July 12, 2015

Cybersix, episode 9 "The Eye"

A Techno arrives at the mansion with a gift for José: a floating eyeball with the power to hypnotize people into a stunned trance. The boy - quickly knocked out of his own trance - is tasked by Von Reichter with seeing what the creature is capable of before it's put into wide use. The boy takes it around town, first testing it on isolated people - including Lori and her gang - then decides to shoot bigger, taking the eye through City Hall, hypnotizing everyone within and claiming the mayor's office for his own. Police quickly surround the building, but they're stunned into trances as well. Additionally, every time the eye stuns someone, it absorbs some form of energy from them, leading the eye to start growing bigger and bigger. And when threatened, it can fire a powerful beam, which it uses now as it sends police cars up in balls of flame. José is shocked by this, but quickly delighted. Even when he gets a call from Von Reichter telling him he's gone too far and to return the eye, José decides to press on.

After a display of liquid hydrogen to a class, Lucas and Adrian take a stroll, when they come across Lori and her zoned out gang. Adrian rushes off, finding a path of hundreds of people throughout the city, either slumped in silence or shuffling about like zombies. After testing out a few cars from a high-end dealership, José races off in a fancy hotrod, leading the eye through the rest of the streets, stunning people everywhere they go. They zoom past Adrian, who follows along the rooftops to the school, where everyone within is being stunned. Adrian tries, but isn't able to keep Lucas from also following under the spell.

Cybersix suits up and is joined by Data-7 as they find José at a bank, Fixed Ideas loading sacks of cash in their van as the eye looms over stunned patrons. Data-7 is quickly put under thrall and Cybersix nearly falls victim to the eye's high-intensity beam, but she uses a piece of mirrored glass to hit the eye with its own hypnotic reflection. This makes the creature go rogue as it even turns on José and instead heads for the largest crowd of people: the sports arena. Cybersix desperately tries to use the replay screen to tell everyone to look away, but it doesn't work and the entire crowd is stunned, all of the absorbed energy inflating the eye to a monstrous size as it floats about looking for fresh victims.

Getting reports from both a flustered José and the Techno, Von Reichter is greatly displeased to hear about how badly the eye has gone out of control, and they have three hours to catch it before he decides to deal with his boy personally. Cybersix swings by the school, checking in on Lucas as she raids his lab for the large canister of liquid hydrogen. As she races to the creature, José and the Fixed Ideas are also pursuing with a huge net cannon. They manage to snag the eye, but it rips their cannon free until Cybersix snags it on the giant angel statue at the heart of Meridiana. The creature anchored, Cybersix climbs atop and begins coating it with liquid nitrogen.

Despite José's order to not, a Fixed Idea spots Cybersix and fires a rocket at her. She barely gets away and it instead shatters the freezing creature, who erupts in an explosion of stolen energy which rains down on Meridiana and back into the people it was stolen from. Cybersix returns from the school to be with Lucas as he comes to. As he awakens, he moves in for a kiss. She pulls away, but is glad to see him and everyone else back to normal.

Back at his mansion HQ, José is admonished by a furious Von Reichter who wonders when the boy will ever learn.


Here's what I don't like about this episode... When José first receives the Eye, he's the first person it hypnotizes. This got me excited. At last, I thought, a plot of Von Reichter's where he wants to keep José uninvolved and out of the way, thus making the boy the plot's first victim! Alas, José is woken up in a way that doesn't work for anybody else during the remainder of the episode and carries on as the mission commander.

That's it, though. I really enjoy this episode. Even José's involvement is well utilized because of his interactions with his father, showing how the boy and his maker clash over their mutual machinations and their unspooling control over the creature. Plus, I love the scale of the episode, with José quickly growing from petty crimes to enthralling entire neighborhoods, then a rather significant amount of the city. I'm surprised the people in the sports arena were such a huge deal because you'd think turnout would be low given how many people have already been hit. Still, it's a great moment, as is José marching into the mayor's office and claiming it for himself, complete with a portrait of himself in his Enemy Ace cap.

The Eye itself is yet another interesting monster design that quickly grew on me. I don't know that we really needed it to get larger, but they make great use of this effect, right up to the explosion at the end. It's so oddly casual and relaxed as it just drifts around, but the moments where those knots of "hair" flare into a laser beam are strikingly destructive, and little moments like it dozing off or flaring with fear when it's netted give it some little flickers of personality. I like that there is no real origin or explanation behind the Eye, it just is what it is.

There's again no real exploration of Cybersix at all, but she and Adrian are still well played. I actually love that half the action comes on the part of Adrian, as the situation of his students, then everyone around him falling under the spell hits before he has any time to go home and change. It's always striking to see Adrian be the one leaping along rooftops, and I like how the change is saved for the right moment leading into the second half.

