May 26, 2012

Inhumanoids, episode 10: "The Evil Eye"

At Infernac, Metlar flies into a rage when Tendril informs him that Blackthorne and Dr. Manglar have awakened Gagoyle.

At their underground headquarters, Blackthorne and Manglar observe the Gagoyle, which has grown larger and larger as it continues to eat and eat. Manglar knocks Blackthorne into the creature's pit, where the Gagoyle swallows the man whole on Manglar's orders. Visible in the creature's stomach, Blackthorne pleads for his life and is spit up when he agrees to Manglar's demand of absolute obedience.

At Earth Corps HQ, our heroes are in the midst of rebuilding the Trappeur after their latest adventures. Herc gets a call from an unnamed archaeologist, who recounts an expedition he took into the jungles of Borneo... led by Blackthorne Shore. Following ancient writings and a compass made from the skeletal hand of a man, they tracked down a temple housing a legendary creature, but were then ambushed by natives. Blackthorne lost his eye to a blow dart when he attempted to fight back, and escaped shortly after. The archaeologist stayed behind, healing the ailing chief and becoming the tribe's doctor. He recently returned to California and called Earth Corps as soon as he saw the face of Blackthorne on television. The call is unfortunately cut off when Liquidator bulldozes through the phone lines.

Blackthorne and Manglar arrive at Big Sur National Forest with the Gagoyle in tow. It starts eating all the trees and the Redwoods attack, but it just eats all the weapons they fling at it. Manglar turns the creature on Blackthorne, who makes a run for it, vowing revenge by awakening the "most evil Inhumanoid of all!"

At Earth Corps HQ, our heroes debate the validity of the archaeologist's call. Redwoods show up, informing them of what happened at Big Sur. Our heroes split up, Sandra and Liquidator going after Blackthorne, the rest after Manglar and the Gagoyle. Both of whom just showed up at D'Compose's dead city. D'Compose is still pissed at the last time Manglar betrayed him, but then Gagoyle eats his arm. He gets it back, but only when he pledges loyalty to Manglar.

Sandra and Liquidator arrive at the Shore Foundation, where they catch Blackthorne going through his old office. He escapes, but among his papers is found contact information for the archaeologist: Dr. Merell Andresen. Blackthorne arrives at Andresen's office to kill the man and tie up loose ends, but Sandra and Liquidator arrive on his heals and he again escapes.

Sandra, Liquidator, Andresen, and some random dude with glasses, hire an airplane to fly them to Borneo, but Blackthorne reveals himself to be a stowaway, catching them all at gunpoint. As they approach Borneo, Blackthorne dons a parachute and opens the hatch, then shoots the controls before he jumps out with a laugh. The others scramble and just barely manage to jerry rig the systems, keeping themselves from crashing until they make a bumpy landing back on the mainland.

In the underworld caverns, Bright, Herc, and Auger catch up to Manglar, D'Compose, and the Gagoyle. The Gagoyle quickly proves itself impervious to rockets and eats Auger. Bright and Herc are forced to retreat.

Manglar and his lackeys arrive at the entrance to Infernac, where Gagoyle eats his way through a pair of bronze colossuses. Metlar shows up in a fury. None of his punches have any effect and he falls to the Gagoyle's mercy, but then Auger manages to drill his way out of the Gagoyle's belly, distracting the creature long enough for Metlar to throw it deep into a pit of magma. Auger and Manglar run away.

At Earth Corps HQ, Bright and Herc are arguing with a mortician over the best deal they can get for Auger's funeral. Auger walks in, still covered in Gagoyle bile.

Blackthorne arrives at the jungle temple in Borneo, where he uses a flute to play a special melody that awakens Sslither, a massive black panther thing with chicken legs and giant snakes coming out of its head.


Let me head up Tony at the pass by admitting that, yes, this is an incredibly unpleasant half hour of television to bear. The heroes are pushed into the background as we mostly focus on villains who roar, hiss, and shriek almost every line as they go through a string of manipulations and power plays. And then there's the Gagoyle, perhaps the single most disgusting things I've ever seen. His bizarre design. His lumpy blue skin. His slavering teeth. The gargling noises he always makes. His transparent belly where we get to watch his pulsating red tissues fill with orange digestive fluids. Fluids he vomits out on several occasions. This creature is so repellent that I'm shocked he made it to air without someone at the production company or network putting their foot down.

