September 7, 2014

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, episode 3 "Final Stand"

Two units of Biodreads have tracked the location of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future to an abandoned warehouse, surrounding it and pouring in. But it's a trap! as Power and his troops catch them in crossfires and mow them down. Their target is a transmitter unit, which they hope to rewire so they can receive data about Dread's next target.

While Scout works on the unit, they divert their jumpship to a fallen city where they hope to evacuate the few hundred people who remain, but Soaron is already there with plans to Digitize the whole lot. Our heroes blow him out of the sky, but he survives, setting out to repair himself and complete the mission. Back at Volcania, Dread observes, then rises to inspect "More salvaged artifacts from Tauron." He sticks one figure in a furnace and starts melting it down.

Power and the Soldiers land and Armor up, quickly discovering that most of the populace has fallen victim to marauders who loot their fellow man. On the plus side, this has driven the people out, so they're safe from Dread for the moment. Just then, a massive marauder named Kasko appears, a detonator in his hand, who says he's got a batch of hostages wired to explode unless the Soldiers allow him to fight Tank to the death. The two men are both genetic experiments from the same lab and used to run together until Tank decided to switch to the freedom fighters as Kasko went more and more insane. To prove he has hostages, Kasko has them talk to the soldiers through a walkie talkie, which he then crushes with his hand.

Tank removes his armor and accepts the challenge, but Kasko doesn't play fair, wasting most of their allotted hour hiding in a building and luring Tank into a series of traps. By the five minute mark, Kasko seems to have the upper hand and teases just blowing the hostages up anyway, which is when Tank kicks him through a brick wall and they start smashing one another with fists and whatever blunt objects they rip out of the rubble. Tank wins.

Scout recovered the broken walkie talkie and, finding the innards still intact, has used it to trace back the location of the hostages. Power and the others go in, defuse the bomb, and get everyone out.

Soaron arrives as everyone is scrambling for the jumpship. Kasko stumbles into the street, hoping to win sympathy from Soaron by pointing out where Captain Power and the Soldiers are, but the Biodread just Digitizes him. Our heroes shoot their way out and fly off. On board, Tank sulks, worrying his victory means he's once again the brutal marauder he used to be, but Power points to the hostages, saying that while Kasko fought for selfish reasons of revenge, Tank fought to protect others, and only when there was no other choice.


By Thorsen's beard!

The calendar may say September, but it sure feels like Christmas here on the Showcase. That's because "Final Stand", this week's episode of Captain Power, focuses on Lieutenant Michael "Tank" Ellis. If you've only been reading along with us, you probably don't know who that is. Hell, even if you've been watching along, you may not know who that is. That's because until now he's had less to do than a snow blower salesman in Phoenix. With a nickname like "Tank", it probably comes as no surprise that he's the muscle of the group. With his IMAX-sized chest and a beard that probably gets laid more than I do, Sven-Ole Thorsen cuts a pretty imposing figure. But there's something else there lurking just beneath the hirsute surface of this quiet giant. An affability. A gentleness. Even though he's been featured the least out of the team, he's the one I was most interested in. Turns out still waters do run deepish.

Though he has the least acting experience and/or training of the group, Thorsen makes the most of his moment here, showing a real vulnerability in the wake of his confrontation with Kasko. I doubt he'll ever get a call from the Royal Shakespeare Company, but he delivers each line with a sincerity and pathos that I find quite compelling. Putting on my Freud cap for a moment, it's not exactly a stretch to imagine that Thorsen has faced similar internal conflict in his own life. After all, anyone that strong has to be on guard at all times. One slip and someone could really get hurt bad. Or worse. As Ben Parker said, "With great power, comes great responsibility."

Also worthy of some praise is guest star Charles Seixas. Looking every bit like he just stepped out of a Mad Max movie (in fact, I had to check his filmography to see if he'd been in one or any of its many imitators), he chews through the debris-strewn scenery and adds a nice bit of human menace to things. The fight between his deranged Kasko and Tank is a little clumsy at times, but I enjoyed the knock-down, drag-out aspect of it, and by the looks of it, so did Thorsen and Seixas.

