Cancelled cartoon resurrections seem to be all the rage these days, as fans of shows like “Samurai Jack” and “Young Justice” are getting the show endings they deserve. Following this trend, it was recently announced that Jhonen Vasquez’s bizarre hit series “Invader Zim” is going to return with a TV movie, in very much the same fashion of the upcoming “Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie.”
With this amazing news, CBR decided to look back on the show and remember the moments that made it so strange, hilarious, and all around awesome. There’s a lot to choose from since, while the show only had 27 episodes, each of those was split into two 11-minute segments. It was hard to narrow it down, but here are the 16 best episodes of “Invader Zim!”
16. THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS
The episode that started it all, the very first glimpse of Zim that the world saw (since the pilot was never aired). For those of you who don’t remember, the series starts with “the great assigning,” a ceremony where the Irken leaders, The Almighty Tallest, assign invaders to the planets they must conquer. This assigning is part of “Operation Impending Doom II” and it’s the second operation because Zim screwed up the first one by almost destroying their home planet. Zim still manages to show up despite not being invited and the Tallest assign him to some faraway planet to get rid of him. That planet turns out to be Earth and Zim is determined to conquer it. Though he manages to infiltrate humanity, there is one that recognizes him as an extra-terrestrial, a young paranormal investigator named Dib.
There’s a lot to love about this episode: it sets up the premise, comedy and story-telling style of the show, and even introduces us to GIR, Zim’s garbage-brained sidekick robot. Plus, it’s just plain wacky that Zim decides he has to attend school — or rather “Skool” — and that none of the other students notice the alien in class, making Dib look crazy (and big-headed) amongst his peers.
“Germs” is an episode where Zim becomes a germaphobe after watching a nod to the classic 1953 film version of “War of the Worlds,” in which the aliens are defeated by Earth germs. Zim buys a headset that allows him to see every Germ in his house and proceeds to clean and spray every surface in an attempt to protect himself from the dreaded filth. After running out of germ spray, Zim finds an alternate solution in the form of MacMeatie Meat, which is 100% germ free due to the fact that it’s made of recycled napkins. The episode ends as Zim returns to skool wearing a suit made of meat.
Maybe it’s the “War of the Worlds” reference, or maybe its Zim’s obsessive behavior in remaining safe from the germs, but this is one of the funniest episodes. Everything from Zim wearing tissue-boxes on his feet to GIR ruining all his work when he brings a monstrous wave of germs into the house. As usual, Zim’s invasion mission gets distracted by his stupidity as he struggles to kill every germ in sight.
14. DARK HARVEST
“Say, you’re full of organs, aren’t you?” This is perhaps the strangest, darkest, and most disturbing episode of Invader Zim ever. After Zim learns how different his alien biology is to humans, he begins stealing the organs of his fellow students in order to appear more human. Dib notices this when he finds out that the other kids have had their guts replaced with random stuff. The episode turns into a horror movie in which Dib is hunted by Zim, who has consumed organs from every kid in school.
It’s amazing that Nickelodeon even aired this episode, as it’s so incredibly messed up and terrifying, using a lot of horror tropes to build fear as Dib is hunted for his precious lungs. It’s beyond words how horrifying this episode is. Seriously, he’s harvesting children’s organs! It’s insane! Regardless of the insanity of this episode, or how immensely dark the premise is, it’s still a well-done episode, one that many remember from the series’ original TV run.
13. PLANET JACKERS
Let’s move away from the horror that is “Dark Harvest” and look back at one of the series’ most awesome and action-packed episodes “Planet Jackers.” Thought not quite as comedy-driven as the rest of the series, “Planet Jackers” follows Zim as he attempts to retrieve his planet from planet-stealing aliens. They have stolen the Earth using a sphere that produces an artificial sky to appear as though everything is normal. The Planet Jackers steal other planets in order to kindle the fire of their dying sun. Zim must begrudgingly save the Earth so that it does not get incinerated before he can conquer it.
