There are some cartoons that are years ahead of the curve, giving viewers themes and ideas which the world simply isn’t ready for. With that logic in mind, Invader Zim was clearly lightyears ahead of its time. It was dark and mysterious, visually iconic and grim in its humour. It was nihilism for children, a critique on American consumer culture and disturbing in its nightmare premise.
More than that though, Invader Zim was just a damn good cartoon series that was taken from this world at too young an age. It’s finally got a revival of sorts, thanks in part to a rabid fanbase and Netflix’s deep pockets that purchased the broadcast rights for the upcoming Enter the Florpus TV movie. Thanks also to much of the talent behind the cult classic TV series returning to write dozens of brilliant new adventures in comic book format, Invader Zim is experiencing a renaissance of sorts.
While it remains to be seen if the TV movie can reach the same bar that its source material set, one thing is for certain: Those two seasons of delightfully dark animation have aged wonderfully over the years. There’s no better time to hop back into Invader Zim than now, so here’s a look back at ten classic episodes which demand that you feast your filthy Earth ocular organs upon them.
Behold them! Or suffer my wrath and unlimited cruelty!
Bad bad rubber piggy
The episode: Realising that Dib is an actual threat to his mission, Zim creates a temporal time and item displacement machine that he plans to use to kill his nemesis once and for all. Only problem? Zim’s plan to transport a hunter-killer drone back into the past is incompatible with the timestream because reasons, resulting in him throwing rubber piggies into the past that slowly wreak havoc on Dib’s life.
The madness: Only Invader Zim could take something as harmless as a rubber piggy and turn it into a life-altering weapon of mass destruction. In one of the darkest episodes on this list, Zim’s efforts result in Dib losing an arm, teeth and having an actual iron lung strapped to his back as his past is messed with in hilariously dark fashion that all goes awry after Zim sends one too many piggies into the past.
Is the answer more piggies as Zim has to deal with a Dib whose various accidents wind up making his nemesis stronger? And will that giant fish in a bear suit destroy Tokyo? Maybe.
Best moment: GIR, watching Dib with cold indifference as he literally dies on Zim’s doorstep.
Best quote: Since my son’s skeleton was accidentally crushed by a paramedic in a freak piggy accident, I have created the new MegaBoy 3000 fusion-powered titanium exoskeleton! It will give him the strength of ten thousand little boys!
FBI Warning of Doom
The episode: With a video disc that is over a month late and driven mad at the thought that the FBI might invade his secret base, Zim takes on his deadliest foe yet: Mall security.
The madness: Invader Zim episodes have always been fond of taking the piss out of materialism, but combining that with an absolutely mad action scene of top-notch animation, a completely bonkers adversary in the form of officer Slab Rankle and out of control paranoia? Sheer genius from beginning to end as Zim’s supposedly simple quest to return Intestines of War dials up the crazy to 11 and runs wild with its premise.
Best moment: Zim rallying his fellow mall prisoners to form a human pyramid to the tune of some of Jerry Goldsmith’s most bizarre motivational music, climbing to freedom and then promptly ditching the detainees.
Best quote: Ah, the Video Outhouse! Slumber well, sweet Video Outhouse, with your video treasures nestled deep within your vulnerable belly. Slab’s on the job!
Dib’s Wonderful Life of Doom
The episode: After having his DNA augmented to god-like levels by alien shoes from beyond our galaxy, Dib uses his newfound power to finally defeat Zim, solve all the spooky mysteries and prepre Earth for the Irken armada.
The madness: You ever hear of the butterfly effect? How one single action can cause a ripple of causality that spreads out and has massive ramifications? Dib experiences this first-hand, as his action of chucking a muffin at Zim’s head results in him becoming Earth’s greatest champion, respected by his peers and saving the day from the greatest threat to ever menace the planet in an adventure that plays out over decades.
Or that’s what Dib thinks, as the episode drops a hell of a twist at the end and reveals that he everything he experienced was nothing more than the result of Zim’s machinations using alien technology to condense an entire lifetime into a single night of lies. Dib’s Wonderful Life of Doom is beautifully animated, soul-crushingly fantastic in its final revelation and all centered on a twist that would make M. Night Shymamalan proud. All of this, because of a muffin.
Best moment: Dib in his old age, being interviewed about his life accomplishments only to have the metaphorical rug pulled out from under him as Zim reveals his entire life to be nothing but a big-headed lie.
Best quote: WHO DID THIS?! Who dares to soil my normal boy head with this… PORK COW?!
The episode: Paranoid that his cunning Earth piggy disguise may be compromised when he’s sent to the school nurse’s office, Zim does the only thing that makes sense: Hunt down his fellow classmates, steal their organs and transfer them to his body.
The madness: If you were ever looking for pure body horror in a ten-minute package, Invader Zim had you covered. Not just content to take yet another insane escalation of a simple plot point and amp up the madness to Looney Tunes levels, Dark Harvest goes for a full-on deep dive into terror as Dib finds himself stalked by Zim and his insatiable lust for human organs.
Zim himself becomes even more of a monster, stuffing his grotesque frame with as many organs as he can possibly lay his fingers on in an attempt to be extra normal, while the rest of the episode still manages to pack in references to Alien along the way. It’s gross, overflowing with dark humour and you’ll never look at a toy cow the same way ever again by the time Dark Harvest ends.
Best moment: Zim’s hunt for Dib so that he can harvest his lungs, resulting in the pariah having his organs replaced with a toy cow and the media labelling him as a hideous cow-man cyborg abomination.
Best quote: There’s a pigeon on your head. You’ve got head pigeons. Get to the nurse before they spread to the other children!
