The idea of a multiverse, or a universe which contains infinite alternate realties, has been a staple of science fiction for many years. Whether it is used to posit questions of existentialism or of melodramatic cries for a better reality, within the cosmic horror genre it has been a cornerstone. So, this begs the question: is Invader Zim a story about the multiverse?
I think one can posit that many episodes, if not all of them, are, in fact, representations of individual alternate scenarios in Zim’s attempted conquest of Earth.
I feel this is appropriate because we see in numerous Zim episodes a complete deluge of destruction. A deluge which, if examined critically, simply does not make sense. Let’s take as an example episode 5B, ‘The Wettening.’ At the end of the episode the entire city is destroyed—poof, gone, wiped off the map; we see Zim wading through the ruined remains of what was once his street as it is flooded with water, complete with a whale in the background. How could this happening have occurred without any consequences?
In the episode, Zim hauled the gigantic water balloon at the city, causing its destruction. In the aftermath we have to ask the following: how would not have Zim be discovered as an alien? Surely the government would have realized that alien technology was the reason why the city was destroyed, surely they would have noticed Zim’s space shuttle orbiting Earth. After the city’s destruction, I could not imagine that Dib’s rants would go unnoticed when he would likely be the only one with the ability to answer how a gigantic water balloon fell on the city. Then there is the more somber questions: when reconstruction comes up, how would Zim’s home base not be discovered by construction crews or the city in wondering why a residence exists without it being mapped? Following this idea of reconstruction, how is it that in the very next episode the entire city has been rebuilt, and no one seems to have, from that point forward, any indication of the city’s previous destruction?
In short, the entire edifice seems wrong. Sure, we could caulk it up to mere opportunism. Such is hardly an anomaly in children’s shows, after all (think of Power Rangers, for example). But, Invader Zim is different; because it adheres to the cosmic horror sub-genre, we must assume that things are more intensive than they would otherwise appear.
If each episode, or at least many episodes, were placed within the context of a multiverse, then many of the dark and seemingly final endings at the conclusion of episodes, would make sense: that would be where one reality for Zim diverged from another reality. The audience, in other words, would be privy to the continuing storyline of Zim, but merely in the abstract; how Zim wormed his way out of those seemingly final situations—how he was never discovered or how he recovered his secret identity when exposed—is not relevant insofar as is the outline of his journey.
In terms of narration, this would make sense. It would also make Invader Zim unique insofar as the viewer is presented fragments of Zim’s reality without temporal indicators; the multitude of encounters is expected to be enough as we attempt to unravel how certain dead-end futures are resolved and pushed toward the next episode’s scenario. Even so, it would take a far more intensive post to say anything definitive. And that post will be left to another day.