EPISODE REVIEW: GI Joe Renegades: “Prodigal” (Episode 20)

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Say, that was pretty frackin’ good!

Like 18 years ago there was an X-Men cartoon on Fox, I think. The first episode involved them introducing someone you assumed was a main character - “Morph” was his name - and then killing him off for shock value in the last act of the episode. Of course this being an early ‘90s cartoon, they could get away with stuff like that (Unlike in the 80s) but it still felt kinda’ out of place, kind of vicious, so, of course, they brought him back a few years into the run of the show.

In “Renegades,” we were introduced to Ripcord as a main character, and he was killed off in the end of the first episode (Well, episode 2: It was a two-parter) for shock value. “The Morph Syndrome,” as I’ve decided to call this, means they’d have to bring him back sometime, right?

PLAY BY PLAY

The Joes raid a Cobra medical facility to rescue someone called “Patient X,” who, we’re told, is being used in experiments that could make “The Anaconda Strain” seem mild by comparison. Ta-dah, he turns out to be Ripcord. He’s got amnesia, however, and remembers nothing prior to waking up in the hospital with the Joes staring at him. He gets little flashes here and there, though.

After making good their escape, Cobra Commander seems uncommonly interested in recovering Ripcord, and it becomes obvious that Mindbender is treating CC for some physical problem. The experiments on Rip were in some way connected to the treatment for CC’s own problem. CC is having trouble breathing, too, and walks with a cane. Curious. Mindbender says they can track Rip by the chip in his head. This they then do.

The Joes camp out in a cave, and Rip asks them to tell him who he is.

Duke: “Thing is, we only knew you for a few hours, and most of that time we were getting shot at.”
Tunnel Rat: “And we didn’t really *like* you…”

Rip runs off, and while looking for him a bioviper attacks Duke. When the other Joes show up, the viper is gone. Rip turns up in the woods, confused. Any guesses what happened? Yup, you guessed it: he’s a were-viper. After discussing their options, the Joes decide to contact Duke and the Falcons (A “Eddie and the Cruisers” tribute band I once saw that, oddly, only plays songs by “Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.”) and have Rip turn himself in. This they then do, when a whole bunch of Cobra drones turn up and Rip hulks out again. A battle ensues, with Duke pulling a captain Kirk and managing to appeal to the human side of the monster. Rip calms down, and they escape, deciding to stay with the Joes.

Very upset, Cobra Commander intends to feed Mindbender to Serpentor, until the Dr. points out that no one else can help CC with his “Condition.” CC hits him with a cattle prod instead. The end.

OBSERVATIONS

Well, first and foremost, they did it a whole lot better than the X-men did with Morph, right? I mean, that was tedious, this was pretty frackin’ good. I especially liked that the obvious plot device - Rip being the monster - is exactly that: Obvious. The Joes figure it out in less than half an act, they don’t belabor it for the whole half hour. It’s also interesting that the other major plot device - the amnesia - is somewhat irrelevant. The entire episode could have been done without it. Either a red herring, or it’ll pay off more in subsequent episodes. Given how nicely this series has been building over the course of the season, I’m assuming it’s the latter.

I don’t remember Ripcord looking so obviously much like Will Smith last time out. Ah well.

Cobra Commander dons a mirrored helmet in this episode. Evidently it includes an oxygen apparatus of some sort, since he’s clearly having difficulty breathing when he pulls it down, and seems calmer afterwards. Mindbender tells him to avoid stress, given his condition. Later on, CC asks what his prognosis is, and Mindbender says, “Let’s focus on something positive, shall we?” This is the first mention - in any iteration of GI Joe - that CC has some kind of medical problem, and is in less than perfect health.

This is intriguing, isn’t it? We theorized last week that CC’s appearance was in some way related to the Anaconda Strain, since it gradually turned mammals into reptiles, and this week they make it very clear that he’s got a degenerative and terminal medical condition. We never find out what Patient X was all about, but my hunch is that it was an attempt to find some way to control CC’s illness, since they apparently can’t cure it. It’s also interesting that the redesign on the character is apparently by degrees. You’ll recall that the new CC is my least favorite of the character redesigns (Though I’ve since warmed up to the others, unlike R2 who still despises them), but evidently this version of CC is just the starting point. As his illness progresses, he’ll become more like the one we know and love.

Interesting indeed! In fact, at one point, when he's got the mask on, he's excited and yelling, and his voice jumps up an octave, and suddenly, just for half a line, he *sounds like* the old CC from the '80s. Very cool!

Can they track the Joes by Ripcord’s chip? If they try to get the chip out, will he automatically turn into the bioviper? Is the chip all that’s keeping him human? Pretty obviously the chip is related to his memory loss as well.

"Just for the record, nothing I ever do will be as disgusting as that."

Flint, Lady Jaye, Wild Bill, and at least several other Falcons actually *Saw* Ripcord transform into a monster, and they make it very clear that they’re not going to report it because no one would believe them. Just the same, they’re obviously aware that more is going on here than can be easily explained, and even though they don’t trust the Joes, they’re clearly beginning to rethink stuff. Now that the Falcons know Ripcord is still alive, they know the charges of the Joes being murderers is false. That should change the relationship right there, right? I think what’s going to happen in season 2 is that the Falcons are going to pretend to keep hunting the Joes while actually running interference for them with the army.

They keep saying that Rip turns into an 'oldschool' viper like the ones from the first ten episodes. The animation doesn't even remotely match this description, however.

Flint’s operating budget has increased: He’s got choppers now, presumably because they don’t run into potholes like his jeeps always do.

Serpentor turns up again. I seriously think he’s an ex-human.

Dialog makes it pretty clear that no one apart from Mindbender knows of CC’s illness, nor can anyone else be trusted to do much about it. It also makes it clear that CC fears he might not be able to maintain control of his organization if his condition were known.

Man, Duke likes that jetpack, doesn’t he? The scene where he uses it as a flamethrower was pretty clever. That said, the big arial fight sequence this time out wasn’t as good as in the October Guard episode.

The Joes are back in the ‘States for the first time in five episodes.

I wish I knew how many episodes they were going to do this season. I know it’s been picked up for two years, minimum, but I feel like we’re building to a climax fairly soon.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Yeah, I think so. One soldier’s call to duty is enough to offset his urge to turn into a monster. If that aint’ a metaphor for conservative values, I don’t know what is!

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