Once again, the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series opened with a scene of the team on a remote planet where they had just missed the Cosmic Seed. Using the Cosmic Seed as a lazy plot device to start the episode has already become tedious. The show probably won’t be moving away from that setup until a potential second season, but I can’t wait for that storyline to be in the past.
In the present, the Guardians discovered a few gems that were irradiated by the Cosmic Seed’s energy. Drax (David Sobolov) also appeared to be viewing a holographic photo of his family that we’ve never seen before. Drax’s statement about carrying the image even if it was heavy was actually a good sentiment…even though it only existed to set up the final moments of the episode.
But first some action, as Rocket (Trevor Devall) and Groot (Kevin Michael Richardson) realized too late that they were back on the planet where a group of evil robot scientists experimented on them. If you happened to watch all of the Guardians of the Galaxy promo videos before the season, then you may have recognized it as well. Right on cue, the evil robots attacked and demanded the surrender of Groot and Rocket.
Then the show had a genuinely entertaining moment of exposition as Rocket recounted his origin, and Star-Lord a.k.a. Peter Quill (Will Friedle) insisted that it was first time that he had heard it. That the moment happened in the middle of the fight with the robots only made it funnier. Now that’s the way to do an info dump. The robots eventually drove Quill, Gamora (Vanessa Marshall), and Drax off a cliff and into the water below. Of course, Drax wasn’t able to swim…which would have been silly, but I enjoyed the lines “water is for cowards!” and “I hate water, it can not be trusted.” Meanwhile, both Rocket and Groot were recaptured by the robots and taken back to Halfworld, a planet protected by an energy force field.
As a side note here, movie Rocket and animated series Rocket are very different from comic book Rocket. “We Are Family” appeared to be a way to reconcile some of Rocket’s comic origins with his movie history. It was also a clever way to bring in Rocket’s comic book supporting cast, Wal Rus (Richardson) and Blackjack (Sobolov) who previously didn’t have a place in this MCU-inspired series. If Lylla had appeared too, that would have been a nice touch.
Instead, we met Rocket’s family, Ma and Sis (both voiced by Pamela Adlon), and they were both shrill and incredibly abrasive. Essentially, Ma and Sis had the same personality, which I think was meant to make them seem more like Rocket. Ma was even cruel to Groot when he tried to introduce himself! But it just made them seem one-note and annoying. Then it was time for another info dump, as the robots revealed that the Cosmic Seed infused gems allowed them to accelerate the evolution of all of the animals on Halfworld…before realizing their mistake and attempting to undo the evolution. The robots tried to use Ma and Sis as leverage on Rocket, to make him give up the rebel base which he knew nothing about.
After Rocket tricked the machines into activating his pocket dimension vial, Groot and the racoons made their escape, only for Rocket’s rescue to be upstaged by the arrival of his older brother, Ranger (Devall) and the previously mentioned Wal Rus and Blackjack. Everyone in Rocket’s family called him “Runt” instead of his chosen name as they made their way back to rebel base. Once there, Ranger insisted upon the family taking a selfie together. In Ranger’s brief scenes the show gave him more personality than Ma and Sis combined.
Rocket also encountered Pyko (Brian George), the hyper-evolved turtle who was leading the rebel animals. Rocket and Groot took an immediate dislike to Pyko, and they snooped around to learn more. They soon discovered the damaged lead robot scientist, who insisted that the machines realized their mistake and that Pyko was now the one experimenting on his people. Pyko immediately appeared and had Ranger confiscate Rocket’s Cosmic Seed irradiated gem to mutate Ranger into a savage, roided out humanoid giant. It’s doubtful that Ranger knew that would happen, as both Wal Rus and Blackjack expressed horror at his transformation before being subjected to it themselves.
That led Rocket to form an uneasy truce with the robots in the hopes that they had a way to reverse the forced evolution of Halfworld. And of course they did, in the form of a ray gun. Finally, the rest of the Guardians arrived to “save” Rocket and Groot, and I had a good laugh as Quill complained about having entrance music when Rocket told him that a rescue wasn’t necessary. Quill even sidestepped how the Guardians got past the seemingly impenetrable energy shield by saying “I’ll explain later too.” Don’t get too clever, show. Although that was a pretty funny moment. It’s too bad that it was immediately undercut by Rocket’s Ma, who honestly could have been left out of this episode entirely.
By the time that Pyko arrived with his mutated soldiers, the Guardians (and especially Drax) finally had someone to fight while Rocket went after Pyko. I am starting to love the ridiculousness of Drax’s lines. When Gamora asked Drax if he had ever wrestled a giant walrus before, he said “not professionally”
In the end, it all came down to Rocket making a choice to give up his his sentience, and devolve the entire population of Halfworld to save his brother and end Pyko’s reign of terror. That was a strong character moment for Rocket, who had one last chance to say goodbye to his family before they were devolved back into regular raccoons. The de-evolutionary ray didn’t work on Rocket because he was “made” in an entirely different way. Rocket’s family rejected him again (mirroring their first appearance in Rocket’s origin sequence), but the robots promised to end their experiments and protect Halfworld’s inhabitants.
Back on the Milano, “I am Groot” meant “give Rocket some space,” as he mourned the loss of his family again. Circling back to the beginning of the episode, Drax complimented Rocket about the photo of his family and it made him feel better.
I love it when Guardians of the Galaxy moves away from the movieverse and introduces characters from Marvel’s comic book universe. “We Are Family” had a clever way of integrating Halfworld into this series, which made it more unfortunate that those characters were lost by the end of the episode. This was one of the better episodes of Guardians of the Galaxy, but the horrible writing of Rocket’s Ma and Sis just can’t be ignored. If the writing team had bothered to give Ma and Sis distinctive personalities that weren’t completely shrill, then it could have really stung when Rocket lost his family for a second time. What could have been a great episode was instead merely okay.
This series clearly hasn’t found itself yet. Some of the elements in “We Are Family” were encouraging steps in a positive direction. But the weak points in the episode served as a reminder that the show still has a long way to go.
What did you think about this week’s Guardians of the Galaxy? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image Credits: Marvel TV/Disney XD