May 19, 2012

Inhumanoids, episode 9: "Negative Polarity"

Deep within the Earth, Tank has teamed up with Crygen and Pyre, the halves of Magnokor, to track down a galvacite stone, which massively increases their magnetic abilities. They arrive at Infernac to confront Metlar, but he escapes.

In a courthouse, Blackthorne Shore and Nightcrawler await the verdict of charges against them, but Senator Masterson shows up and gets them free on a pardon. D'Compose suddenly bursts into the room, vowing revenge against his former partners because the serum that was supposed to protect him from the sun turns out to have been a failure. Blackthorne and Nightcrawler escape, vowing to dig up a new ally for their side.

At Infernac, Metlar returns with statue warrior reinforcements. Crygen and Pyre focus their magnetic beams, crumbling the statues into dust, then intensifying in the hopes of destroying Metlar once and for all. Instead, they end up causing a surge that reverses polarities. The two halves of Magnokor are suddenly evil, declaring themselves the masters of Infernac and chasing away Tank and Metlar. Metlar makes his way to the Granite city, where he reveals himself to now be good as a result of the polarity shift.

The change in polarities causes planes and ships to lose navigational controls. At Earth Corps HQ, instruments are also all over the place, but they're able to read a shift in the magnetic poles which threatens to pull the Van Allen radiation belt out of the Earth's atmosphere, exposing everyone to the full radiation of the sun. Metlar shows up, barely managing to convince Earth Corps of his personality change and filling them in on the situation. They all agree to meet at the gates of Infernac.

While Bright stays behind to monitor the deterioration of the Van Allen belt - which causes dams to burst, skyscrapers to bow down towards the ground, and the sky to glow with a blazing Aurora Borealis - the rest of Earth Corps suits up and heads into the Earth. Their vehicles quickly succumb to the magnetic reversal, so they head out on foot. They're attacked by strange armadillo creatures riding slugs, who take each of our heroes out with an arrow to the chest.

Tank comes across Metlar and, unaware of the personality changes, attacks the Inhumanoid. Metlar escapes and Tank spots a city in the distance.

Earth Corps comes to, finding themselves tied to a post and being sold by as slaves by the strange creatures. Lasers fill the air and the crowd flees as Tank arrives and cuts the heroes loose. They hop on the giant slugs and ride to Infernac.

Our heroes trade shots with the halves of Magnokor. Tank leads his allies to the halves of the galvacite stone and they fuse it together and fling it into Crygen and Pyre. It keeps rolling until it's pulled up into Infernac and the magnetic polarities are once again returned to normal. The surface of the Earth settles, Magnokor thanks its friends, and an evil Metlar shows up, once again reclaiming Infernac with his statue army.

In a tropical jungle, Blackthorne Shore and Nightcrawler arrive at a volcano in search of a horrific creature Blackthorne read about in ancient scriptures. Entering a cave, they find a pile of Gagoyle eggs. The eggs hatch, revealing gruesome blue cyclopean beasts, and the strongest of the hatchlings violently consumes his siblings until he's the only one left. Blackthorne and Nightcrawler suddenly wonder how they're supposed to control the Gagoyle when it turns on them.


When I was a senior in high school, three friends and I decided to enter the spring talent show as a dance act. For the better part of two months, we spent all our free time locked up in my friend Steve’s garage working on a routine set to Rob Base’s “It Takes Two”. In spite of all of our hard work, when the day of the show arrived, our dancing was still a bit clunky. So, with our stomachs churning, the four of us gathered in the seclusion of one of the computer labs about an hour before show time for one final practice. About half way through the routine, our computer science teacher, Mr. Macintosh (his actual name), walked in. We asked him for his opinion and he said something that I’ll never forget: “Boys, if you dance fast and enthusiastically, no one will notice your flaws.” What does that story have to do with this week’s episode of Inhumanoids, you ask? Well, like our routine, it’s a bit clunky, but it dances so fast you barely have time to notice its flaws.

