It's been three months since the last Inhumanoids attack, and Earth Corps is finding new ways to occupy its time. Liquidator clumsily hosts a series of tv science specials. Dr. Bright and his wife Stella battle a fake Tendrill in commercials for Mr. Foam shaving cream. Herc is on the Cover of News Speak. Sandra's been offered a cabinet position. The only one with nothing to do but sit around and watch tv is Auger.
Tucker Knight of News Night hosts a presidential debate where Senator Masterson loses out to his opponents - conservative liberal congressman Gary Lung and liberal conservative George Shrub - because he fails to commit to a platform and appeals to both sides. Sulking in his office, Masterson is approached by Blackthorne Shore, who wants to rekindle their alliance. Metlar, rising through the floor alongside Tendril and D'Compose, also wants to get the band back together. Outside the window, a Redwood watches.
The Redwoods show up at Earth Corps HQ, filling the team in on what they saw. Everyone is busy but Auger, who agrees to investigate. Even after he finds clear evidence to support the claim, he can't get the rest of his team to set aside their new lives and pull together.
Both Lung and Shrub are attacked and threatened by the Inhumanoids, and Masterson appears on News Night, accepted his nomination as the only remaining candidate in the presidential race. Auger suddenly appears, challenging the truth of Masterson's claims and throwing his own hat in the race. The crowd gets behind Auger's blunt, no-nonsense approach, but then D'Compose appears, snatching up both candidate before dropping them and running in fear from the threat of Masterson's promised wrath. Auger recognizes it for the staged event it is, but the crowd is won over to Masterson's side.
While Masterson initially commands the polls, Earth Corps finally gathers their efforts behind Auger and the race edges to a dead heat by election night. Even the Inhumanoids are gathered around a tv, awaiting the results. Auger and his running mate, Congressman Lung, pull ahead for the victory.
Yes, Auger is elected president.
Auger gives his victory speech, but then Tendril appears, stealing the president to the bowels of the Earth, where Metlar tells Earth Corps, the Mutores, and all the forces of the surface to bring their worst, because the time for the final battle has come. Our heroes suit up. The Mutores gather. Delta Force is assembled, outfitted with weaponized vehicles, and ordered to follow Earth Corps lead. D'Compose prepares his undead legions. Tendril wins the fighting forces of the Langastoids with surface junk foot. Metlar gathers his statue army and puts Auger in a glass bullet on a giant crossbow pointed right at the heart of Infernac's elemental core. And in a hospital room, Brad J. Armbruster sees the commotion on tv and decides it's time to give his specially designed Exploration Suit a try. Dubbing himself Sabre Jet, he activates thrusters and takes off into the air.
The combined forces of the surface arrive at the outer gates of Infernac, and a ferocious battle is waged against the combined forces of the underworld. Earth Corps turns the tide when they open a huge container of junk food, flipping the Langastoids over to their side. The Redwoods surround Tendril, using their sap to encase him in amber. The Granites surge forward, wiping out the undead and statue troops that haven't yet succumbed to Delta Force's heavy barrage of fire.
D'Compose runs away, leaving Metlar to take on the forces of the surface in a desperate last stand. He unleashes his fury as best he's able, but the halves of Magnokor arrive, trapping him between their magnetic field. Then Blackthorne appears, using his magnetic suit to wrestle control over both Metlar and Magnokor. Then Tank appears, forcing Blackthorne, at gunpoint, to drop his field. Metlar is beaten, but vows they'll never reach Auger in time. Sabre Jet streaks by overhead.
In the glass bullet, Auger tries to come up with a dignified presidential speech as his last words, but magma burns through a rope and he's launched toward the core. Just before he hits, he's rescued by Sabre Jet.
Earth Corps is reunited. Auger decides to step down as President, leaving VP Lung in charge, and the others agree to give up their other jobs, vowing "No one breaks up a winning team."
I believe it was the 20th century philosopher Jon Bon Jovi who wrote about a hero’s desire to “go out” in a “blaze of glory”. With their own mortality (see; Cancellation) staring them in the face, the metal-clad men - and woman - of the Earth Corps heed that call, sending us out in a clip-emptying blaze of... well, if not exactly glory, then something.
“Auger... for President?” isn’t a particularly good episode, even as this series goes, but it’s leaner and more focused than most and that counts for something considering this show was starting to become more bloated than Val Kilmer after a five day taco bender. I think this newfound focus is a product of this episode being the wrap up to the season/series. With all the ingredients now on the table, Dille could finally concentrate on making his meal. It’s still a mess, but it’s a somewhat organized mess. Sure, it turns out to be a ham, cheese, tofu, raisin, peanut butter, egg salad, and bacon sandwich on whole wheat with a side of Skittles, but at least he didn't go to the store at the last minute and buy some tilapia, pork ’n beans, and butterscotch pudding to toss in.
The fame the Earth Corps have attained, along with the internal dynamic, really reminds me of The Fantastic Four, so much so that I’m now certain that the latter was an influence on Dille. It’s a nice bit of world building that makes this absurd premise feel more authentic. The other side to that coin is the relationship between Derek Bright and Stella Blaze (could that name be any more porno?) feels really forced and brings nothing to the table. There’s just no time to explore the relationship dynamics of a character like Bright. He’s not the hero, he’s a hero. For the first 2/3 of the series, Dille was content to let him hang back at HQ and polish his beaker, and then suddenly he’s married and his domestic drama comes front and center. Odd.
Senator Masterson has remained an intriguing character who finally begins to pay dividends here. Though he's certainly far less crafty, if I had to compare him to another character, it would be Baltar (Count, not Gaius) from Battlestar Galactica. I would love to have seen where this could’ve gone with more time. As it stands, Masterson’s total ineptitude is played to humorous effect. I think it would’ve been a great twist, not to mention cliff-hanger, had Masterson actually won the presidency and then revealed himself to be the one manipulating Blackthorne and the Inhumanoids.
