The following contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Invincible, S1E8 “Where I Really Come From,” and the Invincible comic book.
It was obvious to everyone familiar with the comics that Mark’s fight with Nolan would be at least somewhat expanded from the comic; the way that time unfolds in comics, with the reader mentally filling in many of the in-between details, is different from television. Unsurprisingly, the fight consumes over half of the episode’s runtime. That said, Invincible S1E8, titled “Where I Really Come From,” was so much more than I personally ever could have imagined: more brutal, more devastating, more shocking, and more compelling. It feels like there’s so much that I should write about that is impossible to totally capture in a review; I haven’t said this for any other episode so far, but if you haven’t watched the episode yet, watch the episode right now!
The episode’s title has a double meaning: not only do we find out the truth about Nolan and his crimes, but Mark also finds out where he really comes from. Nolan says the line in the episode, but it could have been just as easily delivered by Mark at the burger joint later in the episode when he is talking to his friends. We get a preview of where the episode is going from the very opening shot, which holds on a still field of grass for five seconds before getting interrupted with blood raining from the sky and Immortal’s once again dismembered body hitting the ground. The camera pans back up to Mark and Nolan, and Nolan repeats that they need to talk. Mark is disoriented from the shock of seeing his father kill Immortal and attacks him because he—like the Guardians in S1E1—rationalizes Nolan’s behavior by thinking that someone is controlling him. Remember that Mark has no idea that anything is even wrong with his father—he shows up in S1E7 to fight the kaiju while thinking that they’re going to team up.
Nolan explains that no one is controlling him, and tells Mark the truth about Viltrum and why he did the things that he did. Just like in the comics, Nolan’s story mirrors the one that he first told Mark when Mark was young, including mimicking some of the shots from the original scene with a new, more violent context. Nolan reveals that the Viltrumites culled their population of members it deemed to be weak, halving their original population. They decided to expand their empire, but spread their forces too thinly. Nolan was sent to Earth to weaken the planet by himself so it would join the Viltrum Empire more easily when the time came. It’s something I hinted at in my S1E1 review: Viltrum’s already somewhat problematic cultural imperialism was actual imperialism the entire time.
Understandably, Mark doesn’t take this news very well. Nolan explains to him that he couldn’t tell Mark until he got his powers because he needed to make sure Mark would even get his powers. This admission recontextualizes another scene from S1E1, in which Nolan tells Debbie, “Mark got his powers so late, I wasn’t prepared for this. It changes things. I can’t help but think, maybe our lives would be better if he hadn’t gotten them at all.” Mark overheard them at the time, which made him think that Nolan didn’t believe in him. Instead, Mark getting his powers meant that Nolan had to begin to put his plans for Earth into motion.
Nolan also reveals to Mark that he will live to be almost impossibly old. This sets in motion a few important lines: one that sets off the violence of the rest of the episode, and one that ends it. After Nolan explains that everyone that Mark knows on Earth will die long before him, he tells Mark that while he does love Debbie, “she’s more like a pet” to him. It’s one of the more heartless lines in both the show and the comic, and it understandably sets Mark off. Later in the episode, he sets off Mark again by saying that Debbie’s life is worthless in the grand scheme of things as well.
Invincible S1E8 brings the central duality of the show—Mark the Viltrumite and Mark the human—to the forefront like few episodes before this. It’s notable that Nolan’s comments about Debbie are often what affect Mark the most: throughout the series, Debbie has represented the best of Mark’s humanity and conscience. Nolan wants Mark to reject his humanity outright, telling him that his DNA is so pure that he’s virtually full-blooded Viltrumite anyway. At one point he tells Mark, “this isn’t your world, it’s theirs,” despite it being the only world that Mark has ever known. At another, he says, “it’s right to pity them, Mark, wrong to value them over your own kind.” Mark, however, rightfully points out that without his powers, he would be another human for Nolan to conquer. Much of the rest of the episode—and the atrocities that Nolan commits in it—result from Nolan trying to force Mark to see humanity as frail and inferior like he does.
