Last year, I did a review of an episode of the G.I.Joe cartoon. I’m not sure most people appreciated it, but Squinty seemed to like it. And since I owe him a favor, I decided to review another episode.
Today’s episode is titled Cobra’s Creatures. It was written by Kimmer Ringwald. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the name Kimmer before. Has anyone?
By now, you should know the basic setup of the show: Cobra is evil, they try to take over the world, and G.I.Joe has to stop them. Hilarity ensues.
The episode starts off with three Joes flying Skystriker jets. The purpose of the flight? To see if dogs can effectively be used as paratroopers.
Yes, that’s right. They want to see if dogs can safely parachute from jets. I’m not sure how they’re going to apply this, but keep in mind, this was the Reagan 80’s. The military could spend money on random crap like this.
The test subject is the Joes’ resident canine soldier Junkyard. He’s in the backseat of a jet flown by his handler Mutt.
I should point out that some of the Joes have animal companions who accompany and assist them. Based on some of their actions, the animals seem to be blessed with human intelligence. In fact, you could make a point that the animals are smarter than the humans on the show.
One of the other Skystrikers is being flown by Ripcord, the Joes’ paratrooper. It isn’t clear why he was necessary for this mission, but I’m just amazed that they actually used him in a situation that calls for his expertise. Too often, they seem to send their specialists into situations that don’t require their particular skills. That’s why you’ll sometimes see their arctic troopers fighting in the jungle.
In case you were wondering, the cartoon Ripcord does not look much like the movie version.
The final Skystriker is being piloted by Flint, the mission leader. As established last year, Flint doesn’t really give a crap about the well-being of his fellow Joes, and he’s actually kind of a dick.
In this episode, we learn that Flint’s dickishness is not limited to humans. When the time comes to eject an unsuspecting Junkyard from his plane, Flint seems to get an almost sadistic thrill from it.
It was hard to capture, but I really got a kick out of the “WTF?” expression on Junkyard’s face as he is ejected from the plane.
After Ripcord, Mutt, and Junkyard eject, Flint somehow loses sight of the three paratroopers as they fall through a cloud bank. He probably just wasn’t paying attention.
The Joes immediately suspect Cobra, because in the G.I.Joe universe, anytime anything goes wrong, it is automatically Cobra’s fault. Heavy traffic? Must be some sot of Cobra plot. Lousy weather? Must be the Cobra’s doing! (And admittedly, Cobra did once invent a device that could control the weather. So maybe they’ve got a point.)
What do you know? The Joes were right. Cobra was responsible! Apparently, they had a fleet of helicopters waiting in the clouds, ready to intercept the Joes with the one piece of technology that almost never fails in the Joe universe: A giant net.
This leads to a few questions:
- How did Cobra know that the Joes were going to be there?
- Wasn’t it especially fortunate that there was a thick cloud cover at the exact spot where the Joe paratroopers would be falling? There hasn’t been an evil plot this dependent on the weather since Die Hard 2.
- Don’t the Skystrikers come equipped with radar? Shouldn’t Flint have detected the helicopters? (Oh wait, this one can likely be placed in the “Flint is a dick” category. He probably noticed the Cobra helicopters and just ignored them)
The captured Joes are taken to a nearby castle that is being used as Cobra’s base. Cobra Commander is waiting there along with another staple of the series: A scientist in a long, white lab coat.
In a rare change of pace, the scientist was not kidnapped by Cobra. Instead, he is an evil scientist who is voluntarily assisting Cobra. In a rare display of subtlety, the writers named the evil scientist “Dr. Lucifer.” What was their second choice? Dr. Evil Bad Guy?
I had to pause for a few seconds to get over my disappointment that they used a random scientist here instead of Destro.
Dr. Lucifer has developed a device that will allow Cobra to control the minds of any animal or insect. The reason they captured Junkyard was to test the device on him. Cobra Commander declares that if it works on a G.I.Joe dog, then it assuredly would work on any animal.
Cobra Commander has had many bad ideas in the past, but this time, I really can’t argue with his logic. You could ask if it wouldn’t be just as effective to go test the device on some wild animals rather than take the extreme risk of capturing the Joes. But in theory, his plan is solid.
In classic Cobra Commander fashion, the smart decisions are quickly overshadowed by some inexplicably poor ones.
He has the device used on Junkyard and orders him to attack Mutt. But instead of having Junkyard attack him on the spot, he gives Mutt a sporting chance, and allows him to leave the castle. To show how “evil” he is, Cobra Commander lies about how much of a head start Mutt has, but that only slightly lessens the degree of idiocy.
