A few people have accused this show - not without some significant justification - of being effectively The A-Team. I don’t have a huge problem with that. The wandering outcast helping people while trying to clear his name is a longstanding American tradition, both in books, movies, and TV (The Incredible Hulk, The Fugitive, and any number of cop-on-the-run shows and westerns). I don’t have a huge problem with a format that works, provided it doesn’t become a straight jacket.
Hopefully this one won’t, since we’re in full-on A-Team mode tonight, much more overtly so than ever before
PLAY BY PLAY
Zartan and his biker gang, the Dreaknoks, rule some Podunk berg in Kansas. No one will stand up to them. Duke and co stumble into the middle of them roughing someone up, and step in. They leave town, and of course that simply means the victim gets beat up far worse once the giant killers are away. This results in your fairly typical western stock battle between the rustlers or robbers or whatever, and the virtuous yet cowardly townspeople.
In the space of about six minutes, the Joes re-enact “The Three Amigos,” minus the sewing lessons, the bad guys are defeated, and the Joes get away. Then Inspector Gerard shows up. Oh, no, wait, that’s Flint. My bad.
Ok, I’m not going to lie to you: this is not my favorite episode. It’s not that it’s at all bad - it isn’t - it’s just so derivative of a million other things that I’m having a hard time working up any enthusiasm over it. The story is pretty straight ahead, the resolution as well, and it just feels uninspired in a way that even including one of the major GI Joe villains can’t really shake. It’s like the episodes just isn’t quite awake yet, which comes as a shock to me since all the other episodes have been so darn good so far.
And again: This one isn’t bad. It’s just not up to the standards of the previous four hours we’ve seen. There’s no introspection, no glimmerings of backstory, no personal narrative (Well, ok, two throwaway lines from Tunnel Rat). Really, there’s nothing here that makes this episode play substantially different than it would have in any previous iteration of GI Joe.
Zartan is a little odd here. When we’ve known him in the other shows, he’s…well…what is he anyway? Australian lowlife? Mercinary? Mutant? Circus Freak? It’s always been a bit fuzzy, but he worked directly for Cobra Commander, independent of the normal Cobra hierarchy. It was never really clear to me why the Commander had such faith in them, but, eh, whatever. Bottom line was that Zartan could change his physical appearance considerably: Face, voice, color, but he was very susceptible to sunlight, which hurt him. This was never explained in the cartoons, though this was blamed on nanites in the live action movie last year.
THIS version of Zartan is American, Hispanic, and just a thug. Zartan wasn’t what you’d call refined, but he certainly wouldn’t waste his time with a small-time operation like bullying locals.
But I think we’re supposed to believe there’s an arc starting out here. This version of Zartan doesn’t have his changeling powers yet, though he’s a gifted mimic. Presumably, he’s yet another guy who’s got it in for the Joes now, and once he comes into contact with Cobra, they’ll give him his other abilities. I expect it’ll play out a lot like the movie, really. He's got quite a few more Drednoks here than normal, and his brother and sister would seem to be conspicuously absent.
Snake Eyes doesn’t make a particularly good showing this time out. Yeah, granted, he looks even cooler in the trench coat, but he actually gets taken out by a hotel full of thugs, which is a little…uhm….unlike him. Curiously, Zartan rips his mask off, then gives it back to him saying “You need this more than I do.” Is Snake Eyes deformed? He *has* been in some previous iterations of the character (I wanna’ say the original version of him got hit in the face with a flame thrower in Vietnam, but my memory might be off), but in the flashbacks we’ve seen thus far in this series, he’s perfectly normal looking, even kinda’ handsome.
So is that a writers’ mistake, or are they setting up yet some more backstory for him?
Again, I don’t want to give the impression that this was a bad episode, because it wasn’t, it’s just that up until now they’ve used ‘format’ as something like a trellis for a vine to grow on - it’s a point of reference, a little form, you don’t actually have to confine yourself to it - but this time out the ep is entirely inside the box, with nothing interesting poking over the edges, like we’ve gotten used to seeing. Mixaphorically speaking, of course.
Curiously, two of the Dreadnoks in this ep - Buzzer and Monkeywrench - were voiced by Charlie Adler, who was the voice of Lowlight in the original cartoon. Lowlight is cool.
Lowlight killed rats - lots of ‘em - to earn his father’s love. That’s pretty badass for an ‘80s cartoon aimed at eight year olds.
Adler is also the voice of the new Cobra Commander.
No new ep next week, but the show returns on the 28th with a story about Tomax and Xamot!
WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?
If they liked the A-Team they will.