Monday, April 25, 2016

Recap: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. "The Big Green Mile"

Since the Season 1 finale, things have been building up. The destruction of Vista Verde. The Hulks in space. The fugitive Hulks. This is where it all wraps up. Will it be the epic finale such a storyline warrants?
Have you forgotten what show we're dealing with?

Ten bucks says deus ex machina. Any takers?
The episode opens up at the Vault, where all the Gamma villains are kept. A-Bomb, en route to becoming one of the inmates, quickly recaps the whole "framed by the Leader" thing, including their surrender at the end of the previous episode. The Vault is described as the place where they lock up the worst of the worst. And today, that includes the Hulks. Which might not be good for them, seeing as how most of the other inmates might be holding a grudge against the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.

As A-Bomb vows to find a way to prove their innocence from inside prison (good luck, buddy), the Hulks are taken to prisoner processing. Amusingly, the Deputy Warden is voiced by Red Hulk's voice actor, Clancy Brown, in a cute little allusion to his role in The Shawshank Redemption. And hopefully, that casting gag is the only way I'll be able to liken this episode to crawling through raw sewage.

Actually, this episode will end up bearing more of a resemblance to The Shawshank Redemption than The Grren Mile. Broadcasting something over the loudspeakers, a prison break during lights out, a character named Red, Clancy Brown as a guard, innocent protagonists... I wonder if that was intentional or if I'm reading too much into this.

In no time, the Hulks are sent through and their mugshots are taken.

Red Hulk: "Make sure you get my good side."

And once the Hulks are given their standard issue orange jumpsuits, the Deputy Warden takes them to the most reinforced area, which overlooks a deep pit for no real reason. Although it gives A-Bomb the opportunity to hock a loogie down to the bottom of its depths. It lands on the head of some unseen S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, which earns A-Bomb a zapping. All things considered, A-Bomb got off lucky.

Prison guards played by Clancy Brown are capable of much worse.
Anyway, the Hulks are all ushered into the maximum security area, where all the Hulks' greatest foes now reside. Absorbing Man, Wrecker, Thunderball, Bulldozer, Titania, Piledriver....

Okay, wait.
I'm sorry, but this is really bugging me. Why are they wearing their masks if they're not in costume? Presumably, they were unmasked after their arrest and the cops, or S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, or whoever made a note of their civilian identities.

At least... I hope so.

"Hey, Joe, should we unmask these bad guys so they can't hide out under their real names if they ever escape?"
"Nah, I feel like that would be cheating."
I can only come up with three possible reasons for this.

1: The animators were too lazy to design versions of the Wrecking Crew in something vastly different to their usual outfits.

Even though Ultimate Spider-Man already did just that.
2: Somebody working on this episode thought that the audience wouldn't recognize the characters without their masks, even though A-Bomb names each one of them in turn.

3: Nobody gave a crap. Not a one.

Anyway, the worst criminal of all is the Warden.

Abomination: "That's Warden Abomination, to you."

Maybe giving up without a fight wasn't the best idea.

Apparently, the Army insisted that the Abomination should be made the de-facto Warden during the Hulks' stay. After all, who better to ensure that the Hulks don't escape than the person who knows their greatest strengths and weaknesses? And to guarantee that they don't escape, the first thing the Abomination did was replace all of the human guards with Hulkbusters.

Which makes me wonder what's with all the guards running around, then.
The second thing he did was to have the Hulks' weapons locked away. Instead of, you know, removing them from the building and locking them up in a S.H.I.E.L.D. warehouse. I mean, you just know that part of the breakout plan is going to involve getting those weapons back.

But Abomination lets Rick keep his cameras.

A-Bomb: "Oh, really? That's cool!"

Because otherwise, we wouldn't have a show. Also, the cameras' feeds now go straight into the Vault's security system.

A-Bomb: "Okay, that's not cool."

The Hulks get escorted to their individual cells while the other inmates taunt them in that way you've seen in every prison movie ever made.

Absorbing Man: "Dead Hulks walking!"

You know, I get that there's not a lot a kids' show can do when it comes to prisoners threatening and taunting new inmates, but "dead Hulks walking" is just not only cliche, but only vaguely tied-in with the episode title.

