Invincible season 2 part 2 proves Prime Video is the unbeatable king of epic superhero shows

Atom Eve puts her hand on a smiling Mark Grayson's shoulder in Invincible season 2 part 2
Invincible season 2 part 2 is a truly unbeatable animated superhero series. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

After a four-month hiatus, Invincible season 2 is ready to bust some skulls and break our hearts once more. 

Compared to the three-year gap between the hit Prime Video show’s first two seasons, the enforced break between Invincible season 2 part 1 and its follow-up is a mere drop in the ocean. And yet, splitting its second season in two – a decision that co-showrunner Simon Racioppa said “wasn’t the original plan” – proved divisive among its loyal fanbase.

Like you, I was disappointed about having to wait for season 2’s last four episodes, but the delay didn’t affect how much I thoroughly enjoyed Invincible season 2 part 2. Yes, the unavoidable mini-season quality born from its mid-season break impacts its pacing, and there are a couple of creative choices that I found fault with. Nonetheless, the R-rated animated show’s latest installment is a superhumanly strong entry laced with tragic potency and pulsating storylines that maintains Invincible’s standing as one of the best Prime Video shows around.

Battling back from the brink 

A close up shot of a wounded and bandaged Mark Grayson on Thraxa in Invincible season 2 part 2

Battered, bruised, and broken... but alive. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Part 2 opens in the immediate aftermath of Invincible season 2 episode 4’s explosive, ominous ending. The severely injured Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) – aka the titular superhero – is stranded on Thraxa after the brutal beatdown he and his dad Nolan (J.K. Simmons), also known as Omni-Man, suffered at the hands of the Viltrum Empire. With his dad detained for betraying his Viltrumite brethren, his half-brother Oliver (Nolan and Andressa the Thraxan’s son) to look after, and seemingly no way to get back home, Mark has his work cut out.

Or he would, if his peaceful and accommodating Thraxan hosts didn’t provide him with a spaceship-shaped plot device so he can travel back to Earth with Oliver in tow. The first of a few convenient Macguffins in season 2 part 2, it’s a narrative device that doesn’t allow Mark to use his own smarts to get out of this specific intergalactic mess and subsequently grow as a character.

Invincible thrives as an impactful, character-driven series

Still, with Mark back on his homeworld, Invincible earnestly begins to make up for its seasonal intermission on Amazon’s primary streamer. Well, once we find out what every member of its ensemble cast has been doing in the interim. Season 2 episode 5 is very much a “now, where were we?” entry that catches us up on what Mark’s allies have been up to during his off-world adventures. It’s a slightly sluggish reintroduction to Invincible after its time away, which further underlines some fans’ view that separating season 2’s eight episodes was superfluous.

Eve, Mark, and some of the Guardians of the Globe on a space shuttle in Invincible season 2 part 2

Nothing can go wrong in space, right? (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Once its semi-onerous recap is complete, Invincible wastes no time reminding us why it’s such a fantastic series with a seemingly endless capability to emotionally stun you. Episode 5’s final 10 minutes, which sees Mark and the Guardians of the Globe divided up to stave off simultaneous attacks from the Sequids (remember them from season 1?) and the Lizard League, is an overwhelmingly barbaric sequence of events that knocked me for six. Sure, it’s a classic but trope-filled storytelling technique that plays into the clichéd notion of “united we stand, divided we fall''. However, even though I’ve read Invincible’s 144 comic book issues, seeing these events brought to life in brutal, adult animated fashion was as staggering as Nolan murdering the original Guardians line-up in Invincible’s very first episode.

The importance of this life-threatening twofold event is particularly telling in the character development that arises from its bloody fallout, especially where Invincible’s large supporting cast is concerned.