Unlike previous episodes, this one is pretty straightforward. There’s no real sidetracking or sub-plots. The narrative is simple and the action moves fast without the endless, bloated set pieces that have become the series’ rather unfortunate trademark. It puts the pedal to the Metlar for most of its 22 minutes, with a flow similar to that of a third act. I can’t help but wonder if this is a product of the show’s serialized format, with this episode acting as the wrap-up to the initial arc. Anyway, this alacrity was a nice change of pace, but there were some lamentable casualties.

For one, there isn’t much humor. Even Hector Ramirez barely rates a chuckle, mainly serving as a dispenser of exposition. This is endemic of a lot of action-comedy films where the humor is turned way down in the third act, if this is, indeed, the “third act” of this arc. The fast pace also serves to neuter the intriguing premise of the Earth Corps having to team up with a suddenly noble Metlar to stop a now evil Crygen and Pyre. There was humor to be mined in the former and drama in the latter, but there’s too little of both here as the story steamrolls forward with the single-minded purpose of Reginald VelJohnson toward an all you can eat buffet. I wanted to see Auger and Metlar as a sort of Felix and Orescar, comically butting heads before forging a bond that’s destined to be torn apart if they’re successful. And all the while, they have to try and stop Crygen and Pyre without hurting them. It’s prime dramatic real estate that’s wasted. They also gloss over the hanging plot details from the previous episode where D’Compose uses Nightcrawler’s potion, believing that it will make him invulnerable to sunlight.

Flotsam and jetsam:
  • When the polarity of the Earth’s core is reversed, causing a magnetic storm, Herc says “It’s a good thing our suits are made of plastic and not metal.” Oh, come on! Do they really expect us to buy this bit of convenient handwavium hocus pocus? So all this time they’ve been running around the Earth’s core and battling giant monsters in plastic suits? With plastic inner-mechanisms, too, I suppose. And we know Tank’s suit isn’t made of plastic, unless the Soviet’s were making their tanks out of the stuff in the mid 80s. Fail, Flint Dille. Fail.
  • Did the little blue creature at the end actually just bite its sibling’s arm off?!
  • I always thought the Van Allen belt was used to hold up Aurora Boory’s pants so we didn’t see her all ass.
“Negative Polarity” is a generically entertaining, but ultimately forgettable, episode. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I think it’s another case of the format undermining the storytelling.


Tony, I don't get what your problem with the serialization is, nor why you think this episode stands so far apart from the others. Third act? In what way? All of the post-pilot episodes until this point have primarily (and, yes, primarily in terms of the main focus) been one-off stories with beginnings, middles, and ends.
  • "Cypheroid" - An advanced computer is fed up with doing the bidding of humanity and frees the captured Inhumanoids in its bid to take over the world, only for events to lead to its destruction.
  • "The Surma Plan" - In retaliation for an Inhumanoid attack on their base, Russian forces swarm into the Earth's core to takes out everything that could be a threat to them, to the point where they unwittingly threaten to destroy the planet itself, and are bested when the heroes and villains team up.
  • "Cult of Darkness" - In a bid to increase D'Compose's powers by ridding his vulnerability to sunlight, several baddies team up to start a cult, winning themselves a zombie army that can gather the supplies needed for the formula. The heroes intervene.
I don't see where this singular narrative is that makes these episodes so difficult to take on their own, nor how this episode is different. Yes, they had threads that either carried on events from earlier episodes or set in place elements to be explored later, but so did this one. Tank is not an essential player in this story and is primarily there to continue his mission from when we last saw him. And the Blackthorne/Dr. Manglar (I refuse to call him Nightcrawler) plot not only carries on earlier threads, but remains completely removed from the A-Plot narrative as it sets up its own pieces for what'll happen next week. There is no difference between how this episode is laid out versus the structure of the three before it.

And for me, it works. This is how I like my ongoing shows to be structured. Let each story have a beginning, middle, and end, but don't keep it entirely separate from the rest. Let there be pieces that string them together, that call back to or set in place A-Plots which play out elsewhere. This allows things to be strung along, while still letting each installment leave me satisfied that I'm not just getting pieces that are explained elsewhere. I love it and I don't get why it's rubbing you in all the wrong ways.

