I think I’ve figured out one of my main issues with the Guardians of the Galaxy Animated series. It’s a serialized show, but most of the character beats don’t continue from week-to-week. Last week, Gamora (Vanessa Marshall) and Drax (David Sobolov) had a major showdown in the Conjunction arena and she made the mistake of implying that she had something to do with the death of his family. This week? It’s like nothing happened and they were totally cool with each other.
The one lingering element from Conjunction is the catman Nova Corps member, Titus (JB Blanc), who has apparently decided to track down the Guardians…for no particular reason other than the fact that he just doesn’t like them. Seriously, why is this guy suddenly so up his ass about putting the Guardians away? There was nothing in last week’s episode to justify Titus’ transformation into an intergalactic Javert.
On the plus side, the Guardians actually seemed like a competent team when they detected Titus’ ship and easily eluded him. The argument could be made that this weakened Titus as an antagonist, but it was good to see the Guardians actually living up to their reputation. Kevin Michael Richardson had a particularly strong episode this week as Groot, because he got a chance to add more emotional undertones to “I am Groot” with sadness, frustration, and even anger. The forest planet reminded Groot too much of his home world, and Peter Quill (Will Friedle) was kind of a dick to him about it. Only Rocket (Trevor Devall) seemed to pick up on Groot’s depressed state of mind.
From there, the episode briefly jumped into the old cliche of the heroes disguising themselves to steal a religious artifact from the native tribe. But it was a nice twist when the natives caught them in the act and they were more impressed by Quill’s laser torch than they were by the Pandorian crystal. Amusingly, both Quill and the village leader believed that they had gotten the better deal when they swapped the crystal for the laser torch, although that was about the extent of characterization for the leader. The episode didn’t even try to flesh any of them out into interesting characters.
Out of nowhere, Groot came running into the village with a group of rock monsters chasing after him. Come to think of it, the village leader did say something about the monsters when he traded for the laser torch. It was a pretty standard action scene for the series that let Drax show off his desire to protect the children of the village. Presumably that comes from the loss of his family, and that was a nice (and rare) touch of subtlety from this show.
Even the ensuing celebration party played well, as it gave Quill and Gamora a chance to wind down with the natives. It also let the natives deliver the exposition that the rock monsters were created by an alien fungus that came to the planet during a meteor crash. That’s about the extent of the explanation that we get, and it’s never clear why the fungus is attacking the natives or if it has any kind of intelligence behind it.
Naturally, Groot was not at all thrilled by all of the wood carving and wood chopping going down at the party. And Quill was particularly jerkish when Groot caught on fire and nearly burned down the village. This show is doing too good of a job of making me dislike Quill. He’s really veering into a**hole territory here. But at least the other characters acknowledged that when both Gamora and Rocket smacked Quill for being so insensitive towards Groot.
Midway through the episode came the best part: Night of the Living Groot! Groot was possessed by the alien fungus and he grew three sizes that day. Well, more accurately, he was closer to Godzilla size, and I loved that transformation sequence. It seemed very much like the way that a werewolf movie would have handled that scene. Giant Groot even had a slight redesign of his face to make him seem more menacing and monstrous.
Then Giant Groot acted the part of the monster by attacking the village, and not even Rocket could get through to him. After briefly subduing Groot, Quill and Rocket played a little Fantastic Voyage and they entered Groot’s body in a bid to free him from the alien fungus. Outside of Groot, Gamora and Drax had to fight off the villagers who wanted to burn Groot alive to kill the fungus.
That led to the best line of the episode, as Drax said “we must not hurt them…badly.” More of that, please. This was actually a pretty strong showing for Drax in the second half of the episode, as he got the big hero moments of fighting both Groot and the suddenly maniacal Titus, who decided that it was worth shooting antimatter missiles at Groot and the Guardians even if it killed the natives. What the hell, man? Titus’ characterization is all over the place in this episode. If he had a legitimate reason to hate the Guardians, that’s one thing. But Titus is so one-dimensional in his hatred of the Guardians that it’s bordering on unintentional comedy.
Speaking of the big hero moments, Drax jumped on Titus’ ship and not only stopped a missile from hitting Groot, and he ended up tossing it towards the space meteor that was causing the whole thing. Inside of Groot, Quill and Rocket found themselves facing the seed. If you missed Groot’s origin short story, then that made no sense. But the short version is that Groot is carrying around the seed that can bring his people back from the brink of extinction, and it’s the only thing in his body that pushed back against the invading alien fungus.
Quill ended up falling into the seed and communing with Groot, which allowed Groot to cure himself of the fungus and shrink down to normal Groot size. It also left Quill unable to say anything but “I am Groot,” which was amusing. But it felt like a missed chance for Quill to have a conversation with Groot that he actually understood. The natives also protected the Guardians from Titus when tried to summarily execute Groot even after he was cured. Suddenly I miss Korath and Yondu. They’re a lot more interesting than Titus at this point.
The episode ends with Quill demonstrating a greater appreciation for Groot, which was actually a good moment of character growth for Quill…if it carries over to the remaining episodes of the season. But I suspect what will actually happen is that next week’s episode will once again pretend that this didn’t happen, and the same dynamic will be back in play. The only thing that is guaranteed to carry over is that the newly obtained crystal has revealed a new destination on Quill’s Spartaxian Cryptocube.
This was an episode that was better on its second viewing than it was on its first time around. The writing is still frustratingly simple compared to the excellence of Star Wars Rebels. But there were still small, hopeful signs that Guardians of the Galaxy will eventually come together as a stronger show.
What did you think of this week’s Guardians of the Galaxy? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image Credit: Disney XD/Marvel