A feral boy is being chased through the rubble by Biodreads and their human leader, Commander Lorek. He gives them the slip, but Lorek sees a comatose body on the ground and tells his troops to follow the trail.
Power and Pilot are investigating a small tribal village at what looks to be the southern end of the Grand Canyon. Every inhabitant is frozen in a coma. Before our heroes can do anything, Soaron swoops into view, and they're forced into hiding and to watch as he gleefully Digitizes the unconscious victims. He takes off, reporting to Lord Dread, who tell him to recover "the weapon" so mass production can commence.
Hawk is doing air patrol when he spots the kid being chased. He swoops in, fighting off Lorek and the Biodreads, and flies off with the kid, but he took a few hits and his stabilizer is off, so they only put a mile or so between themselves and the forces before Hawk has to land and Power down. They find a place to hide. The kid is still terrified, but Hawk manages to talk him down, learning the kid escaped from a lab where he and others were used for experiments.
The rest of the team are mapping where pockets of refugees have been found unconscious, realizing it's the result of some form of engineered plague. They get Hawk's distress call and take off, but are met in the air by Soaron, who blows their jumpship out of the sky. Pilot's able to bring it down and sets about with repairs.
While the Biodreads search the area, Lorek taps into Hawk's communications channels, first offering to let him go in exchange for the kid, then trying to goad him into a response, as any reply from Hawk will give them a signal they can instantly home in on. Additionally, Hawk realizes the kid is the carrier of the plague because he himself is coming down with the sickness. The kid is scared, knowing that everyone else has rejected him and chased him away when he's made them sick, but Hawk pulls him into an embrace, reassuring him and calling him Mitch, the name of the son he lost to the Biodreads.
Lorek calls in again, this time prodding the kid, about how he's a weapon and all the people who've fallen victim to his wake. Enraged, the kid replies, instantly giving the Biodreads a signal as they move in. The kid knows he did wrong, but figured Hawk would sell him out for a cure anyways. Hawk responds by Powering up and brazenly fighting them through the Biodreads, even going toe-to-toe with Soaron. But he's weakened by the plague and is shot down, de-Powering his armor.
That's when the rest of the team shows up, driving away Soaron in a crossfire and scaring Lorek into a retreat. Hawk comes to in the Power Center medbay, learning a cure synthesized from the kid is being distributed, putting an end to this plot by Lord Dread. As the others leave, the kid lingers, and Hawk realizes he doesn't know the boy's name. "Call me Mitch."
Chemical warfare. Wow. Again, this show pushes buttons. When we see our first plague victim, just lying there face up, blank eyes staring at the sky, it's still a full minute or two before they tell us that, no, this isn't a corpse, just someone comatose. Yet still comatose as a result of a plague being spread so entire populations will just lie there as Soaron Digitizes them one-by-one, cackling with delight the entire time. This is some dark stuff. And we further learn the carrier is a child, trying to escape the labs he grew up in, even as he's condemning those who take him in to this fate.
I'll admit, one of the big problem is the casting of "Mitch", that much of this story takes place among an indigenous population, yet still features a white kid with a blond mullet. An extreme power mullet at that, as he's got a full wig of shag heavy metal hair for the bulk of the episode, but even when he cleans up and they ditch the wig, the kid still has cascading locks of business in the front, party in the back. It's hilarious, but not all that endearing, and he feels like he's been written as a much younger child than the pushing-20 actor who plays him. He's also not that... holy shit! That was Gordon Michael Woolvett, part of the lead casts of Mission Genesis and Andromeda!? I didn't even recognize him! Love him on those shows. Thank goodness he got better. ;)
Hawk gets to stand in the spotlight this time around, and I think he knocks it out of the park. He's just doing his usual hero thing, when his jetpack is blown out and he finds himself gradually succumbing to the symptoms of the plague. Yet the dude keeps fighting, keeps strategizing, keeps putting the rescue of this child above his own safety. I'll admit that his "Mitch! Mitch" gets a little tired, but the backstory of him having a lost son out there adds additional weight to a guy with an already deep backstory.
