The Letters Page: Episode 87
Two shows and two movies! All totally real! (Note: this is yet another lie.)
Run Time: 2:17:59
We're excited to finally be getting back to the animated series for this episode! Lots to get through here.
We start right off with season 1 of the Prime Wardens show.
Around 29 minutes in, we get into the two movies after finishing the Prime Wardens show. Both movies! Two of them.
Then, just before 41 minutes in, we finally dive into the Dark Watch show, which takes a good deal longer than anything else. We clearly went a bit overboard on this part, but we were inspired!
Finally, we get to a few questions at the 2 hour and 6 minute mark.
More exciting episodes coming soon! Plus, if you're at the Contributor level on the Patreon, you'll be able to join us this Thursday morning for a live recording of a bit Editor's Note (which will be released in audio form next week). See you then!
- Prime Wardens
- Argent Adept
- Captain Cosmic
- The Idolater
- Blood Countess Bathory
- The Freedom Five
- Young Legacy
- Dark Watch
- Mr. Fixer
- The Hippo
- Eduardo López
- Plague Rat
- Zhu Long
- Kaargra Warfang
- The Enthralling Enzo
- The Captivating Carlotta/Catatonica
Prime Wardens Season 1
- The first 4 episodes of this originally aired as one long movie on Thanksgiving Day [presumably 2009 given what the first Phase 2 episode mentioned for when these came out] that could be broken up into individual episodes for reruns once the show started up in earnest after the new year started.
- While The Freedom Five episode titles were typically specific references to comics or to pop culture, Prime Wardens episodes are all just one word titles that evoke whatever that episode is about.
- The descriptions of the PW show will go pretty fast in comparison to the Dark Watch ones. While the Freedom Five show was about stories based on the comics, the PW show leans into that even harder with the adaptation of stories you know and love in a faithful manner, so they can say things like “then they fight and it goes about how you’d expect” and call it a day. Dark Watch gets a lot more into the nitty-gritty detail and the show itself is more arc-based than episodic. PW episodes are detached from one another with indeterminate amounts of time having passed between adventures.
- [I’m a bit into the episode and they haven’t actually mentioned any specific air dates yet. For the sake of my own record keeping/comparing to events in other shows, I’m assigning the PW show to Thursdays as the initial movie was on Thanksgiving. Since they mentioned that the stand-alone episode airing starts after the new year, I’m assigning episode 1 to the first Thursday of 2010, which is January 7.
Episodes 1.1 through 1.4 - “Mother” - 1/7/2010 through 1/28/2010
- The story for the movie/first 4 episodes is similar to the Akash'Bhuta story from the ’80s where the team formed to help Argent Adept in the first place. It’s a remarkably faithful adaptation of that story with the exception that the other heroes (like Chrono-Ranger) aren’t involved; it’s just the Prime Wardens.
Episode 1.5 - “Idols” - 2/4/2010
- The Idolater is there with his false prophet shtick opposed by Fanatic. They don’t get into the Host, though.
- Guest star: Ra, who kind of has his own “idol” in the form of the Staff of Ra.
- Teaser at the end of the episode: hints that the power behind the Idolater is another figure whose “idol” is a big, sinister looking sword.
Episode 1.6 - “Magic” - 2/11/2010
- This one’s about a stage magician known as “The Enthralling Enzo”, whose big into illusions and hypnosis. This is a throwback to an old Silver Age story - like really obscure, a deep cut.
- The gimmick is that Enzo will hypnotize people as part of his act and make them do things they wouldn’t normally - all good fun. Then crimes will happen later on that are somehow related to the act (the off-hand example given is that he made people quack like a duck in the act, but then later a bunch of people run into a bank yelling and quacking and during that distraction some valuables/safe deposit boxes are stolen from the vault).
- This seems remarkably street level to be something the Prime Wardens get involved in, but the show is still getting its feet after the more over-the-top stuff at the beginning.
- They confront Enzo who insists that he’s got nothing to do with the crimes and that somebody else must be targeting the people he uses in his act to frame him. While this discussion is happening, though, the Prime Wardens are enthralled and start running amok. The Freedom Five show up to control the situation. They’re surprisingly immune to the mind-whammy, though (that’s explained as them being Unity’s bots - the real Freedom Five are off-planet from their 2/2 episode through their return on their 3/9 episode, but the PW creative team didn’t actually do this intentionally at the time so the explanation is a retcon).
- The FF take the subdued Prime Wardens to somebody who can actually help with the mind-control thing: Visionary. She breaks the control over the heroes and determines that The Enthralling Enzo really is innocent, but that his assistant The Captivating Carlotta is to blame and has been using Enzo as cover. Carlotta is outed as the villain Catatonica. The Visionary gives the Prime Wardens some mental shielding and they go back to capture the villain.
- Visionary crops up occasionally in the show after this as a support character. Her opinion is that since the Freedom Five aren’t usually fighting these ethereal threats, being around for the Prime Wardens is a useful role for her.
Episode 1.7 - “Truth” - 2/18/2010
- This one’s about Hermetic and Scholar. The former is using blood magic in his attempts to create a Philosopher’s Stone and is… harvesting things from people to go about that. Look, you can’t make a Blood Stone without taking blood from unwilling victims.
- The heroes are trying to deal with all of the weird effects of the Blood Magic going on and Scholar shows up to help them find the source and to aid them by countering Hermetic with his own alchemy.
- That’s all kind of just an excuse to have the Scholar around (Hermetic is a pretty minor villain, really). The real point of the episode is to have Scholar do his personal reflection/discovery thing with the Prime Wardens and it gets a bit introspective.
