February 8, 2015

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, episode 18 "Freedom One"

Freedom One has become an important part of the resistance, a pirate radio host using her reassuring voice to spread news about skirmish victories and enemy movements. Her regular broadcast is late, which catches the attention of Power's team. They light up when she finally hits the air, decoding within the broadcast a microburst of her location and an emergency request to meet.

Also listening to her broadcast is a batch of rebel fighters led by Gundar. Their cave is suddenly overrun by a Biodread raid, and Gundar dies in the hands of Elzer Polarski, who assumes command and barely escapes.

Our team swings to the East Coast, where they rescue Freedom One from a swarm of Biodreads. She reveals that she's trying to set up a meeting between Power and the other resistance leaders, as his presumed teleportation gates allow for such a hookup, and that the others want to elect Power leader of the overall resistance. Power begrudgingly agrees, and while the rest of his team branches off to escort the leaders, he personally escorts Freedom One. During their flight, we learn her name is Christine Larrabee, and she's tickled to find out he really is a captain named Power.

When they land at an old, abandoned military base, Christine ducks off to check on her transmission equipment... and is contacted by Lord Dread! She, of course, is an Overunit who's spent months building the ruse of Freedom One to draw all the heads of the resistance to a single location where they can be wiped out in one fell swoop. She's miffed that Dread is threatening her cover with his call, but he tells her of the death of Gundar and rise of Elzer, and as she once personally tortured Elzer during a past internment, he's going to see right through her cover as soon as he arrives.

Thus, Christine sends Elzer and his escort, Pilot, off to a fake meeting point, where Blastarr is ready and waiting for them. He blasts them to hell, then drops the wall of a building on them before taking off. Pilot's armor is completely de-powered from all the blows, but it still managed to keep her and Elzer alive.

The rest of the leaders and Power's team arrive, but Power is getting worried about Pilot. Christine offers to step outside to keep an eye out, but Power catches her activating the beacon which will lead Dread's forces in. Christine's cover is blown and she pulls a gun on Power... only for it to be shot out of her hand by Pilot, who limped the rest of the way there on foot with Elzer.

Power orders everyone to evacuate, taking Christine with so she can be interrogated later for further info, as he stays behind long enough to drag out a prolonged action scene. Hawk swoops back at the last minute and they fly off, Power asking what he did with Elzer. Hawk tunes their radio to the pirate station, where Elzer is using Christine's equipment to keep the broadcasts going, legitimizing it as Freedom Two.


This should have been a great episode. You finally get a voice for the resistance in the sultry, reassuring tone of Freedom One. You get some actual awareness for the size of the resistance as the five leaders spread around the States are being pulled together for a big meeting. An attempt is made to infiltrate and subvert this meeting, sweeping a huge swath of the resistance off the board at once. This should have been epic, this should have been gripping. Instead, I'm left with many questions.

Why is the entirety of the resistance putting so much control over this meeting in the hands of a DJ who's currently being directly targeted by Dread? And why, especially, when we learn she's only been building this image for several months instead of being an ingrained resistance member everyone knows and has come to trust over years?

Such as Power? Why has he not formed such a meeting, and why is he, the one who has the teleportation gates, not the one who figured on using them to form said meeting in the past?

Why is Freedom surprised to learn Captain Power is actually a captain named Power? Given the prominence his father played in both the beginning of the war and the establishment of the resistance, are people not aware of Jonathan's life? Especially after multiple episodes showing how prominent his father and his family name are in this world?

When Blastarr has Pilot and Elzer cornered at point blank range, why doesn't he shoot them? Why does he instead shoot the wall above them and leave with the satisfaction that they're dead under that rubble? And why do the Biodreads leave, too, instead of being tasked with digging out the bodies for confirmation? And why does Freedom blow them a kiss goodbye and declare them dead as she's watching them fully alive and digging themselves out ON THE MONITOR IN FRONT OF HER?

Why does Captain Power stay behind, aside from filling out the required allotment of action scene running time?

Why, in their first meeting, before any words are exchanged, does Power just suddenly reach out and pull off Freedom's helmet?

What hairspray exists in the future that can allow Freedom's massive, teased 80s rocker mane to maintain that shape beneath a tight helmet?

Here's what I like about this episode. Gwynyth Walsh, who's gone on to a long and fruitful character acting career in all kinds of great stuff, is really solid as Freedom One, both before and after her heel turn. And while I did see the turn coming and was a bit disappointed they went there, I do like the added twist of Elzer being a new resistance leader she once tortured who will instantly see through her deception. I also like that Elzer ends the episode by legitimizing the transmissions as he keeps them going under the name Freedom Two. Though he remains painfully underdeveloped, I do also like the continued appearances of Cypher as they been giving the outside resistance factions a face. There's also some especially good composite shots of Blastarr in this one.

