Invincible Season 2 Part 2 Premiere: Robert Kirkman on Omni-Man Return

SPOILER ALERTThis interview contains spoilers for Season 2, Episode 5 of “Invincible,” now streaming on Prime Video.

Mark’s time to think is over: “Invincible” Season 2, Part 2 has just premiered. 

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The episode picked up right where Part 1’s finale left off, with Mark (played by Steven Yeun) left stranded on the planet Thraxa after Omni-Man’s (played by J.K. Simmons) capture by the Viltrumites.

Though the episode didn’t reveal Nolan/Omni-Man’s fate, we did get to see Mark step into his role as an older brother after the last episode’s bombshell revealed what Omni-Man had been up to since flying away from Earth — starting a new family on Thraxa and fathering a new son, Oliver.

Mark has spent the past two months helping to rebuild the planet, and after initial hesitation, decides to take Oliver back to Earth to be raised by him and his mother, Debbie (played by Sandra Oh). Mark, however, barely has time to catch up with his friends and girlfriend Amber (played by Zazie Beetz) — whose prolonged two-month absence has caused him to be placed on academic probation in college — before Earth is thrust into not one, but (as Rex Splode put it) “two world-shattering” events: from the Sequids’ invasion of the planet to the Lizard Legaue’s attack.

Zachary Quinto (Robot), Gillian Jacobs (Atom Eve), Jay Pharaoh (Bulletproof), Ben Schwartz (Shapesmith)
Zachary Quinto (Robot), Gillian Jacobs (Atom Eve), Jay Pharaoh (Bulletproof), Ben Schwartz (Shapesmith)

From there, the episode kicks into high gear, with twist after twist coming after every scene: from the episode-ending cliffhanger, which leaves vague the fates of Mark, Atom Eve and the rest of the Guardians of the Globe to the literal deaths of not one, but two characters — Dupli-Kate and Shrinking Ray — and a post-credits scene reminiscent of the pre-“Avengers” era of the MCU that sets up Allen the Alien (played by Seth Rogen) as a central character, key to taking down the Viltrumite empire.

With the back half of the season streaming weekly on Prime Video, fans have lots of action, blood and, yes, “Think, Mark” memes to look forward to.

Here, “Invincible” comic and television series co-creator Robert Kirkman chats with Variety about the premiere, and what fans can expect from these last three episodes.

There are not one but two “world-shattering events” in this episode. Why did you feel the need to cram so much into the premiere?

We like to make our episodes feel as eventful and impactful as possible. We also try to play with superhero tropes. And like Rex Splode says in the episode, “Come on, two big things happening at once? That never happens.” And if you read comics as long as I’ve read comics, it gives you this sense of, like, are the villains coordinating? Why is one guy attacking on this day and another attacking on this day? There’s never a time when two guys decide to attack on the same day. So we always try to do those things that we haven’t really seen and stuff that that we enjoy, and so it felt like a fun thing that we did in the comics, and then when it came to adapting it for the show, we just really lucked out that it ended up falling in this episode. It’s a really great way to kick off the back half of the season.

Melise (Dupli-Kate), Grey Griffin (Shrinking Ray), Ross Marquand (The Immortal), Jason Mantzoukas (Rex Splode), Jay Pharaoh (Bulletproof), Zachary Quinto (Robot), Khary Payton (Black Samson)
Melise (Dupli-Kate), Grey Griffin (Shrinking Ray), Ross Marquand (The Immortal), Jason Mantzoukas (Rex Splode), Jay Pharaoh (Bulletproof), Zachary Quinto (Robot), Khary Payton (Black Samson)

Shrinking Ray’s death parallels how it goes in the comics, but I think Dupli-Kate was unexpected. Why did you decide to kill her off? 

We want to make sure that these scenes have the weight and gravitas that we want them to have. The Lizard League is a villain that we have set up not to be taken seriously, and then you’ve got arguably the weakest, most slight street-level heroes in the Guardians of the Globe going up against this joke threat. The audience goes into that setup expecting a fun fight scene, but there’s not going to be anything of note or anything of weight that comes from this, especially when the A-Team is off in space battling the actual threat. Losing these characters in the way that we’re losing them is a good way to give the audience that sense that when you sit down to watch an episode of “Invincible,” you don’t know what’s going to happen; you can never anticipate where we’re going to go on this show. Or know what’s going to happen to these characters.

It was interesting because you almost pulled the trigger on Rex Splode, which would have been heartbreaking to fans — especially, I think, after the scene he shared with Atom Eve in this episode. How do you strike that balance of monitoring which characters are becoming fan favorites, and how does that factor into your decision to off them? 

You can only do dramatic things to characters if there’s drama around them; if you know enough about them to care about them, and if they’ve done enough to make you identify with them or see reflections of yourself in them. We’re experiencing these characters as we write them, the same way that the audience is experiencing these characters when we launch them. And so we’re, in a sense, kind of falling in love with them, learning to like them. We’re seeing the things emerge, where we’re like, “Oh, you know, look at Rex, he’s cool now; I like that guy. That guy’s got some heart,” and that makes us go, “This is great.” And so, I think we’re feeling it along with the audience, and that tells us that that fruit is ripe and ready to be plucked, and then we can kill them off.