Episode 1.8 - “Life” - 2/25/2010
- They’re approached by somebody who introduces herself as Elizabeth and as a vampire - to which Fanatic is like “Cool, cool, cool. We’re going to murder you now.”
- Elizabeth interrupts and explains how it’s not her fault that she’s a vampire and she’s not a bad one. It’s all of these other evil vampires in their castle full of blood and whatnot that tried to recruit her that are the problem. They need to be stopped. They’re led by this guy calling himself Dracula (which gets some incredulity from the heroes).
- Fanatic thinks that smiting all of them (including this one in front of her) is the obvious course of action. Tempest calls for a measured response regarding Elizabeth who appears to be trying to help. Level heads prevail and they follow Elizabeth to the Court of Blood.
- Their guide stays outside as the heroes head in to kick some vampire ass. They fight their way to Dracula who becomes a big bat monster that they have to fight too. A protracted battle ensues, eventually ended by Fanatic stabbing the bat-Dracula through the chest with her sword and then imbuing it with sunlight, burning him up from the inside. This defeat causes the other vampires to all retreat.
- As the heroes leave, Elizabeth thanks the heroes. This Dracula guy was planning on leading an attack on the world for all to see and it’s much better for the vampires to keep a low-profile so as to not attract too much notice. This does not make the heroes feel any better about the situation. She then makes a few magical hand gestures that restore her to her full Blood Countess appearance and she thanks the heroes one last time as she heads back into the castle which she puts under a blood magical protective shield never to be seen again.
Episode 1.9 - “War, Part 1” - 3/4/2010
- Ra returns looking for help [there’s a good bit here about seventeen minutes in with them making it sound like he’s there specifically to hit on Fanatic or whatever - they just want them to work out so much]. He’s just lost a fight with a bunch of other Egyptian deities and he could use some assistance.
- This episode is kind of a combination of the “Baptism by Fire” story and the early stages of the “War of Heliopolis” story.
Episode 1.10 - “War, Part 2” - 3/11/2010
- Kind of a combination of the “Ra: Horus of Two Horizons” story and the rest of the “War of Heliopolis” story with the big fight against the Ennead (mostly being run by Atum [who had already been established in the Animated Universe - last seen defeated in an episode of The Freedom Five back in November]).
- Because the show doesn’t have the time to slow burn things, the Ra/Fanatic romance is established by the end of things here.
Episode 1.11 - “Alter” - 3/18/2010
- Visionary is back, we see her talking to herself, but losing control to the entity within her that takes over. So the episode is largely Dark Visionary vs. the Prime Wardens.
- Initially Visionary turns the heroes against themselves (the Scholar and Blood Countess episodes showing the cracks already present in the team). Ultimately they see through the illusions and reaffirm their friendships.
- After they “win” the good Visionary reasserts control briefly - long enough to say that she knows that she can’t hold on for long, so this is goodbye. Her solution is to just cocoon herself to lock away Dark Visionary, never to be seen again.
Episode 1.12 - “Alien” - 3/25/2010
- Tempest learns of a F.I.L.T.E.R. interment camp where they’ve captured a bunch of Maerynians. Tempest wants to go free them and the team is all for it. Well, most of it. Fanatic is sore that the others will do whatever Tempest wants, but when she wants to smite some vampires people stop her. She doens’t have problems with the actual plan to help Tempest’s people, just with the disparity in how the team treats her. The actual bulk of the episode is about the mission to free the Maerynians, but the intro part showcases the fact that tensions are high.
- Once they move to free the Maerynians, things progress how you’d expect (they’re the Prime Wardens after all). The twist comes with the revelation that these Maerynians are an extremist/eco-terrorist group who were trying to make some room for their people by clearing some space (i.e. attacking humans). Ultimately the Prime Wardens have to fight these Maerynians and put them back into custody.
- This kind of “bad Maerynians” idea really hadn’t been a thing in comics. Leviathan and his group was a later development.
Episode 1.13 - “Fools” - 4/1/2010
- [This is the first specific date they mentioned, which puts my earlier assumptions right on track regarding air dates. Go me!]
- The Prime Wardens are at one anothers’ throats (modeling the Fall of the Prime Wardens arc from 2001-2). We learn over the course of the episode that side characters over the course of the season that had nudged events in this direction (leading “Elizabeth” to them, telling them about the captured Maerynians, etc.) were all the same person: Apostate.
- He’s successful in getting the team to crack - they fight one another (Argent Adept against Haka and Tempest against Captain Cosmic, specifically). Fanatic, who’s been the most annoyed at her teammates and one would expect to be the first to trade blows with another actually hangs back. She knows that something’s not right here. She evokes her power and calls out “Show yourself, defiler!” and this lets her understand her opposition who is revealed.
- They still don’t get into Host stuff, but we do get a sweet sword battle between the two of them where he taunts her. They’re pretty evenly matched, but as things go on his influence over the other heroes wanes and they snap out of it to join the fight. This proves too much for Apostate who flees. The episode ends with the team victorious, but still in pursuit of their foe.
The Freedom Five vs. The Prime Wardens - May 2010
- The first movie for Phase 2 picks up where Prime Wardens left off, but quickly loops in things from The Freedom Five.
- Apostate sets off big explosion, but makes it look like the Prime Wardens are the culprits. He’s summoned his demons by now and between having some that are of similar stature as the heroes and using illusions he manages to manipulate events and the media response to them to indicate that the Prime Wardens have gone rogue.
- Apostate knows that he can’t succeed by turning the team against themselves, so he pulls this frame job to force a response from the Freedom Five to get the teams to fight each other. The movie is largely billed around this “Prime Wardens vs. The Freedom Five” aspect.
