EPISODE REVIEW: Sym-Bionic Titan: “The Ballad of Scary Mary” (Episode 12)

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Welcome to the…uhm…what, exactly? Is this the second season premier of Sym-Bionic Titan? Or an extremely distended second half of the season? Or is the show dead, and they’re just burning off the episodes? Theoretically, CN ordered 20 episodes, so it’s probably not dead *yet* but one wonders what’s going on.

Whatever role this episode is supposed to fill, the show returns after a three-month absence with no promotion or fanfare; ignominiously bumped from the Friday night schedule by “Young Justice.” It got dumped here amidst a lack of promotion and fanfare.

Which is a shame because, as always, the show is pretty good.

Back in 1957, some high school kids played a joke on a short, unattractive girl named “Mary,” as seen in a flashback. Tarred, feathered, and humiliated, she runs off in the woods, never to be seen again. Legend has it that she died, and haunts a barn. Showing the deep sensitivity that teens have always had when their boorish behavior causes the death of an innocent, the next two generations of kids use this as an excuse to go get wasted out in the countryside.

Meanwhile, in the present (Which makes no grammatical sense, but I just like saying it), Lance, Illana, and Octus head to the party. Octus brings Kimmy, his girlfriend, much to the confusion of the Corporal and the Princess. Yet another Mutradi assassin comes for Illana while at the party, but when they investigate the alien ship in the woods, its only occupant is already dead.

The “Scary Mary” party held in an abandoned farm in the middle of nowhere, and here we get to the real meat of the episode, where the characters all interact with each other. I realize this is a mighty-fighty robot show, and the fights are beautifully choreographed, but when this show is really firing on all thrusters, it manages to combine character stuff with the ol’ ultra violence in amazing ways, such as this:

Tonight isn’t nearly that good, mind you, but there’s a great scene we’ll get to in a minute. For now: It quickly becomes apparent that the dead Mutradi shape shifter in the alien craft wasn't the only one. Another has survived, and has infiltrated the party, trying to kill the princess. There’s a fantastic scene of it drifting from identity to identity as it walks through a crowd. While debating what to do, the “Séance” starts.

Several of the jocks haul out a short kid dressed as Mary on a barn hoist to fly around. Unbeknownst to them, the kid has been KOed, an replaced by the Mutradi. It then changes form, scaring everyone into a panicked stampede away from the barn. Newton literally forces Kimmy, his girlfriend, into the arms of her old beau to get her out of harms’ way.

Then we get the normal old robo-chop-sockey, which is a bit more interesting than most in that the shape shifter can take the form of the people it’s fighting, confusing strategy. Then, defeated, it pulls a Power Rangers and gets huge, and since the episode is running short, we do it all over again. This time out, the shape shifter changes to look like a fifty, or perhaps a hundred, or perhaps a thousand-foot-tall version of Kimmy (Anyone else notice how inconsistent scale is in this show?) who then whales on Titan because Octus doesn’t want to hit her.

Eventually he gathers his wits, and Titan fights back. There’s a great bit where the monster’s face changes into a different likeness every time it’s punched. Style!

In the thrilling denouement, Kimmy’s mad at Newton. Illana and Lance discuss this with him, basically telling him not to get involved with her, since he’s a robot.

“I know what I am, but I also know that I’m no ordinary robot. When I’m with her, I feel something. It may not be love, but happiness, perhaps?” Illana relents, and Newton goes after Kimmy. Illana’s new love interest shows up, and, walking away by himself, Lance makes eye contact with a mopey goth girl.

Meanwhile, in a closing flashback, we find that the *real* Mary didn’t die, but was actually picked up in the woods by a handsome biker, and the two of them ran away together and lived happily ever after.

The end

OBSERVATIONS

The tag about the real Mary’s fate was nice. They didn’t need it, and it was a little unbelievable, but still kind of refreshing.

I’ve said this before, but Kimmy’s got a weird profile. I honestly think we’re supposed to believe she’s had a nose job. It was interesting how completely over-the-moon she was for Newton - even blowing off her ex - and how concerned she was for him during the stampede; yet how angry she was the next day. Teenaged girls. Whatchagonna’do? In any event, I’m pleasantly surprised they left the relationship open, and didn’t just shut it down like the whole episode implied.

“Meat” appears in this episode.

Several recurring characters were introduced: Kimmy’s ex, Illana’s nervous new boyfriend, and the Spooky Goth Chick. All are love interests of one sort or another. This is a good thing, as the character stuff on this show is always borderline-hysterical.

Basically, with this episode, the show becomes “The Octus Show (Featuring Sym-Bionic Titan).” I’m actually pretty cool with that. Octus has been the most interesting character since day one, and watching his character arc unfold is really far more interesting than the whole “Meanwhile back on the homeworld” plot, or the endless assassination attempts.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Well, social conservatives are going to have a problem with the whole “Robosexuality” thing (To borrow a Futuramaism), but for the rest of us: sure, why not? It’s a fun show well told, and there was nothing in here to give offence. Well worth the watch. If you knew it was on. Which, of course, most of us did not.

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