Junkyard does run after Mutt, but as far as Cobra knows, Junkyard could have been just running off in friendly pursuit. And even if the dog is truly under Cobra’s control, why are they even risking that Mutt could escape? This leads credence to my theory that Cobra Commander is not truly evil, he just wants attention from the Joes.
Despite not seeing Junkyard actually attack or kill Mutt, Cobra Commander accepts this demonstration as proof that the device works. He orders his troops to begin using the device on various groups of animals.
First, Cobra soldiers use it on a pack of lions who capture an oil field. Next, a group of whales are ordered to surround an oil tanker. Finally, a swarm of grasshoppers attack some G.I.Joe aircraft.
At first glance, it seems like Cobra’s plot is working perfectly. But I have to ask: If Cobra wanted to take over an oilfield, wouldn’t it be more effective to just use their plethora of tanks and jets?
Sure, it might be frightening to see a pack of lions approaching the oil fields, but isn’t it just as frightening to see a platoon of fully armed tanks? And when the military comes to rescue the oilfield, they’re going to have a much easier time getting rid of the lions than they would the tanks. Do you know why? BECAUSE LIONS DON’T SHOOT BACK!
Meanwhile, in the jungle, Junkyard is in hot pursuit of Mutt. Mutt keeps trying to reason with the dog, but Junkyard’s eyes continue to glow with the blue light of mind control. It is implied that Junkyard is fighting the mind control because he seems somewhat reluctant to actually attack. When he finally does, Mutt grabs a stick and knocks him out with a swing that would make Albert Pujols proud.
Back at G.I.Joe base, the Joes are watching a television broadcast by Cobra Commander, who is announcing that he has taken over the world. To prove his point, he shows that the Kremlin is surrounded by wolves, Parliament is overrun by rhinoceroses, and the U.S. Capitol building has been captured by an army of birds.
I’m really not buying the sense of urgency here. Sure, the animal armies might be a nuisance, but the Joes have stopped much more imposing threats before. Heck, the Joes once defeated Cobra even after being shrunk down to miniature size? Once you’ve managed that, what’s a few angry birds?
We then learn exactly why Dr. Lucifer is helping Cobra. The woman he loves – Dr. Attila (another brilliant example of subtlety in character names) – is being held in a maximum security prison. When Cobra Commander lists his demands to the world, one of them is the release of Dr. Attila.
The Joes listen to Cobra’s demands, and Doc (the Joe medic) figures out how the Cobra weapon works, and knows that it must be the work of Dr. Lucifer. The Joes remember that Lucifer has a thing for Dr. Attila, and so they plan to have Scarlett impersonate her.
And now comes my favorite scene of the show. Cobra goes to “Stonehall Prison” and attempt to free Dr. Attila by threatening the warden with a pack of panthers.
Did any of the Cobra soldiers ask, “Hey, wouldn’t it be easier just to use our guns rather than go to the trouble of finding and transporting these panthers? Isn’t the warden going to feel just as threatened if we held a gun in his face?”
Would you like to guess what Dr. Attila is wearing in prison? If you said, “long, white lab coat,” you’d be correct!
Of course, “Dr. Attila” is really Scarlett is disguise. You might think that Scarlett would have done some background research. Instead, she acts completely out of character, and Dr. Lucifer figures out it isn’t the real Dr. Attila in seconds. Brilliant work, Scarlett.
I’d normally say that it was a big assumption that she would be the correct height and weight, but that isn’t really a major concern. As far as I can tell, everyone in the G.I.Joe universe is approximately the same size.
Scarlett is taken to the castle’s dungeon to join Ripcord. Why did Cobra even bother to keep Ripcord alive. My theory: Ripcord is a Cobra spy.
Think about it: Someone had to alert Cobra about the skydiving experiment, and let them know the exact location. Ripcord was conveniently excluded from the “Have Junkyard attack Mutt plan.” He was probably only placed in the dungeon so that he could fool Scarlett and maybe extract some information from her.
In an example of extreme sloppiness, the Cobras don’t bother to search Scarlett for weapons or homing devices. It wasn’t like the homing device was well hidden either. It was right there on her wristband!
It’s obvious that Cobra Commander wants to be found by the Joes, but assuming that his minions aren’t in on it, wouldn’t at least one of them think to search her before throwing her in the dungeon? I know it can be frustrating dealing with a lousy boss, but the Cobras need to overcome that by showing some initiative and common sense.
Once the Joes learn the location of Cobra’s base, Flint starts preparing an attack. One of the other Joes asks if maybe they shouldn’t try to rescue Scarlett before they march in and destroy the base. Flint quickly covers up the fact that he doesn’t really care about Scarlett’s well-being by claiming that he didn’t want to send anyone on such a dangerous mission unless they volunteered.
