March 1, 2015

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, episode 21 "Retribution, Part 1"

At the Power Base, Power glumly stews over monitors while the rest of the team celebrates the victory of the last two episodes, the men taking turns dancing with Pilot. They shift over to Power, pulling him out of his funk as they clear the floor for he and Pilot to spend a round in each others' arms.

At Volcania, Lord Dread pushes his Overunits into repairing all the damage faster and faster. Dread himself isn't doing well and is planning to leave his flesh behind permanently. But first: Power. Meeting with Blastarr and Soaron, they shake up their strategy, halting the spread of the Empire until they can first weed out the resistance. Cue a montage of Biodreads scouring the land, no longer focusing on Digitizers as they lay waste to everything before them.

Power sees this as a plus, the show of power being a mask for an Empire that's now hurt and limping along, and he waits for a mistake as he and the team take to the fight, Hawk blowing away a mass of Dreads that dinged his helmet, and Scout using his holo cloak to slip in among Dreads and plant grenades on their backs, then hijack a tank to blow away Blastarr. However, Dread remotely forces a damaged Blastarr to rise and observe as Power's team flies off in their dropship, the Lord finally witnessing the truth of their portal network.

During a respite, our heroes celebrate Christmas around a metal tree Hawk built from wires and blown off parts of Soaron, with Scout opening up about how long it's been since he saw one, ever since, as a child, he assembled a tree for his mother during the Metal Wars, the week before they were both taken and he never saw her again.

At Volcania, Dread tricks Lacchi into electrocuting himself on a high voltage wire, snidely mourning the loss to a suspicious Overmind and promising all attempts at repair will be taken. But for now, he implants in Soaron an energy sensor unit and links up with all Biodreads everywhere, telling them to drop everything they're doing and watch the skies for our heroes. The dropship appears and Soaron takes off, racing at supersonic speeds and donning a new stealth feature so our heroes can't see where fire is coming from as they open a portal and retreat. Soaron plows into the energy field of the portal, failing to pass through, but the sensor getting all the reading it needs to trace the portal's source.

Soaron limps back to Lord Dread, who reads the sensor and gloats that this war is about to finally end.

To be continued...


A long time ago, but set in the future...

The Dreadpire (Sorta) Strikes Back!

I'm not sure if Lord Dread has a butt under all that armor, but if he does, it got handed to him in the previous two episodes. But with two more episodes left, I don't think any of us were expecting that to continue, and thankfully it doesn't. The somewhat passive tyrant has been roused, and with a montage of "Bio-Dread in action" clips culled from previous episodes - like we wouldn't notice - he (re)unleashes his fury on humanity.

All kidding aside, this is a really strong episode. Yes, it helps that our villain is finally being proactive, but the real strength of "Retribution, Part 1" isn't the (heavily recycled) action, but the focus on character. Scout has by far had the least development of any member of the Power team. Every other character has had at least one focus episode, but for the most part, Scout's remained stuck in the background. That's why I was so happy to see him get a moment here, and what a moment it is. For my money, Maurice-Dean Wint is the best actor of the group, and he really steps up to the plate here in a scene that could've been a schmaltzy mess in lesser hands. I'm not ashamed to admit that his Christmas tale made me tear up a bit. It was a nice bit of long overdue character shading for Scout, and it really added some much needed pathos to the story. I also got a kick out of Power and Pilot's dance. Not so much because I'm on board with this rather shallowly developed romance, but because it provides a fun little moment for the gang as a whole. Their last, I'd wager, unless my tea leaf reading is rusty.

This episode also provides David Hemblen some moments to shine. To his credit, he's approached the material all season like it was Shakespeare, but rarely has it been up to his level. But here he gets a few decent monologues/villain rants that are stronger and more concise than the rambly hot air he's usually stuck with. It's also nice to actually see Soaron do something right for a change. I was starting to greet his proclamations of "It shall be done, my Lord!" with an eye roll. Every time he blasted off into the sky, I wanted to follow him with a large net to catch him when he was inevitably shot down by Hawk. And alas, poor Lacchi, we knew him not so well! I'm really not sure he was ever used to his fullest potential as a character, but I did get a kick out of seeing Dread take him out.