That said, I don't think he makes for a bad story. The Gagoyle truly is an unstoppable force of nature that keeps consuming and consuming, and Blackthorne has unwittingly put this beast in the hands of Dr. Manglar. Manglar hasn't had much chance to shine yet as, aside from his shocking introduction, he's just been playing second fiddle to Blackthorne. But now he has the power and steps into the ultimate badass spotlight as he turns the tables on the entire Inhumanoid underworld. The absolute best moment is D'Compose being in a huge fit at the sight of his betrayer, but then, oops, YOUR ARM HAS JUST BEEN BITTEN OFF. "If you want your arm back..." is a pretty solid stance to negotiate from.

Unfortunately, it slips up a bit. Why spare Blackthorne's life? There's nothing more the man can offer that Manglar is aware of. Why stop the attack in the Big Sur forest? The Gagoyle could have ravaged that entire landscape and struck a crippling blow against the Redwoods. What's especially stupid is that Manglar breaks off the attack, right while the Gagoyle is in the middle of eating a Redwood, to have it chase Blackthorne, because... why? Seriously, Blackthorne wasn't doing a damn thing. He didn't make a break for it until after the creature was turned on him. It's completely random happenstance.

The best part of the episode comes from Dr. Andresen's phone call, which echoes Dille's obvious Lovecraftian influences through a tale of a mysterious mission into the unknown, with attacking natives, a temple just out of a reach, where some hideous monstrosity lurks in the shadows, waiting to hear the melody of its awakening, and guidance coming from a compass made out of human remains. Seriously, how awesome is that? To Dille's credit, it's one of the few stretches of the episode that plays itself dead straight, including the image of the native raising the blow dart gun being the last thing Blackthorne saw through his now lost eye. As much as I like the offbeat, experimental nature of the show, I can't help but wonder - and I'll bet Tony will agree with me - that the series as a whole might have been more accessible and fascinating had this been the track it followed. The mystery, the puzzle solving, the quests to uncovering hidden secrets from before the rise of humanity. Secrets that lead to creatures tied with the creation of all life on Earth, and based around the core of all nature. It would have been hard to keep playing out that level of intrigue and mystery on a cartoon where everything is expected to explode every five minutes, but given the experiment this show was from the start, and the serialized nature of the storytelling they were playing with, it wouldn't have been completely out of the realm of possibility. But, alas, this is our only glimpse of that style of story. Even when Blackthorne gets into the temple at the end, all we have is another ugly design of some big black panther thing with snakes on its head.

While I don't have a problem with the serialization of the show, Tony was onto something with his critique of the last episode. They do cram way too much plot into each of these episodes, to the point where you almost have a feature film squished down into an itty-bitty abridged version that punches from scene to scene to scene so fast that you're out before you know it. The characters even seem to be joking about it at times as Liquidator turns to Sandra and says "That's the second time Blackthorne's slipped away from us in the last few minutes." This leaves parts of the story feeling unfinished, like the encounter at Big Sur, the random guy with glasses on the expedition to Borneo, and the heroic pilot who feels like a developed character we've missed the introduction of. And when we get to the end, where Auger drills his way out of Gagoyle and the creature is punched into the lava pit, it echoes the Cypheroid story in that we're left sitting here, thinking "That's it? After all the talk of how nasty this thing is and the massive buildup to what it'll do, it goes down with one punch?"

All that said, I do still enjoy the episode. Alongside the good use of the Gagoyle and Manglar, there'ss also a lot of great humor during our brief encounters with Earth Corps. Them constantly having to repair their vehicles is a nice wink at action cartoon tropes, and how can you not love Bright and Herc planning a funeral for a friend just before he walks in the door. Liquidator and Sandra make for a good team as they track Blackthorne about town, and as anticlimactic as it is, I love the excitement as everyone struggles to keep the plane from crashing.

This is a messy episode. A messy, sloppy, absolutely disgusting episode. Partially in a good way, partially in a way that just doesn't work. It wasn't the mess of the pilot mini, but it pushed way too far in some direction, completely missed the potential of others, and ultimately feels rushed and overstuffed. Despite some great twists and laugh lines.

