Anything can happen in the 11 minutes that comprise the typical Regular Show episode. Of course, there’s a basic pattern that many episodes follow—through their endearing combination of laziness, stupidity, and impetuousness, Mordecai and Rigby manage to massively piss somebody off, usually over something entirely trivial. Because these adversaries often manage to be even more unhinged than our stars, Mordecai and Rigby are forced to scramble frantically just to come out more or less unscathed, and usually, their antagonists suffer an unpleasant fate. And because Regular Show episodes are all about acceleration—things start off slowly with the low-key slacker comedy, then get faster and faster over the course of the quarter hour—there’s no time for a denouement or big wrap-up. Regular Show episodes don’t so much conclude as they simply stop.
For the show’s fourth season premiere, the Regular Show creative team has a full half-hour in which to explore just what happens when all of Mordecai and Rigby’s chickens come home to roost (even if that idiom seems a bit weird to use when a talking blue jay is involved). Exploring the long-term fallout of the duo’s misadventures is a strong, obvious idea, and one way to use the double-length format might have been to slow things down and have the pair really consider whether their aimless antics are hurting people—essentially put Mordecai and Rigby on trial, possibly literally. But in “Exit 9B,” Regular Show doubles down, kicking the insanity into overdrive in the biggest, craziest fight of our heroes’ lives. All these weightier issues are lurking around the periphery of the episode, although their would-be executioner is so completely villainous that there’s not much sense in taking his perspective seriously. That isn’t a criticism. Regular Show might get around to that more meditative story one of these days, but I can’t imagine such an episode would be more fun than tonight’s “Exit 9B.”
Invoking the universal storytelling shorthand for “Shit just got real,” the episode begins with a downright apocalyptic pre-credits sequence and a dark remix of the usual opening music. A mysterious, bearded man has captured all the park workers except Mordecai and Rigby, who escape to two months in the future using the time machine from “Bad Kiss.” In that time, the park employees have been brainwashed and given new identities, with mixed results—Skips and Pops’ personalities are largely unaffected, whereas Muscle Man is now a professor of quantum physics. Mordecai and Rigby manage to reverse the brainwashing, but they’re unable to stop the bearded man from opening a portal to the center of the Earth, from which all Mordecai and Rigby’s “victims” come forth. That includes Garrett Bobby Ferguson, the giant floating head who exploded in a wave of brain goo after our heroes beat his universal high score for the video game Broken Bonez. The bearded man is really another bearded face, specifically GBF Jr., and the reunited father and son unleash all of Mordecai and Rigby’s old enemies. The park employees have to fight for their lives, aided by their own eclectic allies they have made over the previous three seasons.
Structurally, “Exit 9B” almost feels like two separate episodes, with the first focused on reclaiming the gang’s lost memories, and the second given over to the all-out battle for the park’s future. The first half feels slightly undercooked, which is a byproduct of the still frantic pacing of a Regular Show episode, even if it is twice the normal length. The beginning sequence in which the amnesiac workers encounter each other is a fun mini-narrative, although the only major joke is in Muscle Man’s sudden transformation into dapper, pompous academic. The fact that the other workers are all still pretty much the same people they were before feels like something of a missed opportunity—Skips and Pops in particular have strong personalities just as clearly defined as that of Muscle Man, and the episode could have had some fun with a cowardly Skips or a serious Pops. The episode does pull off some neat character moments in how each character regains his memories. Skips, the most soulful of the cast, is brought back by the memory of his lost love, whereas Pops, Hi Five Ghost, and Muscle Man regain their memories thanks to a butterscotch lollipop, a high five, and a “My Mom” joke, each of which is triumphantly true to the respective character, complete with a set of weirdly touching flashback montages. Mordecai and Rigby’s difficulties in triggering Benson’s memories perhaps hints at the fact that they don’t know their boss as well as their coworkers, and it’s pretty much perfect that they cure his amnesia through pulling all their normal stupid crap in one concentrated dose. When in doubt, piss Benson off.
And then there’s the big climactic fight. Mordecai gets in his big Braveheart moment as he rallies his friends to hold the line against the unholy forces of GBF, and then every character in the show’s history gets his or her moment in the spotlight. The episode is obviously a huge treat for longtime fans who can identify each character in the fight, but the animation and the little beats within the fight are so much fun that a novice viewer can simply enjoy the craziness. Skips, as always, is a particular highlight here, using fist gauntlets from the Guardians of Eternal Youth to lay waste to various fiends. The big chase between Mordecai and Rigby in the golf cart and Benson in the backhoe is a great complement to the frenetic action of the fighting. The Regular Show animators are called upon to realize psychotic visuals on a weekly basis, but this is perhaps the most sustained burst of action in the show’s run. It’s an epic sequence, and the brown and red backgrounds lend a blood-soaked finality to the battle. Indeed, in most other episodes, the bright greens of the park offer an absurd contrast with whatever new darkness Mordecai and Rigby have accidentally summoned, a subtle reminder of the mundane starting point for each episode. But this time, everything is already bleak and destroyed, and the team is fighting for a chance to undo the damage.
In its way, “Exit 9B” is a celebratory episode, a reward for longtime fans and an affirmation that the show’s characters have been worth getting to know. And although Mordecai gets to play the hero, it’s Rigby who steals the episode. The situation is already so horrible that even Rigby can’t really make it worse, but he does still taunt GBF Jr. by (rightly) insisting that he and Mordecai kicked his father’s ass at Broken Bonez. He also manages to turn “Decreed from city hall, yo!” into the episode’s de facto battle cry, which is something pretty much only Rigby could ever pull off. And, in the midst of all the callbacks, we get a new character in the form of the intern Thomas, who apparently needs three credits more than anyone else in history. It’s hard to say how he will fit in with the gang going forward, but throwing coffee in GBF Jr.’s face and saving the day with his signature is a hell of a good way to start. And that goes double for “Exit 9B”, which kicks off the new season with one hell of a bang.
- And so begins regular coverage of Regular Show! After reviewing the final two episodes of season three—which only aired a few weeks ago, because the breaks between seasons are pretty much non-existent—I’m looking forward to journeying through the fourth season with you all.
- “Looks like my John Hancock’s the biggest. Now give me a high five because I’ve got a huge signature!”
- Once again, hamboning really will save your life, son.