Happy Tuesday, and welcome to this week's animation round-up, in which Ben 10: Omniverse makes a fool of both alien bounty hunters and TV reviewers, The Clone Wars does its best A Bug’s Life impression, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's Pinkie Pie clones herself, the Turtles finally confront Shredder, and Cuber returns for some more graybles on Adventure Time.
With action shows, this kind of episode is the worst to review; you mostly get just a 22-minute fight scene. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and “Of Predators and Prey (Part 2)” was very entertaining in that regard, but it didn’t leave me with much to say beyond how clever some of the staging was, particularly Rook’s battle with Khyber aboard the bridge of the ship. Plus there was a “Rabbit Fire” homage as Khyber and Ben exchanged blows (“It’s Khyber season!” “Rath season!” “Khyber season!”) and that will never ever not be funny.
The episode did, however, serve up a bit of crow for me as I was suckered into the oldest narrative trick in the book. I’m a failure as a TV viewer for chastising Ben 10 last week for not building more toward the resentment between Ben and Rook that instigated their fight last week, and it was just a ploy to lure in Khyber. I should have known better! I did appreciate that Rook acknowledged that he wasn’t really acting, but that he, being the cool-headed partner, had accepted things and moved on. I’m not sure how many of you long-term Ben 10 fans feel about Rook, but I really like him.
We’re also at the end of the first arc of Ben 10: Omniverse with this episode, and next week we start a new arc of 10 episodes. Seeing as this is the first time I’ve watched this much of the show, I do find it very entertaining and well-crafted, though it’s not particularly deep. Which isn’t a problem since the show stands on its own very well as an action series. I will say that I’m hoping for more character interaction and development in the next arc now that the show’s foundation has been laid, but maybe it's not particularly interested in those things? Tell me about your experiences in the comments.
This was kind of a busy episode in a season that’s been light on subplots so far. In the first big arc, despite cuts back and forth between King Rash and the Jedi-trained insurgency, everything was connected as one big plot. In “Bound for Rescue,” there was not only the younglings and their plan to save Ahsoka but a CIS attack led by Grievous on Obi-Wan’s flagship. While I have no doubt that the plots will fold into each other next week in the arc’s conclusion, it was nice to have two different things going on at once.
The younglings, after getting off a distress signal to Obi-Wan, headed off to Florrum to save Ahsoka themselves. They didn’t really have a plan, so it was lucky that the circus crew showed up and allowed everyone to do their best A Bug’s Life impression as the younglings posed as a talented group of acrobats (Force abilities at this stage in their development aren’t good for much else). I generally enjoyed this, though there wasn't much to it. Hondo continued to be sort of icky as he intended to sell Ahsoka to a client with a taste for female Jedi (yuck). I do like that the show, through Hondo, basically admitted that the character will do whatever the show needs. It’s a lazy approach, but at least The Clone Wars is being honest about it.
The fleet battle was refreshing since it’s been a bit since the show had one, but given that it involved Obi-Wan and Grievous, there wasn’t much suspense, and their lightsaber duel wasn’t terribly exciting. But I appreciated the break in action from the younglings’ plot, which probably didn’t have enough fuel to drive the entire episode by itself.
It’s not often I get to trot out a reference to the film Multiplicity but I have to thank My Little Pony for giving me that opportunity. In much the same way that Michael Keaton learned that clones don’t make your work and love life any easier, Pinkie Pie learned that clones don’t let you have more fun.
One of the delights of “Too Many Pinkie Pies” was the existential crisis that it threw Pinkie into. Her eternally cheerful nature has demonstrated a certain fragility, whether it be not coping with her friends rejecting party invites in “Party of One” or not completely handling the youngsters Pumpkin Cake and Pound Cake in “Baby Cakes,” and this has given the character a degree of depth that any other series might not. So when she began to question whether or not she was the real Pinkie Pie, it not only provided a way for us to keep track of her in the army of duplicates, it helped to demonstrate that Pinkie does have an internal world, a sense of identity. She may hold the element of laughter, but that laughter is grounded in something larger than just silliness.