Though I was hoping for a slightly stronger cliffhanger here, it was sufficient, and combined with the other strong elements of the episode, it has me primed and ready for our series finale next week.

Noel, whatcha got?


Totally agree, Tony. Regardless of how they slipped and stumbled last week, they're back to their A-game here as they gear us up for the big finale, taking a two-parter where everything went ridiculously well for our heroes, and cutting it down with the threat of some genuine consequences as Dread starts using his brain instead of his brawn as he pinpoints a single aspect of Power's strategy and pulls it apart, hoping to unravel the entire cord as a result. Tony's right that Hemblem nails it, with the moments on his throne now showing him working out a strategy, but also taking him out of the seat as he surprisingly gets around. He's among his Overunits in their control center. He's out on the balcony to send Soaron aloft. And even when he's in the throne room, he's got his two Warlords crammed in there with him as they bicker over who gets to follow his orders, Lacchi meets a delightful end, and Dread's commands are projected over entire fields of Biodreads.

And about that bit, I don't mind using the stock footage at all because it's just establishing shots from previous episodes to show how broadly spread the Biodread Empire really is. I've got nothing wrong with them using what they've got. As for the actual action scenes themselves, no stock that I could see. Scout slipping in amongst the Dreads to slap grenades on them is great, there's the nice battle where Hawk's helmet takes a ding and he whips out the massive freakin' gun to blow an entire horde away, and many new shots of Soaron going both supersonic and stealth (his victorious splat against the warp portal is also a knee-slapping hoot). I'm guess I'm just used to it from Power Rangers and 80s toons, but stock used appropriately is never a negative.

I do also love the human moments in the group, soaking in the horrible calm before the storm as they enjoy Christmas. I don't entirely agree with Wint being the best actor of the group (Peter MacNeil!), but Scout has been in desperate need of some backstory and he delivers what he gets here with aplomb. I actually kind of like that there's nothing particularly epic about his backstory. He's just a guy, a child when the Metal Wars happened, who built a plucky resilience growing up on the battlefield, losing his mom young but still fighting the fight until meeting up with Power. There's still room for them to slip in extra stories in upcoming seasons, but it still gives us more than enough to chew on.

As some of our longtime followers here and at my other projects may know, I collect scripts. This and next week's "Part 2" are the only episodes of the season I've been able to get hold of the teleplays for, and this installment is a fun read. At only 18 pages, Straczynski breezes through action and descriptions quickly, but it never feels light and weightless as he gives you all the necessary punches. Soaron's supersonic flight isn't quite as dramatic as described on paper, and the massive revelation of his stealth form barely resonates (largely due to removing a Lord Dread V.O. explaining it), but the Biodread montage comes off fantastic, as do all the little character bits. In terms of differences, Overmind's dialogue has gone through a bit of a rewrite at the end, where Dread's body merely needing sleep has now been increased to a more serious condition, and Lacchi was originally confirmed to have been terminated. I guess they decided to leave open the possibility of him surviving for some reason. I don't entirely know why. He's a neat character in concept, but they never could figure out how to execute him and he was largely left just standing around.

The other big change is the early scene in the Power Base, where Tank and Pilot are, in the script, having a watergun fight and pull the others into laughter and merriment. It's a cute scene, but I much prefer the dance we get here, as everyone gets to have a moment that's uniquely them before clearing the dance floor for Power and Pilot to hold each other in their arms, sharing looks of both longing and hesitation. Jorge Montesi has been the second most prolific director of the season and was absolutely the right choice to bring the show to a close, as he knows how to bring out the tender, human moments - so much joy in Tank, Scout, and Hawk swaying in the background as they watch the quietly blossoming love before them - as well as the action and spectacle, and the horror and purpose behind Dread's resolve.

All in all, it's a class act of an episode, a firm reminder of what this show can be at its best, and definitely has me geared for for the finale next week.

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

No comments: