It’s time for another TV.com animation round-up! This week, Ben 10: Omniverse revealed the secret of the mysterious twenty-third Mr. Smoothy’s location, Maul and Vizsla had their showdown for leadership on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a major sacrifice was made on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Spike attempted to critter-sit on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles returned with the arrival of the Rat King.
So the mystery of the the twenty-third Mr. Smoothy’s turned out not to be as pivotal to the universe-copying from the first story arc as it seemed. I mean, it may still work out to be important, who knows, but “Store 23” would indicate that this particular mystery is solved.
The phantom store turned out to be a dimensional anomaly caused by Professor Hokestar. The flimflam alien had set himself up with what he hoped would be a lucrative franchise that existed in the same place in all dimensions. And while this did result in a surprise Cow and Chicken cameo, it also resulted in Ben meeting a parallel version of himself, Ben 23, who had very much cashed in on the hero gig through merchandising, movies, and sponsorship.
The conflict between the two Bens boiled down to Ben 23 lacking the wise guidance of Max to keep him from being being a “mogul” instead of a “hero.” It was a nice enough sentiment, but not the most developed of ones. Luckily, an Azmuth 23 arrived in order to help that dimension’s Ben become the hero he was intended to be all along.
The various coups and backstabbings put into motion last week came to fruition this week. The plan to retake Mandalore was a pretty standard one: The various crime syndicates would begin a crime spree across Sundari and the Death Watch would “stop” them, become heroes to the Mandalorian people, and then usurp Satine and overthrow her prison, citing her inability to stop a crime spree that seemed to last all of a day. Maybe two. In any case, it all went off without a hitch.
Once Mandalore had been reclaimed, there was the pesky matter of that alliance between Maul and Vizsla to resolve. Predictably, Vizsla had no intention carrying through with Maul’s expansion plans, but true to his word, he did intend to lure Obi-Wan to the planet. The order of events here sort of felt like padding as I’m not entirely sure why Maul didn’t just challenge Vizsla to the Death Watch leader fight when he was arrested, even though dramatically, it was more interesting to see Maul meet Almec in prison rather than after he’d decapitated Vizsla.
And the fight between Vizsla and Maul was worth the minor plot kinks. I’ve always enjoyed the look and animation of the darksaber, and seeing it in action against the lightsaber was fun. It was as brutal and full of Mandalorian armor tricks as you’d expect (I especially liked the projectile buzzsaws). But Maul’s game is likely coming to an end. The Jedi will be on their way sooner or later, and Bo-Katan isn’t just going to sit on her hands and wait for Maul to die. She’ll be coming back, and with a plan of her own.
I was glad for a break from the Red Lanterns in this back half of the first season, since I’ve never found them to be very compelling adversaries for Hal and his team. As bits of their history filtered in, they became more interesting, but I still never warmed up to them. But with the introduction of the Manhunters, and their history with both the Guardians and the Red Lanterns, there’s suddenly a more compelling story to tell. The Red Lanterns have a bit more depth, even if Zox is still annoying as ever.
But the politics of rebuilding Ysmault by the Guardians, for as much as I like these sorts of historical and political parallels, were overshadowed by the apparent death of Aya at the hands of the Anti-Monitor. I’m frustrated and saddened by Aya’s death (“Only 29.5 seconds of existence remain” killed me) since she and Razer are the only two characters who’ve really been afforded any development. Kilowog and Hal are exactly the same as they have been since the first episode, but Aya and Razer have changed, developed personalities, and so on. And now the show has eliminated one of them (who also happened to be the only prominent female character, ugh), and it’s just depressing.
Of course, Aya was just an A.I., as the Guardian science director kept reminding everyone. Perhaps she can be reconstituted? But if she can just be rebuilt and reprogrammed, doesn’t that cheapen the potential narrative impacts of her death and sacrifice? If she’s dead, let her stay dead.
DC Nation Short: “Batman of Shanghai,” Part 3 – So remember the ink stains and blots I mentioned in the first installment? They were back in this one, and didn’t they look great? And what’d you think of the shadow puppet bit? Very nice, I thought.
When Discord returned last week, I briefly suggested that one might suppose the show was running out of ideas to dip into the Discord (and also the Trixie) wells again, but that the variations in each episode kept them from feeling stale. Not so this week, as “Just for Sidekicks" saw a merging of plot elements from previous installments with stale results.
Spike’s attempt to gather jewels and gems by critter-sitting the Mane 5’s pets and his loss of control over them mirrored similar issues that Pinkie Pie had in the Season 2 episode “Baby Cakes” as she attempted to care for the the Cakes’ foals. “Just for Sidekicks” also tossed in Spike’s dragon nature (his desire for jewels to bake a cake) for some differentiating flavor from “Baby Cakes,” but it wasn’t really enough to prevent “Just for Sidekicks” from feeling like a retread.
Both episodes highlight the need for realizing the responsibilities that come from caring for others, and how challenging that can be, but “Just for Sidekicks” didn’t offer a strong enough variation on that theme, and Spike isn’t interesting enough of a character to carry that sort of a lesson on his own. It’s even less effective when you consider the fact that Spike’s innate love of gems will likely undermine him again at some point, meaning that even though a lesson may have been imparted to the viewers, the character didn’t make much progress.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles S01E13: "I, Monster"
Falco, the scientist with telepathic powers, returned, and this time his experiment, ruined by rats, resulted in him gaining control over all the rats in New York City. Thus he becomes the Rat King, a fairly popular villain in the Turtles franchise. He looked like a calaca that hadn’t quite lost all its flesh, dressed in the garb of one of those plague doctors (but minus the bird-like mask).
"I, Monster" was a more engaging episode than normal for TMNT, and I think some of that had to do with the nature of Rat King. He eschewed actual physical confrontation, leaving the turtles at a distinct disadvantage since, while they often have some tactics and strategy, those tactics and strategy tend to focus on an actual fight. And sort of like the never-ending supply of mousers, a horde of rats is pretty difficult to successfully counter (unless you have no qualms about blowing them up with chemicals, like Leonardo).
But the other aspect is just that the fight that did occur was a very personal one, due Splinter’s involvement in it. Rat King’s slow breakdown of Splinter’s mental resistance was eerie in its execution and effective, especially as the Rat King attempted to draw parallels between their situations and exiles from their previously human lives. It was an interesting gambit, and one that I honestly didn't expect from the show.