- This fight between the teams is a fair amount of fan-service, but is also well-explained by the scenario that Apostate has engineered. The fight will go down in Salem, Massachusetts. [They also make a bunch of jokes here about Witch Trials that indicate that they’re unaware of Terry Pratchett beating them to that punch.]
- Unbeknownst to most, Salem has actually been built to be a seal over some ancient evil and the fight occurring in the town damages it (said damage being overseen by Apostate subtly moving the fight around to cause damage to just the right parts of town). Once enough has happened, there’s a bunch of red lightning that strikes down and a pentagram of red energy forms across the town as a big eldritch entity/demon/thing emerges.
- The heroes finally clue into the fact that they’ve all been manipulated into this and rush in to fight whatever this thing is. Apostate flies down to land on its head and drives his sword into it, releasing more red energy/lightning as he draws power out of this demon that crumbles beneath him. So, his plan wasn’t just to release this thing to fight the heroes - it was to release this thing so that he could take its power for himself.
- The heroes attack the ascendant Apostate, who quickly just swats them down. Argent Adept figures out what he needs to do, though and begins to pull ley lines together to do something. Meanwhile, the heroes keep Apostate busy with some quality inter-teamwork (Captain Cosmic shielding Bunker, Tempest and Legacy doing some aerial maneuvers - Legacy throwing punches, Tempest throwing lightning, etc.).
- AA is recreating the wards and seals that had been destroyed in the earlier fight. As he’s completing them, Fanatic drives Apostate down to the ground and he is sealed away like the demon had been and he’s never to be seen again.
Omnitron - July 2010
- This is a Freedom Five movie that builds off of the various hints that had been dropped during both seasons of the show. This is where we finally get the giant rampaging robot/robot factory iteration of Omnitron that we all know and love. This is just an updated, animated version of the classic story.
- Also appearing: Unity, Young Legacy, and Omnitron-X who arrives unexpectedly to save the day (and becomes friends with Unity, and who’s destroyed, making Unity sad).
- This is a pretty great translation of the story to the screen and is a fun 2-hour experience. It does deviate a bit in that Omnitron manages to assimilate a bigger portion of Megalopolis and so we get some Omnitron-IV level stuff in there too (while the aftermath involves more Tachyon and Unity work to incorporate that into the rebuilding efforts while neutralizing the code).
- Post-credits scene: Unity finding the wrecked Omnitron-X and mourning her friend, but having an idea.
Dark Watch Season 1
- So, while Prime Wardens was a pretty straightforward superhero show, this one is different. It airs late Tuesday nights and has an hour run time (i.e. it’s ~45 minutes of content with commercial breaks). These are not for kids - while they’re still on regular network TV and so still operate under those normal standards and practices, they’re meant for a grown-up audience.
- To lean into the overarching rather than episodic storytelling structure, the episodes are just given chapter numbers rather than clever titles (other than the last episode, “Finale”).
- Another gimmick is the structure of each episode. They each have a cold open of 30 seconds to 3 minutes from the point of view of a single character (different each episode), then the title sequence and the episode itself, then a coda scene to close things out.
- [A running gag that develops in the process of the storytelling that follows is that descriptions of drinking is always in terms of alcohol. “One glass of alcohol, please.” or “He went out and picked up a 6-pack of alcohol.” It’s obviously something that was just oddly phrased early on, but they run with it as another indication of how bad things are in Rook City. I don’t know exactly how far this can be trusted to be a canonical decision for the setting.]
“Chapter 1” - 1/5/2010
- Cold Open: POV is Pete Riske/Setback. We get a montage of him with Amanda Cohen/Expatriette [they had both already appeared in the Freedom Five show], they’re in a relationship, but also fight crime together, etc. This is one of the longest cold opens we get and it makes a point of showing them both as crime-fighters but also as people doing normal people stuff. Titles
- We get some footage from the Freedom Five episode with the Citadel of the Sun exploding. We get a pull-back to show that Pete’s watching a satellite feed of those events in the apartment we had seen he and Amanda together in during the cold open [possible continuity snarl - Pete was introduced in FF episode 1.7 as the janitor in a museum and the Sunrise two-parter was episodes 1.8 and 1.9 immediately following and Expat had been in the FFHQ holding cells since episode 1.5 until her mom showed up to cause trouble. The implication here would have to be that Pete and Amanda were together and doing their crimefighting thing before she was captured by the FF when she was still in her hunting-powered-people mode]. He’s just watching this video over and over - he’s a mess and so is the apartment.
- Pete’s life has just fallen apart and we see a bit of his daily routine, including going out to buy a 6-pack and finishing half of it before he even makes it back home. He’s spiraling into alcoholism and depression. Crime is happening around him and he ignores it. Bills are piling up at home. All of this is intercut with flashbacks with he and Amanda doing stuff in those same locations (whether mundane life stuff or heroics). That’s what his life was then, this is what his life is now and every minute is a reminder of what was and he can’t escape it.
- Coda: Pete’s in a seedy bar and 2 familiar figures walk in - NightMist and Mr. Fixer. The latter says that he knows that Pete’s had a bad time lately, but they need his help. Pete says that he can’t do that anymore since Amanda died. NightMist: “Well, she’s not dead.”
