Cyborg has been kidnapped! In order to rescue him from the Bureau of Normalcy, our heroes will have to learn to trust Silas Stone and infiltrate the Ant Farm.
This episode is a little bit all over the map, in mostly all of the best ways. It’s goofy as hell, but still has some great character development. It’s absurdly violent in parts, but it has a lot of heart. It’s all of the show’s best and worst instincts in one entertaining-as-hell package.
Wildly vacillating between existential terror, feelings of betrayal, and murderous rage, Jovian Wade gives his strongest performance of the season so far. It’s still not entirely clear why the removal of his operating system would affect his super strength (the guy is straight-up made of titanium, so he still should be able to bust out of some simple cuffs), but Wade does a great job of selling Vic’s desperation and growing paranoia. He’s practically climbing the walls of his cell by the end of the episode, so when he finally snaps, you believe every second of his rampage.
Phil Morris likewise gets his best showing of the series so far. Previous episodes have portrayed him as a condescending control freak, but this week gave him a chance to show a more heroic side of the character. While it’s clear that Silas still has some secrets of his own, we do get a genuine, albeit detached, sense of concern from Morris’ portrayal.
Larry’s scenes are brief, but packed with character development. When Silas proposes breaking into the Ant Farm, Larry is ready to rock. He finally views the Negative Spirit as a partner. This is best illustrated in the sequence when Larry talks about how they tortured him, before correcting himself and saying “us.” He finally acknowledges that he isn’t alone. Also of note is Negative Man suit actor Matthew Zuk’s physicality during the sequence where Larry reassures the spirit before they go into the Ant Farm. He allows himself to be entirely vulnerable, showing the spirit that he is considering it when he makes his decisions.
However, even Larry’s storyline has a few hiccups. The exact nature of Larry’s radioactivity is brought into question again. Are we to understand that Larry is naturally radioactive even without the spirit? That would line up with the Faraday cage-style design of Larry’s room in the manor, but if that’s the case, are the bandages somehow keeping people safe? It’s a bit of a hanging question that the writers seem to be dancing around. Still, the hows and whys don’t bother quite so much in the face of such strong character development.
I neglected to mention this in the previous episode review, but Alan Tudyk’s portrayal of Mr. Nobody is still so deliciously evil. Even in a scene like this week’s, where he doesn’t bother cracking a single joke, there’s a kind of venomous glee underneath his every word. Tudyk’s obvious enthusiasm for the character bleeds into the villain himself; it’s clear that no one has ever enjoyed being the Bad Guy more than Mr. Nobody. He completely breaks Vic in this episode and he savors every moment of it. Tudyk’s performance walks a delicate tightrope, as Mr. Nobody is entirely despicable, but horrifically entertaining.
Other fun moments of the episode include Robotman’s continued arguments for his own usefulness (and Rita’s actions that back up Cliff’s claims), the return of Karen, and the comedic one-two punch of a Reservoir Dogs reference during an Ace of Base needle drop. It’s not often that a joke feels like it was written specifically for me, but that was certainly a fine example of one. The barely-there (both in mind and dialogue) general was also an interesting (but useless) addition to the episode. The idea that this man child has been running the show and operating at such a high level in the government was upsetting in the funniest possible way. Also of note was a perfectly-timed Chewbacca joke.
Aside from the small logic issues, there were a few other minor problems I found with this week’s episode. There were a few dodgy effects, with Rita’s one blobby moment looking a little off. However, this was done in a very funny way, so it mostly gets a pass for how it managed to serve the scene. It also led to Rita taking out an Ant Farm scientist in a perfectly Rita way, so it pretty much evens out the iffier aspects of the scene.
And then there were the butts. Man, that was weird. This show has a pretty good handle on when to use gross-out moments or juvenile humor to the most effect, so it was a bit of a surprise for the show to get this silly. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t laughing when a swarm of sentient man-eating butts came roaring through the corridor, but it is low-brow and dumb in a way that the show usually either scoots just around the edges of or subverts in interesting ways. Then again, that’s a pretty pretentious way for me to look at something that genuinely made my jaw drop.
Some head tilt-inducing moments aside, this episode had an exceptionally strong emotional core, ending on a real gut punch of a scene. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the team deals with the fallout of this confrontation, as well as how their new addition fits in. I suppose we’ll find out together in next week’s episode, “Flex Patrol!”