G.I. Joe – There’s No Place Like Springfield!

Some great suggestions from the request thread, so I’ve bumped my Movies Go To the Cartoons to next week and thought I’d hit this one first. We start with the equivalent of an “angle” to set up the “big match”.

Memories of Mara

G.I. Joe detect a Cobra submarine, which attacks, but at the same time Shipwreck finds a blue-skinned woman in a Cobra uniform in the water and heads out to rescue her. Once on board she struggles to breathe, with evident gills on her neck. Destro wants the girl back in Cobra’s custody, so Eels are dispatched. But, Shipwreck seems to have developed affection for her very quickly and won’t let them take her.

We get a creepy flashback to Mara being converted genetically into a being who can breathe both on land and in water, but it went wrong and Cobra made no effort to fix the problem and kept her for observation, hence her escape to get help. She then has a unique way of thanking Shipwreck for saving her, which the sailor has no complaint about. The Dreadnoks then turn up to recover her, are fought off, at which point the problems of Shipwreck and her establishing a relationship are all too clear. There’s an unsettling implication of her being abused and doing what she’s had to all her life just to survive, even if it meant joining Cobra.

There’s a romantic, albeit bittersweet ending to the episode, with Mara declaring that now “I belong to the sea”. It’s a memorable ending to a mature episode, never at any point insulting the audience’s intelligence, but also not quite becoming one of the classic Joe episodes.

There’s No Place Like Springfield

And now the main event! Shipwreck and Lady Jaye rescue a scientist that has been kidnapped by and escaped from Cobra who has the formula for turning water into an explosive substance. He transmits it into Ship’s mind and only lets Jaye know the password to unlocking it. Cobra become aware of this and construct an elaborate rouse with Shipwreck seemingly having achieved his dream life, with a wife (Mara, now no longer a “mermaid”) and child he never knew he had, to get the information.

Shipwreck, who was introduced in one of the mini-series before the series started proper, became one of the breakout stars of the series by virtue of Neil Ross developing him past a Jack Nicholson impression and imbuing him with his anti-heroic nature and humour and his bantering relationship with his parrot Polly. Sometimes he was his own worst enemy, but his heart was never in question, so seeing him being tortured with “visions” as Cobra try to get the information from him can’t help but make you feel sorry for him. He’s a stranger in a world that’s constructed precisely for him, and it only gets worse as he sees things like Roadblock entering a car wash and melting in front of him, eyes dropping out first in a horrific image.

As it goes on, he’s even further mentally tortured and played with. A bizarrely sexual interrogation scene with female Crimson Guard Cadet Deming reveals that getting the information out of Shipwreck requires the password, so Tomax and Xamot try to plug him with every word from the Oxford English Dictionary in his slumber to reveal it (Cobra Commander: “Brilliant(!). Why, we should have the information in about… six or seven years(!). Even I couldn’t have banked on failure on this level(!).”). Lots of The Prisoner references with Shipwreck “living at” Number 6, Village Lane and being offered milk to subdue him.

We find out that no time has really passed and synthoids (synthetic duplicates that can appear like any living person, but have a limited lifespan until they melt down into blobs). The real Polly returns to take care of the fake Polly and reveal the password so that Shipwreck can hold back Cobra. Shipwreck comes to his senses, but still doesn’t realise that Mara and his daughter are synthoids too and is devastated when he meets them bearing arms and just as much so when Polly zaps them and they melt into blobs, which is summed up in this conversation:

Lady Jaye – “What’s the matter? Was there something important in there?

Shipwreck – “Nah… Just a dream or two.”

Definitely one of the best G.I. Joe stories ever, cartoon or comic, and elements of it are still used and remembered today. I cried watching it today, which is a first, because I saw Shipwreck losing so much and knew I was powerless to stop it, no matter how brave he was in facing everything.

Once Upon a Joe

Needed a pick-me-up, so thought I’d watch this one. Cobra agents try to steal the MacGuffin Device, which can alter reality. G.I. Joe stop them and take possession of it, but at the cost of a nearby orphanage being destroyed, but luckily no children being harmed. Shipwreck, who himself didn’t have any parents growing up, takes the lead on repairing it while Cobra Commander commissions Zartan to recover the device.

In some ways this is a “silly” episode, as Shipwreck gets into telling fairy tales to the kids rather than doing the work, which are animated in a Tex Avery style, but the right emotional buttons are pressed too (when Zartan holds an orphan boy hostage, he tells Shipwreck still to shoot because “I’m an orphan – nobody will miss me!”). We have some great characterisation with the Dreadnoks “engaging in weighty, philosophical debate” – actually a brawl parodying the Miller Lite advertising campaign (“Breath mint!” “Candy mint!”) while Zartan works out his own deal with Cobra Commander at the same time as firing darts at a straw effigy of him. Beach Head is played as a grumpy fall guy and Leatherneck bores the kids into unconsciousness with his story about Three Little Joes, with too much focus on the design details of their bunkers.

Shipwreck, in telling his own fairy tale, gets poked at too for all the inconsistencies in his Shipwreck and the Beanstalk story (the boy, Bobby, questions why he’d need to take a cow to market to trade for hamburgers – “Stop being so blasted logical and let me finish!”). The episode ends with an almost-naked battle between Shipwreck and Zartan in their underwear as well as the MacGuffin device bringing the characters from Shipwreck’s fairy tale to life to turn the tide against Cobra. It’s a nice, funny episode with enough dramatic tension in it to not make it a total joke.

Conclusion: What a boy, that Shipwreck, hey? I’ll be back next weekend with Sgt. Slaughter, you maggots! And that’s an order! You’re dismissed!