“Chapter 2” - 1/12/2010
- Cold Open: POV is Mr. Fixer, running his auto-shop. A flock of screeching birds are outside attacking pedestrians. He goes out to investigate and the birds wheel to attack him. It’s an odd scene with him fighting/dodging birds, but pretty cool. He eventually manages to catch one in his hand and steps back inside. We see his “view” (he’s blind, so we’re seeing his sense of the chi in this bird) he can see some dark, purple energy flowing through this thing and he runs his hand over it, pulling this energy out. He releases the bird back outside, but he’s still holding onto this energy, which is going to be a problem. Titles
- He goes to see NightMist. We get an interesting gimmick with the show: everybody calls him something different. NightMist calls him “Harry” and he calls her “Faye” in return. They’ve been part of the Rook City “ecosystem” for long enough to have run into each other a lot/know about one another pretty well by now and are on pretty familiar terms. Setback calls him “Slim” and Expatriette calls him “Fixer”.
- Anyway, NightMist is in her office (set up something like a stereotypical Private Investigator office) and she greets him with something like “Hey, Harry. How are things going? More trouble?” to which he replies “You tell me” as he holds up his hand with the weird energy (invisible to normal vision, but he’s got his chi thing going and she can see magical stuff).
- He tells her about the bird and she knows that there’s been a lot of bird stuff happening lately, but she’s excited to have a sample to examine and she takes it from him. There’s a good bit here where she’s trying to categorize what he does as “kung fu magic” and him insisting that it’s not magic. This is clearly a long-standing, good-natured back-and-forth they have.
- She needs some kind of negative magic power-sink that she can dump all of this stuff into otherwise it will cause trouble. She might know a guy.
- This cuts to the coda scene from Chapter 1 with her telling Pete that Expatriette is still alive. She doesn’t know where, something is hiding her, but she knows that she’s still out there. If Pete will help (by being a power sink where she can dispose of all of this magic), they’ll help track Expat down. Then we get a short montage of Fixer performing a bunch of drunk remedies/sobering-up techniques on Pete (this involves a lot of ice water).
- By the end of the episode they’ve got him back up to a baseline of like -2 on the functionality meter, but that’s better than he was. They’re back in Pete’s apartment with him going to sleep (but not before sneaking a drink from a flask) while the other two look around at the general disarray.
- Coda: A short view of a young woman in a rather gothy dress and pure white eyes standing in the center of a dilapidated park in Rook City while birds swirl around her.
“Chapter 3” - 1/19/2010
- Cold Open: POV is regular college girl Lillian Corvus, doing normal college things. As she walks down a street she looks in a shop window and sees a bracelet that catches her eye. Then she sees the price tag and nopes out of there. Not far, though. She ducks down an alley and pulls an ornate mask out of her bag and puts it on. Her eyes glow purple and a few starlings fly down to her and then over to the shop. They start pecking at the door until the shopkeeper comes to shoo them away, at which point they fly in and cause a ruckus (and, in the chaos, one grabs the bracelet too) before they fly back out to Lilian to give her the bracelet. She puts it on, takes off the mask, and then heads out for the rest of her day. Titles
- We return to Lillian. As she passes a coffee shop a businessman yelling into his cell phone bursts out and knocks her over. He pays her no mind and continues on his way. She retaliates by putting on her mask and sending birds after him to peck at him, his clothes, and even his phone. She laughs at him as he runs off and reaches to take the mask back off, and finds that she cannot do so. She grows frantic with her attempts to pull or scratch it off of her face and birds begin to swirl around her until she cries out into the sky and the whirlwind of birds spreads out over the whole city.
- Setback, Fixer, and NightMist are in Fixer’s garage and we’re back to the “present”. NightMist is preparing to do whatever it is she needs to do with Setback acting as a sink for all of this magical energy. The idea is that she’s going to imbue Setback with all of the energy and, based on what she’s observed of Pete to this point, she assumes that the magic will fail to work and will then dissipate. During this process Pete continues to ask about the plan for finding Expat, which is mainly a distraction.
- Eventually, she finished up and they head out to find the eye of the bird storm. How things proceed during this “fight”: NightMist using magic to divert birds and pull the energy out of the ones she can, Mr. Fixer not so much punching the birds but redirecting any as he pushes through them in his graceful martial arts way, and Setback who’s still not quite sober and is mostly just stumbling/blundering through things. While the other two are mostly dealing with small, fast birds like starlings and crows and whatnot and are dealing with things in an elegant way, Setback will get hit in the face by a goose or something and they fall down together in a pile of limbs and feathers as the bird extricates itself from this ridiculous situation.
- They make it to the center of all of this and see this girl, who’s just standing there with her arms outstretched. NightMist and Fixer can see what’s going on and the former describes how her mind is fragmented across all of these birds and that there’s something wrong with the artifact she was using to control them. As NM and Fixer go around, pulling magic out of the birds and putting it into Setback, this also frees those portions of the girl’s mind and she starts to come back to herself. Eventually NightMist reaches out to grab the girl and teleport them both out of there, stopping the bird swarm. Setback collapses, exhausted, and croaks out a “let’s go find my girlfriend.”
- Coda: Setback sitting on a workbench in Fixer’s garage with Fixer using tweezers to pull out feathers that are embedded in Setback’s skin. Setback turns to him and says “Aren’t you blind?”
“Chapter 4” - 1/26/2010
- Cold Open: POV is bleary and shaky and the audio is that high-pitched whine you get after an explosion. It’s Expatriette! This is her during/after the destruction of the Citadel of the Sun. She’s under some rubble with her leg pinned by a rock and another big one precariously above her. She looks up to see a smiling, but unfriendly face: Heartbreaker. “Heya, Toots. ’Bout time I caught up with you.” He nods to the Hippo over to one side who comes over and picks her up with a “You’re lucky we found you.” Heartbreaker replies “I mean, not that lucky.” Then she passes out. Titles
- Heartbreaker is speaking to the Operative with Expat chained down in something like a hospital bed. Operative wants to know where he found Expat, but he’s not revealing trade secrets.