Okay, so, to begin, the "green mile" is the distance a prisoner walks to be executed on death row. Back in the day, the guards would say "Dead man walking!" as a way to get the other inmates away from the bars so the condemned man could make his way to the execution chamber. It was decided that shouting the phrase was cruel and unusual punishment for the person about to be sent to death, but the phrase survived as a taunt used by prisoners.

So basically, other than this and the color of the Hulk's skin, there's no connection to any sort of Green Mile. And this is only here to be a TV-friendly taunt. Typically speaking, inmates with nay skill at this sort of thing will taunt new prisoners with promises of the horrors that await them, rather than just telling them they're dead meat like they were middle school bullies.

But like I said, there's not much a kids' show can show in the way of threatening bodily harm for fun.

Piledriver: "Gonna mess you up!"


Thunderball: "Welcome to the party, Hulks!"

Also lame. Come on, can I at least get a classic "sleep with one eye open"?

Bulldozer: "Better sleep with one eye open!"

That's more like it.

Our heroes aren't too thrilled with the current situation, and they make sure to let the cameras know it. And once again, the Hulks are talking to the camera in a cutaway filmed in their special cutaway room, complete with comfy chair and background with the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. logo on it.

Yeah, keep complaining about how much your prison cell sucks while you're clearly not in a prison cell.
You know, I'm just going to assume that Ant-Man gave them a portable set to film these cutaways on; one that can be shrunken down and put in a pocket when they don't need it. He's done dumber things with Pym Particles.

Anyway, the Hulks all give their two cents.

Hulk (cutaway): "They may be criminals, but no one's all bad."

You know, I get that "even monsters have some good inside them" is supposed to be an underlying theme of this show... but some people really are all bad.

Even if we discount real life mass murderers and serial killers from this discussion, allow me to present Exhibit A.

I rest my case.
Hulk (cutaway): "Everyone deserves a chance to change."
She-Hulk (cutaway):
"Hulk's dreamin'. There's not a drop of good in these creeps. It's humiliating to be on the same side of the bars with them."
A-Bomb (cutaway): "I've seen prison movies, I know what happens to nice guys like me in the joint!"

Well, Morgan Freeman did tells us that prison is no fairy-tale world....

A-Bomb (cutaway): "I'm gonna get shanked! I don't even know what that is...."

I get the feeling that the "shanking" reference was added to distract the Disney censors from the fact that the writers were totally implying prison rape.

Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., everybody.

Abomination: "Get comfortable, Hulks. You check into the Vault, but you can never leave! Alive, anyway...."

After misquoting "Hotel California," Abomination hits the lockdown button, and the Hulks are locked in with their new cellmates. A-Bomb and Red Hulk get put together, which is really the cruelest thing you could do to either one of them. She-Hulk gets locked up with Titania, and Hulk gets locked up with Skaar.

Hulk explains to the camera that since Abomination is not only the bad guy behind all this, but also the guy in charge, he ordered the others to be on their best prison behavior until they have enough information to act on. And they all take prison in their own way.

Skaar doesn't react well to being locked up and Hulk has to calm him down. She-Hulk, meanwhile, is being taunted by Titania for having her nose in a book.

And I'm sure this won't be infuriating in any way.
Titania: "So whatcha reading, celly?"
She-Hulk: "Legal casebooks."


She-Hulk: "I'm working on a framework for my defense."


Titania: "You're wasting your time if you think these law books are gonna getcha out of here, sister."
She-Hulk: "Is that so? I have a law degree, sister."

...Since the Hell when?

Okay, I'll admit it. In theory, this should be awesome. But it isn't.

Since this show began, I've said that She-Hulk's green muscles are no reason for her to not be a lawyer. And I was upset that they changed the most interesting part of She-Hulk's backstory.

So now, the writers have apparently noticed the backlash from She-Hulk fans and responded. And they responded by suddenly retconning that she had a law degree this whole time! Except not only does her law degree not count for anything in this episode, but it will never be mentioned again.

If they had stuck with She-Hulk's job as a stunt pilot, I could at least kind of respect that they stayed the course. But this retcon is pointless, will never be brought up again, and really just serves to taunt the fans who wanted this part of her backstory to be in the show from the beginning.

