Continuing the Halloween theme, I’m going to look at four episodes from different shows today and another four tomorrow. If they suck and couldn’t even scare a baby, then it’s a dirty TRICK, but if they totally work and are fun to watch then they’re a TREAT. Let’s hope we head home with sweets in our bags and not rocks!
Avatar – The Last Airbender: The Puppetmaster
I can’t recall if I’ve reviewed episodes of this before, but it’s up there for me as one of the best animated series ever. It took me a little to get into, and on delay, but once I was on board it was like Game of Thrones for me. This episode is from the third and final season and was a Halloween special episode. Our gang comprises Aang, the Avatar, who has mastery over water, fire, air and earth, as well as brother and sister Sokka and Katara, the latter of whom is a waterbender, and blind earthbender Toph, as well as mascots Appa and Momo. While telling each other scary stories in the forest over a campfire, the gang are invited to the inn of old lady Hama. Although she seems nice, there’s talk of disappearances in the village and an upcoming full moon. Hama seems nice, but with an edge to her.
More is revealed about Hama, including a kinship with Sokka and Katara, but her past is much different, and more traumatic, than theirs. She’s also a waterbender… with a twist. She can actually manipulate the water within a person’s blood, making her a bloodbender, which means she can control people like puppets. Her secret intention is to make Katara her disciple, no matter whether it’s with evil intentions.
Horror can be physical, but it can also be psychological too, and that’s where the strength of this episode lies. Hama’s intention is to bend, pardon the pun, Katara to her will by making her like her, also imbuing her with her “gift” of bloodbending. And… she does! By the end of the episode, Katara has had to become a bloodbender to stop Hama from continuing her evil ways and save her friends, but is traumatised by what she has become, reduced to tears. It’s horrible that she’s had to go through that, and she cries to herself even in victory. Great episode from a great series, total TREAT.
Danger-Mouse: The Good, the Bad and the Motionless
I’ve had requests to look at British shows and not felt like there’d be much benefit from it, but this episode fits the theme. Western intro over the title card. David Jason does his best to make things scary as the narrator, but with a good bit of comic timing too. Sir David is one of our most beloved British actors, mainly off playing Derek Trotter in the sensational comedy series Only Fools and Horses, but he has filled out his career with a range of roles, including this show as the eponymous greatest secret agent in the world. Terry Scott is brilliant as his cowardly sidekick Penfold. D-M and Penfold head to Stonehenge to investigate strange activity. Seemingly nothing wrong at first, although quickly a devilish version of Danger-Mouse appears while time stands still.
Jason plays the evil doppelganger as a good mixture of sinister and annoying, with a goofy cackle. I was surprised to hear references to “schizophrenic struggle” and “Satanic sniggerer” in a cartoon, but it was 35 years ago and possibly a different sensibility being British and based in comedy. A few sight gags and breaking the fourth wall add to that. Danger-Mouse is able to work out a way to defeat his clone and does so, before heading home.
Not really scary, but very clever and makes good use of spooky setting, plus I’d be doing the whole show wrong if I didn’t declare it a TREAT.
Jem: Trick or Techrat
I’ve not watched much Jem, but there have been requests for me to do so, so let’s have a look at this one. Glad to be greeted by the second intro, which I much preferred and remembered from adverts on Transformers video tapes and the like when I was a kid.
Great opening with the Jem girls watching horror movies ahead of Halloween. Rio then takes them out for a late night drive to look at an opera house that is down to be demolished. Jem proposes holding a concert there to save it with a Halloween theme while also teaching young friend Terri not to be so afraid of things that go bump in the night via their song It’s Fun To Be Scared (not entirely sure I agree with that).
The Misfits want a piece of that action, so go to sleazy manager Eric Raymond and his tech guy Techrat to help them. The eponymous Techrat has a Phil Oakey haircut several years removed and a voice that really doesn’t fit this kind of show. He’s responsible for manufacturing a few frights that even the Misfits aren’t aware of initially, hence their number Don’t Look Now, which I was hoping we’d see an old midget in a red raincoat appearing in.
I’ll totally confess to a lack of any familiarity with the show, so having as many characters as it does in it was a detriment to me, but that doesn’t mean it was bad at all. Terri was a bit of a wimp, but she does have enough stuff happen to her to be right to be superstitious. A LOT of costume changes, so I bet they had to have a shit-hot production coordinator to keep on top of it. I’ll definitely give it a TREAT on the back of the hard work they put into the show, even though it’s not entirely for me.
Transformers Animated: Along Came a Spider
I remember having a feeling of reticence about this show when I first saw the character designs, but it turned out awesome. Five Autobots, led by rookie commander Optimus Prime, protect the city from the Decepticons with the help of their friend Sari Sumdac and her inventor dad Isaac, who is secretly in league with Megatron under duress. It’s Halloween and seeing a giant spider decoration provokes a memory of a young Optimus and Sentinel Prime on a mission on a strange planet, covered in cobwebs, with female friend Elita-1. Lots of jump cuts to keep Optimus on his toes and facing some old “ghosts”.
The episode switches back and forth between the present and the flashback, as spiders are a recurring feature, and seeing as one of the lead villains has a spider alt-mode… This is the return of Blackarachnia after an initial appearance in the pilot of the show, revealed to have been a former friend and lover of Optimus, who was left behind to her apparent death after an accident, and transformed into a spidery Decepticon, permanently embittered towards Optimus and out for revenge.
Weird one, this one, as it starts off trying for scary, then switches to horrific, especially with the unfortunate mutation of Elita into Blackarachnia. Then, as TFA often did, even with a happy ending there’s a bit of depression at the end, as you know Blackarachnia isn’t happy about being what she is and the only one like her. So, Halloween is a good backdrop for the episode thematically, as the appearance on the outside doesn’t really match what’s on the inside. TFA, one of those shows that at times has you punching the air in victory, then gives you a gut punch while your fist is held aloft. Easy one to give TREAT to.
The Bottom Line: A bagful of treats of all sorts of flavours. Back tomorrow with some more!