Guardians of the Galaxy returns, a show brimming with exotic, quirky potential that constantly hurts itself with a weird obsession with forced comedic bits, inconsistent characterization, and a tendency to get sloppy with the story–usually right when things get interesting. So, I guess, “Space Cowboys” felt it was necessary to ensure all those boxes were checked off, lest anyone think things were going to change, especially after the very good “Bad Moon Rising.” I’m still supportive of the show overall, and I know (and accept) that, to a certain level, the show has to deal with kid-level plotting and gimmicks for their attention. My complaint is the execution of these plots and gimmicks, which detracts from the story and the core comic (and dramatic) potential of the characters as they are.
Take Drax’s whole thing about his cooking, which the rest of the Guardians try to avoid like the plague. This whole C-plot (of sorts) is fine, if cliched, and admittedly it creates some funny visuals, particularly later in the episode, like when Rocket tosses his portion after distracting everyone. But it’s also so unnecessary to belabor this bit, especially after Drax opens up about the food being from his massacred family. This tonal shift is so jarring, and I can’t conceive as to why the show keeps pulling “gags” like this. Also, Drax’s inability to comprehend idioms and turn-of-phrases has enough comic stability to work with, so why go through the work in making him into the broad comic-relief character of the show?
Make no mistake, that’s what they’re doing. How else would you explain Drax’s fear of Moombas? It’s another comic layer to the character; at this point, it’s just too much, especially since Quill is bringing his own level of immaturity to the proceedings, what with pretending to be a cowboy as they deliver the Collector’s Moombas. The idea of “herding space horses” is eyerollingly cartoonish, but Guardians could pull something like this off in a fun way. It has all the pieces for a goofy space spaghetti Western, including a reluctant “sheriff” (headed by Rhomann Dey, who was played by John C. Reilly in the film, voiced by Jeff Bennett here), a band of marauders (headed by Yondu), and some sibling rivalry, between the Collector and Conjuction’s Grandmaster–who we learn are brothers.
The opening is strong too, with a pretty chaotic action sequence through a gravity field that has the Guardians scrambling and panicking for survival. Getting the crew to interact (or, try and interact) with each other in the midst of an insane situation is the show at its strongest. But as the episode goes along, a lot of details really start to slip through the cracks. The Collector’s plan doesn’t make sense: if the Moombas are explosive only when they eat meat (or, non-grass), why would he expect the Grandmaster to feed them that? Moombas, while rare, seem to be fairly well known. Another thing that isn’t clear: how the Moomba’s escape the Milano before they trigger that “space portal” thing, nor is it explained why they all land and graze on one of Conjuction’s moons, other than “we need a campfire scene.” Here, things get particularly confusing, what with Yondu’s stealing of the Moombas (how did the Grandmaster know they were even on the way?), Rocket’s sudden realization on how to cure the exploding Moomba spit, and whatever the hell was going on between the Moomba/Drax confrontation.
Add to all that the final sequence and the glaringly noticeable animation sloppiness (recycled frames, awkward staging, and one particularly terrible-looking camera zoom), “Space Cowboys” isn’t a great outing for the show’s return. A strong opening and some decent early humor can’t mask the generic plot that’s executed in the most awkward way possible, and shoehorning Drax into a silly character role that is completely wrong for him continues to be a frustrating decision. Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t trust the characters and the setting enough to let the absurdity stand on its own.
- Deepest apologies for this being posted so late, I completely missed change in the schedule, as this show is now being aired Sunday morning instead of the evening. The next one will be up sooner.
- Rocket’s line about being sent on a mission from someone who tried to kill them, to deliver the Moombas to someone else who tried to kill them, is a perfect line that sums up the best aspect of this show. If they could extract the sentiment of that line through the plotting, this show would be amazing.
- That being said, Rocket expressing any emotional tie to the Moombas at the end was wildly false, because at no point does he even kind of exhibit affection towards them. Drax’s affection makes more sense, but it doesn’t mean it’s better for the story, mainly because Drax’s issue with Moombas were handled so, so awkwardly.
- Cosmo makes an appearance again! Admittedly he’s a tough character to make work with the show at large, since his mind-reading ability destroys any chance of tension. Still… he’s awesome.
- The Guardians still haven’t found the Cosmic Seed by the end of the episode. This story arc is starting to wear thin, mainly because we’re not learning anything new about this Cosmic Seed stuff.