Invincible S1E4: “Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out”

Invincible and Omni-man stand at the top of Mount Everest. Omni-man looks heroic, Mark looks winded.

The following contains spoilers for the first three episodes of Invincible, S1E4, and the Invincible comic book.

S1E4 marks the first time that audiences had to wait for a new Invincible episode to release since the series began. The result, titled “Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out,” was certainly worth the wait. At this point in the series, the episode was probably the freshest to longtime fans of the comic, since it seemed like the episode that deviated from the comics the most at this point. 

The episode begins with another framing scene, but this time it is apparently subverted. A man resurrects and is subsequently possessed by an ancient mummy. Just as he is about to emerge from the tomb to be unleashed into the world, a dust storm roles in, causing a crane to drop a large slab that blocks the door. Cut to Mark and Nolan flying over the desert, with Mark kicking up the Mummy-esque dust storm that inadvertently stopped the mummy from escaping. I don’t think there’s necessarily any themes to parse from the mummy scene outside of comic relief, although it does set up Mark’s creative use of dust storms later in the episode.

The scenes that follow have the show’s trademark touch of goofiness, but also feature some of the more memorable moments between Mark and Nolan to this point. As they’re flying away from the dust cloud, Nolan tells Mark that he’s going to have to exercise his powers, much to Mark’s chagrin. He attempts to duplicate a flashy move that his father pulls off, but of course fails miserably. The pair race to Mt. Everest, which Nolan wins handily. They share some moments while standing at the summit of Everest, with Nolan remarking how he sometimes forgets how beautiful Earth is. The conversation progresses as Nolan tells Mark about Viltrum, his mission, and his family on Earth. Nolan’s mention of Mark’s grandparents—Nolan’s parents—and how he felt lost after they died is especially noteworthy, as I don’t remember them being discussed a single time in the comics. Nolan also tells Mark how Debbie changed his view of Earth from a job to a family. Mark says that he doesn’t know if he would have been able to leave everything behind like his father did.

Omni-man stands next to Invincible on the summit of Mount Everest.

The Everest scene says a lot about Nolan’s motivations and sets up decisions that he, and maybe someday Mark, will have to face. As we’ll see later in the episode, Nolan has been especially on edge since he murdered the Guardians of the Globe at the end of S1E1. The audience can really begin to glean why in this episode: he really does love Mark, Debbie, and the life he’s built on Earth. However, he always comes back to their duty as Viltrumites and heroes in each of his conversations he has with Mark. 

Meanwhile, Debbie’s suspicions of Nolan continue to grow. She asks the Red Rush’s widow, Olga, if Red Rush ever lied to her. She also searches for stories about Damien Darkblood in a private browser tab on her computer while Nolan is out of the house. At least part of Debbie’s worry can be attributed to her fear of losing Nolan, whether by getting killed or by being involved in the murders. Through Olga, Debbie begins to see what her life might have been, or what it might become, if Nolan was killed during a fight. Olga has become increasingly bitter since her husband’s death and has been drinking a lot more. She asks Debbie to sell her house in America for her, and Debbie has to go through and clean up after Olga leaves a mess. It’s a far cry from the happy couple in the wedding photos that Debbie is holding when she succeeds in selling the house, and Debbie knows that she was almost, and still could be, in the same place as Olga.

On a happier note, Mark and Amber go out on their first real date! We learn a lot about Amber in this scene, including that she spent time building schools in the Philippines. Her experiences gave her a much broader view of the world, which Mark unfortunately exploits later in S1E4 when he is planning to leave the planet for two weeks. But for right now, the date goes well, they agree to go out again, and end the night with their first kiss.

Mark and Amber walk down the street while on a date.

There are two consecutive scenes that are fairly minor to the episode’s plot but still have some nice touches that I wanted to highlight. In one, Nolan visits Damien Darkblood at his office. At this point, Damien is convinced that Nolan killed the Guardians, he’s just not able to prove it. He tells Nolan that Debbie already suspects him, and it’s just a matter of time before Mark does too. Nolan is floating a few inches off the ground during the whole scene, which is a totally unnecessary detail that I inexplicably love. In the subsequent scene, the surviving Mauler twin begins the process of cloning himself to make his brother. As part of the process, he uses a drill to extract his own blood—his skin is so tough that even the drill bit struggles to penetrate it, so presumably a syringe wouldn’t get through—and then dumps a box of frozen burger patties into a vat as part of the process. Neither scene happened in the comic, although the Mauler Twin scene is implied, and again, they don’t add that much to the plot of this particular episode, but they were enjoyably weird scenes.

Immediately after Mark arrives home from his date with Amber, the wheels are set in motion for the majority of the second half of the episode. Cecil wants Omni-man to accompany the first manned space mission to Mars (hence the episode title—“Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out”—poking fun at the Moon landing), to protect them from the Martians, and Nolan is firmly opposed to going. This scene has one of my favorite lines of the whole series to this point: Mark volunteers to go instead of Nolan, since he went the last time Nolan didn’t go to space, to which Nolan replies “Yeah, that was the moon, Mark. That hardly counts as space.” 

Nolan tells Mark that he isn’t ready, and it’s Debbie that who ends up getting him to decide to go—essentially disobeying his father’s wishes—when she tells him “lots of people are going to tell you how to use your powers, but it’s up to you to make these decisions; you need to decide what kind of hero you’re going to be.” After Cecil leaves, it’s revealed that he and Donald initially wanted to send Nolan off-planet so they could investigate his involvement more easily.

Invincible stands on the top of a space shuttle looking down on Mars ahead of him.