Melise (Dupli-Kate), Jason Mantzoukas (Rex Splode)
Melise (Dupli-Kate), Jason Mantzoukas (Rex Splode)

Given the episode’s ending, can we expect Allen the Alien to take on a more prominent role in the series moving forward? 

Allen has always been a principal character of this series. One thing that sets “Invincible” apart when we have a quote-unquote “joke” character is that we do take them seriously. He’s a funny-looking character, and he’s making funny comments, but our joke characters can slide in and out of relevance as we move through the story, and that’s something that you will see with Allen. Anyone who’s read the comics knows he’s one of the most important characters in the life of the series. And so just because he’s light-hearted and fun and funny doesn’t mean that he’s not a central character in the overall narrative that’s going on.

Is Mark ever going to catch a break? You guys love putting him through the wringer. 

If he’s not getting tortured, there’s not a lot of interesting things going on. I get a lot of flack from fans for being brutal to the main characters in almost everything I do. I don’t know. I’m trying to keep things interesting. I certainly wouldn’t want to be Mark Grayson. But I also think it’s an accurate portrayal of what it would be like if you were a superhero at his power level and had the weight of the world on your shoulders. And that’s something that we’re really trying to explore this season. Omni-Man is no longer the protector of Earth, he is off the table, and so Mark has had to emerge as the second-best option at a time when he’s really just learning the ropes.

Trying to find that character’s breaking point, trying to push him to the point where it could completely change his personality, it could change his outlook on life — where he could decide he can’t do this anymore, like seeing what levels we can push him to and seeing if he rises to the occasion or crumbles under the pressure — I mean, that’s kind of the heart and soul of the show. So yeah, it’s always gonna be a rough time for ol’ Mark Grayson.

Andrew Rannells (William Clockwell), Steven Yeun (Mark Grayson)
Andrew Rannells (William Clockwell), Steven Yeun (Mark Grayson)

Can comics fans rest easy knowing they can predict how the story will unfold? 

I think anyone who feels comfortable — because they’ve read the comics, are familiar with the story and think they know what’s going to happen next — shouldn’t be. You’ll notice a huge difference in the way that we tell the same story when it comes to certain relationships and things; we may push things off much longer than we did in the comics or get to things a lot faster, and so you’ll never really be able to gauge like, “OK, well, are they going to do that relationship from the comics or are they skipping it or have they just not gotten to it yet?” The story will play out a certain way to people who are unfamiliar with the comics, but we’re trying to be very mindful of the fact that there is at least a significant portion of the audience that’s familiar with a complex, and we want to you know, make sure that we are never too predictable even for the hardcore fans.

You once shared that Debbie’s character was relatable because she was one of the few non-superpowered humans. Is her transition into a maternal role for Oliver part of that relatability? 

We’re in a really cool position because she’s played by Sandra Oh. We’re comfortable knowing that we can do almost anything with her character, and we can push her character far out of her comfort zone and take some chances with the character. There are a lot of things happening; she’s dealing with her relationship with Nolan Grayson, being presented with his child and being told, “Hey, you know, maybe you’re raising this one too.” It’s a unique story element you can only accomplish in superhero storytelling. And that’s the kind of thing that makes me fall in love with the genre all over again.

Steven Yeun (Mark Grayson), Sandra Oh (Debbie Grayson)
Steven Yeun (Mark Grayson), Sandra Oh (Debbie Grayson)

What can you tell us about Nolan’s character? He’s started another family, so has he softened up after Mark’s words to him back in Season 1, or is he still the same cold villain? 

What I’m hoping for is that when people rewatch this show, from the beginning, having watched Seasons 1 and 2 together and more seasons and beyond, they see a consistency in his character. Right now, you might see a softening; you might be like, “Well, this guy that trashed Earth and almost killed Mark seems to be a little bit more caring now.” But if you actually go back and watch those scenes, what’s happening in Season 1 is Nolan has this sense of duty, and he cannot bring himself to kill his son. So, the compassion we’re seeing in Season 2 is there in Season 1.

From the first episode, you can see the conflict within him, his struggle between his duty and his life on Earth. If you try to see things from his perspective and see how he’s raised and what society he’s from — eventually, as we get deeper and deeper into this story — you’ll learn more and more about the Viltrumites, and you might be like, these guys are messed up, but I guess it makes sense.

Can we expect to see Nolan/Omni-Man again this season? 

He’s a central part of the show, and his story is very important. I can’t conceive of going all the way through the end of Season 2 without at least seeing something of him. So, stay tuned…

What can you tease about Part 2 to get fans to watch? 

There’s so much yet to come in these final three episodes, and it’s a really, really dense season — there are a lot of characters that we haven’t seen yet who’ll be introduced in these next three episodes. And I’m really excited to get to the finale and for people to see where we’re going, what we’re doing, and how we’ll leave things in Season 2, knowing that Season 3 is on the horizon.

We’re going to be leaving things in a very interesting place as we wrap up the second season, for sure. And don’t forget we need to see what Angstrom is cooking up, and what’s in store for his character.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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