August 20, 2011

Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, episode 12 - "Sorcery Squared"

The Super Saturday Short-Lived Showcase returns after a three week absence while I mourned the loss of my mother to Cancer. Mom spent most of her life working as a waitress, but she was a writer at heart and I can't think of a better way to honor her than to get back to doing that which she loved so much.

Sorry about the grammar, Mom. God knows, you tried your best.

Pop quiz time. Cryotek is...

A.) The name of a fictional corporation in the Terminator series.

B.) A Transformer voiced by actor Jon Cryer.

C.) One of the Spectral Knights from Visionaries.

If you answered C, you're correct. And if you answered either A or B, I really wouldn't blame you. If the Darkling Lords are a wardrobe of colorful pants and outrageous coats, the Spectral Knights are a closet-full of gray suits virtually indistinguishable from one another. This week's episode, "Sorcery Squared", looks to change that a bit by putting the focus on one of the Knights.

Cryotek, eldest of the Spectral Knights, is frustrated by his inability to be more outgoing and interesting. After his two left feet and lack of social confidence create havoc at a party, fellow Knight Arzon tries to cheer him up by having him tag along on what appears to be a simple mission. They soon discover that things aren't so simple when they encounter the Darkling Lords up to no good. The two forces clash and things appear to go the Spectral Knights' way, until Cryotek is captured and taken prisoner by the Lords.

The Lords throw Cryotek into the Dagger Assault's Magic Extractor to strip him of his totem, but things don't go as planned when Cryotek manages to pull the ill-tempered Cravex in with him. The result is that Cryotek gains the power of Cravex's animal totem as well as his own, and Cravex is left without any magic. Grabbing Cindarr's Destruction Staff, Cryotek escapes and heads for home.

Back in New Valarak, Cryotek begins to exhibit some disturbing new behavior. Just as his friends' suspicions are aroused, Cryotek steals Witterquick's Lightspeed Staff and flees. Once again, the Spectral Knights and Darkling Lords are forced to work together to set things "right" as they follow Cryotek to his old home town of Northalia, where he now suffers from a rapidly fracturing personality. After nearly destroying the city, he makes a desperate run for Merklynn's lair to plead for the wizard's help.

Cryotek reaches Merklynn to find that the wizard is more interested in asking questions than offering immediate help. Now fully possessed by the competing personalities within him, Cryotek manages to recharge his Staffs and then makes for Darkstorm's castle. Cornered there by the tentatively allied Knights and Lords, a great battle ensues. But just as things appear to be at their darkest, Cryotek's love for Galadria shines through when he saves her from being smashed by a falling pillar. The Knights take this moment to capture Cryotek and put him back into the Magic Extractor. They're able to reverse the effects and return him to normal before escaping Darkstorm's castle and returning home, where Cryotek vows to remain his normal, "boring" self, much to the delight of his friends.

"Sorcery squared" covers some familiar ground with its "We like you just the way you are" (see "Feryl Steps Out") and reluctant team-up (see "Horn of Unicorn, Claw of Dragon") themes, but I found the slow deterioration of the rock solid Cryotek to be thoroughly compelling. Voice actor Bernard Erhard really sinks his teeth into the role as Cryotek gets to unleash quite a wave of destruction.

Overall, this episode deftly balances humor, action, and character development, and delivers one of the better outings of the series.

Doug Booth returns from the fumble that was "The Power of the Wise" for a damn good character piece that cleverly mixes pathos with rousing action.

While the Power Staffs are completely interchangeable and can be used by anyone, the animal Totems each Visionary possessed is deeply tied to who they are as an individual, so the idea of a mixup between two of them causing a shift in personality makes a lot of sense. And instead of simply having a good guy and a bad guy swap, which would be a perfectly acceptable if predictable Freaky Friday situation, they take it another step and put two in the body of one man, leading to some surprisingly freaky moments as Cryotek goes all schizo on people as he bounces from compassionate to psychotic.

And look at the power he wields, not only with both animal forms, but the collection of Power Staffs he pulls together before going off on his own. They cleverly sneak a recharge in the plot so he can cause maximum damage by unleashing the force of Destruction twice, first on his hometown, secondly on Darkstorm's castle. And, man, there's that amazing scene where he's shot in mid air and is plummeting to the ground. Is he screaming or flailing? No, he's laughing. He's confident and doesn't make an effort to save himself until after he gets a little payback for the shot that took him down. Chilling stuff from what's been a rather bland character to this point.

And it's great to see them bringing back Cryotek's romance with Galadria, which we haven't explored since way back in "The Dark Hand of Treachery". I love that, instead of pairing her with one of the younger, more dashing Knights, she's fallen for the clumsy but dependable gentle giant of the group. Their few scenes together are filled with so much warmth and sincerity, especially their final embrace at the end. Her painful line about wanting a "bear hug" aside.

There's a few problems with the episode. If you want to play up Cryotek's power hunger, why not have him gradually collect all the Staffs instead of just reusing the same three. Given the effect Cravex's totem is having on Cryotek, it's surprising that Cravex himself plays such a small roll in events. There's a bit where Cryotek flies one of the gliders, but he shouldn't be able to since he's a Staff wielder, meaning his magic won't power the machines. And I didn't know you could make an avalanche less dangerous by shooting it and turning it into a wall of water. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that'll still have the same weight and force behind it.

But these are small nitpicks. It's a great episode. I love the way the Knights are having to work together while at each other's throats, Witterquick throwing salt on a wound by smashing the Lords' Dagger Assault through Darkstorm's castle and sinking it into the moat is hilarious, it's very believable that even Merklynn has limits to his knowledge and he's unable to find a solution in time, and it's great to see Cryotek join the ranks of the few Knights to finally gain depth and distinction.

I'm really sad that we only have one episode left.

It's time for this week's "Now that's being a Visionary!" moment:

Vince: "So, Tommy, I hear your mom bought you some new toys."

Seymour: "Hand 'em over."

Tommy: "No. Every time you guys take my toys, you break them."

Vince: "Would you rather I break your nose?"


Boys: (simultaneously) "Cravex!"


Tommy: "But I'm not a warrior."


(Cravex starts smashing Tommy's toys)

Seymour: "Now that's being a Visionary!"

Tune in next Saturday morning for the final episode of Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, "Dawn of the Sun Imps".

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