As we know, origin stories always suck, and last week wasn’t really any exception. In fact, not only were they saddled with an origin story for Iron Man, they were also saddled with having to retcon/reboot war profiteer/womanizer/drunken Tony Stark in to a Peter Parker-esque teen with a heart of gold. To be honest, they didn’t fail nearly as bad as I’d anticipated, even if the whole plot felt artificial and silly.
This week was much better, shorter on the action, longer on the character-based story. Still not great by a long shot, but not terrible, and better than last week.
In short: Tony is doing research on the Super Happy Funtime Magical Rings of Numinor or whatever they were called from last week. Meanwhile, Gene Khan, the new Mandarin (Having deposed the old one last week) starts going to Tony and Rhody and Pepper’s school. He’s standoffish, but helps Tony with some translations of Chinese. While attempting to befriend Gene, some costumed goons show up and kidnap them.
The costumed thugs were fairly silly looking - in the worst Marvel tradition - and ineffectual, being basically straw men to motivate this episode and little else. They also had a lot of toughs who were dressed up a bit like The Question (Faceless mask, fedora, overcoat). I never heard what they were called, but since it’s Marvel I’m going to assume it’s something stupid. I’m just going to call them “The Faceless Mooks,” which is admittedly stupid, but in a good sort of way. Now, before you start jumping on me about having no respect for Marvel - which is correct, by the way - and not ‘getting’ the fine zillion year tradition of supervillany it purveys - also correct, by the way - and before you start saying I don’t know what I’m talking about by saying Marvel gives people stupid names, I’m just a-gonna’ point out that the two main bad guys in this episode were named “Shrike” and “Unicorn.” I don’t care if “Unicorn” is the Hannibal Lecter of the Marvel Universe - that’s just a really really bad name. The defense rests.
Anyway: The Mandarin runs a Tong, or mafia. Happy Magical Princess Unicorn and Bunny Shrike work for a rival mafia that’s at war with the Tong, and they kidnapped Gene. Gene’s an old pro at this, having been kidnapped five times before. Tony, likewise, has been kidnapped before. It’s the first time for Pepper, though.
Rhody flies the Iron Man Suit by remote control, and a rather long and poorly choreographed melee ensues, which gives Tony the time to actually get in the thing unnoticed, and he (eventually) takes out Magical Happy Princess Unicorn and Bunny Shrike. During all this, Gene has one of the Super Happy Funtime Magical Rings of Numinor that he keeps trying to put on, but he keeps getting interrupted. Presently, given the choice between helping Pepper or escaping, he chooses to help the annoying girl, and in the end Tony and Gene seem to bond somewhat.
Back at Mandarin HQ, we see Gene in Mandarin armor, about to torture Magical Happy Princess Unicorn and Bunny Shrike.
If you were trying to specifically define the difference in feel between the big glitzy premier of any show, and it’s first production-line episode, this one would be a pretty much perfect example. Less on the wow, more on the ‘pad it out and keep it running.’ Even so, the characterizations work better. I liked Tony hating research, forgetting what a library is called (Or was he joking?), and befriending Gene. Furthermore, I really like Gene actually sort of becoming friends with Tony, even though clearly he intends to use him for some nefarious purpose, he still kind of likes him. That’s a nice touch. Also liked Rhody not quite knowing how to run the suit, though that went on too long. Pepper as comedy/exposition needs work, though.
The animation in this show is all CGI, but whereas last week had sunnier, brighter, more ambitious visuals, this week was stock locations, mostly dark, and fairly unimpressive. The final fight was actually kind of sloppy and annoying to follow. Music was ok, voice acting was slightly sub par again, excepting Tony and Gene. I felt the "Wrath of Khan" in-joke was kind of gratuitous and not all that funny, too.
It looks as if The Mandarin is unwittingly going to become part of Team Stark for at least this season, and invariably that means he’ll betray ‘em in the season finale.
Not bad though. It held my interest, but I don’t really want to see it again, and I preferred the character-based stuff in the first half of the episode as opposed to the mighty fighty robots of the second half.