The Frycook What Came from All That Space
The episode: Having tracked him down to Earth, Sizz-Lor takes Zim back to Foodcourtia so that he can finally punish him for almost annihilating the Irken race and setting back Operation: Impending Doom 2 by decades. Faced with an eternity behind a cash register, Zim has to escape Foodcourtia before an intense period of snacking creates a singularity so dense that none can escape it for years.
The madness: Zim may be played as a buffoon most of the time, but The Frycook What Came from All that Space gives the Invader a rare chance to shine as he displays a raw cunning and dangerous level of ambition within his great escape. Mixing comedy, unlimited fast food greed and a propensity for cruelty that helps him eventually escape, the final episode of Invader Zim allowed the series to end on a high note as the little Irken faced his greatest challenge yet.
Best moment: The final showdown between Zim and Sizz-Lor, playing out across Foodcourtia as Zim desperately tries to stay a step ahead of his nemesis before the window of opportunity closes on his great escape.
Best quote: Oh! Hey all you out there! I hope you’re having a good time eating our life sustaining matter! Gah-hoo! I’m so happy- Oh, it hurts so bad! The grease!
The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever
The episode: Zim decides to conquer Earth using our planet’s greatest weakness: Our undying love for Santa Clause.
The madness: If you ever wake up on December 25 and feel like jumping off of the nearest bridge because of the sheer level of cheese that Xmas introduces to TV, then Invader Zim had you covered. Essentially the anti-Xmas special, The Most Horrible Xmas Ever starts with yet another hare-brained scheme, snowballs out of control into a giant mecha fight straight out of Neon Genesis Evangelion and eventually ends with Earth having to learn how to live with a cosmic horror that descends from the void of space once a year in an effort to destroy mankind.
Plus, Mini-Moose! NYEH!
Best moment: A musical interlude, wherein Zim hosts a concert that demands that you bow down before the power of Santa…or be crushed.
Best quote: I knew this day would come! Son, I’m giving you full access to the anti-Santa arsenal I made when I was a child.
Zim Eats Waffles
The episode: Zim. Eating waffles. That’s about it.
The madness: Only Invader Zim could take a hidden spy camera episode wherein Zim consumes waffles in order to build up a tolerance to Earth food, and throw in a giant rampaging squid monster, GIR having a screaming fit and a not-so-subtle dig at Nicklelodeon with the debut of Nick the always happy boy. What should be the most mundane episode instead spirals out of control when events go mental as Dib desperately tries to record footage of his alien nemesis only to be met with failure time and time again.
But hey at least those waffles looked good, right?
Best moment: The hideous squid monster breaking free and smashing all of Dib’s evidence.
Best quote: Ahhh! The hideous mutant squid has escaped again and has created an army of cyborg zombie soldiers to do its evil bidding!
Tak: The Hideous New Girl
The episode: It is Earth’s darkest hour, as Dib and Zim must work together to stop the greatest danger yet from destroying the planet: An Irken invader who is actually good at taking over planets.
The madness: Mortal enemies, working together so that Zim can save the Earth and then destroy it at a later date! The arrival of Tak highlights just how bad Zim is at his job, as Tak effortlessly blends into the populace, concocts a genius plan to turn Earth into a glorified snacking station for the Almighty Tallest and reveals just how dangerous Irkens really are.
Best moment: Zim’s confused efforts to court Tak so that he can experience what human love is all about, only to be met with constant rejection and the searing hot pain of meat in his face.
Best quote: Now prepare your brain, filthy beast of meat and hair. Your magical love adventure begins NOW!
Game Slave 2
The episode: Invader Zim may have played loose and fast with its continuity, but there was one cardinal rule that the series stuck to throughout its run: You don’t ever mess with Gaz. A rule that one hapless and annoying gamer broke, and found himself on the receiving end of a nightmare night that he’d never forget.
The madness: You ever meet that one insufferable humble-brag who just won’t shut up about just how great he is or how he has better stuff and bigger stuff than you because he just has to be in the spotlight? For anyone whoever felt like taking a cricket bat to such a person, Game Slave 2 was pure catharsis.
Faced with a know-it-all who steals her beloved new game console from her at a midnight launch, Gaz spends the rest of the episode slowly torturing the video game addict until he finally breaks down before her. The balance restored and her symbiosis with video games once again running at full power as she slaughters vampire piggies, Game Slave 2 still ends with a twist that would have been brilliant if Nicklelodeon hadn’t demanded that Invader Zim not kill the most annoying gamer of all time.
Best moment: The midnight launch for the Game Slave 2, which includes a burly shop assistant attaching consumers to a hook and throwing them to their explosive doom.
Best quote: What you need is to give the Game Slave to me, or I will plunge you into a nightmare world from which there is no waking!
A Room with a Moose
The episode: Fed up with his classmates humiliating him on a daily basis, Zim does what any rational alien invader would do: Trap his entire class within a bus equipped for space travel and jettison them into a dimension that contains nothing but a room…WITH A MOOSE!
The madness: Why is the moose so deadly? Why does humanity fear the moose? How did Zim even find this dimension? What would the moose even do when the children encountered it? These are just some of the many many questions I still have for an episode that came completely out of left field, playing as its own twisted take on a classic plane gremlin premise and then injecting its own bizarre layer of insanity into the adventure that only ends when Dib utilises the power of ostracisation to save himself from Canadian carnage.
Best moment: Pretty much every moment the moose is seen on screen, slowly munching on food and being as moosey as can be.
Best quote: So, right around there, a negative stigma was attached to the idea of surviving on human flesh. Still, there were isolated groups of zombies that…
Last Updated: August 12, 2019