- We then go to a training montage, similar to when Setback was getting back into fighting form, only now with more sinister overtones as the Organization doctors are fixing Expatriette up with the Chairman himself putting in appearances as he personally oversees the project. There are implications here that Expatriette had actually been a major thorn in the side of the Organization - they’re fixing her up so that she’s healthy enough to survive the extended torture that she’ll be undergoing for the foreseeable future.
- During all of this we see the security precautions around her. She’s chained to a bed, in a cell with guards and electronic surveillance, surrounded by magical wards.
- Back to the free heroes in Fixer’s garage as Setback’s getting the last of the feathers tweezed out. NightMist appears and reports that she’s taken care of the birds and the bird girl. Setback thinks that’s great and all, but now we’re going to go find Amanda, right? He wants NightMist to do her magic thing to find her, but she says she’s already been doing that. They argue a bit about her doing it again until Setback gets mad and punches a car across the room before storming out to find a bar.
- Coda: Expat is still chained up in her cell, but looks healed up from her post-explosion injuries, but with some more recent, more intentional scars/injuries. She’s also obviously got the gears in her head turning. During the next guard change we see her break her own left hand/wrist to get it out of the manacle and then rock the bed enough to overturn it, knocking over the side table that held a bunch of vials and whatnot (it’s clear that she’s on a cocktail of substances to keep her lucid enough to experience everything while still trying to keep her somewhat incapacitated). She’s free enough that she can drag herself (and the bed she’s mostly still chained to) through the broken glass to the edge of the cell. Just as the guards rush in to grab her she reaches out and swipes a hand through the runes of the magical ward. We immediately cut to NightMist whose eyes shoot open.
“Chapter 5” - 2/2/2010
- Cold Open: POV is NightMist, but the view she sees is actually her projecting herself in an invisible/intangible mist form to observe the aftermath of the “escape attempt” from the end of the previous episode - with the guards righting the bed and re-securing Expatriette. Titles
- NightMist returns to herself back in her office and then goes out to get Fixer and Setback. If Expat is being held in an Organization facility that’s close as it means they’re in Rook City at least, but also not great due to the difficulty of getting to her. Setback, obviously, is all for just rushing in but Fixer knows that if they’re going up against the Organization they need to do so with more intentionality. They need a plan, but also something of a distraction to keep attention diverted away from where Expat is being held. Doing this will also result in them all having big targets on their backs as you don’t cross the Organization and just walk away.
- This is more or less a bottle episode as most of the runtime is dedicated to this planning phase.
- Coda: the three heroes are shown leaving Fixer’s garage in their hero costumes (their “standard” costumes, not their team ones - although NightMist’s “normal” clothes and her hero costume are largely the same anyway).
“Chapter 6” - 2/9/2010
- Cold Open: POV is some random Organization thug/enforcer pulling a protection scam on some shopkeepers. Then he’s suddenly attacked by Mr. Fixer who punches him and says something like “This ends now.” Titles
- Fixer’s talking to the cops outside the shop afterwards. They can’t arrest this thug for anything. There’s no proof of what he was doing, vigilante justice is frowned upon, eye-witness testimony isn’t worth much, so what’re you gonna do? This is clearly a crooked cop situation. Fixer meets back up with Setback and NightMist who have had similar experiences. The system in Rook City is set up for this to be how things are and has even adapted to account for the presence of heroes. They’ve got to find a bigger way to make waves. They’re in pretty low spirits, though, after these failures and so set off separately to work out what to try next. Fixer goes out to talk to some of his contacts, NightMist to see if there’s some magical angle she hasn’t tried yet, and Setback is off to talk to some old friends (i.e. he heads to a bar) - the action follows Setback.
- As Setback is sitting in the bar, another patron (a tipsy lawyer who’s on a rant about how he’s trying to do things by the book, but the system is stacked against him, etc.). This is implied to be his luck putting him in the right place at the right time as this guy is just getting things off his chest and Setback happened to be the guy there to talk to. This is Eduardo López who has been a prosecuting attorney in Rook City for years now. A recent case involved a guy (possibly/probably on drugs) who went into a restaurant and shot up the place, killing Eduardo’s brother in the process. The guy is involved in the Organization, though, and so is shielded from justice and just gets a slap on the wrist. He’s fed up - he thinks if he just keeps going along with things as he has in the past he’s complicit in the city’s corruption. Setback offers him a chance to do something more.
- So, he brings Eduardo to meet Mr. Fixer. The plans are laid out, but the heroes need somebody who can actually make some charges stick. Eduardo still has to mostly play the game, but he can get something through once in a while by getting some federal involvement. The heroes start working through the hierarchy of the Organization and they start making actual progress by getting the right things investigated for real - in particular, they start weeding out some of the corruption in the police department.
- Coda: we see what NightMist has been up to. She’s been training the bird girl in the magical arts. The mask that the girl had is visible in a case along the back wall.
“Chapter 7” - 2/16/2010
- Cold Open: POV is the Operative. She’s talking to a drug dealer named Randy Burke who has apparently lost a bunch of the Organization’s product and is begging for another chance. She says that it’s his lucky day as the Chairman agrees that he deserves another, at which point she injects him with a vial of a weird green substance. Titles
- The three heroes are fighting a group of thugs in Rook City. The vibe is that they’ve actually been putting a dent in crime in the city. This is a straightforward vigilantes vs. criminals fight and it’s going well for the heroes. Then a van pulls up and some guys pull a big metal box out of it before taking off as quickly as they arrived. The thugs try to scatter as the locks come off the box, but one isn’t fast enough and is grabbed by a big clawed, gnarled hand that shoots out of the box as it finally opens. The guy is dragged screaming into the box, followed by the whole thing rocking with more screams and a spray of blood coming out. The whole box bursts and we see Plague Rat, who then charges Setback and the fight continues.
