Invader Zim is fully back on its typical Invader Zim bullshit in Enter the Florpus, a new Netflix special that revisits the series over 10 years after it went off the air.
The special revisits the perpetual conflict between Zim and Dib, who are both feeling bereft at the lack of respect and attention from their supreme overlords and father, respectively. While Zim is willing to move planets to get The Tallest to notice him, Dib spends the Enter the Florpus not only trying to stop Zim, but also earn his father’s respect. In the end, the special strips the scientific cover-up from Dib’s relationship with his father, getting to the core of what Dib has arguably been striving for since the beginning of the series.
[Ed. note: major spoilers for Enter the Florpus ahead.]
Dib’s relationship with his father has always been strained. Despite their striking resemblance, they’re not close — Membrane can never seem to make time for either of his children (they have dinner together once a year), and refuses to take Dib’s alien concerns seriously.
His relationship with his kids seems to have improved somewhat in Enter the Florpus. He’s actually around for dinner, and asks Gaz to help her brother out of his wallowing state of misery over Zim’s disappearance.
There’s a bit more back-and-forth between Dib and Membrane as well, which is particularly notable given that sometimes the Professor forgot his son’s name in the original series. Initially, the setup for their conflict is purely scientific. Membrane is disappointed in Dib’s reluctance to give up alien hunting; Dib is frustrated that his father can’t get over his scientific ego.
What’s really at play, however, is Dib’s desire that his dad would just have his back for once. It’s about the aliens, except for the fact that it’s absolutely not. The rift between Dib and his dad is ironically thrown into relief by the arrival of “Clembrane” (Clone Membrane), one of Zim’s minions sent to keep Dib and Gaz confined to their home during his Earth takeover. Clembrane, despite being a tool of evil, is more supportive and affectionate than Membrane ever was.
Later down the line, Gaz and Dib break Membrane out of space prison given that he’s presumably the only one capable of saving Earth from destruction by the Florpus hole. Even in the fact of mortal peril, he’s infuriatingly rooted in his own beliefs. The conflict between Membrane’s science and Dib’s alien acumen ramps up, culminating in Dib gripping his father’s hand to keep him from tumbling out of a spaceship.
However, the apex takes a surprising turn when Dib gets to the root of their issues, exclaiming, “Just hang on — you’ll be proud of me!” Membrane surprisingly responds, “Son, you don’t have to prove anything. I’m always proud of you.”
Dib’s desire for respect from his absentee father has always been at the heart of their relationship — the aliens and science were always a proxy conflict. As the pair fights back-to-back against an army of Zim’s robots, we see Dib at maybe the happiest he’s ever been, actually looking like a kid as he gleefully grins at his laser gun-wielding father and bashes robots with his briefcase.
By the end of Enter the Florpus, everything has for the most part returned to its original state with a notable exception. The whole Membrane family — Gaz, Dib, the Professor, and Clembrane — are eating dinner together. Even though Membrane’s scientific ego still won’t allow him to believe the truth, the bond between him and his son is indubitably stronger. Dib now knows that his father is unconditionally proud of him, and aside from taking down Zim, that’s the only thing he’s ever really wanted.