MP (militarypenguin) wrote,

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Aladdin: The Animated Series capsule reviews (episodes 41-50)

This was the most difficult batch of reviews to write. For whatever reason I constantly struggled to come up with words to convey what I thought of the episode, regardless of the overall quality. I also did something I didn’t do with the previous reviews, and that was writing the reviews “when I felt like it” as opposed to writing down my impressions while they were fresh in my mind after viewing the episodes. As a result, I was left with a lot of reviews to write, and not a lot to say. Never doing something like that again. Anyway! On to the reviews.

Episode 41 - The Seven Faces of Genie
Summary: Abis Mal throws a bomb meant to destroy Genie, but ends up splitting him into seven different personalities instead.

Review: You know an episode’s not going to be at its prime when the source of conflict can be summarized as “for some reason.” In this case, just as the gang is about to arrive to Getzistan to meet its sultan, Aladdin informs Genie that he is going to be one of the diplomats, and Sultan goes over all the requirements of a diplomat that he couldn’t have prepared for him ahead of time! For some reason. On top of that, Genie needs to make a good impression because things are strained between the sultan of Agrabah and the sultan of Getzistan that, again, Sultan and Aladdin couldn’t have let Genie know about ahead of time! For some reason.

A possible, different approach to this that would allow for the same core scenario would be that Aladdin (who I still don’t believe for a second would be totally on top of and into all these royal tasks) is going over the rules of diplomacy that he’d been sleeping on, Genie enters the picture, Aladdin realizes he’d been so caught up on trying to review the notes and stressing over making a good impression at the last minute that he forgot to let Genie know he’s a diplomat too, as well as what’s going on with the relationship between Agrabah and Getzistan’s rulers at the moment, and gives a frantic, confusing summary to Genie that leads to the plot of the episode. This would allow for both a concrete origin of conflict, and get Aladdin’s own character and personality involved in a way that doesn’t hog the spotlight from what’s supposed to be Genie’s episode.

This also an episode where the solution is Genie learning to do exactly what he taught Aladdin in the original film. While at first glance, it seems like a blatant oversight on the part of the writers to have Aladdin tell Genie to be himself, it’s not a bad idea for a scenario. It could showcase that Genie, for all his infinite (or semi-infinite, in the case of the TV series) power and wisdom, sometimes has to re-learn lessons he’s learned long before, and who better to teach him that than the individual he recently taught it to? It’s a bit surprising Aladdin’s revelation didn’t come with a “That’s right! This is the same thing he taught me about before!” and ends up being an anticlimactic “Genie! Be yourself!” instead.

The episode isn’t entirely without merit–it’s entertaining, the facets of Genie are given distinct, memorable designs, and there’s a few good exchanges between Haroud and Abis Mal–but it’s a hollow experience that doesn’t execute its concept as engagingly as it could have.

Grade: C

Episode 42 - The Wind Jackal of Mozenrath
Summary: Aladdin, Jasmine, and Abu attempt to go on a secret mission to get a powerful magical weapon away from Mozenrath’s grasp, but are thwarted when Iago and Genie disturb the mission. As a result, the gang is captured and Mozenrath gets his hands on the weapon, a wind-based demon named Sirocco, and must find a way to free themselves in time before he uses it to destroy Agrabah.

Review: Both of the Mozenrath episodes we’ve had so far have been outstanding, so does this episode continue to follow that pattern? Well, mostly.

It gets off at an excellent start with the Aladdin-Jasmine-Abu team-up in the spooky, atmospheric setting of Mozenrath’s city. Genie, Iago, and Carpet are seen back at the palace, and it seems like it’s going to be a similar deal as “The Secret of Dagger Rock” with a couple of the characters being benched, but not before showing us how they’re doing first. Alas, it seems the writers don’t have enough faith in kids being entertained by an episode without Genie as a major presence, and he, Iago, and Carpet end up getting shoehorned into the plot as a result of Iago carrying the conflict ball. To the episode’s credit, it does use a useful ability of Iago’s that had gone forgotten before (voice mimicry), but it’s hard to enjoy as an accomplishment without thinking that all of this trouble wouldn’t have happened and we might have gotten an episode full of sneaking and stealth instead if it weren’t for Iago and his big mouth.

It’s still a great episode, however; it just has the misfortune of being the predecessor of two even better ones, making its flaws all the more apparent. The characterizations of Aladdin and Jasmine are ultimately the most important thing to me when it comes to episodes of Aladdin, and they’re both written superbly here. If one hasn’t been sold on the idea that Aladdin and Jasmine are equals before, this episode should be the one to turn that around, as we get to see them work as a team together with such competence and teamwork that they’d probably have accomplished the mission had it not been for Genie and Iago’s arrival.

You might have noticed I haven’t really talked much about Mozenrath here, and that’s because in addition to this being his “weakest” (a term I use very loosely here) episode, this was also probably his weakest appearance. I didn’t mind him leaving the Aladdin gang to slowly be killed instead of killing them right then and there as much as another person might (he did have a city to destroy, after all), but his comical takedown at the end by Genie didn’t really sit right with me. It’s fair that Mozenrath, being the evil mirror of Aladdin, would have similar weaknesses and susceptibility to being beaten, but it’s been done in previous episodes without making him the laughingstock.

