The following contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Invincible S1E6, “You Look Kinda Dead,” and the Invincible comic book.
The term “shocking conclusion” is almost a given when talking about an episode of Invincible, but even as someone that read the comic, the ending of S1E5 left me with my jaw dropped and immediately wanting more. Another pattern that is emerging is the consistently high quality of the episodes, and S1E6 delivered once again with a fantastic episode that seamlessly mixed humor, relationships, tension, and action in the show’s characteristic way.
The episode begins with a frat bro named Doug Cheston (voiced by Rick/Morty themselves, Justin Roiland) drunkenly hitting on a trio of sorority girls. This scene has a great subtle gag in it, as Doug goes to point to a building named after his father, but briefly forgets where it is. The camera briefly lingers on the empty space he’s pointing to before whipping over to the correct building. Just as the girls are leaving him behind, he is attacked from behind by a shadowy figure with a syringe. When he wakes up, he doesn’t quite realize the seriousness of his situation despite being strapped to a table in a dimly lit room with his apparent kidnapper waving a scalpel in his face. He begins to realize how much trouble he’s in once he stops talking long enough to look around and notice what look like half-human half-robot skeletons hanging from the ceiling. He also notices that the shadowy figure has already begun to work on him as well. The figure reassures Doug, telling him “Don’t worry about those prototypes. You’re going to be different. You’re going to be beautiful.”
The scene cuts to the Pentagon, where the aftermath of the Titan/Machine Head battle is on full display. Surgeons are frantically attempting to save the lives of the three injured superheroes: Invincible, Black Samson, and Monster Girl. When the doctors seem unsure of what to do to help Monster Girl due to her bizarre physiology, Robot steps in to take over. One positive development is that Black Samson’s powers appear to return while doctors attempt to defibrillate him.
As doctors operate on Mark, Nolan and Debbie arrive. As they watch the doctors from behind glass, Debbie lashes out at Nolan. The audience can’t hear what she’s saying, but it’s obvious that she at least partially blames Nolan for Mark getting injured. It’s a precursor to Debbie and Nolan’s confrontation later in the episode, when the tensions that have been building between them since S1E2 finally boil over. Mark doesn’t wake up for another six days. His family is by his side and informs him that Monster Girl and Black Samson are still unconscious. Eve is there too, having covered for him with Amber. Debbie tries to reassure Mark that the disastrous Machine Head battle wasn’t his fault…but it kind of was.
Meanwhile, Mark’s relationship with Amber is not going well. Eve’s intervention bought him one more chance, but as she says, she had essentially decided to dump him the night of the battle. Most of these issues would probably be resolved if he would tell her that he was Invincible, but for whatever reason, he still hasn’t told her. That said, Mark sees an opportunity to try to make amends by taking Amber on a weekend-long campus tour at Upstate University that William is planning.
It’s been a few episodes since we’ve seen William, and he really comes to the forefront after a couple episode absence. While William is interested in attending Upstate U, he’s actually excited because he’s going to get to see a boy named Rick (Jonathan Groff) that he hooked up with the previous summer. Despite being openly gay since S1E1 in the show, William didn’t come out until much later in the comic; he even briefly dated Eve early on. It’s a welcome change though, and many of his scenes in S1E6 work a lot better with us already knowing that he’s gay. This is William’s episode to shine. When he finds out that Mark is Invincible and then when Rick goes missing later in the episode, he is given several great comedic and dramatic moments. It was good to see William take center stage, even if only for an episode, after not having seen much of him to this point. William even gets a few punches in on Sinclair at the end of the episode.
During the tour, the crew is introduced to D.A. Sinclair (Ezra Miller), a Herbert West–Reanimator homage that—to the surprise of no one—ends up being the shadowy figure from the beginning of the episode that kidnapped Doug. Sinclair believes that “All human failings are simply engineering challenges crying out to be solved. We’re machines, and the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we’ll reach our true potential.” Sinclair’s attempt to “fix humanity’s weakness” is just as misguided—and disastrous—as Dr. Frankenstein and Herbert West’s attempts.
We get to see those results only a few moments later, when Doug—who has been turned into a mindless cyborg—escapes Sinclair’s lair and attacks the school. While no one uses the name in S1E6, the cyborg is our introduction to the Reanimen. Mark slips away to don his costume and fight Doug, after which William realizes Mark’s secret identity. Mark is able to tear off Doug’s helmet, and when he sees his reflection in a fountain and realizes what has been done to him, Doug impales himself on a giant sundial. Meanwhile, thinking that he abandoned her when she was in danger, Amber is enraged at Mark. While she doesn’t outright break up with him, their relationship is hanging on by a thread at best.
Like the reveal of William’s sexuality, much of the Reanimen story has been greatly condensed from the comic. The story unfolds in small bits over 25 issues between the first appearance of the Reanimen and D.A. Sinclair’s arrest, and William and Amber encounter them on separate occasions. Rick is missing for months in the comic, rather than a single night. As with other plotlines that have been condensed, it’s a welcome change. The writers certainly could have spread out the storyline over the course of a season, but this much more economical approach worked really well. It’s far from the last time we’ve seen the Reanimen, and very little outside of the main beats that happen in this episode was lost.