Anyway, She-Hulk tells Titania that she could make something of herself, and Titania counters that they still ended up in the same place, despite their different life paths. So nyeh nyeh nyeh.

Over with the last two prisoners, Red Hulk is so mad that some nearby papers catch fire, but A-Bomb tells him that he has an "escape-way an-play."

Red Hulk: "Escape plan?"

Surprisingly, A-Bomb actually has to be the smart one and tell Red to zip his lips. After all, the Abomination's watching everything recorded by their cameras.

Even though he's still dumb enough to face the camera as he says "escape-way an-play."
Red Hulk: "If I know Blonsky, he's got bigger plans than just being a prison warden."

Abomination, watching the footage, agrees with his crimson foe. But before he can monologue or anything, Hulkbusters escort the Hulk into Abomination's office to have a Skype chat with Nick Fury. Fury says that he's working to try and clear the Hulks' names, and he wants Abomiantion's guarantee that the Hulks won't be harmed in the meantime. Abomination agrees, but only as long as they follow the rules. When Nick Fury hangs up, Abomination spills the beans.

Abomination: "But you're not going to follow the rules. I think you're going to cause a riot. And when your good friend Director Fury arrives, you will destroy him in a rage. Tragic, no? Being around all these villains turned you into one."

The Hulk has himself a minor freakout over this, screaming and struggling in his bonds.

Hulk (cutaway): "Framing me is one thing. But if you think you're gonna get me to go bad, you're dead wrong."

You say shortly after the Abomination made you howl like a monster with a paragraph.

Lunchtime soon arrives, as A-Bomb pours himself a nice stream of lukewarm potatoes and lima beans from some kind of faucet. He goes to sit down, but Absorbing Man feels like tripping him while he walks o the Hulks' table. This threatens to start a foodfight/riot, but the Hulks decide to stay calm... for now. Absorbing Man walks over to the Hulks' table and continues to give them a hard time, even pouring Hulk's food onto his head. Eventually, Red Hulk snaps and smacks Absorbing Man in the face with a tray, beginning an all-out mess hall brawl.

It's during this scene that we finally see prisoners that aren't over seven feet tall, throwing trays and food. I have to wonder exactly who these guys (and gals) are.

Including Vincent Price as Egghead, for some reason. Not the Marvel one.
The Vault is a supervillain prison, so they're presumably supervillains. And in order to get sent to the Vault, they must be pretty tough stuff. Except that they don't display any sort of superpowers.  I thought that perhaps the prison had some kind of power-suppressing technology, but Absorbing Man goes ahead and turns his body into steel during the fight, so that can't be the case.

To be fair, things are probably rigged against the Hulks. Abomination arrives with a remote control for the sole purpose of deactivating the Hulkbuster guards, meaning that it's up to the Hulks to defend themselves from both the giant, musclebound thugs... and the regular-sized inmates who have decided to try and beat up the Hulks for some odd reason.

The Hulks manage to hold their own against the other inmates, so Abomination turns the Hulkbusters back on to subdue them.

The Hulk awakens in solitary confinement while the other Hulks pass the time. Red plays with his harmonica (I think it might be the short instrumental theme tune, but I'm not sure), A-Bomb tosses a ball, Skaar continually shocks himself on the forcefield barrier, and She-Hulk arm wrestles Titania.

But the time has come for lights out, and the lights shut down.... along with the forcefields around all the cell doors. Absorbing Man and the Wrecking Crew use this "accident" to go retrieve their weapons and equipment before paying the Hulk a little visit down in solitary.

Ah, I see they all changed out of their prison uniforms and into their villain suits.
Which for Absorbing Man is simply a different prison uniform.

Hulk taunts the villains as they beat him up, and the sounds of the fight are broadcast over the speaker system like it was an opera record. She-Hulk desperately pounds on the cell forcefield as Titania admits that beating up a chained-up Hulk is fighting dirty. With little other alternative for our heroes...

Red Hulk: "Tell me about this escape plan."