As I said earlier, what follows is one of the most brutal fights I’ve ever seen portrayed on television or in film. Nolan attacks some fighter jets that were sent to attack him by Cecil. Mark saves one of the pilots after his chute malfunctions, but just when it looks like he’s safe, Nolan shows up and personally murders the pilot. Despite his perfunctory reluctance and insistence that it’s Mark that’s making him do the things he’s doing, there is the slightest hint that Nolan is reveling this chance to unleash: after killing the pilot, he goes out of his way to attack the other fighter jet. Mark stops that attack, but the result is even more calamitous, with Nolan punching Mark so hard that he is almost a projectile, uncontrollably barreling through downtown Chicago, collapsing buildings, overturning cars with people inside them into pedestrians, and leaving a trail of destruction.
Even though he’s in the fight of his life, Mark still tries his best to help people, largely unsuccessfully. Most horrifically, Nolan holds Mark in front of an approaching subway train as he protests that he has to save injured and endangered people, using Mark to split the train and kill everyone onboard. Mark is conscious the entire time that he is essentially being used as a weapon to kill the people on the train, and is forced to witness himself tearing through the bodies of innocent victims. The fighter jets, the scenes in downtown Chicago, and the subway are all almost entirely original to the show, so they were even terrifying to comic readers.
The fight ends at about the only place it could end: on top of a mountain. It’s unclear if it’s Mt. Everest, where Mark and Nolan had a heart-to-heart in S1E4 and Nolan rehearsed what he was going to tell Mark in S1E7 , but the setting is more symbolically important than it is literally. Nolan tells Mark that he only has two options: join him or die for the humans, and that he “can always start again, make another kid.” As Nolan beats him, there is a match cut to a baseball bat hitting a ball, beginning a flashback to when Mark was young. In the flashback, Debbie and Nolan are watching a Little League baseball game that Mark is in. Nolan is frustrated with the frivolity of the event, until Debbie convinces him to really start watching Mark play. The joy that Nolan gets from watching Mark score a home run teaches him something about humanity and his love for his son. The scene ends with another match cut, taking the viewer from Mark’s young happy face to his bloody and bruised one.
Nolan stops punching Mark after the flashback, but even though he can’t finish Mark off, he still can’t come to terms with what he is doing. He still blames Mark for “making him” kill all of the people and nearly beating him to death. He chastises Mark for wasting his effort on a planet that he will live to see crumble. Finally, he asks Mark “What will you have after 500 years?” to which Mark manages to reply, “You dad, I’ll still have you.” It’s an incredible line that is straight from the comics, and it’s maybe even more heartbreaking here, as we’re able to audibly hear Mark struggling through his destroyed face to deliver the line. Nolan pauses, looks at the blood on his hands, and flies away into space in tears.
At one point while the fight was still happening, the Guardians of the Globe, who had been watching the whole time, leave their base to try to help people. This is much ado about nothing, but I initially thought that they were going to try to help Mark fight Omni-man, which briefly made me sure that I was going to get confirmation for one of my wilder theories: that one of the Guardians that dies at a different point in the comics would die during this fight. Sadly (for me, not for the character), nothing came from what would have been one of the best “called it” moments of my life. Eventually, they arrive back at their headquarters, exhausted from trying to save any survivors. Rex goes over to wash the last remaining blood from the walls, which Cecil had left as a reminder to be removed when they had earned it. Black Samson initially tries to stop Rex, saying they haven’t earned it, but when he sees how the rest of the group springs to Rex’s defense, he realizes they have each other’s backs and are finally truly a team.
The aftermath of the fight is hard on both Mark and Debbie. Both frequently get emotional throughout the remainder of the episode, although Mark seems to mostly deal with it quietly. Mark’s friends—Amber, William, Eve, Art, and even Cecil—all take it hard too. Amber, William, and Eve don’t even know if Mark is alive for almost two weeks, which makes things hard for them.
