June 11, 2011

Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, episode 5 - "Feryl Steps Out"


Noel

We open on a peasant village just as it falls victim to a pirate raid. But these aren't just any pirates, they're land-roving pirates, literally riding a massive ol' fashioned three-masted square rigger on rolling wheel. How badass is that. The pirates are all "Arrrr!" and skull & bones flags and plundering for booty and spoils, though they do lose a bit of their badassness when one pirate is beaten down by a gaggle of girls for stealing their goat.

It's not long, of course, before the Spectral Knights charge into action! Well, two of them at least. Say what you will about Leoric as a leader, but the dude has no problem dashing into a fight and giving a firm what for to ne'er-do-wells. His partner in the fray, Feryl, doesn't so much fight as he crashes the Capture Chariot into a well and huddles down as a bunch of pirates pummel the snot out of him. It's a pathetic sight, but that's okay, because this is the Very Special Feryl Episode, where he has to learn to believe in himself.


After the symbolic wedgie he received in battle, Feryl decides the Spectral Knights would be better without him, so he leaves. And he's so considerate of his friends that he takes with him the Capture Chariot, something that carries three people and is probably very useful to the others in battle. After drinking his sorrows away, the plot takes an interesting twist when Darkstorm shows up and attempts to woo Feryl to the dark side. It says much about the young man that he never once considers the offer as he takes the goons out, and part of the pub with them. Feryl's friends didn't drive him away and he still cares about them very much, he just thinks they're better off without him. It's a touching bit of character depth and I wonder if this clumsiness and self-doubt will continue in future episodes.

Darkstorm decides he can still take advantage of the situation when he has Cravex sneak a Fear spell through Leoric's window that night and-- Wait a second. In the last episode, a random peasant snuck right into Leoric's bedroom while he was sleeping. Here, a Darkling Lord is sneaking one of his spells in through the window. How in the hell is Leoric not dead by this point? Seriously, you could send a blind assassin with a dull crayon into Leoric's room at night and he'd likely stab the leader to death with a stumble.

Anyways, the Fear spell convinces Leoric that Feryl is in danger and has likely been caught by Darkstorm, so he bursts out of the castle, sees a shadowy armored figure strung up in a tree, and blunders into an ambush. He dives into his dashing dose of kickass, but is overwhelmed by their numbers and forced into the Dagger Assault's Magic Extractor (which sound so silly as I write it). Through teamwork, the Darkling Lords have once again captured the leader of the Spectral Knights because the dude is too much of a knucklehead to bring backup when setting off to storm a castle. *sigh*

Who should this caravan drive past during the night, with Leoric clearly visible and distressed in his cage? Feryl, of course, who hops on the Dagger Assault, hops back off, then follows on foot. At his castle, Darkstorm strings Leoric up in his new bondage toy, the Pulley Web, and seeks to make use of Leoric's Power Staff only for the owl of Wisdom to give him a uselessly ambiguous answer. Feryl shows up and, in true rising to the occasion fashion, jumps across a moat full of gators and slinks through a sewer infested with giant spiders only to get to Leoric and start untying him. Unfortunately for them, Darkstorm was smart enough to send one of the Lords to guard the dungeon. Fortunately, it's the sniveling Mortdredd.

Now, to Mortdredd's credit, he does put up an impressively rousing fight at first, but then he's back to whining mode when the Knights toss him into the Pulley Web. But not until he yanks a statue's tongue and activates the alarm (an impressive set of gears and bells which we see inside the wall). Again showing a clear head, Darkstorm sends boulders into the sewers, cutting off the most likely avenue of escape. He and the Lords charge into the dungeon through the only other entrance. They're sure to catch the heroes. But they don't because they walk right past a set of drapes the Knights are hiding behind. You really have to give credit to the villains for using their brains... up to the point where they stop doing so.

The Lords search the castle for the Knights in a hilarious sequence that involves them gleefully smashing and tearing everything Darkstorm owns as he bumbles around trying to pick up the pieces. The Knights are finally spotted when they get to the Dagger Assault and Leoric climbs into the Magic Extractor to get his totem back. It'll take a few minutes to charge up, so Feryl, the youth filled with self doubt and hesitation, has to stand up to the entire band of Darkling Lords on his own. At least until they step back and send the massive Destruction monster after him, which ruins more of Darkstorm's stuff. He ducks and dodges and even gets in a good bite on the monster's thigh while in wolf mode, and then Lion/Leoric jumps in and, together, they fell the beast and escape. The Knights steal the Dagger Assault, but instead of carrying that over to the next episode, they just crash it while crossing the moat and hop back in the nearby (handy!) Capture Chariot. Well, there you go. I guess good did come out of Feryl stealing it. There's a brief battle of the vehicles, but it ends with yet more of Darkstorm's stuff being trashed when the Sky Claw crash lands in his bedroom.

While resting before their trip home, Leoric and Feryl overcook their breakfast and clasp hands as friends. Feryl is once again a Spectral Knight. As if you had any doubts he would be.

This is a solid, thrilling, often quite funny episode. Leoric blunders into situations like a knucklehead, but you have to admit the man can put up a fight. I like the exploration of Feryl and his doubts about his own abilities. Aside from some really stupid decisions, the villains once again stole the show as they worked together shockingly well for people that loath one another. And the animation was a huge step up from the last episode with some really thoughtful and intricate character layouts and fight sequences.