This episode features a lot of fighting sequences between Zim and one of the Jackers as he attempts to distract them while GIR helps to free the Earth. It boasts some of the show’s under-appreciated animation prowess during the fights, as well as other parts of the episode. Zim is eventually able to save the Earth by cutting it free from the sphere without the Jackers knowing.
12. BAD, BAD RUBBER PIGGY
In attempt to rid himself of his mortal enemy Dib, Zim uses a time portal device to send a robot back in time to kill the boy. Unfortunately, the robot is too big to fit into the portal, and in frustration, Zim throws GIR’s rubber pig (this show is obsessed with pigs in weird ways) into the portal, which resulted in an accident with Dib’s childhood tricycle. Zim finds this method to be effective as he continues to throw rubber pigs into Dib’s past, crippling and maiming him with each attack until he becomes dependent on medical technology to stay alive. Unfortunately, it backfires as Dib’s scientist father equips him with a cybernetic battle suit to protect him from further harm. Zim reverses his mistakes by sending a pig with a note from himself back in time before he used the machine.
This is another somewhat disturbing one as with each injury that Dib experiences throughout his childhood, he gets more and more disfigured, relying on cybernetics and neck-tubes to keep him alive. It’s also one of those time-paradox stories that leaves us pretty confused when all is said and done.
11. A ROOM WITH A MOOSE
It’s big, it’s threatening, it’s horrific, it’s… a moose? Well, Zim thinks its threatening enough to find a room with a moose to send his classmates to as a means of punishing them for mistreating him. Zim organizes this by creating a fake field trip in which the students will board a space ship disguised as a bus. The ship takes the kids through a wormhole in space that will lead to an alternate dimension that contains a room with a moose. It is never quite clear why this is so threatening, but we’re made aware that the Moose’s appetite for walnuts has something to do with it. Dib manages to figure out Zim’s plan and stops it using what is basically a reference to the film “Speed.”
This episode is as bizarre as it is funny. First of all, Zim apparently has been planning this trap in the three hours he was in the bathroom during class. Second, some of the other choices for dimensions were a dimensions of itchy gas, and one of “pure dookie.” Lastly, there’s of course the moose, which looks completely harmless while eating walnuts, but is shot with intimidating and frightening angles.
10. BOLOGNIUS MAXIMUS
How could we not include this one, it’s about Zim and Dib getting turned into bologna. What starts with Dib’s immature prank of throwing a slice of bologna at Zim leads to the alien injecting Dib with a serum that will turn him into lunch meat. Dib retaliates by doing the same to Zim and the two must work together to find a cure for their ridiculous predicament.
Besides the unforgettable line of “Gaz, taste me, I’m delicious!” — from Dib to his sister when realizing he is starting to taste very meat-like — there’s a lot to love about this episode, especially the end. As the two start to become more and more sausage-like, their antics are straight-up slapstick comedy. After their serum causes Dib’s evolution to worsen, he goes after Zim, and their squeaking sausage chase sequence is hilariously delightful. This is one of those episodes that ends with some sort of change to the status quo, but luckily, the show has used the “reset button technique” more than once and everything is back to normal by the next episode.
9. BATTLE OF THE PLANETS
Not to be confused with the American title of the “Gatchaman” anime, this episode is about exactly what the title implies; planets battling. When Zim’s Mars probes return with information about a former alien society, Zim investigates the “face on Mars” to find that the planet was converted by its people into a celestial ship simply for the reason of “because it’s cool.” Zim plans to use Mars to squish the people of Earth to death so that he may conquer the world. Dib learns of this and plans to stop him, enabling the help of a NASA janitor (and fellow paranormal investigator) to get him to the “butt on Mercury” where similar ship technology was used on the planet. The two battle it out before Zim is eventually defeated.
This one is just plain ridiculous. There’s no other way to put it. The idea of a planet being a space-ship that can squish the Earth and there being giant butt cheeks on Mercury is just wonderful. When Zim finally arrives on Earth with the planet-ship and attempts to start squishing people, he is stopped by, wait for it, a soda can. Its stupid and insane and one of the best episodes of the series.
