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Friday, 28 of November of 2014

Sym-Bionic Titan – “Showdown at Sherman High” & “Shadows of Youth”

But you, you with that big beautiful brain, you saved me.”

He’ll be back. He always comes back.”

So I missed out on “Showdown at Sherman High” because of the Rally For Sanity and/or Fear last weekend. I have since corrected that, so you get a double review tonight with “Shadows of Youth.”

I enjoyed both episodes thoroughly.  I feel like the show has finally settled on a very consistent tone, one that’s a bit more in line with its narrative. Earlier episodes were a little too bright, a little too young-skewing. This slowly faded away, and by “Shaman of Fear,” I thought the show had figured itself out pretty well. With these two episodes, I’m very sure of it.

Tar creature assuming Lance's visage in Sym-Bionic Titan

How, exactly, does this help the monster track down Lance? Without a mirror, I mean?

“Showdown at Sherman High” is the kind of episode I had been looking for for a while for a couple of reasons. The first was that it put the trio at school with a serious threat, forcing them to interact with peers that, by and large, don’t respect them (Illana) or like them in a sycophantic way (Lance). It’s a dynamic the show hasn’t explored as much as I would like, since it’s so much a part of their cover to avoid detection.

On top of this, they give Illana a chance to shine, something else the show has seriously lacked, in comparison to Lance’s development so far. I’m a bit frustrated that Illana saw the cheerleaders as her way in (a bit trite) but it’s done in an organic enough way that I don’t mind too much.

Indeed, it speaks to her absolute obliviousness that she perceives the cheerleaders as spirit leaders who help the school. It’s no surprise, of course, given the narrative, that the cheerleaders are horrible people (would it have been so bad for them to be decent?) that Illana eventually wins them over, even the queen bee cheerleader.

Illana rallying the school, becoming the leader she is.

Yes. We get it.

But I like that Illana couldn’t help herself at the end.

Illana’s speech is horrible. I mean, there are plenty of dreadful rallying speeches in shows, but I’m pretty sure this is one of the worst ever. And there’s something endearing about the fact that her speech is bad. Illana is trying so hard to be a leader that she’s doing a terrible job at it instead of letting what are probably natural talents shine through.

So when Lance tells her that it’s too much, it feels earned. It isn’t that she’s inept at leading, it’s just that she’s too eager. And it doesn’t feel entitled (too much) either. Hopefully the show will have Illana taking this lesson to heart, starting slowly by joining the student council and progressing from there.

If “Showdown” demonstrates that Illana has potential to be a great leader, then “Shadows of Youth” gives us the full on Lance potential. I’ve complained about the show’s focus on Lance (I really hope it’s motivated by demographics, but even that is a shitty reason) since Illana, as a character, has potential that the show ignores. But I can’t complain about “Shadows” because it’s a great half-hour of television. Like “Showdown,” and like much of the series, there’s nothing inherently new about this story: orphaned boy gets picked on, proves himself, disappoints, sets out to completely prove himself.

But “Shadows” is so entertaining, so expertly crafted that I don’t mind. Even aesthetically (and I love how dark and dank “Showdown is, by the way), this episode is a couple of steps beyond what the show has already done. Lance’s arrival at the academy, so gray and rainy that it feels tactile. Couple it with the main building coming out of the fog, and I was pretty much sold on the episode there.

But the narrative works. It has bits of Ender’s Game, of course, but nothing that feels too obvious. And while I feel like we had satisfactorily explored Lance’s frustrations with his father in “Shaman of Fear,” this  episode extends Lance’s all-in do-gooding protector mentality. Yes, he’s saving his father every time he saves someone, but the show never makes that wholly explicit, and I appreciate the fact that the show allows the audience to tease that out for themselves.

Perhaps of most interest, however, is seeing Modula before he’s become the Big Bad. Loyal and unevil looking, the show does a nice job of establishing Modula as a strategist (he manages to disable both of the mechas without so much as a scratch) so that he seems all the more threatening now than he ever did before. And it’s no wonder that The King selects Lance to protect Illana as they flee Galaluna give their connections. He’s protecting Lance for the sake of Lance’s father as much as he’s protecting his own daughter. Again, something not said, but implied in the show.

If the show can keep up this kind of work, I’ll be very, very happy. But I still have reservations about Illana. I expect a backstory episode now, completely devoted like Lance’s in “Shadows of Youth.” It’s not even an issue of fairness or gender equality, but one of character equality. This is Illana’s narrative, too, and to have her marginalized in the episodes or poorly fleshed out just seems wrong, especially for as strong a presence as the show has crafted her to be. She’s a dominating force, let her have an episode.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Octus annoyed with Meat.

Is Octus gonna have to cut a dumb jock?

  • I love seeing Octus get frustrated.
  • Convinced, now, by the way, that Solomon is connected to Lance’s dad (not convinced that he is Lance’s dad though). I’m sure it’s a theory that’s already been tossed around, but it makes sense, right? I mean, just look G3’s uniforms. They look pretty inspired by Galaluna guards to me.
  • For elite members of that academy, Baron and his boys are pretty terrible shots.
  • Epic laser tag win.
  • Silly question, I know, but where were all the teachers while the tar creature was taking over the school? Where?


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