After Abomination gleefully watches the villains beat up Hulk, he contacts Fury and tells him that there's been an incident and Hulk wants to see him. With Fury on his way, Abomination checks up on the A-Bomb/Red Hulk camera... and finds them absolutely content, bouncing a ball and playing a harmonica.

After he goes to investigate the cell, A-Bomb and Red Hulk discard their Hulkbuster disguise and make their way into Abomination's office. Abomination finds the ol' "pillows under a bed sheet" trick, done with Hulkbuster parts.

Abomination: "Clever boy...."

...Jurassic Park reference...?

A-Bomb (cutaway): "I know what you're thinking. How did we escape?"

A-Bomb reveals that he set the camera in their cell to play a recorded loop of them from earlier that day. Then he turned invisible. A Hulkbuster came in to do a bed check, A-Bomb beat it up, and the two escaped.

Okay, I'll admit, that was kind of clever, though it's kind of a stretch that A-Bomb and Red Hulk managed to overpower a Hulkbuster by themselves.

A-Bomb (cutaway): "Yeah! I can't believe that worked either!"

Pointing out your improbable story developments doesn't automatically make them better, show. But I appreciate the self-awareness.

But as soon as Abomination finds them missing, he puts the whole place on alert.

Abomination: "Target the Hulks! And only the Hulks! Lethal force is authorized."

With little time to act, Red and A-Bomb bust up a panel in the Warden's office, revealing their wrested relics and raiments.

Abomination gets a call from Fury and informs him that the Hulks have started a full-scale riot. With Fury six minutes away, Abomination "reluctantly" admits that he might have to resort to extreme measures. Then he hangs up so he can enact those extreme measures.

As Abomination prepares the next part of his plan, the villains are still going to town on the shackled-up Hulk.

Absorbing Man: "Having you locked up in here with us is a dream come true."

Let me guess, Hulk's not locked up with them, they're locked up with him.

Hulk: "You don't get it. I'm not locked up with you. You're locked up with me!"

"Hurm. Hulk already ripped off my iconic line once."
Hulks breaks his bonds and goes all "Hulk smash" on the villains. His roars echo through the Vault over the loudspeakers, alerting the Hulks that their leader has gone berserk.

Whether it be a prolonged beating, or just a paragraph.
But this is exactly what Abomination wanted.

As A-Bomb and Red Hulk wreck one Hulkbuster after another (because this is a thing they can do now), Abomination continues his scheme.

Abomination: "Time to initiate... the purge."

Oh, no, he's going to make them watch a stupid movie!

...Wait, I used that exact joke last episode. Man, this show sure purges a lot.

A-Bomb manages to fight his way to Skaar and return his sword.

Skaar: "Now Skaar shank!"
A-Bomb: "Ohh, that's what that means!"

Meanwhile, Red Hulk frees She-Hulk, but they leave Titania behind with a law book.

She-Hulk: "She's got reading to do."

Um, I don't think that will help her as much as you, She-Hulk. You were wrongfully imprisoned. She's a straight-up criminal.

Red Hulk: "Let's go save Greenie's bacon."

They burst into solitary, finding a savage Hulk waiting for them.

Skaar: "Someone ate Hulk's bacon."

She-Hulk's "Calm down" calms the Hulk down within, like, literally five seconds before the whole prison rumbles violently. They try to escape, but when they open a blast door, it seems as though the ground isn't where they left it....

Launching the Hulk into space? But we already had a Planet Hulk adaptation.
As the prison rockets into space, the Hulks can barely hang on for dear life as every second threatens to suck them out through the open door. And to make matters worse, Absorbing Man and Titania come along to find a perfect opportunity to end the Hulks once and for all.

Absorbing Man: "Come on, baby!" the locomotion with me?

Titania: "You sure about this, Carl?"

While Titania hesitates, Absorbing Man fights the Hulks as they crawl back into the prison and attempt to shut the door behind them. Even when it looks like Titania and She-Hulk are going to have a designated catfight, she instead alerts She-Hulk of the Hulkbuster right behind her. It fires wildly, hitting Absorbing Man and knocking him out the door. He manages to hold on to the edge while Skaar defeats the Hulkbuster, and ends up being pulled to safety by the Hulk.

