All that waiting, and this might be one of the shortest recaps in the series.
There’s a road trip here that was way better than the episode we got
This is actually two episodes: one of them is a really cute conceit about a put-upon mook whose managed to be collateral damage in just about every big fight scene in the series, and the other is a pathetically anemic vengeance plot that exists purely to keep the shenanigans going on the interesting end.
So there’s this dude named Vinnie (which I know only because I put on the subtitles – before I was referring to him exclusively as Mr. Travolta Accent), who has real terrible luck. He was the guy whose bike Lex accidentally stole way back in the pilot. He was also one of the guys who got tossed off of the airship that Goliath and Demona raided. And he was the cop on duty when Sevarius was kidnapped by Derek. We hear all this as Vinnie narrates it to “Mr. Carter,” the super-high tech launcher he had custom made for his revenge. It only responds to his fingers, and it’s bigger than he is. Of course, invariably as he lines up his shot, something will go awry and he’ll be dumped off the side of something. Cue Zoidberg sounds.
These scenes are authentically endearing, a chance for the animators to reuse some footage as they save up for the finale and to work in some slapstick without it being too forced – and Vinnie is both just stupid but also pathetically endearing enough that we can both enjoy the pain and kind of root for him to succeed. And while this idea of “revisit and event from the point of view of a bystander” isn’t a new trick (right around this same time, and far better remembered, Buffy did it with season 3’s “The Zeppo) it WAS quite new in terms of children’s animation (you can also count Batman Animated’s “Almost Got ‘Im” for good perspective play).
Little known fact: this is what was in the briefcase
Alas, there has to be a reason for poor Vinnie to go on failing as long as he does, and that brings us to the other half of the episode. Remember how we haven’t really seen Wolf since that whole fiasco in Egypt? Did this bother you much? Well, if it didn’t that’s too bad, because we’re reaching the end of the series and we’re going to tie up all the loose ends. And you know what? Fair enough. I wouldn’t have minded coming back to Wolf. After all, I found the visits with Dingo and Coyote to be rather enlightening. Unfortunately, it seems that the desire to get SOMETHING done with Wolf’s character seems to have outstripped an actual pressing story idea. He comes back to get revenge on Goliath, having first stopped off in Wyvern, Scotland and picked up a haunted axe. The entirety of his appearance is more or less a fight scene.
But what’s truly disappointing is the extra info behind the haunted axe business. Turns out Wolf is descended from Hakon, who was thus able to call him to that rubble in the middle of nowhere and get a free ride to vengeance. This….this is stupid. It’s late, I’m tired and besieged by life annoyances, and I have no more delicate term for it. It’s real, real stupid. Hakon wasn’t necessarily a character who needed to be brought forward from the past in the first place, but at least his last appearance ended in a way that put Goliath’s metaphorical ghosts to rest while leaving Hakon in himself in a hell of his own making – endless, fruitless anger consuming itself because the target has long moved on. It was an effective ending to that plot, a nice contrast with the Captain’s story. It was done. Bringing him back here in a haunted hunk of rust just to toss him in a trash compacter by the end of the episode cheapens the power of that storyline, and it’s a disappointment all over.
But Vinnie eventually gets to shoot off Mr. Carter, and it’s a giant banana cream pie launcher, and that’s amazing, so whatever I guess.
Okay but listen, Xavier is gonna want that costume back by tomorrow
Well, at least we have competent villains for this one, at least one of which is a very nice surprise. You remember “Golem?” It was one of the low points of the World Tour, but lucked out by being near the infinitely worse “Heritage.” The point is that this episode brings back Brod, the villain from that episode, and it turns out he’s a lot more fun when set loose on Manhattan.
We open with Brod and his gang (consisting of some anonymous dudes and one eye-poppingly blonde woman – and if you did not guess what was up immediately, the “previously on” segment includes a lengthy clip from “Protection”) raiding one of sleazeball gangster Tony Dracon’s chop shops. The cops show up, and while Brod and his gang are taken in for questioning nothing is able to stick. Meanwhile, Elisa is trying to work this so that all parties wind up in the clink, and Dracon is trying to marshal his forces from inside the prison. The chess pieces all move with relative smoothness, and the episode at least has the grace to play the undercover card by the halfway point – listen, it’s been a while, but there’s no need to think your audience’s memory is poor enough to be shocked at the same twist pulled twice.
And like I said, Brod is a wonderfully efficient chaotic force, carrying out his brutal missions with jovial good cheer and a Standard Eastern European Accent™. He goes from the chop to the cops to taking on a train of smuggled weapons with nonchalance (points here to Elisa, whose wig is loose enough to be pulled off one handed but also looks completely natural when standing on top of a moving train, no doubt bound by some kind of dark magic), matched in stonecold efficiency only by Glasses, who takes this opportunity to shrug off the potential of his own death and then JUMP INTO THE SEA, and he’s my new favorite super-minor character now is what I’m saying. This dedication to scale goes all the way up to breaking into the prison to kill Dracon off directly, at which point Elisa is obliged to step in. She’s a little too Lawful Good just to let them take each other out.
On the other side of the episode, we have something more complicated: basically well executed plot based on narrative devices that make me want to pull my eyeballs out by the still-throbbing veins. While Goliath and Hudson are presumably out being involved with banana cream shenanigans, the trio are patrolling with Angela. And by patrolling, I mean they are continually botching things by showing off and fighting over who has the “right” to her. Yadda yadda, you know how this goes, eventually they come together to take down the baddies and they apologize for being jerks and treating the first female of their species who doesn’t want to kill them like a piece of meat. It was pretty standard for the time, and I suppose I should be happy that they did apologize at all rather than getting the “boys will be boys” excuse.
But there are a couple of elements that I find disquieting for a show that really likes to puff its chest out about its Strong Female Characters, so y’know what? Nah. No pass. At one point Angela goes to Elisa for advice about all this weird, offputting behavior, and Elisa shrugs her off with “of course they’re doing this, you’re hot, just tell ‘em to knock it off.” Which…..which what. Elisa is Angela’s only female friend in Manhattan, and she doesn’t even have her back on this emotionally? With the bonus implication that it’s Angela’s job to put a stop to this rather than the trio’s job to control their own fucking behavior with someone who hasn’t flirted with them at all? I…..what?
It’s a tired, tired trope, and I’m very much a fan of “model behavior by STARTING at the ideal rather than having a Very Special Lesson” – i.e. let’s start with basic control over hormones and treating Angela as a team member and let a crush come as it comes, rather than additionally taking a detour on trust and a team dynamic we’ve already spent time developing and ironing out vis a vis petty arguments. Incidentally, the little I checked into the comics informs me she and Broadway eventually start dating. They read Shakespeare. It’s very cute. Also retroactively making this weird, Lex actually got to come out in the comics. He was slowly on his way to having a gargoyle boyfriend. It was also cute.
At least next week will have a meeting worth being excited about.