Happy Saturday, and welcome to our latest animation round-up! This week, Ben 10 took the universe to Kinko's, The Clone Wars suffered a death in the family, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles introduced us to Metalhead. So let's begin, shall we?
Last week I put forth the notion that Ben 10 Omniverse is Ben’s years as a hero coming back to haunt him in particular ways (and I mentioned having barely watched the show before). You have to appreciate it when a show makes you look at least a little bit clever (but really just lucky) with an episode that follows such a reading.
When a ghost spaceship materialized above Earth, Ben and Rook set out to investigate. On board they found the Vreedle Brothers and Argit; the former were a pair of space hillbilly types that Ben had dealt with before (and who apparently were on their way to reforming prior to accidentally blowing up a Plumber Academy), and the latter was a scavenging con... opossum-looking species that Ben had likewise worked with and against before.
One of the benefits of the episode was that the relationship between Ben and the aliens came through clearly, and without the need for much exposition (compare it to the flashbacks used for Dr. Animo in “It Was Them,” and even those wasn’t very obtrusive), so the episode flowed well without causing a new viewer, such as myself, to be lost.
But what do we make of the big climax? The plot centered on control of a supposedly legendary, but in fact quite real, doomsday device, the Annihiarrgh (because you don’t have time to say the complete word once it’s triggered, which was cute). The weapon went off and started erasing the entire universe. Ben managed to get the Omnitrix to transform him into Alien X, and after debating with Bellicus and Serena, Ben was able to create a copy of the universe, but it wasn't exactly right, as the changed Mr. Smoothie sign demonstrated (as did Ben’s disappointment with the smoothie itself).
Not being overly familiar with this narrative world, I’m not sure about the potential ramifications—but anytime anyone decides to change the very fabric of reality, it’s never really a good thing. I see some of this as an extension of the notion of Ben changing and growing himself, but I admit I’m feeling a bit married to the idea about this iteration of the franchise addressing that. Let me know what you Ben 10 aficionados think in the comments.
So we’ve arrived at the end of the Onderon arc. I wasn’t terribly impressed with last week’s episode, and this week’s installment was heavy on the action and the loss. It even seemed to justify the little sojourn to Florrum to visit Hondo in “Revival” at the start of the season.
Obviously the bizarre execution scenario in the previous episode wasn’t enough to get the citizens of Onderon (or, at the very least, Iziz) to start rioting and trying to tear down Rash’s regime, since Dendup did a quick holographic communiqué to the citizens (subjects?) in an effort to dismiss Rash’s war of words against the insurgency force. That appeared to work, as they started pelting the CIS droids with vegetables.
For the last big push, Dendup appointed Steela as the new military head honcho (Tandin, being the good soldier, took it entirely in stride) and they readied themselves for the final battle against the CIS forces, who were by then reinforced by new gunships (that I wish looked a bit more like unmanned aerial drones so I could make that connection, but oh well). Needless to say, the increased air support put the insurgency at a disadvantage.
At this point, there was another small debate about the Jedi’s involvement in everything, as Ahsoka pleaded for help and Obi-Wan not only shut her down, but told her to clear out should things get too gruesome. But Anakin, being the crafty devil he is, devised a proxy service (Hondo and his band of Weequay pirates) so they could mask Republic support for the cause. The point of the entire insurgency plot was so the Republic could fight by proxy against the CIS, and so this doubling-down on the idea may've been the last cog in streamlining the process for future planets.
Which leaves us with Steela’s death. It was a touch melodramatic (in a bad way), with the automated gunship getting off one last shot that disrupted Ahsoka’s concentration, but it was still fairly effective, as Steela is the only rebel who I think there was much connection with (though I never liked Saw, really). And it's also a tad irksome that the series killed off a strong female character, even if we were never going to see her again. The woman rarely missed when she fired, and she was a mediating influence on everyone else. It’s a real shame the narrative sacrificed her for the potential development of two male characters.
In the end, Dooku withdrew the CIS forces from the planet, and had Kalani assassinate Rash (meaning, really, the insurgency just needed to hang out in the highlands this entire time). Dendup resumed control of the throne, appointed Lux to be the senator for Onderon, and THE ENTIRE PLANET showed up for Steela’s funeral. And those final scenes reminded me oh-so-much of The Phantom Menace. (Minus the Gungan high school marching band, of course.)
Speaking of drones, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles unveiled its version of Metalhead, a robot modeled after the turtles, in this episode. In the first animated series, Metalhead was made by Kraang to fight the turtles, and here we had Donnie using a remodeled Kraangdroid as the inspiration for the remote-controlled robot.
Everything went about how you’d expect, and the episode even did a bit of foreshadowing as Leo watched an episode of “Spaceheroes” that involved Dr. Mindstrong being taken control of by an alien bat-thing and the captain demolishing Mindstrong. So, yes, Metalhead wasn’t the best substitute on the team since he was loud, awkward, and easily taken control of by Kraangs (perhaps a helmet to cover the... Kraangport next time?). And, really, did Donnie need the robot? I could’ve sworn that last week his bo had a little curved blade that extended from one end...
While all of that was pretty rote, it was still generally entertaining from an action and humor perspective. However, I was rather skeeved out by Donnie using Metalhead’s camera to look at April. It was all very voyeuristic and male gaze-y, and considering that April’s barely appeared in the show since the premiere, it wasn't the best way to feature her in an episode where she played a sizable supporting role.