As we head into the final stretch of Moonbeam City episodes, curiosity about how the production order was shuffled into the airing order drops away; I haven’t found any information on whether the last three episodes (the middle of which, “The Legend of Circuit Lake,” aired tonight) are airing in the order they were produced, but at very least they seem to have been made toward the end of the order (the last three produced, even if they weren’t produced in this order). In other words, the Moonbeam City we see tonight should, on some level, represent the Moonbeam City its creators settled into making as they continued to work on the show.
It’s not always easy to find development in a show like this: non-serialized, super joke-heavy, largely (sometimes blessedly) arc-free, and, as a cartoon, relatively long-lead. But it seems safe to say that Will Forte’s Rad Cunningham, while always a strong presence on the show, seems like a Moonbeam City staff favorite. For the second episode in a row, Rad is sequestered in his own subplot; this may seem like he’s shunted off to the side – he barely interacts with Pizzaz or Chrysalis in “Circuit Lake” – but it seems to me a sign that the Moonbeam City folks consider him a funny enough character to carry half-episodes on his own.
Indeed, he’s the focus of the episode as it begins, desperately investigating the sounds of group laughter before realizing, to his horror, that everyone at the office is cracking up watching a video of his work as a child performer on the Canadian children’s TV series Jolly Closet, a Barney-ish show where young Rad is ridiculed and punished for suggesting a nuanced, uncertain idea of what God might look like. The revelation that an adult was once a super-Canadian sorta-celebrity is bitten from How I Met Your Mother (where Forte, the faithful might recall, had a very occasional running character: a sad man prose to nosebleed telegraphing his erections; if that’s not a sign that Forte’s sensibility transcends all uses of him, I’m not sure what is), though the particulars are perverse enough to fit into the Moonbeam City universe of humiliation
In search of retaliatory dirt on Dazzle, Rad eventually winds up at the forgotten “virtual records room.” That the virtual records room is considered a relic compared to the paper records room, and that the virtual records room can be experienced only through a perfectly (which is to say poorly) rendered imitation of bad ’90s simulations of the internet can be considered further evidence that Moonbeam City’s alternate world has a TaleSpin-like alternate relationship with technology to go along with it (the world of TaleSpin not including television, but being extremely advanced in terms of bears flying planes). Rad is denied access to the virtual files, but comes to appreciate, even prefer, his life in VR exile, where he meets a virtual mate and a virtual child.
For a time, it seems like “The Legend of Circuit Lake” will focus exclusively on Rad, which wouldn’t feel out of line at this point in the series. But the action does return to the real world, where Rad has been missing for several months and Dazzle becomes a suspect in his possible murder, in part because of his incriminating drawings and in part because everyone, including Dazzle, agrees that it would be reasonable to assume he murdered Rad. When Dazzle opts for the ultra-fast “Verdict Vortex” shortcut over a fair trial (perhaps enticed by the possibility of the “15 minutes in prison” option), he’s thrown in prison, where he becomes an object of lust for both the warden (guest star Susan Sarandon) and Silca, the warden’s computerized prison system (guest star Molly Shannon).
The prison stuff isn’t bad, but it’s not as interesting as the stylistic and narrative adventurousness of allowing Rad some happiness in the virtual world. That subplot isn’t the funniest in the show’s short history, but it is plenty weird, and offers the sight of real-world Rad in a heavy (and Forte-esque) beard, covered in spiders and rats. It might have been interesting for more of the episode to proceed in the Circuit Lake world, just to mix up the formula a bit; at least that would be a clearer justification for Pizzaz and Chrysalis having little to do besides inexplicably mourn Dazzle and discover Rad’s corpse-like body, respectively. I’m not asking for a Rad-centric Moonbeam City spinoff, but I wouldn’t mind seeing individual episodes that really spend a lot of time with three main non-Dazzle characters individually, with the others on the sidelines.
- Sounds like more Rad is coming; his name is featured in the title of next week’s season finale!
- Basically, this is an episode where Rad fucks a virtual-reality simulation and Dazzle fucks a prison. So, there’s that.
- This week in Moonbeam City names: I didn’t catch many at all. Did I miss any, Moonbeamers?
- Moonbeamers is the name of the Moonbeam City fandom, I just decided.
- Jolly Closet probably should’ve been a little funnier as a kid-show spoof, considering series creator Scott Gairdner made the Tiny Fuppets.