Monday, December 2, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part 8

Back in the early 90s, people were absolutely spoiled for entertainment on television.  You had the boom of stand-up comedy (which I think Comedy Central is still trying to beat the proverbial "dead horse" in the hopes the twitching of the body will be mistaken for life), sitcoms, dramas, teen dramas, evening soaps, game was a cornucopia of viewing goodness.

But the best part for the younger version of me was the cartoons, and no cartoon made me more excited to watch than Mighty Max.

Let's look at episode eight and get some actual character development from this show.

The episode opens in the Colorado Rockies, where we hear Virgil's voice apparently reading his horoscope.  We don't see him, and in fact we have no reason to believe he's there, and the horoscope really has nothing to do with what's going on, so I wonder if they recorded the sound before they worked out the storyboards.  Two archaeologists are pulling up artifacts from, as they put it, "the bronze age" which includes a large battle axe that the two are able to carry with no difficulty, but they're sure willing to comment on how huge it is.

Now, I suspect this is a case of a studio simply using the same actors for multiple characters because Rob Paulsen, the voice of Mighty Max himself, also was Pinky on Pinky and the Brain, and the taller archaeologist with the beard sounds like an early version of Pinky, if a bit flatter and without the eagerness or enthusiasm.

The shorter archaeologist leaves to take the artifacts back to the London museum these men came from, and immediately after his vehicle vanishes over a hill, the ground starts shaking as if there's an earthquake.  A tall, imposing figure emerges out of the ice and snow, and after chucking the lanky archaeologist into a tree, he screams out "NOOOOORRRMMAAAAANNNNN!"

You know, I'm getting very disappointed in the death toll of this show, which is a strange thing to admit, I'm sure.  However, I distinctively remember there being some pretty horrible deaths happening quite often in this show, and I don't think we've had any deaths in two weeks. I mean, sure, the casualty list is still at eleven, but I hope we don't pass that number with episodes before it goes up again.

Max, meanwhile, is stuck in an exam at school, but is fortunately saved by Virgil managing to put directions to the nearest portal on his test packet.  I don't know how Virgil does it, I don't want to know how Virgil does it, I just assume he does it months in advance so it all goes as planned.

Max gets to the portal, which is unfortunately in a rather awkward place for a young man to be wandering in to:

We also get what seems to be the least realistic girl screams of all time.  Again, I assume they're recycling voice actors, and every actor in this one is male.

Virgil didn't give great instructions, though, as Max emerges from the portal into a convertible about to be smashed by a giant trash compactor at the dump.  He deftly escapes (he is the "mighty one" after all), but isn't able to wander too far before cars start getting thrown around him and the voice from earlier declares that "someone" is a coward and can't hide forever.

It turns out the man's name is "Spike" which...I'll be honest, is a pretty terrible name for an arch-nemesis for Norman.  With those pieces of wood sticking out of his head, why not "Twiggy" or "Son of a Birch?"

...okay, those aren't better, but I'll think of something.

Spike pretty much throws Norman around the junkyard, and even lifts several cars (and a minivan) over his head to throw them at Norman, so we know the guy is strong.  He gets the better of Norman and seems about to deliver a death blow when a crane magnet drops down and snags him because I guess he's made of metal?

Max is at the controls, and he dumps Spike where he won't be bothering anybody again.

Man, that's a short episode.

Actually, it turns out it's not.  One of those bad boys tends to have 2,000 psi, but it's not long before the metal twists and bends as Spike pushes back on the hydraulics and makes the whole system explode.

So scratch that, he's ridiculously strong.

To emphasize this, he then grabs hold of the magnet and pulls the crane over.  Max, Norman, and Virgil make a break for it, and fortunately the man who can rip apart a car can't figure out how to push his way through a chain link fence, so they get a bit of a lead.

Stopped at a train tracks, the good guys are forced to jump on a passing train.  Spike attempts to grab hold as well, but seems to miss...until the camera pans down on the last car and we see a hand clutching the bottom part of the last car.

The train leaves the city and heads into the country (meaning Spike's been dragged several miles at least by now), and Norman tells the story of him and Spike.

He explains it "all started when I was a child, ten thousand years ago."  At some point I hope they go into why he's immortal.  Maybe he's what the Highlander was meant to be.

Anyway, Norman's tribe apparently lived in the Colorado mountains years ago, and his father was the chief.  His father promoted peace to the neighboring tribes, but one day Spike and his gang showed up and attacked.  Norman's father (voiced by the person who did Virgil, I think) calls for Young Norman to fetch his war axe.

Young Norman struggles with the axe, barely able to drag it behind him as he tries to rush to his father's side, but his father is doing an okay job holding off Spike without any weapons, and even manages to get Spike to fall face-first onto a log, driving branches into his head.

Yet somehow this doesn't kill Spike.  We might be looking at another immortal here.

Norman gets his axe to his father, but when he calls out to him, it's enough time for Spike to lunge forward with his sword and run Dad through.

