Monday, April 25, 2016

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

Knowing that this episode would be the resolution for pretty much everything since the Season 1 finale, I was really hoping that this episode would deliver. Because occasionally, even Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. can deliver something worth watching once.

I hoped that I would be able to at least give some kind of recommendation...

But instead… well….

Yeah, pretty much.
Okay, let’s crack this episode open and look at the very core of this episode.

It’s not a prison break episode. And the main reason for that is that… well, there’s no real prison break. All the trappings of a prison break story are there, certainly. Breakout plans, the prison going into lockdown, prisoner-on-prisoner tensions, the whole bit. And yet, the Hulks do not even attempt to break out, so I can in no way call this a prison break. But in all fairness, that’s not the only kind of story set in a prison that you can tell.

So then what kind of prison story is this?

Well, that’s just it. It’s a “prison story.” Escape plans, wrongful imprisonment, riots, corrupt wardens, lockdown, mess hall brawls; all the tropes are there. And… well, that’s it. They’re there. And they build up to nothing.

Let’s break down the story. The Hulks are wrongfully imprisoned. The Warden wants them to slip up so he can put them down. They slip up. Hulk gets put in solitary. The others start a riot to break him out. The prison goes into lockdown. The Hulks save the day. And Nick Fury comes in to pardon them through deus ex machina.

The story’s resolution has very little to do with anything that actually happened in this episode’s plot. Nick Fury simply waltzes in and reveals that ever since the Abomination plugged A-Bomb’s cameras into the system, they had the evidence needed to exonerate the Hulks. So basically, everything between the first five minutes and the final five minutes were completely pointless because Nick Fury would have eventually come along to exonerate the Hulks no matter what. The Hulk did nothing to clear his own name.

Shut your face; I still say the NORAD thing was a front for the Abomination's real plan to capture the Hulk.
The only thing the Hulk did to clear his own name was accidentally leave a Doppelsmasher hand behind for Fury to see and get suspicious last episode. And the only actual thing that this episode’s entire “plot” builds up to is the Hulk’s loss of control, which is solved within five seconds of screentime.

And I wouldn’t call the prison being launched into space and set to explode a “plot development.” It’s more like an “obligatory inclusion.” Seriously, the Hulks have had to stop Gamma detonations in three of the four preceding episodes. Stop using that particular third-act climax, writers. It’s getting old.

"Fugitive Hulks" Story Arc
The ending of this episode was a slap in the face.

Again, let me break it down. The Hulks are framed for the destruction of Vista Verde and become fugitives right before leaving to fight the Leader in space. They do just that and liberate Sakaar from the Leader’s control. Thanks to the Leader’s sabotage, they get lost in space for a few episodes. Then they find themselves unable to clear their names when they return, so they go on the run. After getting their dinosaur back and screwing around with an alien wrestler, they end up in jail. Then Nick Fury comes along to solve this entire ongoing subplot in the last few minutes of the episode.

The worst part isn’t even that the resolution to the arc is so quick and tidy; it’s that the resolution is given to the Hulks. They never fought for it. All of their struggles amounted to nothing but the off chance that Fury found a Doppelsmasher's hand and got lucky when Abomination plugged in the cameras.

But a speedy resolution to the subplot is dropped in the Hulks’ laps using the evidence that nobody believed for the past eleven episodes. Honestly, I get the feeling that the writers wrote themselves into a corner with the developing story arcs and just decided to wrap it up and return to episodic storytelling. The next episode, which is ostensibly the “true” end to the subplot, could have just been another generic Leader episode with minor dialogue changes.

The episode’s main theme ties in to the central theme of the series: You don’t have to be a monster.

You are who you choose to be.
This is evident in the usual way, where Hulk struggles with the beast inside of him, but also by the possible beginnings of redemption for Absorbing Man and Titania. Which will never be seen again, what with the whole cancellation and all.


Hulk starts off as a calm, rational man who doesn’t react to overt provocation, and ends up becoming a mindless rage beast. While this could be potentially interesting, it’s reversed in a matter of seconds. So nothing comes of it.

She-Hulk suddenly having a law degree is simply insulting. This will never be brought up again, and it’s not even important to the episode. You could cut the scene of her reading her law books and lose nothing.

I mean, the story opportunities are pretty much endless. Think about how many stories this show could have ruined!
I’ve seen people say that this offhand mention “fixed” the character, but let me then ask a simple question.

What changed about She-Hulk?


Nothing changed about She-Hulk as a character. Her personality is the same, her role in the rest of the stories is the same as ever, and that law degree is never brought up again. You could have She-Hulk say that she has a degree in engineering, theatre, or even cheese making. The impact on the rest of the series would be exactly the same.

But She-Hulk’s law degree will not be the only retcon to be included in a way that seems like they want the fans to shut up and stop complaining. But I’ll get to that a few episodes down the line.

Red Hulk, A-Bomb, and Skaar
They’re just kind of there. So is She-Hulk, to be honest, though you could argue that at least She-Hulk motivated Titania to become a better person. Possibly.

But they fill their roles in the group dynamic and move the plot forward. Even though this should be the culmination of their stories up until this point.

This time, the scheme is to engineer an excuse to shoot the Hulks into space. And that’s it. Simple, but effective. Meaning that the Leader probably didn’t contribute to that particular plan. Still, the character descends into stereotypical bad-guy-gloating and manages to foil his own plans by plugging A-Bomb’s cameras (which Abomination should have known had the exonerating evidence) into the central computer system.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen since “Abomination."

Titania and Absorbing Man
Their possible redemption goes nowhere. Why bother saying anything more about it? They help save the day, it looks like She-Hulk motivated Titania to be a better person, nothing ever comes of it. Moving on.

Terrible and lazy. Moreso than usual.

Whether it be still artwork slowly rotating to approximate the illusion of movement, the odd panels of editing...

Or Absorbing Man’s unnaturally-moving leg…
This episode boasts animation that’s below the low bar Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. set for itself.

Though this shot of She-Hulk and Titania’s eyes are weirdly detailed. With identical iris patterns in all four eyes.
Final Thoughts
Disappointing. Very disappointing.

On the surface, it’s what I’ve come to expect from crappy episodes of this show. But on a deeper level, there are some serious narrative problems that just leave me disappointed and a little angry.

Next time, the Hulks finally capture the Leader. We’ll see if it sticks. See you then.

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