“All Hail Son Of Zon” is messy. It’s sloppy. It moves way too fast, and even for a half live-action, half animated show, a lot of it doesn’t make sense. There’s a clear “devil-may-care” attitude to the episode, a sense that writer Reed Agnew knows that Son Of Zorn may not be coming back next year, and so he decided to through whatever crazy ideas and gags out there he could. Non-sarcastic demons are out there killing everyone. Sanitation Solutions is sponsoring both a prom AND selling soap to a war-torn Zephyria. Todd fires himself. Alan is pregnant. None of those plot points really matter to the central story, which consists of Zorn and Craig’s attempts to make Alan prom king, while Alan and Edie work to make Alan look unpopular to win back Layla. The O. Henry-esque irony here barely makes a thematic dent. The episode is really just a bunch of “stuff.” And yet, for some reason… it works.
It’s hard to describe, really. “All Hail Son Of Zorn” isn’t a good episode, but it feels so committed to its scattered nature that many of the gags land. That’s probably because the show’s main theme–Zorn’s attempts to balance his past life with his present one–is front and center, and it functions as a great running gag. Zephyria is being invaded by Lord Vulchazor, whose murderous rampage causes a number of Zephyrian victims to call for Zorn’s help. But he ignores them to focus on getting his son to be prom king (and also to win an account to sell soap to Zephyria so Linda can be boss again). Honestly, there’s something interesting here. Zorn seems rather ambivalent about the chaos happening back home, but it’s subtly clear that it is affecting him, and in pure Zorn fashion, he’s trying to push some sense of “victory” onto his son. Perhaps a tighter, more focused script could have pulled more dramatic juice out from that. But various story beats like the one ones mentioned in the first paragraph really disrupt it from taking hold.
And even then, those beats are so odd, so outlandish, that you can’t help but laugh. Zorn’s phone call to the mud people to get them to buy soap was hilarious, made more so by his successful up-sell. (The end tag is the dark and hilarious topping to the cake). Zorn and Craig’s bid to make Alan prom king only goes through when Shannon goes over-budget and Sanitation Solution steps in. Alan being pregnant is the result of a running bit of Zorn’s failure to explain the birds and the bees to him, as well as a show-length running gag of Zephyrians have two penises. Todd firing himself is… well, I don’t know what that was. It was just weird. The Staff of Quiv(?) is a total McGuffin–until Lord Vulchazor has Zorn kidnapped for it and taken back to Zephyria. It’s a surprising ending, the kind of foreboding kicker to the story of a man trying so hard to move from his past and be in the present. You can’t escape your past, etc.
That element is way more intriguing than the Alan plot, which falls flat because–and let’s be honest–who among was ever interested in Alan’s and Layla’s relationship woes? Layla is barely a character, and Alan’s awkward struggles with how to embrace his Zephyrian heritage has always been the strongest part of him (that’s a joke about his legs, by the way). Seeing everyone trying to fix Alan’s inane problem really was a drag; Zorn at least was trying to channel his concern for his home through his son, but Edie had nothing to work with. Craig was appropriately weird, but Tim Meadows has always had fun with his character. The characters are a mixed bag, “All Hail Son Of Zorn” is a mixed bag, and really, Son Of Zorn itself is a mixed bag. It’s an admirable and bold attempt for a show, and a second season I think would fix a lot of mistakes (especially after a troubling beginning, which meant in effect they “started” later). It just needed (needs?) a clear direction, unlike Zorn himself.
- I forgot to mention this in the last review: one of the strangest things that happened is that all of kids at Alan’s school started calling him “Son of Zorn” after he revealed his legs (and kicking prowess). This struck me as odd. As destructive and obnoxious as Zorn has been, it never struck me that he was renown enough to be familiar to the school–in fact, that was one of the running gags of the show. The “great and powerful” Zorn is pretty much ignored outside of Zephyria, and his son is a dweebish nobody.
- I love how the show just rushed through Edie’s and Craig’s wedding in the opening. It understood that no one cared about it and that there was no dramatic point to draw it out.
- Zorn listening to the radio about Zephyria being destroyed is both funny and sad, and that kind of, uh, complexity is Son Of Zorn at its best.
- If the show gets a second season, it would need a small budget upgrade (hah!) to really start fusing those Zephyrian visuals and stories with real life elements. That’s when the show pops. Lean into the Adult Swim-ification!
- Props to Titmouse Animation for the, well, animation. They did some great work all through-out this season; those battles and character designs were just perfect.