When Mark is strong enough to get out of bed, he talks with Cecil about what happened. Cecil takes him to a room that looks like an all-white void, which he explains uses a special frequency of light that is blocked by a chemical in the drinking water. He asks Mark if he can replace his father as Earth’s protector, and Mark says he isn’t ready yet so soon after his life was turned upside down. At the very least, Cecil is able to set them up with a cover story to preserve their identities, juice the sales of books written by Nolan as a day job, and cover Debbie and Mark’s work and school. Amber also comes back to Mark, apparently having missed him enough after watching the coverage on the news to forgive him. When she asks him if he wants to talk about it, he says that he would, taking the first step toward really being more open with her .
S1E8 uses a lot more montage than in previous episodes. In one instance, it’s used to show the aftermath of Mark and Nolan’s fight: people reacting, the Guardians helping the people of Chicago, and Mark recovering. However, its primary use in this episode is to show the characters reflecting on the events that have transpired. There is a short montage near the end of the episode after Mark arrives back home for the first time. He sees a photo of his family from roughly the same age he was in the baseball game shown earlier in the episode. He thinks back to many of the events we’ve seen this season: getting his powers, telling his family, some of his fights. He tries to remember most of the good times, but as his dad’s words echo in his mind, he is drawn back to the suffering that came from the fight. The final straw is when Mark’s own words echo in his mind: when he told his dad he wanted to be just like him, juxtaposed images of his father beating him to a pulp. Needless to say, this is not the man Mark thought he wanted to be.
The final scene of the episode starts after Cecil calls Mark away. He tells him that they’re tracking someone coming from deep space, and while it’s never explicitly stated, he’s obviously worried that Nolan is coming back. Instead, we’re treated to another Allen the Alien scene! His bosses with the Coalition of Planets sent him back once they found out he was going to Earth due to its Viltrumite presence. Obviously, this doesn’t come as news to Mark, who sits down with Allen on the Moon in a scene that mimics their first meeting.
Mark’s story confuses Allen, since Viltrumites don’t behave like Nolan did, especially when it comes to abandoning their posts. Mark offers to help in any way that he can. At first, Mark’s return to superheroing felt a little rushed to me, but thinking back on it, I think it works. The threat of his dad potentially coming back, his talk with Allen, and learning that he could be on the right side of a much bigger fight gave him a new sense of purpose. While it isn’t explicitly stated, I think that the insights he’s gained through the strong female characters around him—his friendship with Eve and his relationship with Amber, both of whom have found different methods of service, along with his with his mom, who has served as his moral compass throughout the show—help him move on and accept his responsibilities as a superhero in ways that he doesn’t even realize.
Allen asks what he’s planning to do, causing Mark to pause. We’re treated to the final montage of the episode—and of the season—which sets up a bunch of plotlines that will almost certainly come back in future seasons: the Sequids overrunning Mars while attached to a stranded astronaut as a host; the Mauler Twins, who were arrested earlier in the episode, getting sent back to jail (but looking mischievous even while behind bars); the Flaxans planning another invasion; Doc Seismic cackling maniacally as lava monsters bow to him; a man with a mechanical jaw turning into a dragon in Titan’s office; Battle Beast attacking some aliens; and Cecil watching D.A. Sinclair construct an army of Reanimen. The scene then cuts back to Mark, who has been thinking during the montage. He finally responds to Allen’s question by saying, “Finish high school, I guess,” to which Allen replies, “Oh, alright good. Sounds good. What is high school?”
It’s a pretty perfect ending and would have worked even if the show wasn’t getting any additional seasons. It implies that there will still be plenty of adventures for Invincible, even if we aren’t able to watch them. However, it was announced the day that S1E8 came out that Invincible was renewed for a second and a third season! I don’t know that they’ll be able to repeat what they pulled off in this season—which was a nearly flawless season of television—but if Season 1 is any indication, the future seasons will be exciting, faithful, and yet still surprising adaptations that will endear themselves to comics and television fans alike.
 It isn’t explicitly stated that it’s where Nolan is in S1E7, but the framing of the shots and similarity of the scenes heavily implies it. I’m leaning towards the mountain in S1E8 being in the United States, though.
 That said, I found it pretty amusing that he suddenly left her, William, and Eve to do superhero things in their very next scene.