EPISODE REVIEW: Tower Prep: “Fathers” (Episode 13)

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We pick up with the cliffhanger fight from the previous episode. Ian gets all psycho ninja on some gnomes, and escapes. CJ is having second thoughts about betraying her friends, but she feels loyalty to her dad as well. Headmaster assures her that Gabe has “A shadow” over on West Campus. Ian finds out about Gabe and attempts to rescue him, but gets lost and meets a creepy guy in the tunnels who looks more than coincidentally like The President from this episode of The Prisoner:

I think it’s mostly the hair, but the impression is very deliberately the same: a creepy guy down below who knows what’s really going on, may be friend, may be foe, is more than likely a bit of both, but isn’t disposed to tell what’s going on either way.

He goes on like a Minbari about threes for a while, three friends, three this, three that. He says that after Ian escapes he’ll see him three more times. Ian doesn’t believe him. Meanwhile, Suki’s dad - Francois Chau - best known as “Dr. Pierre Chang” from Lost - comes to take her home warning of the chaos that is to come. Gabe, meanwhile, has met up with Odin and some other enemies in the West Campus, who are packing grudges. A guy called “Dmitri” (“Meat Tree” for short) is Headmaster’s bodyguard for Gabe, but eventually they get the jump on the guy and are going to kill Gabe or something.

Suki disowns her dad just as Ian blunders past. There’s more chop-sockey as he rescues her and they run knowingly into the trap Headmaster set for them. Again more chop-sockey in a generally poorly filmed and unimpressive fight with Headmaster (“Careful, Archer, who do you think taught Coach how to fight?”) CJ disowns her dad and saves Ian, and they run away.

They blunder into Gabe right before his beating, and we get yet another fight sequence (Better filmed) then they make their way to the tunnel and….

….Escape!

Just like that. No, really, they’re out.

Well, out of the school anyway, not out of the game: Whisper shows up as a hologram and explains that Headmaster has actually been working from the inside for years to try and overthrow the board and return the school to it’s idealistic roots, and that they, along with The Broken and The Infiltrator’s Army will ultimately join forces against an even greater darkness that is to come.

The End. Probably forever, as I don’t think the show’s gonna’ get a second season.

OBSERVATIONS

I’ve talked about the similarities to The Prisoner in this series quite a lot, and actually I quite like them. They manage to put their own spin on a classic and come up with something pretty great and new while starting from the same basic idea. There’s certainly no shortage of that here tonight. We’ve got a #2/Headmaster who’s changed sides, the aforementioned President dude skulking around, a whole lot of fighting, an actual, real, honest-to-God escape that may simply be rushing headlong into a larger prison, and a whole bunch of reveals that the meanings of things were massively different than we thought. Really all that’s missing is the beat-you-over-the-head sense of allegory the final episode of The Prisoner had, and the Beatles singing “All You Need Is Love”

And yet, true to the form of this entire series, it totally works. They’ve taken the basic framework of The Prisoner, and built it into something completely different. “Ah, but that’s not possible,” you say. No, it really is: The original Star Trek, Space: 1999 and the original Battlestar Galactica are all your basic planet-of-the-week space shows, but they’re massively massively different, right? Ditto here: there’s lots of different ways to do paranoia.

Actually, check that: there’s only two ways: Well, and Stupid. Tower Prep does it very well. It’s unquestionably the smartest kid’s show on right now, and one that every adult I’ve forced to watch it genuinely likes and is pleasantly surprised by.

There’s a little bit of a “Lost” feel to the final scene, too, in that everyone wants off the island, but the island turns out to be a place of crucial importance for the whole world. Ditto Tower Prep, I assume. Again, it’s the things you do with the ideas and not the ideas themselves. If that wasn’t the case, then the first western ever made would also have been the last western ever made.

As with the Cam “I need you to trust me” scene in the previous episode, we get a scene involving Fenton and Ray that serves no larger purpose other than to remind us they’re on the cast.

Anyone else notice the family thing going on here? CJ rejects her dad, Suki rejects her dad, Ian’s somehow the dauphin of the school. The only one we don’t know anything about, really, is Gabe’s dad.

Several elements were thrown into the air in these last couple episodes, which weren’t resolved. For instance, the Chemicadessin 2.0, and the nature of the “larger conflict,” the identity of “The President” (As I call him), they mysterious seventh person who knows the truth (But come on, it’s got to be the creepy president dude, right?), and Ian’s role as the fulcrum about which all this resolves. Most of this was obviously being set up for season 2, assuming (Pray God) there is a season 2.

I wasn’t thrilled with the direction of this episode. The pacing was way off. It took four scenes to get Suki out of her holding room, it took three scenes to get Gabe into the fight with Odin. Backcutting between transitional scenes that didn’t really have any point made it feel kinda’ slow and padded out, even though there was plenty of story to go ‘round here. The big fight with Headmaster was shot and edited in an annoyingly bad Cameraman On Acid style that made it really hard to follow the chorography of the fight, didn’t add any excitement, and was just annoying. (“Dad, why do they keep zooming the camera in and out really fast?” Republiboy, age 10) Gabe’s loooooooooooong soliloquy likewise just wasn’t shot well, and sucked up energy.

The story was better than the execution, however, and despite the flaws I was on the edge of my seat through the whole thing. I particularly like that they actually *did* complete the story, there’s closure, but at the same time they set up another story. I do hope they get a chance to tell it. This is far and away the best arc-driven show on Cartoon Network since Justice League Unlimited. And really quite a bit better than any of the other SF shows on at the moment.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

What, are you kidding me? Of course yes!

A PERSONAL NOTE

It’s come to my attention that one or two people attached to the Tower Prep production staff have visited our humble little site. If someone connected to the show should happen across this, please contact me at three@republibot.com as I would love, love, love to talk to you about the series.

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