Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. "Of Moles and Men"

This episode was, like a few before it, just a load of “meh.” I really can’t go into much depth about most of this episode’s facets, so instead I’m going to resort to a list of the good and bad parts of this episode, with a little explanation for each, before I get to the main chunk of my criticism.

  • The Mole Man’s voice actor was not a fit for the role at all. David H. Lawrence XVII (you may know him as the creepy puppet guy from Heroes) does his best, but certain lines that are meant to be said with a form of regal authority by the Mole Man are just said as many words are, and he sounds too much like an average joe, rather than the gross little guy he is. There also seemed to be a disconnection between his tone and the character. It’s hard to put into words, but his performance was recorded in a studio, and it sounded like it. His performance never created the illusion that anything the character went through altered his voice. He never sounded like he had been tied up, fought monsters, or anything. I hate to call the performance “one-note,” but it kind of was. This is actually pretty surprising, coming from one of the original people to pioneer podcasting.
  • Why are the people of Vista Verde so blasé about the Moloids? I get it, “they’re used to it by this point,” but come on. They should have more of a reaction to the presence of mole people underneath their city. 
  • I don’t know if the animators added more detail because the little girl was based on an actual person, but she falls a bit into the uncanny valley for me. No joke. 
  • I’ve seen worse animation from this show. 
  • I like how, even after learning the lesson that Vista Verde’s willing to put up with his crap, the Hulk still worries about the threats that his presence brings to the town. 
  • I’ve seen much worse interpretations of the Mole Man, from Ultimate Marvel to the horrible Super Hero Squad Show version
But the good aspects to this episode can’t outweigh this one point: the unintended moral. At least, I really hope it was unintended. I made that “Stockholm Syndrome” joke in the recap, but the town actually does come across as being in an abusive relationship with the Hulk. Mayor Stan does nothing but sing the Hulks’ praises after their presence has resulted in the town’s destruction again. Red Hulk gives a guy crap about not selling Red Hulk merch. Herb gives the Hulks free food at his diner and the team responds by asking for free food for their giant dinosaur. Does Herb say “no” to this unreasonable request that would bankrupt his establishment? No, he stammers and looks afraid to deny them what they want.

This town is afraid to say “no” to the Hulks, and they justify it by saying that the Hulks “protect them.” You know what excuse that sounds like? “My boyfriend also has good days where he doesn’t hit me.” Does that sound like an acceptable moral to you?

The moral of this episode seems to be “Family is family. Even if someone close to you causes harm to you on a regular basis, it’s okay as long as they make up for it every once in a while.”

I really hope that this moral was unintentional. If I’m reading into the episode too much, then okay. If this was what they were aiming for, than I’m going to have to call this the worst episode of the series. Not because of any lack of entertainment, but for an episode that actively teaches a harmful lesson.

All in all, the worst John Steinbeck novel adaptation. Thankfully, episode quality goes up from here regardless.
See you next time!

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