For some reason, Gamora is taunting Drax into a competition of who between the two of them is the better fighter. Gamora justifies this behavior as the nature of being the daughter of Thanos–living under his thumb was always a competition; you either win, or you die. But even though she was relatively underused in the film, her minor arc was all about escaping Thanos’ influence. So watching her advocate for her supremacy in battle is nonsensical, both for the character and for the story itself. I like Gamora, and I’m willing to go with her new, cocky attitude for the animated series, but it’s bordering on baffling (100% sure this sense of competitiveness will never be brought up again). I’m not sure if this is something drawn from the comics, but even if that’s the case, it needs to be tempered or controlled, not something that’s randomly conjured up for an inciting incident.

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I absolutely love the goofy edge to Guardians of the Galaxy. They’re affable losers who think they’re heroic but are completely not. But it feels like there’s conflict between the story and the storytelling; it’s as if the animators can’t quite keep up with the speed and savvy of the script. Take for instance the arrival Corpsman Titus after the Milano crashes. He just… wades onto the scene, after an odd Rocket voice over; there’s no good shot of the Guardians reacting to his arrival. It feels funky, like a narrative beat was lost in the storyboarding process. Later in the episode, when the Grandmaster takes control of the Milano, Rocket leaps out onto another turbo racing ship, but it’s completely unclear where that ship came from (also, why The Grandmaster doesn’t also have control of that racing ship–since it’s technically an official Conjunction ship–is never explained). The animation is fine but it comes off rushed, as if the writers and animators are just not on the same page.

Which is unfortunate, because when the writing and animation are in sync, the show is a lot of fun. Particularly, the silly, hostile banter between Starlord and Rocket is great, building right along from previously established details. Rocket’s constant tinkering with the Milano has inevitably constructed it to fit his specific needs, causing a small rift with Peter, who actually owns the ship (kind of). The superficial argument between them is a hoot, and coupled with Rocket’s general sense of being under-appreciated (established in last episode’s “One in a Million You”), it all stems from a strong understanding of the character. It feels organic, and coupled with Starlord’s general smarm, makes their interactions the highlight of the episode. I can’t say the same for Gamora or Drax, whose interactions are more forced, like the writers are trying to find something to work with, character-wise. They actually work better when separate from each other. Gamora’s rolling her eyes at yet another Starlord-screwup with Lunatik was great (if a bit awkward in the gender-treatment department), and watching Drax go from a ruminating, vengeful semi-mute to a vocal, active fighter enjoying his victories provides a new layer to an otherwise one-note alien meathead. But Gamora’s and Drax’s competitive squabbles are a go-nowhere proposition.

But maybe the writers were aware of that? Despite it being thematically prominent, the actual story works around it in a relatively smooth fashion. There’s never a direct, final “Gamora and Drax throw down to settle this once and for all” moment, but a series of plot-convenient moments built off it. The Grandmaster, so obsessed with wanting to see Drax and Gamora fight, literally puts the lives of everyone in the battle area at stake. So Drax and Gamora fake-fight while Rocket, Groot, and Starlord rush to find their ship. The problem is that there’s no real tension of conflict between the two (since one never existed), so the stakes of the fake-fight is arbitrarily raised when Gamora implies she may have have had something to do with the destruction of Drax’s family. It’s such a bone-headed moment, and not even Gamora’s realization of that fact makes the moment better. Nor it doesn’t lead anywhere–once the remaining Guardians get the Milano back and take out the Grandmaster, they just… end it. Groot takes away their weapons, and that’s it.

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That, and the Grandmaster’s motivation, which takes “mustache-twirling villainy” to a whole new level, makes this a weaker episode than it should be. (I mean, there’s no way there was enough time left on those bombs for Peter and Groot to gather them up and toss out on top of the dome-generating statue–another issue with balance between the story and the storytelling .) Outside of Starlord and Rocket’s tit-for-tat, “Take the Milano and Run” is stretching for ways to make the rest of the cast click, but so far nothing’s working.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS:

  • Apologies, there was a miscommunication last week, which is why “One in a Million You” wasn’t reviewed. I’m hoping this review (and future ones) are popular enough to not only continue for the reason of the season, but also to go back and review it. It’s a pretty solid follow-up, if leaning a bit too much on wacky, physical comedy, which the animation can’t quite manage. Rocket may be obvious “mascot” material but they provide enough nuance to him to make him a solid lead character for an episode.
  • For some reason, the Grandmaster reminded me of Mentok the Mindtaker from Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. Basically, Guardians of the Galaxy should just be an action-driven version of Harvey Birdman.
  • I’m assuming Corpsman Titus is basically the Carmelita Fox to the Guardians’ Sly Cooper–always chasing them but ultimately just cleaning up their (criminal-bashing) messes. If not, then he was an utter waste of an appearance.

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