8. HALLOWEEN SPECTACULAR OF SPOOKY DOOM
This was one of those episodes that showed off the show’s great character designs, or should we say monster designs, since “Invader Zim’s” Halloween special features a whole lot of monsters, and boy are they hideous. Invader Zim’s monster and alien designs are always brilliantly horrific, definitely enough to scare children if it weren’t for the bumbling personalities that they tend to have. “Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom” is about Dib’s struggle with a failed dimensional experiment that results in him jumping back and forth between the real world and an alternate dimension inhabited by horrible monsters. All of this occurs on Halloween, which Zim has dubbed a “horrible Earth holiday.”
As mentioned, one of the best parts about this episode is the monsters, each one is unique and bizarre and very Jhonen Vasquez. Even the stuff that goes on in the real world is great, as Zim is horrified by Halloween and thinks the kids are going to eat his brain. Plus, there’s a great line by Dib and Zim’s teacher, Ms. Bitters. When Dib complains of the “horrible nightmare visions,” she simply replies with “It’s called life, Dib.”
After a slave to the Irken Empire switches the addresses on two packages that he is forced to sort, Zim receives a highly experimental super-weapon known as the Megadoomer. The Megadoomer is a “chicken-legged” (as GIR puts it) walking mech with stealth capabilities that allow it to turn invisible. Unfortunately, while the mech can cloak itself, Zim is still visible piloting it. In other words, Zim looks like he’s just floating there. Oblivious, Zim plans to use the Megadoomer to destroy Dib once and for all. However, the robot did not come with batteries, so GIR follows on Zim’s rampage in order to keep finding power outlets.
The whole situation is in no way conspicuous as a floating alien stomps through the city, a giant power cord flowing behind him while his super strong green robot dog follows behind to occasionally break into homes to plug in the outlet “before anyone notices.” It’s hilarious, and serves as one of the core episodes that gets to the heart of what “Invader Zim” is, an idiot alien doing his best with way too much confidence.
What happens when an alien living on Earth gets abducted by other aliens? A lot of stupidity, that’s what. “Abducted” is an episode in which Zim’s house is approached by two strange people that are clearly aliens in disguise. These disguises are pretty bad, folks, like something from an off-brand Party City. Not even the idiotic Zim is fooled by them, so they panic and “abduct” him by stuffing him into a bag and taking him back to their ship — which has been “disguised” as a floating whale in the sky. The aliens reveal themselves as collectors of all beings in the galaxy, and they have captured Zim, thinking he is a human specimen.
Despite Zim’s protests and removal of his human disguise, the aliens still believe he is human and proceed to do “tests” on him, like “fusing” him to objects using duct tape. Zim decides to escape, like many of the other subjects, since the ship’s collection tubes are all empty, save for one gross blob thing who lives a sad little life in his tube. Zim’s escape goes off without a hitch and he and GIR manage to get away from the aliens.
5. DIB’S WONDERFUL LIFE OF DOOM
This is an episode that proves Zim is perhaps the most petty person in the entire universe. It starts with Dib in the school cafeteria, brewing with frustration as he watches Zim continue to infiltrate human life unnoticed. Finally, he has enough and decides to “take action” by simply throwing a muffin at Zim’s head. Zim freaks out and flees from the school, planning to exact revenge on the person who desecrated his head with the “pork cow,” his incorrect name for the muffin.
Later, Dib is visited in the night by “magic shoe aliens” — which are just regular aliens pulling a stunt out of “Contact” by appearing in an “more appealing form” — that grant him the power to stop Zim. Dib uses these superpowers to defeat Zim and go after the entire Irken armada. Dib lives his entire life feeling great, as everything goes his way. As a journalist interviews a now very old Dib about his life, he recalls throwing the muffin at Zim and suddenly, the entire illusion is shattered. Dib hasn’t aged at all, it was all a ploy to get Dib to admit to throwing the muffin.