And then there’s Auger. By far my favorite character from the series, he finally gets the spotlight to himself. Typically, characters like this are better in small doses, but this episode proves to be the perfect opportunity to bring him front and center. Kudos to voice actor Michael Bell for really breathing life into him throughout.
I mentioned the finale is a real blaze of glory and I’m not exaggerating. Dille is the kind of guy who, if he ran out of snowballs in a snowball fight, would dig his way to Antarctica to reload. As a result, the battle acts as a kind of curtain call, with the cavalry made up of the hastily constructed and partially forgotten characters Tank and Sabre Jet. Still this symphony of insanity is well orchestrated and gives it the epicness a final confrontation deserves, even if the major conflicts remain forever unresolved.
A final Final Thought: It took me thirteen episodes to realize just how much Auger looks like “Super Powers” era Lex Luthor.
They had to have known this show wasn't going to receive a back end pickup following its first 13 episodes. They just had to. Not only would that explain the kind of haphazard looniness of the last few episodes, where they went all kinds of crazy because they knew there'd be no ultimate consequence, but it's also demonstrated by this final installment of the order being one of those huge spectacles where they pouring everything into it for a rallying maelstrom of a crowd pleasing farewell. The final ten minutes especially consist of the biggest battle of all as lasers strobe the screen and hundreds of enemy forces of bone, metal, and stone are crumbled into broken mounds of dust. It's glorious. And unlike many of this show's battle sequences, it never devolves into shrieking, hard-to-follow chaos as things just seen to fly at one another. This time, both sides have solid strategies and the way each element of the conflict is brought into play, and the ways they turn the tide toward one side or another, are really well constructed and actually carry a bit of intelligence behind them. Even the element of junk food being used to flip the Langastoids makes perfect sense given everything we've learned about them in the past.
This is also the first episode where I really got to dig the entire Earth Corps team as individual players, and a lot of it had to do with breaking them up. Herc is still the blandest of them all, and it makes sense that his outside job is little more than appearing on magazines. Sandra has been the driven go-getter and more of an organized leader of the team than even Herc, so it's no surprise she's being looked at for a cabinet position (though it's never explored how Auger's run would completely upset it). Unlike Tony, I absolutely love the Bright/Stella romance, mostly because there is no drama to it. There is no struggle, there is no conflict getting in the way of their love. They just work. They're a harmonious unit of sorts, which I find rather amusing and refreshing given the television standard of throwing monkey wrenches into every relationship. As for Liquidator, he's been a bit of a laid-back charmer, so it's wonderful seeing him become a stiff, stuttering mess now that he's hosting his own show.
And then there's Auger. He's always been the most fiery and charismatic member of the Earth Corps, so it's no surprise that, of the entire team, he'd be the one to go before the voting public and triumph. What's most surprising of all is that, in a series that takes some very shrewd jabs at politics and the way the public can be swayed by the stupidest things (I love the drawn out "What does anyone want?" string of questions that pass along the street), Auger can still manage to come out on top by being blunt and honest. Hell, even the shocked gasp from voters after he puts another shoe through yet another tv is quickly followed by laughter and applause.
This is, by far, my favorite episode of the series. You get the Auger arc. You get the Masterson arc (ending with him, refreshingly, suffering no consequences for his manipulation beyond losing the election). You get the "Earth Corps forgets the meaning of teamwork" arc. There's the arc of Congressman Lung and his opponent, Shrub. Hell, even Hector Ramirez gets an arc as his show is going to be cancelled in favor of Tucker Knight's new broadcast, until Hector edges out a victory by being in the right place and the right time to scoop the final battle. And then you get the final battle, with all three of the main Inhumanoids, all three Mutore factions, the Langastoids, Blackthorne Shore, the introduction of Sabre Jet, and the return of Tank. There's so much going on this episode, even a bit more than the over-crowded installments we've criticized in the past, but it all holds together this time. Yeah, there's moments where it becomes so breezy that entire stretches feel more like a montage than actual scenes, but everything folds into everything else so tightly that nothing feels underdeveloped or out of place. There's no secondary threads setting up future episodes. No new introductions. Everything is a head for all that's been set up before, all swirling together in a perfectly constructed final curtain call that, while it ends with the Inhumanoids still free, does bring an element of conclusion to it as we go out on a final pledge of teamwork.
And the best moment is an actual montage, where Metlar lays out his final challenge as we see all the forces prep themselves for battle:
I want your world! The time has come for the final battle. Come, Earth Corps! Rescue your friend. Come, flesh slugs! Try to get your president back. Come, Mutores! Try to vanquish my legions. COME! ALL OF YOU!!!Followed by Herc as the heroic forces plunge below:
Allies, we are about to fight the most important battle in human history. If we win, the Earth may be safe for a thousand years. But if we lose, we lose the world itself. All good life will be destroyed.Those don't look like much on paper, but with a tinny orchestra backing clunkily animated images of man and Mutore alike coming together and plunging into the molten landscape of conflict and monsters, those speeches are right up there alongside the greats of Bill Pullman and Jean Claude van Damme.
This is a show that, as much as I love the pure insanity of it, has been a failure. But with this episode, with this one final chance to make their make their mark on the world, they go out, yes, with a blaze of glory. This may go down in history as one of my favorite episodes of any show of all time. I truly do love it that much. It maintains the grotesque playfulness of everything up till now, but it makes it work, and constructs a tight, cohesive narrative that allows its world and characters to grow just a bit more before riding off into the lava set.
Tune in next Saturday when Tony takes a look at the Inhumanoids action figures and merchandise.