- A good chunk of this episode is dedicated to this fight, but the heroes are eventually driven back to regroup as this thing is very dangerous. During the brawl Mr. Fixer received a pretty bad bite to one arm as well.
- We get another scene of Eduardo on the phone making a call up the chain as he’s trying to make a difference here. Eventually he settles back and takes a sip of his coffee. As he returns to work, the camera pans over to show the Operative slipping out of his office.
- Back to Fixer’s garage as the team recovers. Fixer himself is doing some chi things to try to clear the infection from his arm. He’s able to isolate it, but can’t banish it entirely, and so just bandages up over the necrotic flesh. Now they’ve got to do something about this rat monster rampaging through the city. As they watch the news coverage they also catch a report of the death of Eduardo, who must have eaten some improperly-prepared fugu or something. Fixer knows what’s up (relating this back to Freedom Five episode 2.3) and knows that people in this city who help them will be in danger and he’s not going to subject more people to that risk. They need help of some sort, though, so he heads out to get it himself.
- We get a brief scene of Setback and NightMist discussing exactly what they’re doing. Yeah, they need to get Expat back, but what they’ve uncovered regarding the Organization is too important to ignore.
- Coda: Fixer walking down a dark alley. As he reaches the end, he comes across a building that’s out of place. Everything else is dingy, gritty, Rook City buildings, but the kinds of buildings that you’d expect to see in an American city. The last building he comes to is sort of a dilapidated Chinese temple. As he approaches, one of the ornate doors kicks open a little, spilling a red light over the hero as he enters.
“Chapter 8” - 2/23/2010
- Cold Open: POV is the news reporter who we saw reporting Eduardo’s death. The cameras aren’t rolling yet as she reviews the copy for the next broadcast and is incredulous about “rat monsters” as what they’re reporting on now. She straightens up and the broadcast begins, largely rehashing what we saw in the previous episode about the city being plagued by this rat monster.. Titles
- Setback approaches NightMist’s office, insisting that they can’t wait for Fixer to get back. He’s pretty snippy, but they can’t afford to wait around between the Expat situation, the ongoing fight with the Organization, and the rat monster (people being mauled, any survivors carry a terrible infection that’s highly contagious and the hospitals are rapidly filling up). NightMist suggests that they bring in somebody new. She leads him back through her offices to something like a training room where Lillian is studying - NightMist introduces her as Pinion, her protege. Setback is not very keen on this idea and is even feels a little betrayed in that this was kept from him. NM is understanding but explains that the situation warrants extreme measures - between the two magicians they should be able to actually sneak in to free Expat without having to fight their way in. Setback is on board, as long as he gets to come along. Plans are drawn up.
- They sneak in and everything is going to plan up until Setback manages to set off a series of alarms that weren’t even on (they’re active when there aren’t a lot of people around, like night security or whatever). They have to fight their way from there, but they’d have farther to go back than forward, so they press on to Expat, who’s in rough shape but they get to her. Setback breaks the bonds that hold her and picks her up, but then the guards rush in with guns.
- Coda: back out in Rook City, we see a series of shots of shadowy/masked/hooded figures running along rooftops, descending on ropes, etc. Who could this be?
“Chapter 9” - 3/2/2010
- Cold Open: POV is the person who opened the door to the temple to let Mr. Fixer in. He’s led through the fancy, if eerily-lit interior (at odds with the dingy exterior) of the temple. They get to something like an audience chamber and Fixer approaches the seated figure who he greets as the “venerable master Zhu Long”. We see him smirk and he says “The exile returns.” Titles
- Back to the raid on the Organization base, already in progress. The heroes look to each other as if to say “What now?” and then the room fills with smoke and the guards are taken out by ninja assassins. The heroes aren’t much more hopeful about this situation than they were before, but then the ninjas leave. As the heroes make their way out of the base they see all of the other guards along the way who have similarly been taken out by the ninjas. Everybody they sneaked past (including, presumably, non-combat personnel doing clerical work) is dead. As they leave the base they find that the situation is now that the Organization and Zhu Long’s minions are fighting all over the city.
- They make it back to NightMist’s office and we get some exposition to catch
the audienceSetback up on the situation. The Organization has essentially been forced to establish “fortresses” in warehouses around the city as fall-back points to defend against the ninja attacks. Then the door slams open and Fixer enters angry. He points at Pinion and asks what is she doing here? NightMist said she’d dealt with her after all and this is just asking for trouble. Setback tells him to shut up and to come over and help with Amanda. This kind of snaps him out of it - he’s still angry about the bird girl situation and being left out of the loop on something important, but he comes over to do his chi thing to help get Expat back on her feet, or at least better than she had been.
- It’s still a tense situation. Despite calling out Fixer just now, he’s mad about the Pinion thing too and tempers are hot all around. As Expat comes to she asks for a situation report (Setback starts blabbing about ninjas and everything, Fixer fills in who’s in charge of the ninjas, she asks who Pinion is, etc.). Expat is glad to have Pinion around as they’re going to need all the help they can get. Somebody actually voicing this opinion actually calms things a bit and they all get down to business with planning (mobsters vs. ninjas war happening in town, the rat monster still being around, etc.).
