Ahh, the “powerful yet corrupting object” episode. Every show that has superpowers or magic or enhanced abilities will also involve, sooner or later, the characters encountering an object that provides even more intense power, at the cost of your sanity or morals or health or something. Here, in “Stuck in the Metal with You,” the victim is Rocket, the corrupting object is the Asgardian Destroyer Armor, the power is basically Iron Man-times-infinity, and the cost is Rocket’s (relative) chill. It’s an episode type that has been done to death, but it makes for a good test for Guardians at this point: can the show do a cliche episode, but do it well? The answer is surprisingly yes, signaling Guardians is finally settling down into the show it always meant to be, allowing it to tackle even generic plotlines with a certain amount of enjoyability.
Not everything is perfect here. The Black Order’s initial arrival is completely irrelevant, and I feel like Loki’s plan comes a bit too late and is executed a bit clumsily. Yet in a way, that’s to Guardians’ strength: both heroes and villains act hastily, clumsily, and randomly, forcing characters to improvise on the fly. Take the Black Order fight: first, it’s great to see these guys again, although they don’t have the same appeal that they had back in “Undercover Angle,” since they don’t do anything but fight (I won’t dignify the Quill/Super Giant conversation). But it’s a well-executed battle, visually impressive, and chaotic. The Guardians get their butts kicked–as they should, since the Order had the drop on them–leaving Rocket to clumsily fall inside the Destroyer Armor and turn the tide of the battle to his favor.
Guardians of the Galaxy has had some immense growing pains for sure. The creatives were either forced to “kiddie-fy” the cast, or they just completely botched their characterizations (the movie, as fun as it was, didn’t exactly give the characters a lot to work with). Now they get it–or, more likely, finally seem to agree on how best to portray the cast. Take Rocket: they could have easily leaned on a whole lot of people overdoing a lot of smartass remarks towards Rocket’s size, which would have led to Rocket’s in-armor anger. But no one calls him puny except a few quick snarky comments from his enemies (the Black Order, Dag), and it doesn’t even seem as if Rocket is phased by it, per se. Yet we know he’s insecure deep down (not just for being small, but being alone and a victim of an unwarranted experiment), so having the suit unleash some inner anger at his size and being bossed around is a great piece of subtle characterization. And all the other characters do their thing without being grating: Groot is calming (if weirdly ignored), Gamora is knowledgeable exposition, Drax is meathead muscle, and Star Lord is… Star Lord.
The last episode ended with the crew completely lost as what to do next. The leader’s (I guess) refusal to visit Sparta for “personal reasons” is interesting, but that most likely will be explored next week as the crew follows a weird energy reading from the boombox that leads them to Planet Retsemaw, a world where they learn that there apparently was a truce between Asgard and Spartax. What this means right now is unclear, but it provides a much richer context to the show than the obscure “Cosmic Seed” stuff; when Rocket and Quill examines the armor, he envisions a number of Asgardians (including Thor). It looks as if they aren’t the only ones on the prowl for this seed, especially when Loki shows up.
Loki apparently planted the armor to attract the boombox so he could take it for himself. Which is a fine plan, but he doesn’t take control of the armor until halfway through the episode. Why wait so long? He could have had the armor grab Quill back on Retsemaw. But then we wouldn’t have much of an episode. Regardless, “Stuck in the Metal with You” is a fine episode with enough reveals, character-based comedy, and decent action to elevate a generic story into something special. It even allows Drax some development, who manages to fool the armor into opening his visor with his constant bellowing. (If it isn’t clear, the Guardians beat the armor and Loki via a solid bit of team collaboration.) As Gamora mentions, the Guardians finally are on the same page once Quill finally tells everyone they’re headed for Spartax. It’s a bit of meta-commentary, though, since it seems like the writers and animators are on the same page as well.
- I really, really Groot was utilized more in this episode. He coaxes Rocket out of the armor at the beginning, which was a small, sweet moment. He should have been the sensitive figure to keep Rocket grounded later on as well.
- I love that part in the beginning where Rocket mimicked Drax’s constant claims for revenge. In fact, that whole intro was a lot of fun. I kind of wish they’d do a bottle episode with these characters.
- Oh man, Cosmo was badass in this episode. Just trying to keep the peace, but Rocket tried to test him. Of course the telepathic canine won, all glowing eyeballs and everything.
- The Drax/giant armor fight was kind of cool too, as well as the subsequent armor/flying car chase sequences. They weren’t the most “fluid” pieces, but they contained some nice visual dynamics and ambitious storyboarding choices.
- Rocket’s beatdown of Loki was clearly resembling The Hulk’s beatdown of Loki from The Avengers.
- Speaking of Loki, he escapes in the armor and speaks at his father’s resting place about his future plan of manipulating Thor into starting a war. The Cosmic Seed is still a thing, but a potential Spartax/Asgard conflict is infinitely more interesting.