It's another win for Visionaries.


Tony

This was a very unique episode for a couple of reasons. For one, it focuses on a specific character. One of the complaints I’ve had so far is that the Spectral Knights are kind of hard to tell apart without a program. If Leoric is Huey Lewis, the Spectral Knights are The News. This week, Feryl finally gets a drum solo... and maybe a few pairs of panties thrown his way.

The whole “You guys would be better off without me.” is a pretty common cartoon trope, and "Feryl Steps Out" doesn’t exactly break any new ground - Noel’s description of it as a "Very Special Feryl Episode" is spot-on - but it succeeds in finally making us care about one of these characters. Feryl wasn’t just a faceless do-gooder, quipping his way through the bad guys towards his inevitable victory. He was a human being. All of us have had moments where we believe that we've failed the ones we love. It's excruciating. The entire engine of this episode is fueled by emotion, certainly a first for this series.

Another unique aspect of this episode, though it’s actually the second in a row, is no Merklyn. I’m glad they’re mixing it up - not every episode can be “The Quest for the Dragon’s Nards” or whatever - but, frankly, I miss the shrouded motives, the double dealing, and the total moral ambiguity of his character. It’s what, to this point, has set this series apart.

One character whose morals are as clear as a May morning is Leoric. Unfortunately, he continues to make some rather baffling choices for a leader. I’ve lost track of how many times he’s been captured by the Darkling Lords, and don’t make me start a “Leoric Behind Bars” count, because I will! I fully expect that, before this show is over, the Darkling Lords will trap Leoric using a giant shoebox propped up by a stick with a rope tied around it.

One criticism I have about this episode is I really think they should’ve had Feryl sink lower and that his stand against the Darkling Lords should’ve been a moment of truth, with doubt overwhelmed by determination, complete with fanfares and maybe a Stan Bush song. If anyone could find something inspirational that rhymes with Feryl, it’s Stan.

That said, I enjoyed the mix of character, comedy, and clashes in this episode enough to give it a thumbs up.

Quick hits:
  • I really liked the land pirates and I was disappointed when they were dispatched so quickly. They’re far too interesting to use as throw-away characters. I hope we see them again.
  • Implied drinking! Although it doesn’t say what Feryl was drinking, and he doesn’t slur his words and stumble around, the Darkling Lords find him in a tavern with an empty mug, having running up a sizeable tab.
  • How have the Knights and the Lords gone for so long without re-charging their staffs and totems?
  • One thing this series lacks: iconic music. There isn’t one distinguishable theme in the entire show that I can think of. Compare this to Thundercats and its brilliant use of leitmotif. There’s no music here that supports the drama or the action, causing both to often fall a bit flat.



And now for this week's "Now That's Being a Visionary" moment:

Herbie: “Mikey, look. It’s Frankie Feldman. Let’s take his lunch money.”

Frankie: “He-hey guys.”

Mikey: “Hand it over, Frankie... or else.”

Frankie: “Oh-ka-kay. Here ya go...

Man’s Voice: (off screen) “Not on taco day you don’t!”

Boys: (simultaneously) “Ectar!”

Ectar: “Never give money to a bully, even if there are several of them and they’re armed. You make them take that taco money from your cold, dead hands.”

Frankie: “I guess I could jam this pencil in Mikey's neck."

Ectar: “Now that’s being a Visionary!”



Additional articles in our Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light series:

2 comments:

NoelCT said...

Tony, I disagree with the idea that Feryl needed to sink lower. Would you have him join Darkstorm, or maybe the land pirates? That would have felt obvious. I prefer the way they handle it here, with him remaining a dedicated and able knight who merely lacks confidence. He never stops being who he is, he just hits a point where he doesn't feel that's good enough to live up to the other great knights around him.

As for Merklyn, I think it's a breath of fresh air to get away from him now and then, as intriguing as he can be. And since the power staffs can only be used once (the totems don't need recharging), the suggestion is there that they do make trips to and from his temple off screen. We don't need to see it happen every time. That would get repetitive.

You're spot on about the music. It's not bad, just not particularly catchy, and the half-hearted theme song is only memorably due to its simplicity.

And I figured out who Leoric reminds me of. :)

Anthony Williams said...

Tony, I disagree with the idea that Feryl needed to sink lower. Would you have him join Darkstorm, or maybe the land pirates? That would have felt obvious. I prefer the way they handle it here, with him remaining a dedicated and able knight who merely lacks confidence. He never stops being who he is, he just hits a point where he doesn't feel that's good enough to live up to the other great knights around him.

That's well put (I hadn't quite summed it up for my self so completely), but I need to clarify that by "sink lower" I meant that I didn't feel that he hits the depths of self doubt necessary to have his "rise up" moment, which was also lacking IMO.

What I guess I'm saying is. He need a "The Last Dragon" moment

As for Merklyn, I think it's a breath of fresh air to get away from him now and then, as intriguing as he can be. And since the power staffs can only be used once (the totems don't need recharging), the suggestion is there that they do make trips to and from his temple off screen. We don't need to see it happen every time. That would get repetitive.

I agree, you can't make every episode a race for some artifact between the two groups, I was just surprised that they would go two episodes with no Merklyn and no more mention of Falkama.

And I figured out who Leoric reminds me of :)

LMAO!!!!! That's so close it's actually scary. People may think we're joking, but we're not.