EPISODE REVIEW: Sym-Bionic Titan: “A New Beginning” (Episode 20, Series Finale)

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...And so it ends, not with a whimper, but with a bang. Granted, this isn’t the end anyone had wanted, but it is at least a solid end to the chapter before Cartoon Network decided to throw the rest of the novel away unread. If you haven’t been following the discussions on our site, the show has been cancelled, despite really strong ratings. The die was apparently cast about a month ago, rather abruptly, mid-week when they yanked it off the Monday Night schedule, and burned off the unaired episodes in the show’s own rerun spot on Saturday Mornings.

Odd, since this show has always been a problematic fit at best with Saturdays. So why did they kill it? Toy sales. This is a really hard show to market to kids young enough to buy toys (“Ooooh! Mom! I want the battle-action dismemberable Mutradi with protruding bone slices! Also, Suzi wants an see-through Octus so she can have it make out with her Barbies! It’s cool! It says ’Parallelogram!’”), and hard to market to kids too old to buy toys (Such as any of my dead-eyed neighbors who, I think, don’t realize there are cartoons on TV at all these days). The way it works these days is you need dual revenue streams to keep a ’toon on the air: The show is a commercial for the toys, the toys are commercials for the show. Been this way since the mid-80s. It’s not a bad thing, excepting when it goes wrong, like here…

PLAY BY PLAY

We pick up immediately after the end of the previous episode, with Solomon taking the kids, and Octus’ skull back to their base. Their base turns out to be a giant elongated flying sexagon that would put (any of) SHIELD’s helicarriers to shame. It’s all sleek and it’s got that 60s minimalism going. General Steel is chasing after them in the Hammer to get revenge and kill them all.

The kids agree, reluctantly, to stay with The Men in Red (The “Galactic Guardian Group,” but I like my name better), who promise to protect them. Protective custody is still custody, however, and they don’t like it much. Is Solomon trustworthy? He asks for Octus’ skull, and, again, reluctantly, the kids give it to him, in hopes that the MiR’s scientists can get him working again. Presently, Solomon comes back and says he really couldn’t help, though he had hopes. While saying this, he looks at someone through a hidden camera. Is this a double cross?

Steel attacks the MiR helicarrier en masse, and the kids go out to help fend him off. They take pains to avoid taking any lives, Steel is just slaughtering MiRs, however. Three Mutradi beasts come through the rift, and attack three separate targets. The MiR, Steel, and the kids agree to a provisional truce and each takes a monster. The MiR head after one in France, Steel/Hammer takes one in San Francisco, the kids take one in….uhm….where, exactly? See below.

Meanwhile, back in the helicarrier, we see a mysterious stranger fiddling with Octus, downloading his memories and looking at them on a mass of screens. He fiddles some more with Octus’ head.

The monsters pretty much whup up on everyone, with Hammer getting dismembered and dead in like two hits. The kids are getting beat down by their own monster, when, suddenly, Octus appears! They quickly form Titan - a newer, more powerful Titan, oddly - and make quick work of their own monsters, then roam around the world to off the others.

Octus texts Kimmy letter her know he’s coming home. She cries.

The End

OBSERVATIONS

This was a really solid episode from start to finish. Great action sequences - perhaps not as eye-popping in terms of depth of field as we’re used to, but pretty amazing nonetheless. The montage of Lance and Illana basically scaring pilots into ejecting from their fighters was pretty hilarious. The conflict between MiR/GGG and Steel’s army was set up in the first episode, and finally, fully pays off here. It was kind of a draw, which arguably was also set up in the premier, but the kids were turning the balance, and I presume had it gone on much longer, Solomon’s forces would have won.

It’s interesting how Solomon’s people tend to prefer guile and manipulation (As per his first meeting with Lance half a season ago) versus Steel’s over-the-top frontal attacks. His battle with the monster in San Francisco does more damage to the city (And clearly far more casualties) than the Mutradi itself. Of course this has been there since the start, too: Solomon vs. Steel; Wisdom vs. Strength. Indeed, Solomon’s one real comment about the general was simply, “I knew he was stupid…”

They get some nice plot tension out of this, though they weren’t really able to play it up. I, myself, continued to suspect a double cross from Solomon simply because, hey, he might be on the side of the angels, but he’s still Machiavellian. And indeed pretty clearly there was at least one wheel within another in this ep: he was clearly giving a signal to the mysterious man behind the camera at one point. Why?

Once again: Clearly no sexual tension between Lance and Illana. Both of ’em are walking around in their underwear, completely unselfconscious. I mention this for those diehard shippers out there: These two don’t ship.

When the monsters land, they end up in San Francsico, Paris and - clearly - Beijing. The third monster clearly lands in the Olympic Stadium. It’s unmistakable. When the battle actually takes place, however, it appears to be in their old adopted home town in the ‘States. Odd.

So who was the mysterious man Solomon signaled deep in the bowels of the GGG helicarrier? Well, duh, it’s Lance’s long lost daddy. Has to be. Best buddies with The King. Who else would advanced (Even by their standards) Gallalunan technology, and be able to jump-start it? Probably recognized the king’s own fingerprints in the wiring so to speak. It has to be him. The whole point of the Solomon/Camera exchange may simply have been for the guy to identify his son before he went any further. Octus is dangerous. Might not want to give him to any flunky, but to protect his kid? Well, that’s motivation, isn’t it?

SPECULATION

Sadly, there’s not much left to do apart from speculation. My predictions for the abortive season 2:
- Lance would have been reunited with his father.
- Octus’ mysterious origins would have been revealed, probably in more flashback episodes
- Illana finally would have gotten a character arc
- Octus would let Kimmy in on his secret, or she’d figure it out herself. She wouldn’t care much.
- We’d see the emergence of a more formal alliance between 3G and Team Titan and Lance’s Dad, united against the Mutradi.
- We’d find out how the Mutradi leader guy lost his eyes, and how he went insane, again, presumably in a flashback episode, possibly tied to the Illana ones above.
- Probably a spring break episode in there somewhere
- The Mutradi would probably decide to simply invade earth, rather than continue piecemeal attacks as they’ve been doing, in which case the MiR/Titan/Dad alliance would be all that stands in their way.

All, as I say, mere speculation. Alas, there’s nothing sadder than a fragmentary story, excepting, possibly, a really *good* fragmentary story, abandoned in its stride. Hopefully someday I’ll get to interview Mr. Tartakovsky and find answers to some of these.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Probably not. The Army (by way of Steel) is portrayed in complete whack-a-mole violent psychopath mode, and while they go to some small lengths to distinguish between General Jack D. Ripper here, and the average grunts and pilots, that’s probably not going to be enough for most of us. If we can take it in the spirit with which it was intended, however - a ripping good yarn in a larger fight for the liberation of an occupied world, getting caught up in intercine politics here on earth - then this isn’t damning at all. I say watch it.

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