That Actually Hurt shows exactly how much the show writers of Invincible get the art of making compelling TV.
Invincible was a comic series that constantly set up traditional superhero storylines and upended them with unconventional twists and legitimate shocks that kept readers guessing. That spirit continues on in this episode as Mark deals with the evolving challenges and consequences of being a superhero.
Mark is three months in to his superhero gig and hasn’t gotten any better at balancing his training with his father, Nolan, his relationship with ; his studies at school or deciding what kind of hero he truly wants to be.
The latter is especially challenging as his father is Omni-Man, the planet’s most powerful hero. Nolan is a greater good type of hero meaning he’s not concerned with saving dozens if thousands can be saved from his actions. It’s the kind of approach a top tier hero would take, but Mark is starting to question if there’s room to help the little guy.
This dilemma gets pushed to the forefront as Mark has another encounter with Titan (Mahershala Ali), a nearly indestructible man stuck as the muscle for the sinister Machine Head (Jeffrey Donovan). Titan wants to get out, but Machine Head is threatening his family. Maybe with Invincible’s help, Titan can finally provide a more stable life for his family?
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Mark is unsure and goes to his parents for advice. Teen superheroes so often do everything in secrecy that it’s immensely refreshing to find Invincible actually seeking counsel from his folks. Nolan isn’t down for it, but Debbie thinks Mark should always try to help those in need.
Steven Yeun does his usual excellent job of bringing that innocence to Mark’s experiences and his optimism/sense of humor and desire to do the right thing makes him such a compelling character.
Maybe in another time, Debbie wouldn’t find Nolan’s response so suspicious, but now she’s starting to wonder if Nolan really did have something to do with the Guardians’ deaths. This is a fascinating aspect of That Actually Hurt as the episode showed the eroding trust Debbie has for Nolan and what that could possibly mean for their marriage.
Mark’s schedule is also complicating his relationship with Amber, who’s growing increasingly frustrated at Mark blowing her off. Instead of going the tired, cliché route, the episode started establishing a friendship with Amber and Eve rather than setting up a lame love triangle.
There was even some more development with the new Guardians and their lack of teamwork, the Mauler Twins and a fun cameo from Reginald VelJohnson playing Principal Winslow at the high school named in his honor.
As always there was some brutal action scenes. In the comic book, writer Robert Kirkman and artists Cory Walker/Ryan Ottley hardly shied away from the brutality of super powered people in combat. It was over the top, but in animated form it slides further into gratuitous territory. That’s also due to the extended nature of most of the fight scenes.
In fairness, the fight at the end of this episode had more of a purpose than some of the other ones and showed more of the harsh consequences for this lifestyle. That Actually Hurt doesn’t paint the superhero life as all glamour, flying and cool fights.
The soundtrack, as it’s been throughout the series, keeps delivering exceptional hype music as the episode plays out. One of the unexpected treats with Invincible is not knowing what genre of music will play out in any scene and that variety has been a real strength.
That Actually Hurt successfully manages to advance several storylines, delivers some big twists and a surprising amount of heart in one of the season’s strongest episodes.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Amazon Prime
Check out the early installments of Invincible on Amazon.