I doubt Craig McCracken and his team created “The Robomechabotatron” and “The Flower” with the knowledge that this season was going to be its last. Instead, it feels like these episodes were structured around the reveal that there is a way to, if not directly defeat Dominator, at least stand up to her evilness. There was a brief conversation in the comments last week about what the ultimate endgame was for the show, and how the characters would be able to deal with the greatest villain in the universe. The two penultimate episodes showcases two different ways that this can happen: through a comical disregard of Dominator’s desires (however unintentional), and an absolute belief in hope, even in the face of doom and sadness.
“The Robomechabotatron” might be the finest showcase of the show’s four leads ever since Dominator made her first appearance way back in “The Greater Hater.” Wander, Sylvia, Hater, and Peepers battle each other to take control of the great Robomechabotatron, a clear homage to Voltron (in a bit of serendipitous timing by the network). It’s a sillier episode for sure, in which the characters move and stretch with more cartoon elasticity than usual, and the premise spends most of its running time playing our expectations. It’s prepped for a massive, epic robot fight (Dominator is certainly prime and ready for it), only for characters to refuse to work together to make the battle mech work, creating some hilarious bits in the process. Hater/Peepers struggle with the upper torso sans legs, while Sylvia has to rush from the leg to the arm and back against just to open a door and walk through it. As always, it’s Wander Over Yonder having fun with its plot and its characters, working along some pretty smart angles for maximum comic effect.
Yet there’s two really great aspects to the episode that really makes it stand out. Firstly, Wander’s insistence that the four of them work together to control the battle mech is couched in so much irony it’s brilliant. Except for a brief montage in which Wander, Sylvia, Hater, and Peepers actually jump into the machine and perform their action pose, the four never actually works together. Wander refuses to actually fight, and Hater literally cuts him off at the leg, causing them all to collapse in failure. This collapse frustrates Dominator, preventing her from receiving her ultimate robot battle, and allowing the citizens of a planet she was conquering to escape. In other words, failing to work together actually saved people from Dominator, which arguably is a form of working together (Wander’s group hug at the end suggests as much). The second thing that stands out is how all the characters’ personalities really shine here: Hater’s aggressive childishness, Sylvia’s realist stubbornness, Wander’s pacifist commitment, and Dominator’s new-found evil pettiness. (The only thing holding this episode back from a full A is Peepers, who never quite gets a moment to showcase himself). Watching all the characters at their worst, and therefore their best, just makes “The Robomechabotatron” a great episode all around.
“The Flower” surpasses it. As the second to last episode of the series, it goes back to basics: Wander and Sylvia need to do a thing, but the universe at large keeps putting obstacles in the way. The show has come such a long way since then, though. Before, the two did good deeds because it was the right thing to do, and it was fun (and funny) to watch them achieve their goals. Now, there are stakes: not only from the threat from Dominator, but the quiet, understated turmoil that churns inside both Wander and Sylvia. The opening sequence exemplify this to a painful degree. The two helplessly stare at the complete destruction left in Dominator’s wake, an endless display of dead, destroyed planets. Sylvia’s frustrated, but it’s genuinely shocking to see the ever-optimistic Wander on the verge of tears. It’s even more heartbreaking to watch Sylvia search desperately to find some source of hope for her friend, not only to make him happy, but also to save her own sense of positivity. (The fact that the only thing that keeps Sylvia going is Wander’s optimism is a topic all by itself, and another reason the lack of a third season is immensely disappointing). Luckily, they find a small, thriving flower.
The episode then settles right into the typical groove it functions so well in. Every elaborate attempt to save the flower is met with some ridiculous hardship: a sun that burns a planet alive, instant snowstorms, giant bees (always, always with the bees). There’s an emotional undercurrent though, a more personal drive to save the flower in order to save their own souls (I know that’s a bit hyperbolic but stay with me here). That makes Dominator’s involvement all the more vicious. Something about her direct attempt to straight up kill the flower–just in order to crush Wander’s and Sylvia’s spirit–elevates her into a new level of comic villainy that’s practically irredeemable (she takes a selfie with their near-broken selves). Yet it’s the ending that’s truly crushing. The flower squirts pollen into Dominator’s eyes, giving her an allergic reaction and allowing the two to escape, but ultimately killing itself in the process. Seeing it die crushes Wander, which threatens to crush Sylvia, but it’s Wander who reminds his friend that just because he’s hurt, doesn’t mean he gave up hope. As much as it’s a revelation for Sylvia, it’s also a huge revelation for Wander, whose exaggerated reactions mask a simple truth: Wander has been around for millennia, so of course he’s often failed. Yet it never truly broke him, and he’s always bounced back, like the spores left behind in the flower’s wake.
- The pilot to Voltron isn’t all that great, but the series gets so much stronger as the season goes on. Really, you all should check it out.
- The Robomechabotatron’s instruction manual in Japanese–complete with chibi robot mascot–was so, so great.
- The flower sacrificing himself to protect Sylvia and Wander is similar to the way Bot-13 sacrificed itself to protect them back in “The Bot.” Friendship is costly but necessary in this world.
- As Sylvia mentions, the idea that hay fever is a potential key to stopping Dominator is bizarre but it is something. But it’s also a crapshoot because - come on, hay fever? I’m sure the galaxy has some universal equivalent of Claritin somewhere.
- That being said, Dominator’s sneezes are too cute.