About that climax, while I do think the way they use the liquid nitrogen is a bit too much of a stretch - a) that's not how it works, b) that's way, way more than a single canister would contain - the ultimate effect is very nice, especially with a massive anime explosion of light as all of the captured stuff (life force? souls? will?) leaps out of the erupting Eye and back to all of the affected people in Meridiana. It's gorgeous, I go with it. And huge props for centering their final setpiece on that massive statue of an angel we've seen looming in contemplation over the town's skyline. We see it so often in the background and I was beginning to worry we'd never get a good, up close look, and lo and behold, we do!

This is a really solid episode. The action is, typically, exquisite. The plot unfolds and escalates at a steady pace. There's not much to Lucas' role, but I like how it builds him up as a potential ally only to have him be taken away, as well as how he leans in for a kiss as he's waking up. The moment just isn't right yet, and they play it beautifully. Data-7 gets some good bursts of action in before he's also taken. The brief bits of Lori and her gang are fun. This is another episode by Jono Howard, the Ed Edd 'n Eddy writer who spotlighted her in "Lori is Missing", so it's no surprise he slipped her in. There's a nice return of the Fixed Idea trio which includes the maid, though I feel bad for the one who had to knock José back to consciousness when his boss decides to pay him back for it.

After last week's clunker and the kind of middling entry before it, this was a step up. No, there's not much to it, and yes, this is yet another play on the same exact plot formula we've been getting week after week, but this is an example of how to play it properly. I'm not back to being intensely eager for what the remaining weeks hold in store, but my anticipation certainly has gone up.

Extra thoughts:
  • Couldn't entirely make out what the Techno specifically called the Eye. A "chips eyeball"? Not sure what the "chips" would refer to.
  • I agree the setup of the liquid nitrogen is incredibly obvious, but it's a fair use of storytelling shorthand. What kept me guessing more was the how. Also, love the added details of the canister starting to freeze Cyber's hand, and her legs getting inadvertently iced onto the creature.
  • The triangular shadow-pattern of the soccer players is a great touch.
  • Love how Von Reichter's debriefing of José is instantly followed by him calling the Techno and asking "Is he telling the truth?" It's a nice sign of just how limited Von Reichter's faith in the boy is, though does again raise the question of why he puts so many plots in José's hands.

(additional stills)


By my count, Cybersix is on at least a three game losing streak entering this week's episode (I'll give a pass to the comparably middling "Lori is Missing"). And by "losing streak", I don't mean a string of weak offerings, I mean flat-out bad episodes. I hate to invoke the P-word here, but we're dangerously close to Pole Position territory now. At least the latter had that killer theme song to look forward to each week. I've taken to skipping the Celine Dion-esque opener of our current Showcase all together. And don't even get me started on the closing track. If Hell has a soundtrack, I'm sure that song is on it.

How did we get here? The show began with so much promise. With a mix of interesting ideas, a mysterious and intriguing backstory, and unique characters, those first three episodes really stood out. But now... now it's slipped into a tired monster-of-the-week formula, which could be generic fun if the monsters weren't so lame. Birds, gargoyles, and now a floating, Lovecraftian eyeball that drains people's consciousness or some such nonsense. I'm really, really trying not to go off on a rant here, but the show is making it so hard right now.

As if it weren't already obvious by now, my complaints at this point are a broken record. José. Monster. Dumb plot. An increasingly banal heroine. The latter is probably the toughest to forgive, as she started out so interesting. She was mysterious, had a bit of an edge. Now she's more like Mr. Rogers with a few kung-fu moves and a Darkwing Duck outfit. Dull, straight-arrow heroes are pretty common in this genre, but Cybersix is a platitude or two away from taking the crown for herself. On the other hand, Adrian has actually managed to become more of a tool and I've yet to see any justification for why the likeable (but oddly friendless) Lucas hangs out with him.

I knew this episode was going to suck very early on when I saw Lucas conducting experiments - carelessly, I might add - with liquid nitrogen. "Oh, I bet that's how they're going to defeat the monster this week. But, nah! That's too obvious." Fast forward 20 minutes or so and, sure enough, liquid nitrogen. It's the kind of lazy and insulting storytelling that just screams "No one associated with the show gives two shits." I wish I knew more about what was going on behind the scenes at this point, because clearly the original mission statement had changed.

"The Eye" (god, even the titles are starting to get lame) does have a few things that don't totally suck. Said Eye is, as I mentioned before, a Lovecraftian style creature that's at least fun to look at. Of all the things on the show thus far, it's the one I would most like to have a toy of. The other thing that was at least a good idea, even if the execution left something to be desired, is José losing total control of the Eye. I like that his plan went awry and that, instead of spending the episode cackling gleefully at a monitor, he's running around trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

It pains me to say that the streak has now reached four. "The Eye" may not hit the same lows as previous episodes like "Blue Birds of Horror" or the cringe-inducingly titled "Gone with the Wings", but start to finish, it may be the dullest and least inspired episode yet.

If you'd like to watch along with us, the entirety of Cybersix is available on DVD, thanks to Discotek Media.

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