It’s interesting that while Mark is very driven to be like his father, it’s often his mother that acts as his moral compass. We’ve seen this tension a few times now; for example, her talk with Mark in Invincible S1E1 when he tells her “I’m more like you, I’m nothing special.” I don’t think that this dynamic was quite as pronounced in the comic, but it helps to develop both Mark and Debbie. It also highlights the many dualities that I have mentioned before that are present in the show, comic, and Mark himself: he is part-human and part-Viltrumite, Mark Grayson and Invincible.

The journey to Mars is slated to take two weeks. Before he goes, Mark talks to Eve about if he should tell Amber where he’s really going. Eve tells him that before he reveals his identity to Amber, he better make sure he’s serious about her. Moments before the Mars shuttle’s liftoff, Mark goes over to Amber’s house, apparently determined to do just that, but chickens out and only tells her that he’s going away for two weeks to volunteer. He arrives at the launching shuttle just as it is taking off, riding the outside of it all the way to Mars.

As they watch the coverage of the launch, the tensions that have been simmering between Debbie and Nolan begin to boil over. Debbie accuses Nolan of acting differently since Mark got his powers, saying that he has been more aggressive and that she thinks he’s hiding something from her. Nolan decides to open up to Debbie, telling her “I never thought I would have a family, and then you came along, and I love you and Mark so much. But when I see Mark with his powers, and after what happened to the Guardians, I’m terrified I could lose everything.” This is an incredibly significant confession to the audience, because we know that he is the one that murdered the Guardians of the Globe. Implicit in Nolan’s remarks is that he’s also terrified that he is going to be forced to do the same thing to Mark that he did to the Guardians.

Invincible on Mars. He is standing behind a rock while wearing a light space helmet.

The pair decide to go to Rome for dinner at the same restaurant where they ate while on their first trip together. I probably wouldn’t bring this scene up, except something strange happens during it that I have a theory about. While they are talking about the murders, Nolan tells Debbie that Cecil thinks he had something to do with them. Debbie is worried that things are going to come to a head with Cecil, but Nolan tells her “We stay together as a family. You, me, and Mark. All you have to do is trust me.” Suddenly, a dragon appears behind Nolan, setting fire to several buildings. Debbie is alarmed, but Nolan is completely unbothered by the commotion. He simply keeps asking her if she trusts him. When she finally tells him that she does, he responds “You have no idea how much I needed to hear you say that,” but still refuses to help out because he’s on vacation. I think that Nolan knew that the dragon was going to be there, and likely actually planted it himself. At one point in S1E1, Nolan comes back from Hong Kong after fighting a dragon. Before their dinner in Rome, he tells Debbie that he made reservations at the restaurant, to which she responds that he never makes reservations. I think that he planned the dragon attack to provoke an honest response in Debbie, in order to trick her into actually trusting him. The fact that he suddenly chooses pleasure over duty, something he has been lecturing Mark about the entire series, seems to support this theory.

Unlike most of S1E4, Mark’s mission to Mars is almost identical to the comics. The mission is going very poorly, as Mark is bored most of the time. At one point falls asleep while hiding behind a rock. When he wakes up, he notices that the astronauts have disappeared, and a lot of footprints are leading from the base. He is able to follow the footprints to a secret entrance. When he opens the hatch, he is immediately attacked by strange alien creatures that look like starfish with brains, which we later learn are called Sequids. 

The Martian Emperor explains that the Sequids are hivemind parasites that are harmless when they don’t have a host, but if they attach to even a single host they become a force that is capable of destroying planets. While both Mark and the Martians are able to resist the Sequids, the astronauts are prime Sequid hosts, so the Martians are planning to execute them. Obviously, Mark can’t allow that to happen, so he helps them escape back to the space shuttle by whipping up a dust cloud like the one he made in the first scene of the episode. Well, he helps most of them get back to the ship. One of the astronauts is an imposter (just like in DC, the Martians are shapeshifters), and the original is still on Mars under Sequid control.

Damien Darkblood is drug back to Hell.

Back on Earth, Cecil brings Damien to the Pentagon with the intent to force him back to Hell. The biggest revelation of this scene is that Cecil is now explicitly convinced that Nolan killed the Guardians. He tells Damien “See, that’s the problem with demons: you only see good and evil, black and white. Well I need to keep things gray until I can figure out why Nolan killed the Guardians and how to stop him.”

The pre-credits part of the episode ends with Robot presenting some blood that he covertly took from Rex Splode to what looks like a monstrous baby floating in a vat. This plot remains a mystery (if you’re not familiar with the comics, at least), although it should be obvious at this point that it has something to do with why Robot helped the Mauler Twins escape from prison. During the mid-credit scene, Nolan tells Debbie that Cecil exonerated him (obviously contradicting what Cecil actually feels). As Debbie turns off the light in her closet, we hear Damien chuckle, letting us know that not all of him is stuck in Hell.

“Neil Armstrong, Eat Your Heart Out” does a lot to set up and progress several important subplots. I also thought it was the funniest episode to this point, which is saying something. There were several times that I found myself cackling at the screen. It also marks what is apparently the halfway point in the season. It’ll be very interesting to see how they handle the rest of the season, and which of these plotlines they decide to complete this season and which ones they tackle in future seasons. Given what we’ve seen so far, I think those decisions are in good hands.

Written by Nick Luciano

Nick Luciano received a Master’s in Music Theory from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. An avid film fan, Nick loves Tarkovsky, Tartakovsky, Tchaikovsky, and everything in between (stylistically that is, not alphabetically).

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