It might be telling that Flint was my favorite member of the Joes when I was a child.
At the Cobra castle, Dr. Lucifer has Scarlett and Ripcord attacked by an army of spiders. The spiders climb all over the Joes, but don’t seem to actually bite them. This means that either Dr. Lucifer didn’t check to see if the spiders were poisonous, or he got unlucky enough to find a group of spiders that were reluctant to bite. Or maybe he did it on purpose, not wanting to kill off their sleeper agent Ripcord.
Even if it isn’t fatal, having a swarm of spiders crawl all over them is pretty gross.
Back in the jungle, Junkyard is still chasing after Mutt. We witness an amazing sequence where Junkyard is attacked by an alligator, and Mutt has to wrestle the alligator so that Junkyard can escape. Mutt then checks on Junkyard and is shocked when the dog attacks him again.
I understand that Mutt is upset by his dog turning on him, but I’m rapidly losing any sympathy for him. I don’t know why he can’t grasp the fact that the dog is under mind control, and will keep attacking him.
Two of the Joes are now attempting a rescue mission: Snake Eyes, accompanied by his wolf Timber, and Spirit, accompanied by his eagle Spirit. In the comics, Snake Eyes was a total bad ass ninja. In the cartoon, unable to decapitate people with his sword, he usually just made funny hand gestures.
The castle is surrounded by a moat filled with piranhas, so the Joes decide to walk up to the gate and act like their animal companions have taken them prisoner. Naturally, the guards let them in, no questions asked.
I’m assuming that all of the Cobra soldiers are so worn down by the insane plots and constant failure that they don’t bother even questioning things any more. Should we search the prisoners before putting them in the dungeon? Why bother? The Commander is probably just going to give them weapons when he makes them compete in some sort of gladiator fight. Should we question it when a random wolf and eagles bring in a couple of armed Joes? Nah, it’s probably part of the plan.
Once inside, Scarlett and Ripcord are set free, and Scarlett gets some revenge by bitch slapping the heck out of some Cobra guards. Of course, the guards could have easily stopped the Joes had they simply used the revolutionary technique of firing their weapons. Instead, they passively let the Joes beat the crap out of them.
Despite his earlier sentiment that he wanted to wait until the prisoners were free, Flint orders the Joes to attack the castle. And amazingly, Flint actually does something effective when he flies into the castle with a jet pack and lowers the drawbridge, allowing the rest of the Joes to enter.
Cobra tries to use their machine to summon animals to assist them, but Cobra Commander is stopped by Freedom the eagle. His interference gives the Joes enough time to shoot the machine and foil Cobra’s plot.
The machine was destroyed just in the nick of time, as Junkyard is released from the mind control, and has a tearful reunion with Mutt.
In a final twist, apparently Dr. Lucifer is awarded a happy ending of sorts. He is placed in the same cell in the Stonehall Prison as Dr. Attila. Apparently, in maximum security prisons, male and female prisoners are housed together. In long, white lab coats nonetheless!
This episode was really hurt by not including any of the usual Cobra henchmen like Destro, Zartan, or the Baroness. The generic Dr. Lucifer didn’t really add anything to the episode aside from questionable fashion choices.
I’m also wondering if the episode was sending some sort of pacifist message since Cobra did just about everything they could not to use their weapons. Every time there was an opportunity to use a gun or tank, they opted not to. Then again, Cobra lost because they didn’t use their weapons. So maybe this episode was teaching us that violence solves everything? Gotta love the 80’s!
I also would have liked to see Ripcord see some consequences for his role as a Cobra spy, but sadly, that issue went unaddressed.
As a bonus, here’s another one of G.I.Joe’s famous public service announcements!
We see some kids spray painting graffiti on a public sculpture. Bob comes along, and doesn’t want to participate, but his friends begin to apply peer pressure. They threaten to tell everyone what a sissy he is.
I give Bob a lot of credit. I don’t think I would be able to hold out for long against that kind of taunting.
Fortunately, Flint is there to intervene and save the day. Of course, being Flint, the amount of heroism he actually displays is limited.
You would expect a military man would step in and do something about the blatant vandalism. But instead, Flint sits back and lets the kids deface public property, just so he can teach Bob a lesson. Wouldn’t it have been an equally valuable lesson to show him that vandals are punished and go to jail? Nope, despite the property defacement, Flint is satisfied that everyone has learned a valuable lesson, and let’s them all go free.
There’s no getting around it. Flint is a dick.