I wasn’t enthralled by the tonal imbalance of Mark and Angstrom's confrontation born from its multiversal elements

As I briefly noted in my Invincible season 2 part 1 review, Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas) is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the show’s wider examination of its ensemble cast, which continues in this season’s second half. From bravely leading the depleted Guardians’ last stand against the Lizard League – the aforementioned merciless battle, which he almost doesn’t walk away from – to the mature advice he gives Mark and Samantha Eve Wilkins (Gillian Jacobs), aka Atom Eve, Rex is arguably the most evolved character in the show. 

Rex Splode prepares to fire his prosthetic hand's in-built gun in Invincible season 2 part 2

Rex is arguably the most developed character in Invincible's TV adaptation. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Rex isn’t the only one who undergoes a personal transformation. The Immortal (Ross Marquand) embarks on an epiphanous journey in the wake of episode 5’s life-threatening events. Atom Eve continues to grapple with her place among her superpowered peers, while Rudy (Marquand) and Amanda/Monster Girl (Grey Griffin) struggle to navigate their burgeoning but fractious relationship. Elsewhere, an all-too-brief but intimate chat between Black Sansom (Khary Payton) and relative Guardians newcomer Bulletproof (Zandale Randolph), which tees up the latter’s forthcoming importance to Invincible’s wider narrative, is also a noteworthy inclusion.

Invincible thrives as an impactful, character-driven series, and its ability to switch between gore-laced action, heart-wrenching drama, and disarming humor – the Guardians revealing that they knew Shapesmith wasn’t human caught me off guard with their voice actors’ delightful deadpan delivery – continues to be one of its greatest assets.

If I have one gripe about season 2 part 2’s subplots, it’s that there’s a distinct lack of permanence regarding the demise of specific characters. Such instances may be revisions that Racioppa and Invincible’s original co-creator Robert Kirkman wanted to make to improve the source material. Even so, without spoiling anything for non-comic readers – that would be cruel –  the decision to abandon these martyrish moments removes some of Invincible’s renowned shock value and introduces a somewhat displeasing level of character immunity to proceedings.

Invincible by name, vulnerable by nature 

Mark and Debbie chat in the back garden of their family home in Invincible season 2 part 2

Mark and Debbie's relationship continues to ground Invincible's story amid its wider superhero and multiversal aspects. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

But this is Mark’s story, so Invincible season 2 part 2 can’t lose sight of its protagonist’s event-packed, symbolic boy-to-man journey.

It’s a good job, then, that it doesn’t. Sans his superpowered heritage, Mark’s entire arc in the comics and its TV namesake is intrinsically relatable. The show’s titular character is forced to navigate the mundane, everyday life stuff – which seem trivial amid the supervillains and wider multiverse problems he contends with – including his college studies, romantic relationship with Amber, and familial troubles.

There’s a distinct lack of permanence regarding the demise of specific characters

The last of those points – I’ll come back to the others later – is more of a meditative exercise than anything fatal (well, until part 2’s finale, which I’ll also circle back to). Mark’s reunion with Debbie (Sandra Oh) in episode 5 is endearing, while his introduction of Oliver to his mom isn’t as world-shattering, given the circumstances, as I expected. If nothing else, it demonstrates the clear maturation the pair have undergone since Nolan’s betrayal and proves they’re methodically moving on from Invincible season 1 finale’s soul-destroying events.

Amber and Mark smile at each other in Invincible season 2 part 2

Amber and Mark's relationship is on the rocks in season 2 part 2. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Predictably, Mark’s emotional turmoil and anguish are far from over. Indeed, episode 6 establishes that fault lines have formed in his and Amber’s romantic relationship, which will no doubt please viewers who haven’t been enamored with the latter throughout Invincible’s TV run. Objectively, Racioppa, Kirkman, and company have softened her abrasive persona, which makes her a more likable character in season 2. It’s a creative tweak that actually made me sympathize with them once the slow but inevitable march toward the death of their romance reached its end.

