EPISODE REVIEW: Sym-Bionic Titan: “The Metal Foe” (Episode 19)

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As we speed towards the end of the season, there are a number of distressing signs about this show’s future. It disappeared from the Friday night schedule for months, then, when it returned amidst no fanfare it was deposited (Dumped?) on Monday Nights. Last week it was pre-empted from the schedule to make room for a Johnny Test repeat; the decision was so abrupt that there apparently wasn’t time to inform the various TV Guides, who ended up mis-reporting what shows were going to air that night as a result. They ran a new episode - the one that they were going to run - on Saturday, however, in its normal rebroadcast slot. This week? Same as last, excepting they told everyone about it ahead of time, and Titan is now *only* showing up in its Saturday rebroadcast slot.

Translated from Geek into Human Speech, what this means is that CN is getting better ratings from Johnny Test repeats than they are from *new* episodes of Titan. Given the fairly low numbers of reads we get for the reviews here, this is probably a fair assumption. This is a great show, the second best cartoon on TV right now, yet for whatever reason it’s never caught on.

A shame, really.

PLAY BY PLAY

After Octus died, Lance and Ilana simply never went back to their lives in the suburbs. A week passed, then another Mutradi monster appeared. They attempted to take it out, but without Octus they can’t form Titan. Their normal power-armor simply isn’t enough. Looking increasingly ragged, they run away in a battle. The monster continues to rampage in downtown Sherman. The army attempts to fight it, but if a lifetime of Godzilla movies has taught us anything - and it hasn’t - it’s that people with guns are basically only going to annoy giant rubber-suit monsters.

Another week passes. Kimmy is clearly concerned about Newton. No one’s seen or heard anything. We get a really well-done montage of Lance and Ilana traveling around by bus, staying in seedy motels, looking increasingly bleak. The trip is endless. They’re not trying to get *to* anyplace, they’re simply running. Lance has been pouring through technical manuals, taking lots of notes, trying to figure out how to revive Octus. Ilana has fallen into the ironic role of caregiver for her own bodyguard, making sure he eats, making sure he sleeps, making sure his inherent Lanceness doesn’t get out of control and overwhelm him. Solomon and the Men in Red (Galactic Guardians) offered them sanctuary, but they refused: every contact with the MiR ends up in pain and suffering. Various attempts at resurrection fail, though Lance feels he’s slowly getting a grip on it.

Three weeks after Octus died, a giant army robot commanded by General Steel shows up in Sherman, and kills the Mutradi. Lance is pretty sure the power cell in the thing would have the energy levels they need to bring their robot back, so they sneak into the base and try to jump-start their dead friend. This goes badly, and Steel and his men attack them. And Win. Big. Lance and Ilana are down, and they’re clearly not getting back up again.

Just as the final blow is about to fall, MiR jets attack the giant army robot. Solomon shows up out of nowhere, “Can you stand?” he asks. His organization had been keeping tabs on them during their entire flight. He ushers the two kids on a shuttle, and gets them out of there. They explain what they were trying to do, and Solomon again offers them sanctuary. This time, they agree.

General Steel, meanwhile, takes this as a vindication of what he’s suspected all along: that the MiR are evil traitors, and he effectively declares war on them from here on out.

To Be Continued…

OBSERVATIONS

There’s a weird 80s thing going on with General Steel. He gets caught up in meaningless catch phrases like “Whazzup” and “Hammer Time,” all of which are decades out of fashion when he discovers them, but he finds them the coolest thing ever. Just like General Hawk from the old GI Joe cartoon, he never takes his helmet off. He’s in full-on Captain Kirk mode during the robot battles, and his glee at the news reaction to his mighty fighty robot is nothing short of Reaganesque. His attempts to find Titan by infiltrating a high school deliberately riffed on John Hughes movies. This series has always had a kind of nostalgic charm to it. I think the rather unhinged General is there to show us the flipside of the cool stuff from the 80s. Oh, his men are using M-16s in one scene. Very retro. Ubiquitous back in the day, though.

Actually, now that I think on it, this show has always kind of been obsessed with two separate 80s: The 1980s in the US, and the 1780s in France. Interesting that it took me so long to catch on to that.

I don’t trust Solomon - he was pretty much more evil than Satan two appearances back - but he appears to be on the side of the angels here, at least as far as the kids are concerned. How far is he willing to go to protect the kids? How far are the kids willing to go to let him protect them?

Interesting character note: Lance is only happy when he’s doing stuff. He’s basically stoical and withdrawn though the episode, unless he’s fiddling around with Octus’ skull, when he’s directed and shows some excitement and enthusiasm. When this stops, he’s sullen again. When they break into the Army base, he’s actually cracking jokes. Lance can apparently only let down his guard when he’s actively doing something. The more it requires of him, the more unprotected he can become. Interesting.

Where were they getting their money from? Three weeks on the road is a long time. Where have they been getting their money from all this time, anyway? Was Octus forging it? Are they selling Foo Foo on the black market? Did the king’s agents set up an offshore account on earth years before, in case of an emergency, kinda’ like W.C. Fields used to do?

After three weeks, I’m surprised the monster hadn’t gone to rampage in other cities, just out of boredom. I was also surprised there was any of Sherman left standing. This week, by the way, the jeddertown that is Sherman looks like New York City. You can clearly see Central Park.

I think we can safely say that Lance and Ilana have no romantic tension between them. They’re living out of each other’s pockets for 21 days, sleeping in the same room, or on busses, frequently slumped over each other. At one point she’s walking around in just a towel, and it isn’t enticing, nor intended to be, they’re just that comfortable with each other. They really have become a family of sorts. I do think there maybe was a tiny bit of sexual tension early on in the series, but in the year or so they’ve been together, they seem to have simply outgrown it.

I think I’ve finally got a handle on Ilana: Aggressively nurturing. She’s not content to encourage, or let good things happen on their own, she’s compelled to make them happen. I would have liked to have seen more of a character arc to develop this, but oh well.

Kimmy’s obvious concern for Octus in her cameo was touching.

Next week: The season, and presumably series, finale. We’ll get a resolution to the Octus thing, but I don’t think we’ll ever get closure on the Mutradi stuff.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Probably not. General Steel, and all. Well worth watching, though. This is a great series, and I’d put this episode among the three best.

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