Absorbing Man: "Why'd you save me?"
Hulk: "'Cause you're not a bad guy; you just do a lot of bad stuff."

Um, isn't that kind of the definition of being a bad guy?

Anyway, they're not out of trouble yet. Abomination is riding the only escape jet to safety, and the Gamma core is about to blow up. Fury radios in, demanding to know why the purge was initiated, and Hulk answers that this was the Abomination's plan all along. Speaking of the Warden, he flies up right behind Fury's jet and starts firing at it while contacting the Vault to taunt at the Hulk some more.

Abomination: "Ah, today I finish the job the Leader and I began back in Vista Verde. The total annihilation of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H."

Way to admit your evil plan out loud, Abomination. On camera. To your enemies. So much for plausible deniability.
So Hulk formulates a plan to take care of the reactor.

Titania: "We'll help. Right, Carl?"
Absorbing Man: "No."

A karate chop changes his mind, and they all get down to the reactor to try and keep it from going boom. Once they arrive, Red Hulk notes that they'll have to eject the whole core into the atmosphere before it detonates. Complicating matters is the arrival of some more Hulkbusters. While most of the team starts a-smashin', Red Hulk attempts to figure out how to work the ejection control panel.

She-Hulk: "When in doubt, push the big one."

It works, and the ejection chute beneath the core opens up. But the Abomination sabotaged the release mechanism, and they only have thirty seconds left. So Absorbing Man buys them some time by taking a play out of Arsenal's book and absorbing the radiation to slow down the overload. The others break the holding clamps, and the core is ejected into the upper atmosphere, where it detonates in a massive nuclear explosion, no doubt causing havoc down below from the massive EMP generated.

A real-life high-altitude nuclear test in 1962 (Starfish Prime, if you're curious) damaged electronics in Honolulu and New Zealand, and even cut off phone service from Kauai to the other Hawaiian islands.

So at the very least, I think Fury and Abomination would have their jets knocked out of the sky. Or maybe they're conveniently EMP-proof. Either way, I think there's going to be some havoc on the ground. Hope nobody down there has a pacemaker.

When some more S.H.I.E.L.D. fighters come to assist Nick Fury, the Abomination finds himself crashing his jet into a mountainside. Victorious, Fury lands his jet inside the prison hangar and tells the Hulks about the deus ex machina that saved them. Also, anyone who took that earlier bet owes me ten bucks.

Nick Fury: "While Blonsky was uploading his security footage of you Hulks at the Vault, we hacked in and saw what really happened at Vista Verde. You were framed by the Abomination."

Uh, you mean the footage that A-Bomb was trying to show you since the end of last season? The exact same footage that was summarily dismissed by J. Jonah Jameson as coming from an unreliable source? The footage that, since it was part of A-Bomb's web show, was available the whole time on A-bomb's YouTube page?

A-Bomb: "Uh, yeah, that's what we've been saying all along."
Nick Fury: "But now we've got proof."

The exact same proof you always had.

Nick Fury: "Plus, with your heroic actions today..."

Like detonating a nuke above American soil.

Nick Fury: "'ll be cleared. Probably get a medal."

Is... is that supposed to make everything better? Our heroes seem to be pacified, so I guess this is a happy ending?

Fury explains that the remaining prisoners will be shipped to a different prison. And the only prisoners we see are Absorbing Man, the Wrecking Crew, and Titania. So much for the ordinary humans that were incarcerated here, I guess? Are they dead? Maybe they were caught in the Hulkbusters' crossfire.

Before Absorbing Man is taken away, Hulk tells him that he'll never forget how he helped today.

Absorbing Man: "I was tryin' to save my life. The rest was... coincidence."

And She-Hulk has a nice chat with Titania.

She-Hulk: "You did good today."
Titania: "And I kinda liked it. Maybe I'll try it again some day."
She-Hulk: "If you stay outta trouble, I'll try to help with your parole."
Titania: "Thanks, counselor. I'll see you in court."

Now there's an interesting redemption arc that will be cut short by the show's approaching cancellation.

After the Hulk's closing speech about how the greatest heroes are the ones who inspire others to become better people, the episode ends. So let's review this "conclusion" to the ongoing subplots.

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