The Big Picture
- Invincible recognizes the flaws in poorly written female characters and delivers a strong and unyielding mother-figure in Debbie Grayson.
- Debbie evolves from a passive character in the comics to an active and strong character in the show, taking it upon herself to uncover the truth behind the tragedy of the Guardians of the Globe.
- Debbie’s love and guidance ultimately saves Earth in Invincible Season 1, disarming the powerful Omni-Man and sending him crying off into space.
Superhero movies and shows have so often disappointed us with badly written female characters that even the bare minimums have begun commanding admiration. In many of these movies, their sole purpose in life is to literally die just so that the male superhero can attain optimal motivation to stop the bad guy. But it needs not be this way, and Amazon’s Invincible realizes that. And it finally delivers such a strong and unyielding mother-figure in Debbie Grayson (Sandra Oh) to a superhero genre so far removed from the well-traveled route that it makes you wonder if she’s the strongest character in this universe. That’s not an exaggeration. She actually hurls a wine bottle at Omni-Man’s (J. K. Simmons) face and walks away without a scratch. What other character could boast the same?
Invincible is an adult animated superhero series that revolves around 17-year-old Mark Grayson, who’s just like every other guy his age — except his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man. But as Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.
- Release Date
- March 25, 2021
- Steven Yeun, J.K. Simmons
- Main Genre
- Streaming Service(s)
- Prime Video
Prime Video’s ‘Invincible’ Slightly Alters Debbie From the Comics
While the comic does provide a decent foundation for Debbie as a character, it doesn’t really do much with her. Debbie is relegated to the clichéd role of a superhero mom without a substantial role to play in the greater scheme of things. Amazon’s Invincible, however, recognizes the flaws inherent within this Debbie and rectifies them with great efficiency. The changes that the show makes don’t entirely alter her character; they just add subtle little notes of agency here and there to shine light on her as a crucial character in the overall story. As opposed to her more passive self in the comics, Debbie evolves into an active and strong character in the show.
The prime example of this is when Debbie takes it on herself to find out the truth behind the massacre of the Guardians of the Globe, as she suspects that Nolan had something to do with the tragedy. The endeavor frightens her, but it’s not Omni-Man she fears, but the prospect of finding out that her husband is not who she thinks he is. Her relationship with Mark (Steven Yeun) is another huge improvement from the comics where the two mostly remained in an annoyingly argumentative mood. The two still bicker, and Mark still says hurtful things to her, but the intensity of the painful comments are magnified in the light of love we see between them at other times. She even voices her insecurity after Mark gets his powers and starts hanging out with his dad a lot more often. It’s a very special moment, one that leaves a fierce mom and her invincible son vulnerable, just enough to voice their love for each other. Here, we see the intimate and playful mother-son relationship between them so vividly.
Debbie Is the Only Human Who Can Put Omni-Man in His Place
Debbie had known Nolan for 20 years, and in that time she had grown so used to his heroic antics that her response to the news of Nolan fending off attacks against the White House was “looks like we won’t be getting breakfast together this morning.” We don’t know what Debbie was like before she met Nolan, but it feels like his nonchalance has rubbed off on her. At the same time, you can see the gentle, humane attributes Nolan has adopted from her. There’s a point in the first season where Debbie and Nolan are having an argument involving Mark. Mark wants to help a small-time criminal and his family, but Nolan insists that it’s beneath him as a Viltrumite, and that he should be dealing with interplanetary threats, saving millions.
Debbie starkly opposes this notion and says that saving someone should never be beneath Mark. The two launch into an argument and Nolan says that Debbie doesn’t understand the choices Viltrumites have to make because she isn’t a superhero. Debbie reminds him that when Nolan first came to Earth, he didn’t know anything about the society or the people. It was her who taught Nolan how to be a hero, and she could very well teach Mark the same. It’s a brief sequence, but it’s significant at highlighting Debbie’s bold and unfaltering attitude to raising her son right and standing up against Nolan. Nolan might be the strongest man on the planet, but Debbie just knows how to put him in his place. And she does it with such style and spunk that we can’t help but admire her. And what’s more, she even kicks Nolan out of the house the next day after he continues lying to her.
Nolan’s Love for Debbie Ultimately Saves Earth in ‘Invincible’ Season 1
Debbie’s character is at the heart of the story, a driving force behind the crucial decisions made by the primary characters. She constantly serves as the moral compass for Mark, urging him to be himself and to be kind. And without her guiding Nolan, he might have remained cold, arrogant, and crude, like the glimpses seen in his final battle against Mark at the end of Season 1. She wasn’t there for the final fight between Omni-Man and Invincible, but it was her distant echoes that turned its tide. Just when Nolan is about to deliver his fatal punch to Mark lying in a puddle of blood, he recalls a sweet, tear-jerking memory of Debbie. In it, Nolan has furrowed brows, an arrogant tone and is disinterested in his son’s skill with a bat. Clearly, he is yet to learn what humanity is about, but Debbie is there to enlighten him. She explains to him that as adults, it gets harder to feel joy while the world keeps bogging you down, but when you have kids, you get to see the world with their sense of curiosity and wonder — you get to feel the joy they’re feeling.
As Nolan hears this, his brows and frown loosen and a smile starts to appear on his face as the contagious joy of Mark running for a home run transmits on to him. It’s a beautiful sequence that reminds Nolan of the power Debbie holds over him through nothing but pure love while thawing Nolan’s coldness, transforming it into genuine tears. He is visibly angry at himself, and at the complex love he feels for Debbie and Mark. Unable to stand it, he flies off into space, letting a drop of tear fall down to Earth. And that’s the strength of Debbie, it disarms a mighty Viltrumite and sends him crying off into space. So, Omni-Man might belong to a race far superior to humans, he might be able to destroy planets within seconds, and he might call Debbie a pet, but as far as the objective eye of the viewer is concerned, it’s actually him who is on Debbie’s leash.
Invincible is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S.
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Khushi Patel is a science fiction author who lives in Austin, Texas. She has published three novels, and her work has been praised for its originality and imagination. Khushi is a graduate of Rice University, and she has worked as a software engineer. She is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and her books have been nominated for several awards.