EPISODE REVIEW: Ben 10: Alien Force: “Inferno” (Season 3, Episode 3)

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Interestingly, the new season of Ben 10 Alien Force has gone out of its way to feel…kind of old. Ben is less mature, Kevin is a monster again, Grandpa is around, Gwen is likewise less mature, and Ben and Gwen have a slightly more adversarial relationship than they have for the last two season. Added to which, Ben has less-than-complete control of the Omnitrix, and he’s pissed off Azimuth, so he’s unlikely to get it fixed any time soon. Oh, sure, Ben and Gwen aren’t at each other’s throats like they were as ten year olds, but, they’re not nearly so chummy as they were in the previous 26 episodes. In fact, everyone’s dynamic are reset to an oddly intermediate point, somewhere between the original Ben Ten, and his fifteen-year-old self.

Call it “Ben 13,” I guess.

The interesting thing is that it mostly works.

PLAY BY PLAY

We start out with a lengthy teaser sequence of a guy checking an oil well, then getting overrun by these rhinoceros-sized mole rats, who eat dirt. Team Ben is sent out by Grandpa Max to check on the shenanigans, and of course things go badly almost at once. The beasties charge Ben, who can’t get the watch to work, then they try to eat Kevin’s stony bits, but he’s rescued by Gwen in a pretty cool scene. Ultimately, Ben manages to (literally) coral the things, and Grandpa Max phones in and says they’re “Pyrovores,” who eat rock. Normally they live under the surface, but something must have scared them or made it uncomfortable enough to force them to the surface.

In what will probably be the theme for this season, Max mentions that pixies, unicorns, ogres, trolls, and all those things actually exist, but not Bigfoot. “That’s just some guy in a suit.”

Team Ben checks it out, taking the Kevinmobile in to the cave the Pyrovores came out of, things again go badly, and they get to show off Kevin’s new rocket assist on his car. They eventually meet up with a mole man who talks and acts like a sun-crazy 1850s prospector, and he leads them to Volcanis, a minor bad guy from Alien Force: Season 1, played very nicely by John DiMaggio. (He’s got a limited voice - every character he does sounds exactly like him - but he imbues them with a ton of personality. Who knew there were so many different modes of sarcasm?)

Turns out Volcanis has purchased the earth and taken out a ’renewal’ license. He’s gonna’ Xenoform the planet in to a copy of his homeworld, where the average temperature is 800 degrees. He plans to do this by dropping a bomb in to the core of the earth, but again, they duke it out, with Team Ben fighting along the crazy mole man. Volcanis is more-or-less defeated, but starts the bomb, and runs off. Ben tries to stop the bomb from falling as Humungasaur, but of course he ends up turning in to an unrelated alien, and flies after the bomb, managing to destroy it before it goes off.

Crazy Mole Dude blows up the whole subterranean complex to prevent Volcanis from coming back, then offers to kill one of his giant naked mole rhinoceroses to have a barbecue, which Gwen reacts to with horror, though Kevin wants some.

The end.

OBSERVATIONS

This was a nice, fun, standalone episode. I don’t think this season will be as arc-heavy as the last two were.

Was it just me, or did the music seem a bit John Barry-like? Particularly during Ben’s dive in to the shaft. Barry often liked to offer mellow string music as a counterpoint to action scenes. The dissonance between action and music frequently made them really memorable.

Kevin is able to use one of the Highbreed Identity Masks to appear human.

Gwen is unexpectedly funny in this episode: “I am so not claustrophobic, I just don’t like being in tiny enclosed spaces, is all.” “No afterburners, trying to sleep” and several other good lines. Nice to see her getting more to do.

How can Kevin not know what TNT is? Sure, it was funny, but has the guy never watched a cartoon in his life? Actually, given that he grew up homeless, he might not have…

Pretty sure Crazy Mole Guy will turn up again.

Why is Gwen so surprised the Crazy Mole Guy eats his herd? I mean, they’re his herd, after all, that’s what you do with cattle…

Kevin’s new - or rebuilt - car can now turn invisible, has afterburners, a drogue ‘chute, and can fly like the Back to the Future cars in 2015. Oh, and a radar detector, too.

It’s interesting that Max is just giving the kids their marching orders, and then standing back and letting them do whatever. Presumably, he’s still traveling around training the Plubmers’ Helpers.

I’d forgotten how tiny Volcanis *actually* is, and laughed pretty hard when his true stature was revealed. Pretty much every line out of his mouth was hysterical. “Who dares enter the realm of the mighty…oh, not you guys again!” I love how obsessed he was with not breaking any laws this time out, and how his whole scheme to xenoform earth and kill 6 billion people started off with him filling out all the proper paperwork in some galactic burocracy.

As with the previous couple episodes, the episode’s pacing was rather laid back and relaxed. They didn’t feel the need to cram every minute with action or exposition. This gives it an interesting tone, though I haven’t decided if I like it or not.

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