Invincible: The Superhero Genre’s Wake-Up Call in Four Ways
Invincible is one of the more intense superhero shows to be released recently. That’s to be expected, though, by the fact that it’s an Amazon Prime original series. This studio has also created the show The Boys and is evidently trying to corner the market on dark superhero media. Though through all of the intensity, this show is still very cerebral in the way that it challenges concepts of power, reverses the conventions of the superhero genre, and interrogates what it means to be “good.”
There Are No Formal Hero-Villain Factions
This isn’t a new trope, as oftentimes villains will come to heroes for an uneasy alliance to take down a bigger shared enemy. But rarely does it happen that a hero goes to a villain for their own personal gain. One of the subplots of this series follows a sentient robot’s decision to spring a pair of supervillains in prison (for attacking the White House) in order to make a mystery deal with them. This is further problematized by the fact that this robot is overseeing the training of all new superheroes that go into the field. It’s a huge enough plot point to cast doubt on all of the other moral alignments of all of the other characters we see onscreen. I won’t reveal the intentions behind this alliance or some of the other hero-villain partnerships but trust that it’s going to keep you watching the whole time.
Superpowers Aren’t Enough to Give Them Morals
Every superhero in this film has a different approach to the way that they use their superpowers. The central characters, Omni Man and Invincible have their fair share of personal shortcomings despite being the two most powerful beings on the planet. Omni Man is cold and distant from the people in his life, and really only has remaining personal relationships because of the very real possibility that he could bash their skulls in if they got on his bad side. And Invincible is probably the first superhero I’ve seen who is actually held accountable by his friends for ghosting them over text while he was out saving the world.
On the other hand, there’s the character Atom Eve, who isn’t satisfied with the work that she does to save the world from supervillain threats. A large part of her arc concerns the volunteer work she does outside of superheroing. And the fact that she is a teenage girl proposes a very interesting challenge to the conflation of young and naivete. She is driven by the desire to change the world, and she does both with and without her powers. It is a little bit heavy-handed in its messaging, but it feels good to see nonetheless.
There’s No Twist Villain
Oftentimes in a limited series superhero show, the whole season is a buildup to a final showdown with the main antagonist. The villain that Invincible will inevitably come up against is foreshadowed early on, the first episode early on, and it’s his dad. For context, his dad is the character Omni Man that was mentioned before as being the most powerful man on the planet. This is one of the plot points that makes the whole rest of the series so tense. Knowing the full range of Omni Man’s violent tendencies and his true nature outside of his role as Earth’s protector shifts the viewing experience of watching this show from a casual binge-watch to something equivalent to watching someone fall into a shark tank. It took years off of my life while I watched the show with bated breath to see Omni Man eventually strike.
The Final Scene
I’m not sure if this show will have a second season and that’s because of how the first one ends. It doesn’t reach a definitive conclusion, but it also doesn’t end on any big cliffhangers. Invincible is speaking with another character, and he’s asked “So what are you going to do now?” A montage plays the song “What I Wanna Do” giving an update on what some of the other characters are up to. Some are in prison, some have formed new alliances, some are in the lab researching new weapons, some are fighting on distant planets or spaceships, some are getting ready to go to class… and there’s a sense that he is at peace with that. He says earlier in the scene that becoming a superhero made him realize the breadth of the universe he exists in. He passes through to help people, but in the end, he can’t do anything to stop the world from turning. People will go on living after they’ve met him, sometimes completely unaffected by him. And there’s a sense of peace with that. So he says “I’m gonna finish high school.”