“The Loose Screw” and “The It” are slightly stranger episodes of Wander Over Yonder. And that’s fine–Wander Over Yonder does this every once in a while (see “The Funk,” which ends with an insane, trippy, drugged-out montage). Personally, I’m not a huge fan of “strange for strange sake,” but it can be done well, if there’s an underlying layer of comic irony or subversion to it. And I think that’s why I felt “The It” worked slightly better than “The Loose Screw.” Again, both episodes are fun, enjoyable romps. “The It” feels like is has a bit more to its weird turn of events than “The Loose Screw,” though, and it‘s a bit tricky to describe exactly why.
Part of me wants to claim that Hater-focused episodes tend to work better than Wander-focused one, primarily because there’s more comic material to mine with Hater, but that’s not exactly true. Wander episodes work best when they test the limits of his wondrous curiosity or his kindness (“The Box”) over his patience (“The Nice Guy”), and yeah, they’re closely related to each other, but the former is more character-based; the latter tends to just lead to a classic cartoon routine. “The Loose Screw” is about Wander’s and Sylvia’s patience around an old lady named Stella who, which begins as a routine, a bunch of comic moments as they assist her while a nearby planet is being attacked.
The second season has been emphatic on exploring the idea of “heroes” and “villains,” in its own kooky way. Wander and Sylvia aren’t exactly heroes in the traditional sense, but their helpful nature makes them heroes, both at the micro level and at the macro level. It’s about perspective and relativity, which the two lose sight of by thinking Stella is a dementia-suffering quack. As “Cerg-Blog 7” comes under attack, Wander and Sylvia try to keep Stella safe while repairing the ship to go save the planet. This is mostly portrayed through comic antics, but comprised of some great artistic layouts, scenes, and expressions, which always makes for a fun watch, even if there’s not much content to it.
Then the episode shifts gears as Stella becomes Star-Bella. It’s difficult to know what to make of it, particularly since the forgetful, lackadaisical Stella suddenly becomes hyper-competent and superheroic. I suppose you could argue that once Stella reverts into her superhero (AKA, her true) form, her mind clicks and she starts running on all cylinders, but the episode doesn’t really make much of it? It mostly plays into a “old people as heroes/villains” type story, which is fine, and, again, allows for some great visuals and comic moments, including the shift in music to a parody of ‘60s Batman scores (the music in Wander Over Yonder is the show’s most underrated aspect). But if you seen one “old people fighting” episode, you’ve seen them all, and of course, that seemingly aloof cat Mittens does save the day. If “The Loose Screw” is about questioning the nature of whether people who seem like they need help don’t need it, well, Wander did it better in “The Helper.” The strongest part of the episode was the small detail of Wander and Sylvia finishing each other sentences, which emphasized how closely connected their friendship really is.
“The It” on the other hand is gleefully dumb, but in a way that pokes at the idea of Hater being the only one who falls victim to Wander’s antics. There’s always been this idea that Wander’s insane behavior had an infectious nature to it–a kind of outlandish “Pay It Forward” type of disease (Hater gets all scratchy when he tries to fight it!). Hater seems to be the most susceptible to it, but the truth is everyone, at some level, can’t help but get involved in his gleeful joy, despite Peepers claims to the contrary. Peepers wants Hater to pay attention to his plan to get better rankings in the Galactic Villain Leader Board, but Hater is desperately trying to fight off Wander’s impromptu game of tag. It’s an episode that knows it’s working with a dumb premise–Peepers plan involves invading General McGuffin’s home base–but the Wander/Hater conflict is the core of the show, and McCracken and his team knows how to milk it for comic effect.
The episode could run the usual exaggerated jokes about Hater’s struggle to stay calm while being “it,” but there’s a small shift in the narrative flow when Peepers allows himself to be tagged. It’s comically interesting when the high-and-mighty second-in-command is unable to just be touched, suggesting that there is something to Wander’s gleeful annoyance that can’t be simply brushed off. Peepers fights Hater right into a parody of The Empire Strikes Back, freezing him in “cold-burr-nite” so Peepers and the rest of the Watchdogs can skillfully infiltrate’s McGuffin’s base. Yet at this point, Wander suddenly arrives, pulls up a chair, and begins to try to open up Hater. As before, Wander Over Yonder isn’t interested in exploring whether Hater is evil deep down (this kind of feels like the show ridiculing modern television’s weird obsession with psychological/emotional exploration, particularly with the throwaway nod to Star Wars), but it does allow for Hater’s sheer power to once again come to the forefront (even in crazy mode), which the ever-resourceful Peepers uses to go on a planet-conquering spree.
If anything, “The It” reflects what we’ve learned of Hater and Wander in “The Breakfast.” They’re just two sides of the same coin who don’t necessarily need each other so much as they thrive off each other. It’s a powerful but utterly broken relationship that can both shoot them up the Galactic Villain Leader Board and leaves Peepers a weeping mess. But Sylvia (fails to) reassure him: “There, there: it’s not gonna be okay.” That’s just how it’s always going to be between them.
- I always love it when people pronounce “Robots” as “Row-bits”.
- “I’m not going to lie, not all of you are going to make it back through that one. I’m looking at you, Pat.” Poor Pat.
- The part of Peeper’s plan where the first part of the infiltration is just a “mass hallucination induced by General McGuffin’s psychic battalion” was absurdly great; adding the cliche about having to face all their inner-most fears to surpass it was the cherry on top. I wonder if Tom Kenny improved most of that.
- I kind of want to see a Sylvia/Peepers pairing. I feel like that could be a really interesting dynamic.