The satellite is still plummeting towards Volcania. Dread orders a still-regenerating Soaron to throw everything he has at it, including himself, but the satellite still plows through and collides with the central spire. Lacchi is malfunctioning from blows, and Overmind is stunned as it experiences pain for the first time, leaving Biodreads throughout scrambled and confused. Dread is unharmed and the plasma storm of Prometheus is still set to launch.
Our heroes land, Power On, and storm the complex, blasting the hell out of everything as they make their way to the command center. Hawk is sidelined by an Overmind blasting off his armor, but Tank rescues him and they fight their way back to the dropship. Power, Pilot, and Scout are sidelined by Blastarr, but they blow him up by electrifying a floor panel with high voltage.
Our remaining heroes crash the command center. Pilot and Scout are shot down, but while Power and Dread tussle, Scout comes to (Pilot's fine, as well) and uses a terminal to hack into Prometheus and cause that station to overload and explode before it can fire the plasma. Dread runs away and Overlord starts breaking through the hacks, so our heroes take off. Project New Order has been defeated.
On paper, this is a fantastic episode. Our heroes finally take the fight straight to Volcania, first by punching it with a satellite which rips apart a defiant Soaron (great scene), leaves most of the Biodreads scrambled in confusion, and has Overmind mystified at his first experience of what pain feels like. These are all great beats, followed by our heroes storming the castle, blowing the shit out of everything, Hawk carrying on the fight even though his suit is blown out, Tank has a massive bazooka, Pilot blows Blastarr to pieces, and then we get an epic faceoff between our titular hero and his long time nemesis.
This should be amazing. It isn't. And I blame that entirely on Otto Hanus. Hanus is the most prolific director for the show, helming a whopping 9 episodes of the 22 episode season. He's also the one I've most consistently chided for flat compositions, awkward staging of dialogue sequences, and action scenes that lack any movement or energy. I honestly find his direction of this two-parter, this half especially, to be some of his laziest work on the show, which is a crying shame given how much the script is giving him to work with. And we sadly don't have a situation like "Flame Street" or "Sound of Thunder" where there's still enough weight to what's happening to overcome how it's being presented, probably because this is a story light on character and thick on action, so the actors aren't allowed to carry it themselves in spite of the direction. The exception is David Hemblem as Dread, who still has enough gravitas to pull me in with moments like Dread taking in the destruction around him and dedicating himself further to seeing his plan through, or punching a malfunctioning Lacchi, or seeing Power's infiltration and sneering "He dares."
But the rest of the episode is full of great moments that still fail to sell properly. Like all the Hawk/Tank banter, the worst being over a bowling gag. Or all of the Blastarr stuff, where the photography is so badly composed the CG model feels far more out of place than usual, complete with shots where actor eye lines are wildly off, something this show has been really great about in the past. And that climax, where Dread and Power are face-to-face, which should be an amazing punch of epic power, is so clumsily staged, actually leaving me confused half the time as to what's going on, and ends so abruptly that it did nothing for me, especially when Lacchi suddenly appears with a gun in hand. And no, you shouldn't just be able to use those blasters to harmlessly shoot the guns out of villains' hands, which happens multiple times throughout the episode. The worst being when Tank uses his massive bazooka to knock a gun from an Overunit's hand. Dude's entire arm should have blown off!
Regardless of how epic and exciting the script to this episode was, the direction was just a very shittily executed job, and Otto Hanus should feel bad for it. It's something which just shouldn't have happened, like getting Vince Colletta to ink Jack Kirby's astounding run of The Mighty Thor. Which isn't to say there aren't a few decent bits in there, like the effects shots of the dropship landing and taking off, which doesn't look like the typical cut-n-paste effects they usually go with. Or Power and Scout egging on a raging Blastarr. Or Soaron's valiant if misguided sacrifice. And there's a nice bit where all our heroes gather and Power On, and it's such a heroic title screen shot of them all together in their armor that I couldn't help but smile. And Pilot's helmet! I mentioned a few episodes ago that I'm glad someone finally gave her more headgear than a pair of sunglasses, and I'm glad to see it's stuck around.
But overall, this episode is a firecracker that had every component in place to make for one hell of a big bang, but because that one guy failed to place the fuse properly, it ultimately fizzled.
Noel, you hit on a number of ways in which "New Order: Part 2 - The Land Shall Burn" is a total less than the sum of its parts, and for the most part I agree with you. But for me, there was a much larger issue that kept this episode from clicking, and that's the total and complete lack of drama. I don't know how familiar our readers are with cartoons of the 80s, but there's a formula to them that goes a little something like this:
The villain(s) hatch a plan, and for a while - say, two acts or so - it works brilliantly. For the bulk of this time, the bad guys run circles around our heroes, making them look like helpless fools at every turn. But when it comes time for the final showdown, suddenly the villains loose about 50 IQ points, and their seemingly insurmountable lead is surmounted and then dry-humped into fist-shaking defeat.
The problem I had with "New Order: Part 1-2" is that it's more or less an entire two-part episode that feels like the third act of one of those cartoons. Maybe that's because we're winding down the season, so for Lord Dread's master plan, it's third act stupid time. Still, it's hard to figure why anyone here thought that a two-parter where our heroes lay such a complete beat-down on the villains would make for compelling TV.
I kept waiting for Dread to pull some sort of mechanized rabbit out of his hat, but it never came. He just sat there on his throne and meekly watched as everything he'd built crumbled around him. Every single thing he tried just bounced off our heroes like a Nerf ball. It was pathetic to watch.
I'm absolutely certain that, with two more episodes left, this is all set up for Dread pulling some sort of Khan activating the Genesis device before spitting out a pithy Shakespeare quote and (figuratively) dying moment, but why not tease that at the end? As it stands, this was like watching someone play a video game on the easy, easy setting.
- Noel, I noticed Pilot's gear upgrade as well. It also appears that after starting off with a totally opaque face lens, and then switching to an almost amber one, they settled on something in between for Power. I like this one much, much better. You can still see his eyes, but he doesn't look like he's wearing a pair of Blu-Blockers.
- Sven Ole-Thorsen is trying his barrel-chested best, but his one-liners - never great to begin with - have taken a sharp decline of late.
If you'd like to watch along with us, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future is available on DVD!