Current Casualties: 12

Well, so much for "not enough deaths."

Spike chucks the axe over a cliff as Norman's father dies, and Norman grabs a twig and manages to stab Spike in the face with it (this guy has a serious weakness to wood).  Spike attempts to kill Norman, but missteps and falls off the same cliff the axe went over, swearing to get Norman one day.

The scene fades out with Young Norman clinging to the side of the cliff, tears streaming down his face.

So, a dead father, some paternal guilt, and a foe who can't be killed.  Norman's now the second most fleshed out character after Max's mom.

Spike scales up the side of the train and chases the good guys down the train length.  The heroes jump off the train off a bridge, with a portal opening just in time to swallow them up and make Spike land in the river below.

Back at Max's house, Max gives the world's worst pep talk ("You gotta try!") to Norman to prepare him to face Spike.  Norman has Virgil and Max accompany him back to the Rockies for the final showdown, and we find that Spike still has that archaeologist held prisoner...begging the question where was the guy when Spike was harassing people in a junkyard and on a train?

Max gets in one last pep talk as Norman heads down to face Spike for the final battle ("I got fifty cents riding on you, big guy!  Don't let me down!"  Max is terrible at this).  Norman starts struggling right away against the bigger, scarier guy, and Max and Virgil lament he doesn't have his father's war axe to give him more confidence.

This is when the archaeologist pipes in that they dug that up several days ago (that long?) and sent it back to London, but there's no way to get there and get it back to Norman in time.

...hold on.  It only takes a couple days to ship a war axe from Colorado to London?  I'd think customs would take a couple days alone.

While Norman and Spike trade blows back and forth (Norman actually manages to overpower Spike at one point, leaving me wondering why he didn't just suplex that giant eyeball under that prison that one time), Max, Virgil, and the archaeologist break into the "British Museum" to steal the axe back.

Virgil lays out an elaborate plan to beat the security system, but Max, being a typical American, simply picks up a board and smashes the case.  This of course leads to a confrontation with the cops, and Max needs to come up with a diversion.

So what does the Mighty One do?

He collapses at Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton onto them.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

The good guys escape into a portal (and I can't help but notice that nobody's carrying the axe), but when they get back to Norman, Max is able to toss it easily to the big guy.  That's right, young Norman was weaker than Max despite living in a tribe that raised warriors.

Apparently the ice and snow kept the axe quite sharp, because it slices through Spike's sword without a problem, and we get two great pieces of dialogue from this battle:

Norman: "My father's axe!  Now I can avenge his death."
Spike: "Over my dead body!"
Norman: *shrugging* "Works for me."


Spike: "If you kill me, you'll be no better than me!"
Norman: (with a deadpan voice) "I can live with that."

However, Norman doesn't kill him, and instead knocks him off a cliff again with another avalanche burying him beneath it.

We then get a really great scene where Norman returns with the axe to where his tribe used to be, and his father's ghost appears in the air in front of him.  Norman hands over the axe, which immediately becomes immaterial as well, and his father's spirit fades.  The episode ends on Norman's face as tears stream down it.

Then we jump to Max telling us about the Rocky Mountains and how it controls the nation's river flow.

The Good:

It's great to get some background on Norman, as so far he's been a pretty two dimensional character (guy beats up everybody who threatens Max, occasionally has to be reigned in).  Seeing some heartfelt moments from the big guy, both in the past and the present, really gives us some better insight into who he is, and leaves many questions unanswered for future episodes.

How did he become the Guardian of the Mighty One?  How did he live for ten thousand years?  Was it genetic?  He states that his father could've lived that long as well if Spike hadn't killed him.  Besides being Thor at one point in history, what other historical figures has he been?  What's the song about him fighting a dragon?  He doesn't mean Beowulf, does he?

The Bad:

Spike is...a pretty goofy villain.  First of all, he speaks fluent English even ten thousand years ago.  Second, while having a stick poking out of him might've been cool, having his face look like he french-kissed an Ent just makes him goofy.

Also, the voice actor put a lot of enthusiasm into the role, but it came off much too silly, especially when you consider we already had Tim Curry show up twice as a really intense villain.


A stellar episode that really helps fill in some long-missing character growth and development and provides some back story into this crazy world.  It asks us to take a lot on faith, but doesn't push the limits too far that we stop and think it's just making stuff up for the sake of making it up.  Plus, it is a kid's cartoon, so you can't worry too much about things like this.  I mean, the Gargoyles spoke fluent English when I'm pretty sure their native tongue would've been Scottish.

Oh, and a bonus round!  Erik Overthinks Christmas Carols: Part One! the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" it really seems like she isn't going to stay until the guy offers her a drink.  Then she actually says "Hey, what's in this drink?"  ...did he slip her something?  Fun fact: the roles in the sheet music actually read "Wolf" and "Mouse" for the male and female parts...meaning maybe the song has a darker message.

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