- Expat has some additional intel, though - since she was never expected to leave Organization custody alive the guards were pretty lax in saying stuff around her. She knows a bit more about the rat toxin and the locations of a base where they’d been keeping it.
- Coda: We see this conversation happening through a window, so the sound is muffled. Then a hand reaches out to touch the window and the voices become clear. We see that it’s the Operative.
“Chapter 10” - 3/9/2010
- Cold Open: POV of a pair of Organization Guards on patrol outside a warehouse. One voices the opinion that he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for them to have all of this toxin stuff here and the other says he doesn’t have to like it, just guard it. As they talk we see hear a few muffled shots as the guards are killed with two expert headshots. Titles
- We get a pretty long fight sequence of the team taking the warehouse. Expat is up in a sniper position (she killed the guards) and still has a leg brace on and whatnot showing that she’s not at full mobility yet. The others are all going in, dealing with guards, being careful around all the vats and vials of toxins. They decide that stealing everything isn’t the best way to take care of it and that destroying it would be better. So, they set some charges to blow the place up but a guard they hadn’t fully neutralized sets it off before they can make it out. The building caves in and NightMist saves them (and, incidentally a few of the guards) by making a magic shield as they fall into the sewers beneath the building. As the guards start to panic, they’re dragged off into the shadows by something (I mean, it’s obviously Plague Rat, but it’s not explicit yet).
- Coda: Expat watches the building collapse. She starts to get up and stow her gear to go help when a foot pushes her shoulder back down to the rooftop. It’s the Operative.
“Chapter 11” - 3/16/2010
- Cold Open: POV is Plague Rat. The sewers are all dark, but we get visualizations of the scents that he’s following. Down one of the tunnels he senses a couple of heroes and he charges. Titles
- This episode is mostly sewer fight. Everyone gets isolated and has to fight Plague Rat on their own. Then they find one another and fight him as a group. They force him back to his “nest” and the magicians hold him in a non-bitey position while Fixer examines him. He’s the one to realize that this was a person and could probably be saved if they had the time (which they don’t). NightMist (with Pinion’s help) binds Plague Rat into a kind of stasis here so that he won’t get any worse while they’re off finishing the rest of the plot.
- The team emerges and goes to Expat’s position, but she’s gone. Pete’s worried that she’s been captured again, but then she comes limping around a corner saying that she was about to go in after them.
- Coda: Chairman looking out of his high-rise window where he sees the building explode/collapse. He goes over to a secret door and when he enters we see these vats full of glowing orange chemicals.
“Chapter 12” - 3/23/2010
- Cold Open: POV is Zhu Long. We don’t know much about him other than his name (because Fixer named him several episodes ago). He’s some kind of artist, though, as we see him applying paint or ink to some curved object in front of him (very close-up shots of the brush and whatnot, so you don’t get a good view of whatever it is). He’s very old, but his hand is steady as he does this. Eventually, he settles back and looks satisfied with whatever it is. He turns and puts it on a stand. It’s a beautiful red and black demon mask that he’s painted some “runes” on. Titles
- The 5 heroes reconvene in Fixer’s garage and they ask Fixer what the deal with the ninja’s and Zhu Long are. He can’t get into the full story, but gives a brief rundown on this ancient sage Zhu Long who used to run significant parts of the world, but has been forced largely into hiding in the last few decades. He knew that for the right price he could be induced to take action in the city. The others don’t like this idea of a “price”, but now what can be done about the ninjas fighting everywhere? While they’ve managed to disrupt the Organization’s plans with all of this and the warehouse explosion, the ongoing war in the streets makes the city even more dangerous in general than it had been before all of this. Fixer doesn’t think that going to Zhu Long about it is a good idea, but Setback thinks that’s exactly what they should do.
- So, they head to the temple and say that the war has to end. Fixer just wanted to take the Organization down a peg, not trade that status quo for fighting in the streets. There are costs of everything (breaking eggs to make an omelette and whatnot). Zhu Long will pull back his forces, but he’s not going back into hiding - the area around his temple is his now and he dismisses them. Setback wants to protest this whole thing, but Fixer knows that Zhu Long allowing them the opportunity to leave is better than they could have hoped for, really. Fixer’s the last one out and Zhu Long says a final “Be seeing you soon” as he steps out.
- Back in NightMist’s place, Expat recognizes that they’d gotten into this whole thing just to rescue her, but the Organization has been weakened more than it ever has before and they need to use this opportunity to take the whole rotten thing down once and for all. She knows where the Chairman is and they can strike now while their forces are spread thin. The others are reticent, but not opposed to this plan.
- Coda: gearing up montage. As part of this we see Fixer take off the bandage on his arm. The bite infection has spread - his arm from wrist to elbow is black, necrotic tissue with cracks in it. He tries to focus his chi to send healing energy into it, which manages to push back the edges of this a tiny bit. He sighs and just rebinds his arm - the whole arm, including binding his right hand into a fist.
“Finale” - 3/30/2010
- Cold Open: POV is the Chairman, watching the security feed showing the incursion by the heroes (magical explosions and whatnot). After watching a few scenes he gets up, takes off and hangs up his suit jacket, and rolls up his shirt sleeves as he leaves his office. Titles
- Heroes fighting their way through the “elite” guards in this location (they’re better than the thugs shown to this point, but they’re still not really up to the task of fighting off the hero team). The team really isn’t at their best, though - Expat is still roughed up, Fixer’s arm is messed up, Setback’s still dealing with the aftereffects of his drunk period, Pinion is barely holding it together, NightMist is the best off and the most she’s got to worry about it being overtaxed. They eventually come into a large chamber and are faced to face with the Chairman.