Random thoughts:
  • Did they recast D'Compose? His hissing sounds significantly deeper this time around.
  • While I found the reveal of Sslither a bit of a let down, on a second viewing, I spotted a great foreshadowing of the creature as it appeared on a carving in Dr. Andresen's office. Nice little detail.
  • Was Auger seriously just sitting there in the creature's belly for however long he was in there before finally having the idea of drilling himself out?
  • Tendril sure gets smacked around an awful lot, considering he doesn't really do anything this episode.
  • I think this is the first episode in a while that hasn't had a Hector Ramirez appearance.
  • Random womens' arobics class.


I don’t think unpleasant is a strong enough word to describe this episode. Repulsive maybe. Ghastly perhaps. Revolting for sure. Yeah, definitely revolting. And you know what? That’s what I enjoyed most about it. My criticisms of the Inhumaoids themselves have centered mainly on how their incessant screeching grated on my nerves, but their nightmarish designs and cartoonish grotesqueries have always appealed to me in much the same way that non-sport card series like Garbage Pail Kids, Grossville High, and Dinosaurs Attack did (and still do). I can’t abide the more authentic gore of something like Saw but, rendered here in primary colors, I loved it. That said, Noel is so right when he asks how this ever got on the air. It’s not the hideous designs, though, it’s the violence. Creatures being impaled, arms being ripped off, people being eaten alive. I know that sounds like a ho-hum Saturday night at the Voorhees cabin, but this is a children’s cartoon.

As for the story. Meh. It never really pulls together and feels cohesive. Noel used the word sloppy, and it fits. In spite of this, the episode still manages to be mildly entertaining, mostly because there are some interesting little moments and bits of humor grafted onto it. It’s fun to watch Gagoyle (someone at Hasbro deserves a raise for coming up with these names) consume, consume, consume his way through the world around him. I think there would’ve been some fun irony in him devouring a shopping mall or perhaps a toy store filled with popular Hasbro toys. And Manglar/Nightcrawler really comes front and center as easily the coolest and most interesting bad guy on the show. He’s actually become the villain I was hoping Blackthorne would be. To put it in 80s cartoon terms, he’s Destro to Blackthorne’s Cobra Commander. Meanwhile, the underdeveloped Metlar is more like Serpentor, barking out commands to minions who seem to ignore him and do their own thing. That whole dynamic/hierarchy still hasn’t come together like it should, but maybe this is the beginning.

But the best part of the episode is Dr. Andresen’s recounting of his time with Blackthorne. It hadn’t occurred to me as I was watching it, but as soon as I read Noel’s review, it clicked. This is what the show should’ve been about. It needed a dash of Indiana Jones or, perhaps more accurately, Jonny Quest. It needed that globe trotting spirit of adventure. Instead of sitting around their HQ like a bunch of plumbers waiting for a service call, Earth Corps should’ve been traveling to the four corners of the Earth in a race against Blackthorne and the Inhumanoids for the McGuffin of the week. Something that was part of a larger story, a deeper mystery that unfolded as the series went along. It was a premise used to great effect on G.I. Joe, particularly the various mini-series which, like Inhumanoids, were serialized. I’m not suggesting that the Earth Corps ditch their “Clobberin’ time!” armor in favor of khaki shorts and pith helmets, but they needed a more epic battle and a grander stage to fight it on.

More random thoughts:
  • I’m with Noel, that doesn’t sound like Chris Latta (whose voice is unmistakable) as D’Compose. According to Flint Dille, he once had to bail Latta out of jail to get to a recording session on time. Maybe this was a case of the real D’Compose being indisposed.
  • Why would a tribe of natives have a medical eye patch just lying around?
  • Manglar’s sudden decision to sic Gagoyle on Blackthorne is truly one for the Random Shit Hall of Fame.
“The Evil Eye” isn’t a good episode, but it’s compelling in that carnival sideshow kind of way. Now if you’ll excuse me, I‘m going to see what the Bearded Lady is doing after her shift ends.

Tune in next Saturday as we dive into another Inhumanoids adventure with "Primal Passions".

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