There were other delights, too. Running throughout the entire episode was the idea that a single Pinkie Pie is more than enough for everypony, and it was fun seeing that play out a bit as some of the ponies took shelter in the woods. But it was probably the end of the episode, when Twilight attempted to determine which was the real Pinkie, that offered the most enjoyable—and interesting—sights. The idea of watching paint dry was just wonderfully clever, and the spell that eliminated the cloned Pinkie, blowing the pony into an overblown pink balloon with bulging eyes and pursed lips, was both humorous and horrific. It’s also probably only something that could be done to Pinkie Pie, the show’s most cartoonish character, without being something that felt radically out of place.
Nine episodes in the works, the turtles faced off against Shredder in a decent-ish episode. My biggest problem with “The Gauntlet” was that it just felt a tad overstuffed with plots that ran up on each like some of my sentences tend to do.
After remaining in the background since the show's first week, April’s dad resurfaced, having dispatched Pete the mutant pigeon (creepiest-looking mutant creature yet) to tell April to get out of the city as the Kraang had something devious planned: a big mutagen bomb that would mutate half the population. So, you know, what they’d been planning the entire time. I’m pretty much done with the Kraang as villains. I don’t have anything to really latch onto with them as bad guys (why do they want to mutate everyone on Earth...?), so episodes that involve them tend to feel flat. They also completely lack personality, which makes them doubly dull. I can deal with a villain not having either a motive for evil or a personality, but not having both is a real dealbreaker.
In addition to the Kraang-and-April’s-dad plot, Bradford and Xever decided to redeem themselves by taking on the turtles without Shredder’s permission, but then they just went and mutated themselves and I sighed. I liked the turtles having human opponents, and more mutants in the mix just feels like an excuse to sell more toys.
And then there was just the hodgepodge of the episode’s lesson. The overconfidence thing landed and landed well, but the little tiff about Raph and Leo always teaming up and Don and Mikey always teaming up felt like it should’ve been an episode onto itself. It was a good character dynamic thing to explore, and it really deserved to be more than a series of “Mikey is a doofus” gags.
I wasn’t much of a fan of “Five Short Graybles” in the Season 4. While all the stories were united around a common theme, they were slight but had at least one solid joke (except for the Lumpy Space Princess segment, but I am not LSP’s biggest fan). The same thing happened here with “Five More Graybles.”
Finn and Jake, thinking they had a collection of spells, recited Little Jack Horner expecting to be good boys once they stick their thumbs in things. I like the little twist that nursery rhymes have become spells in Ooo. It’s a nice extension of the show’s post-apocalyptic existence.
Marceline’s bit was probably my favorite of the five stories for two reasons. One, we got the visual pun of the rock giant drumming his fingers on drums, and I’m all about visual puns. But then there was the deliriously awesome journey to the music store. I loved the animation the first time, and then we got it again, with Marceline’s face of pure joy. It was terrific.
Treetrunks had the oddest story as she took offense to Shelby acting as the middle finger of the Cranky Cookie statue. It was worth it only for seeing Treetrunks go all vigilante after “the wheels of justice spun too slowly” for her, rounding up a posse of Cinnamon Bun and the Gumdrop Lasses. While the middle finger is one of those age-crossover jokes, it was probably the least interesting one.
Ice King had the fourth segment, and it wasn’t all that great as he decided to marry his foot (it had a scary face on it). The button of the segment, that he saw a face on his other foot and said “Oh no,” was sort of funny, but didn’t really connect for me. I did enjoy him telling the penguins to drink up the “joy tears,” though.
BMO had the final segment, and it involved BMO teaching Football, BMO’s reflection, what various things do in the real world. It didn’t do much for me, but I just really love BMO and Niki Yang’s work, so I didn’t dislike it as much as the Ice King story.
The theme was the flavors (sweet, savory, sour, salty, and bitter). As Cuber explained, it was not the five fingers. Because, you know, no one’s had five fingers for a very long time, or whatever that metric was that Cuber used.