- “Sometimes if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.” The Chairman is able to handle things pretty well. He’s very fast, very strong, and very casual in his actions. Normally Mr. Fixer would be more than a match for this guy, but he’s able to just grab Fixer’s infected arm and that brings him to his knees real quick. NightMist and Pinion try to drive him back from Fixer - which they manage, but not really damaging him. Setback charges and Expat starts taking shots at him. Chairman is able to dodge the shots and when Setback gets into punching range he is just picked up and thrown into Expat from across the room (note here that Setback is built like a brick and the Chairman is a rather svelte figure, so the difference in physique is surprising). The impact throws Expat’s shots off and she sends a spray towards the magicians who have to dive for cover/make shields, etc. The bullets still break a fishtank behind them, dousing them. The whole scene is just chaos.
- Fixer’s back on his feet by now and makes a series of brutal attacks on the Chairman. While it’s been said many times that Fixer is the best
at punchingmartial artist, he’s pretty much in the worst shape he’s ever been at this point. He gets in a real bell-ringer of a blow to Chairman’s jaw, but the latter moves with it and gets in past Fixer’s guard to unleash a series of brutal body blows himself, dropping Fixer to his knees again as he coughs up blood. Before he can get back to his feet Chairman lands a massive haymaker, putting Fixer down. Chairman stands, adjusts his tie and whatnot and raises a foot to bring down on Fixer’s head when he’s interrupted by a sword through the chest. He turns to the Operative with genuine shock at the betrayal. He starts to say something like “How could you…” when she just decapitates him.
- The heroes rush to the fallen Mr. Fixer with Setback asking frantically if NightMist can help him/heal him/put him in stasis or something. He’s too far gone - he’d been keeping the extent of his injuries from the rest of the team and had been operating on sheer force of will to this point. Say your goodbyes.
- Expat makes it over, furious at the Operative. This wasn’t the deal - she was supposed to take out the Chairman, but now her friend is dead. That’s not Operative’s problem, their part was to fight him, distract him, and not die - two out of three isn’t bad, and they should just get out now. They do so, taking Fixer’s body with them.
- Coda 1: the (pyrrhicly) victorious team reconvene at Fixer’s garage for a kind of funeral. There’s not a lot of audible dialogue, but we see that they all had something to say. Setback steps out into the rain and moves to take a drink from his flask, but he stops and pours it out.
- Coda 2: Operative goes into Chairman’s office, takes the jacket out of the closet and looking at it briefly before wadding it up and shoving it into the trash. She sits at the desk and puts her feet up on it.
- Coda 3: In a graveyard at night, in the rain. A large headstone is illuminated by lightning, showing an awful lot written on it (“Like a mountain, unmoving, unshakable. Like the ocean, deep, unfathomable. Harry Robert ‘Slim’ Walker”). Camera zooms out and we see the silhouette of a tall, robed figure standing over the grave.
- Are there any major characters other than Unity who started in the animated universe (recognizing that Unity was from an earlier animated show, not from this specific project)? This SCAU is much more about telling/retelling stories from the pages of Sentinel Comics than going new places. These shows started in 2008 and so are relatively late in the pre-OblivAeon era of comics and so don’t have a lot of space to invent things. This was more about making the comics stories accessible to a mass market. Much of the stuff that people weren’t already familiar with in the shows was really culled from old Golden or Silver Age stories that were simply obscure rather than truly new.
- Where there any Disparation issues that took place in the Animated Universe? I guess technically all of the Animated stuff would be in a Disparate reality, but there were definitely also tie-in stories in the Disparation comic title itself, yes.
- Who generally takes the Prime Wardens leadership position in the Animated version? Argent Adept is much more the “leader” of the team in the show than he is in the comics, but Fanatic is much more of a driving force on the team and is the closest thing the show has to a “main character” between her position in the plots of the episodes and her point of division in the team dynamic.
- Given that most of the main villain stories tend to “belong” to the Freedom Five, are the Prime Wardens and Dark Watch shows largely “filler” or, other than a Chairman arc for the latter, do they make up new stuff for the teams to deal with? So, Dark Watch winds up being its own thing as a reimagining of the story from the formation of Dark Watch up through the Death of Mr. Fixer (as opposed to the comics where Dark Watch doesn’t even form until after he’s dead). Prime Wardens is much more “stories from the comics” translated into an animated version, with the exception of how the Apostate stuff plays out.
- How often does Wraith cross over to the Dark Watch series? She doesn’t yet. While the members of the team show up earlier in the Freedom Five show, the events of the Dark Watch series are meant to be kind of their own thing. While they can imagine situations where she might show up, they haven’t gotten to that yet.
- How much backlash was there in the publishing meta-verse to the changes made in the Animated Universe (like changes to Chrono-Ranger’s backstory/mentality or Sky-Scraper not being tied to Kaargra at all)? Lots of grumbling about that kind of stuff, plus more for Prime Wardens, and especially over Dark Watch. The Setback alcoholism subplot pissed off a lot of people. Dark Watch is able to be a much better show in large part because it’s more willing to throw out the comics versions of events to do its own things, but that also comes with all the fan angst (complete with fandom gatekeeping by comics-only fans). Dark Watch was the most critically acclaimed of the shows, but also the hardest for comics fans to accept/get into.
- There are more seasons of all of these shows, more shows, and more movies. They could do more of these, but they take a lot of time and the guys don’t know how interested we the audience are in hearing about these stories as opposed to the stories from the comics. There will be more about this aspect of the Sentinels Comics properties in the upcoming History of Sentinel Comics book, but if they do any more of these episodes they’re probably be focused on one season of one show. We’ll see what the Patreon has to say.