Debbie takes Nolan’s costume to Art to have him look at it. It isn’t particularly clear why Art has the technology he uses to examine it, but I’m sure that we can come up with some plausible headcanon. Maybe he needs to be able to work at a microscopic level to make the suits more durable and customizable to the heroes’ individual powers. Either way, it’s a minor qualm at worst that confirms to both Debbie and Art that Nolan killed the Guardians. It also sets up a wonderfully tense scene between Art and Nolan, the latter of whom arrives at the shop with beers after realizing that Debbie found the suit to try to find out what she was able to find out.
The audience is initially led to think that Nolan is going to confront him right away, but then he presents the beers to him. The scene begins cordially enough, with Nolan and Art drinking on the roof and reminiscing. The mood suddenly shifts, and it’s clear that the murders are at the back of Art’s mind. Nolan begins to intimidate Art, staring up at the night sky and saying “It’s funny how quickly things can fall apart. One day it seems like you have all the time in the world, and then the next, it’s gone.” I think that this line has at least some legitimate sentimentality in it, since things have started to change for Nolan since Mark got his powers, but there is still plenty of menace behind it too. Nolan tells Art that he just “wanted to swing by and make sure our partnership is still going strong” while he pops a bottle cap off the beer in a shot that is perfectly framed to make us think about him popping off Art’s head just as easily.
While running errands, Rick disappears off the street. William goes after him to make sure he’s okay. He tracks Rick into the sewer, where he’s also taken by the Reanimen back to Sinclair’s lair. Mark is able to track them both down, but is quickly overpowered by the Reanimen. During the fight, Mark rips off one of the Reanimen’s helmets, revealing Rick underneath. Luckily, William is able to break through to Rick, who helps Mark defeat Sinclair and the other Reanimen. When the Global Defense Agency arrives to take Sinclair away, Cecil is sickened but impressed by the Reanimen technology, noting that it’s “hard to believe they gave you [Mark] a run for your money like that.” A seed may have been planted in Cecil’s mind (it certainly was in the comics), since he has been on the lookout for safeguards against Nolan.
The main part of the episode ends with another fantastically tense scene. Nolan arrives home after his beers with Art. Debbie has been drinking wine and confronts Nolan about the murders. She tells him that she knows he committed them and wants to know why. When Nolan dismisses her concerns and says that they will talk about it the next day, Debbie throws the bottle at him and storms upstairs. Nolan angrily punches a hole in the wall before sitting down alone in the living room.
If there’s a single theme that could be pointed at for this episode, it’s decisions. After struggling to find her purpose after Rex cheated on her, Eve is inspired by Ambers’ service and decides to leave home and school to help people. She decides that instead of fighting super villains, she can help to end world hunger and prevent natural disasters. Additionally, Debbie decides to continue her investigation into Nolan’s costume, and by extension, his actions, even though she knows that she might not like what she finds out. Amber decides to give Mark one last chance, and Mark decides to commit to making things work with her. While they don’t make a decision in this episode, William, Mark, and Amber’s tour of Upstate University represents a big milestone in their lives, one where they’ll have to eventually make a decision about their respective futures: if they will go to college, where they’ll go if they do, and what they’ll do with their lives. All of these characters not only make big decisions, but there’s a level of commitment involved with them as well. In some instances it’s the commitment that comes with a relationship, while in others it’s a matter of seeing something through to the end.
As she leaves home, Eve has a dispute with her family. Through Eve, it’s easy to see what Mark’s relationship to his parents might be like if Nolan wasn’t a superhero and Debbie wasn’t as strong as she is. Like Nolan, Eve’s father pushes her to be the kind of superhero and person that he believes she should be. He even echoes Nolan’s words from S1E1: Nolan says that their lives may have been better off if Mark hadn’t gotten his powers, while Eve’s father says “the worst day of my life was when you got powers.” However, she doesn’t have Debbie to push back and provide her with the respect and support to make her own decisions. She still makes them, but without her family in her life.
The stinger for this episode raises a few interesting possibilities. It was set up by a brief scene between Robot and the Mauler Twins earlier in the episode. The Maulers pressed Robot for information: why he wanted to clone someone, whose DNA they’re cloning, and when they will get paid (I guess it wasn’t enough that Robot broke them out of prison). When he refuses, they decide to get some insurance. In the stinger, we see two teenagers digging up a grave. One of the teenagers happens to be Matt, the stepson of Jon Hamm’s Steve character, the White House security guard that opened up the first two episodes of the show. Matt and his unnamed friend are trying to get into Immortal’s grave after hearing they will get his powers by drinking out of his skull. Suddenly, the Mauler twins show up outside the grave.
The stinger is pulled from the comics with only a few updated lines, including the addition of Matt. In the comics, this apparently minor scene precipitates a major event that I’ve hinted at a few times in earlier articles. With the final quarter of the first season, this scene’s presence in the show almost certainly means that this event is going to happen soon, potentially starting by the end of S1E7. While it isn’t exactly a twist per se, it’s a status quo-shattering event that I’m excited to see play out in the show. And much like the end of the last episode, I’m already counting down the days until I get more Invincible!