However, it's a confusing, ultimately dull episode. We're 0-2 on scripts for Christy Marx on this series, which surprises me given how great she is elsewhere. I don't know if it's because she's working off Straczynski plots instead of getting to build her own stories, or if she just isn't clicking with this show overall, but things did not come together here. Also, I wonder how Aiken Scherberger managed to score a directorial gig on this, his first and only episode, when his lone credit to this point was a shit Canadian 80s slasher called Whodunit?, and unlike every other director for the show, he's had and continues to have zero experience in episodic television. He's a flat, clumsy director, and even his credits are giving me questions, so I'll pass it to Tony and see what he has to say about this one.


Noel, as you said, there's some problematic logic on display in "Freedom One", but I'm not sure it's any shakier than that of your average Captain Power episode, and it certainly never hampered my enjoyment of it. Could they have done more with this basic premise? Absolutely, and I think that may be the source of your disappointment more than the muddled logic.

Like you - like everyone save for our characters - I saw the "twist" coming right from the start. In a way that actually helped by heightening the tension for me as I knew our heroes were walking into a trap (where's Admiral Ackbar when you need him?). Sometimes it pays to be a step ahead of the characters, even if, in this case, it was due more to poor execution than clever structure.

I'm with you on Gwynyth Walsh. Ridiculous 80s hair aside (I take it she's from the New Jersey chapter of the resistance), she does an excellent job with the role. It's kind of ironic how many of the guest stars have gone on to have better careers than the cast of the show, isn't it? As for Walsh, she really does a nice job of luring Power in with her both her confidence and her feminine wiles. And when her true nature is revealed, she doesn't spin off into some hammy scene-chewery, she plays it much the same as many of Dread's other true believer Overunits, which really helps to give a little cohesion to their shared indoctrination.

One final note on Freedom One before moving on: I took her surprise at Power's last name as more of an in gag or wink at the too on-the-nose silliness of it. As in "Captain Power? Really?"

I do agree with you about the direction. Though I'd hesitate to say there's a Spielberg or Cameron in this group of directors so far, most of them manage to bring at least a little pizazz to things despite the limitations of the format. But "Freedom One" is one of the clunkier episodes visually.

In conclusion, I rather liked this episode. It continues the series' efforts at world building, doesn't pull its punches when it comes to violence and the real costs of war, attempts a rather serious and sophisticated storyline, and it never gets bogged down with a lot of redundant action.

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


NoelCT said...

No, it was the muddled logic. Plus the missed opportunities. Plus the poor execution of what they did decide to focus on. :)

Take, for instance, Elzer. There's a great character arc there, and I love the beat it ends on, but he's played so flat and there's so little focus on him that it barely resonates. There's nothing there to say why he's the one to take over the Freedom mantle, there's no development to he and Pilot being sent astray and left for dead on the battlefield, I didn't even realize until my second viewing that the early raid sequence was all about him gaining his command. He's a character who completely fails to register outside of hindsight.

If they wanted this story, they should have separated it from the 5 leaders meeting, given it the breathing room it needed. Pilot also lacks development as Christine and Dread make a big deal about getting to take her out for her betrayal of their cause, and yet she's never given any actual character focus in the episode. And the 5 leaders meeting is a wash because all but Cypher and Power are silent extras in the background. I didn't even get a good look at most of them.

I disagree with this being the on par with how the rest of the series has been done, especially the last few episodes, but I do see where you're coming from in getting more out of it than I did. :)

I will say, about the name, I'll go with it if it's playing off of the lack of education Overunits receive in their propaganda bubbles. But it doesn't explain why she wouldn't learn about the Power lineage through her time among the resistance, and feel they could have done more with her noting the innocence in Power's conviction, showing more of a crack in her plot as she's torn between two choices, ultimately going with Dread.

I definitely agree about how interesting it is that more of the guest cast has gone on to great careers than the leads. Granted, Jessica Steen was in Armageddon, so that tips things in her favor a bit. ;)

Tony Williams said...

I definitely agree about how interesting it is that more of the guest cast has gone on to great careers than the leads. Granted, Jessica Steen was in Armageddon, so that tips things in her favor a bit. ;)

Then that is a low bar indeed :p.

I was definitely surprised by your reaction here. You certainly made your case, but I still feel you could go back and make the same complaints about most of the episodes (to varying degrees) if you wanted to.

Ross said...

One thing I found really disturbing was the implication (I thought) that Captain Power sent Christine off to be tortured for information at the end -- he says something like "We'll send her off to our psych people," which is kind of chilling.

Did anyone else think that Freedom One's style was very strange for the "Voice of the Resistance"? She came off more like a late-night DJ (I'm specifically thinking of Delilah Luke). Elzer's "Freedom Two" is a lot more what I'd expect.

On a more personal note, with this episode, your blog has officially caught up with mine ( http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/2015/02/04/i-heard-you-on-the-wireless-back-in-52-captain-power-freedom-one/ ). You'll pull ahead this weekend because I'm going to waste three weeks blogging about something else to kill time because I want to line my last post up to happen at the end of March. Serves me right for taking off two years in the middle of my reviews :-).

NoelCT said...

Thanks for sharing the link, Ross. I'll definitely give your posts a look once we've finished the show. :)

And yeah, caught the "our psych people" line, too. They really need to flesh out what they mean by that, because there's some really horrid possibilities.