You boggle me, Tony. You boggle me. :P

Now here is where I'm going to agree with you: this A-Plot did not live up to its setup. A hero and a villain having their roles swapped is nothing new. Hell, we already had the baddies and the goodies fighting alongside one another in "The Surma Plan", but like you said, there's so much more potential here for exploring the ways in which this shift in dynamics will affect character relationships, and how those relationships will play out with the knowledge that, in order to save the day, they have to guarantee those relationships end. Magnokor has always been the aloof asshole of the Mutores, so him going bad doesn't really upset things, but Metlar suddenly being polite and apologetic and coming to the heroes for their aid... the fact that they didn't leap all over this boggles me almost as much as Tony does. :)

This is an episode that's poorly structured. I like the Blackthorne/Manglar scenes in the courtroom and finding their new monster, but they could have been tightened up and didn't need the random scene in the middle where they come across the volcano. Save that for the last scene and trim its length. And when Metlar goes good, don't waste him. What was the point of him visiting the Granite village? What was the point of him leaving Earth Corps after their encounter and running around with Tank in pursuit? What was the point of further separating Earth Corps by having them captured by slavers from a bizarre collection of underground races we've never seen before? Metlar's entire outlook has been altered, so KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON THAT. How does that affect his relationship with Earthcorps? How does that affect things with he and Tank, who's suddenly there at the end fighting alongside our heroes... instead of Metlar. I mean, seriously, they set up that Metlar and the heroes will be side by side, but he doesn't even show up for the climactic battle! At all! Earth Corps is left to take on Magnokor on their own, and when we next see Metlar, he's back to his evil old self.

So, really, what was the point of all this? Nothing. There wasn't one. This was an absolute waste of an episode because they took a potentially interesting setup and squandered all that potential.

It's not a complete wash. That B-Plot with Blackthorne and Dr. Manglar really is a lot of fun. It's a complete waste to write out the D'Compose cure without building a story around it, but I love the satirical scene in the court room and the end sequence, when they find the Gagoyle, is shockingly gruesome. Yeah, Tony, it was tearing its siblings limb from limb and wolfing them down. With blood. Red blood. How they got this past the censors, I'll never know, but I applaud them for the massive balls being swung before my face.

I also quite enjoy the epic imagery of Earth's magnetic shift. Yeah, it's complete nonsense and, no, that not how the Van Allen belt works at all, but the images of devastation - planes dropping from the sky, boats crashing into the shore, dams bursting - are big scale things that can't easily be brushed away, and I hope we get to see an episode where the consequences of all of this comes into play. And that image of buildings bending towards the grown like wilted plants is truly something I've never seen before and will remember for quite some time, silly though it may be. And how can you not love Hector Ramirez being at the center of all of this devastation and inquiring about the effects it might have on the fall fashion line. Yeah, Tony, this one was a little light on yuks, but not every episode needs to be laugh a minute. The few gags they had worked well enough for me.

In the end, this is an episode with a lot of problems. I disagree with Tony about the way the series is laid out and how this gels with that structure, but we see eye to eye in terms of just how troubled this individual story is. It's not a good one. Not as bad as the early half of the pilot mini, but still a stinker in the end.

Some thoughts:
  • Seriously, who were those armadillo slug people? How did their arrows penetrate the Exploration Suits? How did our heroes survive arrows to the chest? Why were they being sold as slaves? Who were these other wild variety of races we've never seen before who buy slaves from the armadillo slug people we've never seen before? Did Earth Corps wander into a completely different 80s cartoon or something?
  • Yeah, what was with the bullshit plastic line? These suits are so not plastic and, no, I'm pretty sure that Soviet tank wasn't plastic, either, so what the hell, Dille?
  • I love seeing the grotesquely mutated Dr. Manglar quietly sitting in a court room.
  • Sandra Shore kicks ass in this episode, does she not? She's the last one standing during the armadillo slug attack. When Metlar shows up at Earth Corps HQ, the boys take defensive stances and Auger poises a boot to hurl, but she immediately has her hands on a giant laser rifle and is firing away. I know Herc is the leader, but she seems to be the one with the most ideas and rallying cries so I'll just go ahead and say she's definitely the one in charge. Hell, she's stepped up so strongly that Bright hardly ever seems to be a part of the team anymore, and he spends yet another episode on the sidelines.

Tune in next Saturday as we dive into another Inhumanoids adventure with "The Evil Eye".

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