With the fourth episode of Invincible, the remixing of story ideas from the book continues to be the most compelling aspect — at least for a reader of the comic. Ideas come much sooner than expected, characters reveal their hands in unexpected ways, and Mark (Steven Yeun) continues to be chipper and forthright.
Okay, that’s definitely a holdover from the book, but it interesting to see that side of him in the Yeun’s performance. Sure, we get a little bit of the snark, but seeing him in this more four-square mode adds to the tension as your know this sweetness, for lack of a better word, will be broken once we get to the betrayal.
(Spoilers for the episode and the comic book follow)
In terms of plot, we see Mark begin his relationship with Amber (Zazie Beetz) and face the trip to Mars far sooner than his comic book counterpart. Those choices are key as the show will likely leave Mark, Amber, and Eve (Gillian Jacobs) in high school for sometime. Although, it is easy to imagine a time jump ahead of Season 2 will see Mark making his way to college because the sense of weariness he feels at that point of his life is too juicy a story beat to drop. Also, it would be different if it plays out with a high-schooler.
More importantly, staying in high school — if that is what the series chooses to do — means the Amber storyline will play our more on the merits of the characters than the imposition of distance or Cecil (Walton Goggins). As we mentioned last week, we’re not too fond of Amber in the books. She is very much a cipher with a standard hero girlfriend design and, well, not much going on in terms of character. In fact, going back to the comic for a moment, we wish Future Eve hadn’t forced the wedge by revealing her feelings to Mark as, really, the dissolution of his relationship with Amber would’ve happened naturally in the next month or so.
Now, with the Amber we’ve seen in the show so far, there’s much more going on. First of all, the vocal performance of Beetz gives her an animus and a reason for viewers to appreciate her. Then we have the notion that she has causes. Sure, they’re kind of vague at the moment, but they point to a character with an interiority the comic book Amber lacked in most of her appearances. If the show does make their relationship last into college, we might even get an idea what she’s studying! But strengthening Amber as a character also has an important story function as it makes Mark’s growing attraction to Eve — if the show runs with that — more of a source of interior conflict for Mark. In terms of a dramatic presentation, Amber has to be cool enough for the viewer to buy he would continue to see her despite Eve’s (almost certainly correct) assessment that it’s tough to date normal people. She also needs to be a strong enough person that Mark would want to save what they have in the face of very convenient outs, the distance of their respective colleges, and his time commitments to being a hero.
And, for the moment, we think the show has made Amber, at the very least, more appealing.
In terms of successful remixes, we think Debbie (Sandra Oh) has also benefited from a rethink of where the character is at this point in the story. She already knows she likes having reasons to be out of the house — something comic book Debbie fails to realize until her heavy drinking days — and she’s savvy enough to suspect Damien Darkblood (Clancy Brown) might be correct about Nolan (J.K. Simmons). Those things make us fear for what she’ll become in the wake of Nolan’s ultimate reveal. Alternatively, she may come away from it stronger and never hit the bottle, which would be a welcome, if stunning, surprise.
Finally, we’re glad to see Damien Darkblood getting such a spotlight at this point in the show. Equal parts Hellboy parody, Rorschach pastiche, and Jack Kirby homage, it’s cool to see him become more than a visual joke. Will he be vindicated? His “hurm” in Nolan’s closet suggests even the forces of Hell cannot stop him from getting this justice for the Guardians.
Also, we could listen to Brown intone “hurm” all day.
But, in terms of the big plot, it sure feels like the show is holding back a certain standoff until the end of the season. Which, in terms of pace, isn’t a bad place for it. That fight deserves to be a crescendo to the first block of episodes even if notions like Robot’s (Zachary Quinto) plan and the Sequids debut earlier than they did in the book. Of course, the reveal could easily happen next week. We can’t wait to find out.
Invincible streams Fridays on Amazon Prime Video.