

by Erik Amaya

Few long-game jokes are as impressive as Invincible‘s Principal Winslow.

(Spoilers for the episode and the comic book follow)

Introduced as the chief administrator of Reginald VelJohnson High early in the pages of the Robert Kirkman comic, it now feels like the whole point of doing the sight gag was to get a point where the actual Reginald VelJohnson would play him. So bravo, Kirkman, you definitely win this round. Also, bravo to the animation team for bringing so much of VelJohnson to the character model in his scene this week. He’s so perfect even before he speaks with the only appropriate voice.

But it is interesting to see him introduced just as Mark (Steven Yeun) starts to feel the weight of his obligations pressing down on his shoulders. As we mentioned last week, Mark reacting to all-consuming duties of a superhero is one of our favorite things about the later parts of Invincible‘s early run. He hardly has time for Amber or his mother. He sees what it is doing to his relationships and yet, he cannot refuse a summons from Cecil (voiced by Walton Goggins in the animated series). In the book, these are tough things for a college student. And as we predicted, there is something sharper about that weight when it’s put on a high school kid. That may have something to do with the work put in to making Amber (Zazie Beetz) a stronger character last episode, though. Her growing dissatisfaction with Mark’s tardiness feels less like a plot mechanic and more like an actual concern from a character. Sure, we would’ve liked to have seen her explaining Mark’s absence to her folks, but the show isn’t ready to give her a complete point of view yet.

Note how the show is told from the perspectives of Mark, Debbie (Sandra Oh), Eve (Gillian Jacobs), Robot (Zachary Quinto) and, occasionally, Nolan (J.K. Simmons). Amber eventually gets that perspective in the comics — in fact, it becomes essential in order to make their break-up work — but it’s still early going here. And now that she and Eve have shared a bonding moment, we fully expect the program to cut away to Amber next week without any need for Mark or Eve to appear.

In fact, it is essential to make her a viewpoint character as it feels like she may serve a slightly different purpose in this series. Going back to the comics for a moment, Mark and Eve bond because they are, to a certain extent, isolated teens. But this week’s episode highlights a moment where Eve gets to know Amber — something the comic never really did either. Giving them a chance to be friends makes the romantic triangle (if there is one) a tougher conflict, but it also means Amber has a reason to stick around in the narrative as Eve’s friend. Or, y’know, possibly more as anything is possible in the animated Invincible.

That sense of unpredictability created actual tension after Battle Beast (Micheal Dorn) clobbered Mark in Machine Head’s (Jeffrey Donovan) office. Invincible is the sort of show that could kill off its lead character. Yeah, it’s unlikely, but the program contains the energy where completely upending the established comic book narrative is a possibility. We appreciate that as it also means Black Samson (Khary Payton) could be dead and Monster Girl (Grey Griffin) might look to Robot for a different reason.

The unpredictability also reshapes Titan’s (Mahershala Ali) takeover of Machine Head’s business. Now, it seems like he has an genuine altruistic aim. It remains to be seen how altruistic he will be in the face of larger syndicates, Isotope’s shadiness, or the need to protect his family, though. All that said, we absolutely love the way he was introduced. Superpowers sure feel like a mug’s game in the world of Invincible, and show is reflecting that theme from the comics in entertaining ways.

Invincible streams Fridays on Amazon Prime Video.

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