It’s the arrival of Anissa (Shantel Vansanten), one of Viltrum’s most powerful warriors and another significant character in Mark’s complete arc, in episode 7 that’s the catalyst for that breakdown. A variation on her comics’ introduction during a Mark-Debbie lunch sequence, Anissa quickly proves she’s another intimidating individual that Mark shouldn’t take lightly. Unlike her fellow Viltrumites, though, Anissa exhibits a moral, deep-thinking complexity that makes her a fascinating foil to Mark. Her utilitarian yet autocratic speech about humanity’s treatment of Earth – a topical but preachy take on similar genre fare seen in Avengers: Infinity War and Aquaman 2 – is a little on the nose, mind you.

Angstrom Levy holds a contained holding some glowing liquid in it in a dark room in Invincible season 2 part 2

The return of Angstrom Levy in season 2 part 2's finale is a make-or-break moment in Mark's superhero journey. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

The ensuing fight between Mark and Anissa, which further underlines how brutal Viltrumite-on-Viltrumite battles will be in the future, however, pales in comparison to the fraught, character-defining showdown between him and archnemesis Angstrom Levy (Sterling K. Brown). 

Mark’s entire arc in the comics and its TV namesake is intrinsically relatable

Apart from a brief appearance in episode 2’s post-credits scene, Levy has been conspicuously absent since his debut in Invincible season 2’s opening episode. Its final entry, though, positions the tragic, complex villain as an incredibly menacing foe whose sole aim is to psychologically manipulate and emotionally break Mark at any cost. Brown chews the scenery with captivating intent, portraying Angstrom’s own torment and guilt with devilish and piteous force. Yeun gives as good as he gets, too – Mark’s voice actor bringing increasing levels of pathos and dementedness as Angstrom mentally tortures him.

I wasn’t, however, enthralled by the tonal imbalance of their confrontation born from its multiversal elements. Yes, seeing Angstrom send Mark to myriad alternate dimensions brings some levity to proceedings. Indeed, fans of The Walking Dead, as well as those of certain DC and Marvel heroes, are sure to revel in such moments. Given the perilous nature of the situation Mark finds himself in, though, I was put off by Invincible leaning into absurd and/or light-hearted territory amid Mark and Angstrom’s melodramatic duel. I like Invincible’s approach to modulating its atmosphere on the fly, but it felt unwarranted here.

Allen smiles at Mark as he enters Mark's dormitory room in Invincible season 2 part 2

Allen's alive! (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

When their emotionally taut sparring reaches its climax, there are striking parallels between season 1 and 2’s finales. Not only does Mark and Angstrom’s physical bout play out as a beat-for-beat retread of its comic book counterpart, it also captures season 2’s overall theme – Mark’s desperate attempt to not become his father – with an unspoken rawness that speaks volumes. 

Some might consider it unfair to compare this season’s finale with its predecessor’s, given how emotionally explosive it was. But, there’s enough shock factor and intriguing narrative set-up, such as Nolan’s likely buddy-cop team-up with Allen – whose return was teased to me by Racioppa and then confirmed in Invincible season 2 part 2’s trailer – to be respectively stunned by and look forward to in Invincible’s already announced season 3 and beyond.

My verdict

Invincible season 2 part 2 might not exceed people’s expectations in the way that the show’s first season did, but I found it to be a near-perfect slice of superhero entertainment. A confident, largely faithful adaptation of its multi-tone, genre-spanning source material, it’s an entry that’ll delight its global fanbase and, its self-enforced hiatus and occasionally eye-rolling, played-for-laughs moments notwithstanding, prove it has the staying power to be a top-tier Prime Video show for years to come.

There are other highly anticipated superhero shows set to be released in 2024 – Marvel’s X-Men ‘97 and Agatha: Darkhold Diaries (Disney Plus), The Umbrella Academy season 4 (Netflix), and fellow Prime Video offering The Boys season 4 to name just four. Invincible season 2 part 2 has, in my eyes, thrown down the gauntlet to its genre siblings. They’ll all need to be at the top of their game if, even at this early stage of the year, they have any hope of knocking Invincible off its perch.

Invincible season 2 part 2 debuts on Prime Video on Thursday, March 14. New episodes air weekly until the finale on April 4.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

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