Even though the episode is centered around Tank, it marks the first time we really see the entire team together in action. They may not exactly riff off of one another with the snap of the crew of the Serenity, but I do feel like the show gets a certain boost from having everyone involved. With only five "Soldiers of the Future", there's really no reason to leave anyone back at headquarters cleaning the toilets.

From its opening shootout to its furry fisticuffs, "Final Stand" is easily the most action-oriented episode yet. Though I would've liked a deeper exploration into the Babylon 5 (yes, I caught that, too) genetic engineering program, and something for the rest of the group to do other than diffuse a ticking time trope, I still really enjoyed this one. Definitely a nice change of pace.


When you think about 80s children's television, you typically don't imagine a massive bruiser in post-apocalyptic punk leather smashing a cinder block across the cheek bone of a bronzed and bare-armed Brawny paper towel man of an Austrian bodybuilder, but that's exactly what we get this time around. Power held the central spotlight the last two episodes, with just some suggestive details about whomever was teamed up with him for the missions of those weeks, but this story is all about Tank, revealing his origin as a genetic experiment - presumable to create some type of supersoldier, though I didn't pick up if it was on the side of humans or Dread (the Babylon 5 reference flew by me in both viewings, Tony, where was it?) - as well as a villain from his past, an equally souped up raging punk of a looter with whom Tank plundered alongside with. So Tank is not only trying to make up for his past as a criminal, but trying to find meaning and purpose given his at least partial existence through artificial means. This is strong stuff and well played. Sven-Ole Thorsen is not a great actor, meaning they focus much more on the action of the surprisingly brutal fight between the two, smashing through walls and ripping things up out of the street to batter one with, but the few chops moments they give him are pulled off surprisingly well. He's better than Charles Seixas as Kasko, who looks great, but overplays the part like a WWF wrestler, and sounds dubbed over. Couldn't tell if it's Peter Cullen or not, but that's sure who it sounds like.

The action overall is very well done, especially with the extended fight sequence in the opening. It does get to be a little shrill, with all the laser and sound effects endlessly flying, but it is very well put together, and I'm impressed at how many Biodread suits they've made for the show. You usually only get 3-5 fully outfitted goons in a series to save on production costs, but it looks like they've fitted an entire platoon of a dozen or more dudes, which really gives the action scenes scale and keeps them busy. And unlike the end of the last episode, where it got a little ridiculous seeing Power single-handedly shoot his way through a bunch, we get the entire team in armor and see them play off one another as they mow through as a unified body. I'll admit that the MacGuffin of the opening, the getting of the transmitter, doesn't really justify it much with how that conveniently pops back into place when the story needs one later, but at least we have a reason for the whole squad to be there, and a situation to keep them busy while Tank hits things with his fists. That said, it would have been nice to spend a little more of this time getting the story of the refugee hostages, but it's not a huge gap in the plot.

This is the third episode in a row where we've had Soaron pop up, which surprises me as I expected them to play a little tighter with how much they use his CG. They do use him pretty well here, having him be badly damaged in an early scene so we can establish his self-repair abilities should that question ever arise down the road. And him swooping in to take out Kasko comes in at just the right time. Less interesting is Lord Dread. I like that we see him unhitch and rise from his throne, but what was with the plastic model he melts in the furnace? Guess we'll have to wait a bit longer to learn what "artifacts from Tauron" means.

Overall, another solid, thoughtful, astonishingly well produced episode, and one hell of a line drive by scripter Straczynski after his bit of a whiffle last week.

If you'd like to watch along with us, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future is available on DVD!


Tony Williams said...

(the Babylon 5 reference flew by me in both viewings, Tony, where was it?)

Because of Thorsen's accent it's easy to miss. It's at the end, when Tank and Power are talking aboard the jump ship. Tank says "Back at Babylon Five..." or something like that. I think the time stamp was either 20:50 or 21:50.

NoelCT said...

*goes back and listens*

Ooookay. It is a bit mumbly and my brain pieced it together as "When I escaped back in my old life" or something like that. :)