Overall, it's not a bad episode. I like the way the other heroes are waylaid by Soaron blowing out part of their jumpship, leading to some great ribbing as Pilot sets about repairs. Soaron is well used, even if the ultimate standoff between he and Hawk is poorly staged, with them standing about 5 feet apart yet still unable to hit one another. I was actually lulled in by the twist of "Mitch" being the carrier, at first figuring the Dreads were after him because he's immune and thus a threat. And I do like Wayne Best as Commander Lorek, with his evil helmet and douchey 80s yuppie 'stache. He totally felt like the type of human sleaze who'd play turncoat to the Biodreads, and I like the moments of him ruffling Hawk through the communicators.
Where it suffers is really just in the execution of "Mitch" (that ending is treacly as hell), and the dialogue. I've noticed this with a number of the prior episodes, too. It's not that the dialogue is bad, it's just awkward at times, and feels a little overly stagey and unnatural. I'll bet anything this is the result of most everyone involved being animation writers doing some of their first major work in a live-action medium, and they just haven't adjusted to differences in delivery yet. It's not glaring, but it does lead to the occasional stinker of a line now and then.
Kids ruin everything. You know it. I know it. My parents knew it. Hell, even kids know it deep down in their tiny black hearts. So when Beyond Thunderdome reject Mitch appeared, I knew this episode was going to be lame. And it was.
Beyond the kid factor, "Pariah" is just one of those episodes where nothing really clicks. There are some potentially interesting threads here - Dread's plague plan, Mitch's trauma, a little character development for Hawk - but the execution is terrible. After Captain Power and Pilot inexplicably watch as a few helpless people get digitized (Noel, help me here. Was there some reason they couldn't power up and stop Soaron?), we get an aerial battle, which is sloppily executed and feels like a complete rehash of last week's aerial battle, and then the rest of the team is once again sidelined with nothing of consequence to do while the focus shifts to Hawk and Mitch. I certainly don't mind giving each character their own episode, but why can't they seem to think of something for the other members of the team to do besides wait for signals or repairs and ultimately show up in a nick of time to save the focus character?
As for Hawk and Mitch... yikes. I suppose I could take the melodrama if it were better written and acted, but it isn't and it's not. Peter MacNeill may very well be the best actor of the five "Soldiers of the Future", but let's be honest, that's faint praise indeed. He tries his best here, but I doubt even Brando could've done anything with this slop save for slap it on rye bread and eat it. His young feral counterpart is almost Jake Lloydesque in his awfulness, so imagine my surprise when I checked Woolvertt's IMDb page and saw that he's actually put together a solid career - including a featured role on the long running sci-fi series Andromeda - and remains active to this day. There's a lesson here for other young actors. Even if your early efforts are cringe-inducing abject failures, stick with it!
On the other side, Lord Dread's continued sedentariness is starting to become an issue. I get that he's not an action-oriented villain, and that Soaron acts as an avatar of sorts, but we really need to see him get up out of that souped-up La-Z-Boy of his and do something every now and then. Pace back and forth. Look out a window. Go down to the Volcania cafeteria (I hear they have a delicious seafood sampler). Anything. On the bad guy side of things, I will say that I did enjoy Wayne Best's turn as Commander Lorek and I hope he turns up again in future episodes. Speaking of which, I'd like to see them flesh out - no pun intended - why Dread uses seemingly human commanders for his Bio-Dread forces.
My single biggest problem with "Pariah" is the ending, where the gang come up with a cure for Dread's plague... off screen. No explanation. No tension. Just, "Oh, by the way, kid, we cured the plague. You're good to go." I've seen more complicated medical procedures on Doc McStuffins. That's just lazy, and a bit too clean for a show that hadn't been pulling its punches thus far. How much more powerful would it have been if Mitch had been forced into exile so that he wouldn't infect anyone else? Happy endings are fine, but they have to be earned, and this one isn't.
"Pariah" is dull, sloppy, and ultimately inconsequential. Easily the worst episode thus far.
If you'd like to watch along with us, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future is available on DVD!