I’ve more or less accepted Guardians of the Galaxy’s mediocrity at this point. Yes, I have had (semi) high expectations, and although the show has indeed been mostly disappointing, it had enough strong moments to suggest that it was simply working through some growing pains–that it needed time to get its act together. And to a certain extent, it has: the characters themselves have been fixed and the dynamics between characters are firmly in place. What’s hurting the show is the plotting and pacing, in conjunction with a very stilted, very wonky visual style that harkens back to Hanna-Barbara’s animated superhero shorts, while lacking those cartoons’ draughtsmanship. It also helps that those shorts were, well, short. Guardians of the Galaxy, at its worst, can’t handle the twenty-two minutes it’s given.
Like, that fight that occurs in the beginning: what the hell was that about? I certainly get the joke: J’Son tells his son not to do anything within the small meeting as he leaves the room, so of course Star Lord does something that incites a fight within said meeting. The joke is perfectly fine as it, and it would’ve been a lot stronger if we didn’t know what Quill said. But it’s actually factors into the major plot of the episode, and it leads to a completely nonsensical scuffle. One day I’m going to get into a whole thing about logistical, logical fight sequences, but this was a prime example of a really bad one. Why did the Guardians engage in battle with the various diplomats (and why were they rushing to the meeting in the first place)? What did that Nova Corps officer think she was doing by shooting at the ceiling? Why did the Grand Commissioner of Rigel make Quill inflict a Three Stooges routine on himself? I think this was just suppose to be a ”funny” fight, a goofy, wildly-misunderstood conflict between a bunch of characters. But really, it just came off as a sloppy, clunky waste of time.
There’s supposed to be a theme in which Peter has to choose between his new-found royal birthright, or returning to his heroic outlaw ways with the Guardians. This is brought up at the beginning of the episode, but it’s completely dropped for a generic story in which Ronin plots to destroy the Supreme Intelligence of the Kree, and a story in which Star Lord tries to win over his “baby sister,” Captain Victoria. And it’s all just… not good. I mean, there are so many decent gems of ideas here: separating Peter from the Guardians, for example, is an idea worth exploring, in the sense of asking, “Who really needs who?” There’s also a cute idea of Peter adjusting (or not) to his newly-discovered royal side, via his attempts to connect to Captain Victoria within the backdrop of an uncomfortable slave/miner uprising. And there’s even the basic idea of a good, ol’ fashioned plot where everyone has to stop Ronin from killing the Supreme Intelligence, blaming it on Spartax, and then leading the Kree to a revenge war. But it all comes together in such a half-hearted, unrefined way. These events just… happen, which makes fairly simple storylines a chore to follow.
Was there anything that did work about this episode? Well, they introduce Thor, although he disappears. They don’t talk about the Cosmic Seed, which is great, because that story arc is meaningless. More seriously, the core of the Guardians themselves are in place as characters, particularly Rocket and his fairly smart plan to destroy the mining facility in such a way that it doesn’t actually hurt anyone. (“Blowing stuff up is an art, and, lady, you are looking at a master” is a great line.) But David McDermott’s script is all over the place, forcing scattershot ideas into some semblance of a story instead of sticking with one core idea and following it through. It’s part and parcel to Guardian of the Galaxy’s approach–throwing a lot of conflicts in the air and letting the characters bumble through them. But that requires a deft hand that focuses on the conflicts building on top of one another instead of randomly butting against each other. McDermott usually makes that work, but here, he drops the ball.
- Watching Drax, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora avoid laser beams in that temple where Ronin was worshipping(?) was like watching a bad video gamer play a bad PS2 video game.
- Star Lord and Captain Victoria watch, on security cameras, Ronin bashing his way outside the security room. Victoria says, “Get ready, Ronin is right outside.” They see him, show. Come on.
- Speaking of which, Star Lord repeatedly referring to Captain Victoria “baby sis” was absolutely irritating. Quill’s constantly patronizing of the opposite sex needs to stop. (I know it’s in his nature, but I feel like no one is calling him out on it. Quill is, like, Johnny Bravo come to life.)
- Ronin monologuing like a boss in this episode. They used to take comedic advantage of this, but not any more.
- Gamora/Nebula fights are always worth watching though, but I wish we see more of them, and that they’d last longer.