4. TAK, THE HIDEOUS NEW GIRL
It’s another horrific Earth holiday: Valentine’s Day, which, in this world, is celebrated by exchanging meats with each other. Lovely, isn’t it? This Valentine’s Day is especially special since the school has a new student, Tak, another Irken in a much better disguise who plans on stealing the Earth invasion mission from Zim. Zim does not know this at first, and instead tries to appear like a normal human by attempting to woo the new girl, giving her flowers and meats, only to have everything thrown back in is face, resulting in a lot of pain.
Tak eventually reveals herself to be Irken and recounts her sad tale, which involves Zim ruining her chances of being an Invader because he broke a snack machine that inadvertently results in Tak being forced to become an Irken janitor for years. Tak plans to impress the almighty Tallest and claim her right as an invader by emptying the Earth of its core and replacing it with snack food, the ultimate Irken resource. Zim and Dib end up working together to stop Tak who is once again doomed to a horrible fate by Zim.
3. ZIM EATS WAFFLES
Following the events of Tak’s plan, during which Dib managed to plant a spy device in Zim’s home base, “Zim Eats Waffles” is about Dib as he monitors Zim through his spy camera, hoping to capture alien footage to show to a society of paranormal researches known as “The Swollen Eyes.” Unfortunately, one of Dib’s recording drives is broken and needs time to recharge. Not wanting the Eyeballs to miss anything, he constantly calls them on video chat, only for them to appear just as something mundane happens: Zim eating waffles and the like.
Everything that goes on in the video feed is fantastic; theres Zim trying waffles for the first time and loving them, theres the robot squid zombies that attack Zim (which the Eyeballs miss), and his outright discussion of his upcoming evil plan, which Dib is dying to hear, but is never fully revealed. There’s also a crack at Nickelodeon’s desire to make the show more friendly and bright in the form of a boy named Nick who has a happiness probe drilled into his head, making him filled with joy to the point of pain. It’s so petty and wonderful.
2. THE FRYCOOK WHAT CAME FROM ALL THAT SPACE
In the very first episode, when Zim shows up at the great assigning, the Tallest ask “shouldn’t you be frying something?” referring to Zim’s banishment to Foodcourtia, the Irken snacking planet. Zim was sent to work in food service after causing the failure of Operation Impending Doom. Zim’s past finally catches up with him on Earth during a school lecture by Dib on why Zim is an alien — which no one takes seriously, despite Zim actively probing a student at his desk. Zim is suddenly kidnapped by a large alien who proclaims “Back into outer space!” and bursts through the ceiling. And yet, the students don’t seem to care, as a bird has pooped on Dib’s shoulder, garnering their attention.
Zim’s captor is Sizz-Lor, the manager of Shloogorgh’s, a fast-food restaurant on Foodcourtia. He has come to take Zim back to his punishment and does just that, torturing Zim with menial tasks and planning to trap him on Foodcourtia during “the great foodening,” a time of snacking on the planet that is so powerful that nothing can escape its atmosphere for 20 years. Zim escapes before that can happen, returning home in once piece and leaving Sizz-Lorr to a snacky doom.
1. THE MOST HORRIBLE X-MAS EVER
We thought it appropriate that the last episode on this list was the last episode to air before “Invader Zim’s” cancellation. This episode is another holiday special, a Christmas episode entitled “The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever.” The story of Zim’s Christmas is told two-million years in the future by a robot snowman named Mr. Slushy, who is unraveling the tale to a group of small children. The story starts with Zim learning about Christmas and Santa Claus, who the whole world loves unconditionally. Zim hatches a plan to take full advantage of this love and creates a Santa suit to fool the people of Earth into following his every command.
Despite the plan’s success, two things slow Zim down, namely Dib and the suit itself. The Santa suit was created by loading Christmas data into alien technology, which forces Zim to act jolly against his will. This, along with Dib’s attempt to stop him, prove to be too much for Zim and Christmas is saved when the now-sentient Santa suit is launched into space, though it has returned in the future to attack Mr. Slushy and the children unless they raise the defensive shields.
Let us know in the comments which episode of “Invader Zim” is your favorite!