Grade: A-

Episode 43 - Clockwork Hero
Summary: A kid named Waheed wants to become a hero and finds a means of doing so through Mechanikles’s latest weapon.

Review: It looks like I may have to eat my own words regarding the use of kid characters as heroes in shows that don’t star children that I discussed in my “Caught by the Tale” review. Kid characters as the heroes are fine…as long as they’re kids, not idealized adult visions of what kids should be. Waheed is a kid; he wants to be a hero, but doesn’t realize how in over his head he is, he’s caring, but a bit reckless. He learns to master Mechanikles’s giant robot, but not without a lot of close-shaves and struggling frantically to figure out how it works.

He is, unlike the kids of “Caught by the Tale,” a flawed child hero. And it helps that the narrative is very aware of this, too; instead of the story being an “anyone can be a hero” episode, it’s an “anyone can be a hero as long as you’re aware of your limits” episode. It’s not taking Waheed down a peg and telling him he can’t be a hero, he just lacks the experience and wisdom to take on more dangerous tasks. Along with this is Aladdin playing an endearing, big brother-type figure to him, as opposed to the perfect ideal hero he was to the kids in “Caught by the Tale,” and it works. Aladdin’s pride is even challenged when the Mechanikle’s robot saves him and the rest of Agrabah, and he’s completely in denial that the person working the robot could be remotely heroic, again, casting him in a less idealized and more grounded light that makes his relationship with Waheed more interesting than if it’d been just Waheed hero-worshipping Aladdin who dishes out cautionary advice. It’s only briefly touched upon, but it’s a neat touch regardless.

Grade: B-

Episode 44 - Mission: Imp Possible
Summary: Aladdin is poisoned and Genie must work with his despised rival Nefir to get the cure.

Review: Once I got over my initial disappointment of Jasmine not joining in on the adventure, this was a mostly enjoyable romp that did more with its premise than I predicted it would. The Bog of Forgetfulness brings about the most fun-to-watch interactions between the characters, and the showdown with the beastly moth continues letting the characters’ personalities bounce off one and another and eventually have to begrudgingly put their heads together.

It’s more than I would have expected out of a Genie-Iago team-up episode, and it’s helped by the addition of Nefir. I didn’t expect nor eagerly anticipate that we’d ever see the character again, but he ended up helping to break the mold of the usual “Genie and Iago butt heads together" or “Genie does something stupid, Iago points it out” formulas and allowing for something more dynamic to drive the episode.

Grade: B-

Episode 45 - Stinker Belle
Summary: The Aladdin gang visit Odiferus, the land of barbarians, to see the wedding of Prince Uncouthma. Unfortunately, his bride has fallen for Aladdin.

Review: I feel like I’ve overused the word “fun” at this point, but this was a fun episode. Not quite “Never Say Nefir” or “Plunder the Sea”-level fun, but very, very close. I’d say the only thing that prevents it from reaching that level is that pseudo-vikings don’t quite beat out rock-offs or high sea adventures, but that’s entirely subjective, and if you love burly meatheads with ridiculous customs to match, you’ll have a blast with this episode.

It’s always awkward for me to admit I really like an episode because of certain trope I like, that I can’t back up with reason apart from pleasure. In this case, it’s the big, beautiful, brawny woman wanting to protect a “frail” man, especially when the man in question is a hero like Aladdin. Refreshingly, there are no forced romantic misunderstandings or jealousy between Aladdin and Jasmine here as a result of this situation, and they behave rationally throughout, trying to figure a way out of it while also wanting to keep the alliance between their countries maintained. Even with the rest of the gang there, this is mainly an Aladdin-Jasmine episode, and it demonstrates that it’s possible to have them both showing affection for one another and running the episode without losing that action-adventure touch to keep the youngsters engaged.

The only notable downside of the episode is that the villain, Runta, is pretty lacking in every conceivable way, even for a villain who’s written to be a failure. But he’s not the real star of the episode and is mostly a catalyst for getting the plot moving that fades into the background, so I’m pretty forgiving of it.

Grade: A-

Episode 46 - Shadow of a Doubt
Summary: Mirage plants an obelisk in front of Agrabah, casting a shadow that makes everything it touches disappear.

Review: Mirage is back! We still don’t know any more about what Iago meant about her being “evil incarnate” than what we started with, but she’s now being referred to it as a commonality, so I think it’s safe to say Iago wasn’t just pulling Genie’s leg. Her actions haven’t gotten as downright horrifying as Mozenrath’s, but she pretty much does what she does because she’s evil, so hey! I’ll accept it. There’s never enough woman villains who are villains just for the fun of it, anyway.

Aladdin steals the credit of beating Mirage from Genie! Unless my suspicions about these episodes possibly being out of order are correct, in which case, that may be true. Otherwise, it was a continuity flub on the writers’ part. It’s funny, because we already had an episode surrounded around the problem of Aladdin taking the credit from Genie in Mechanikle’s debut episode, and here we actually see it demonstrated, if inadvertently. I suppose it’s a bit of a nitpick on my part, as it’s not a major part of the episode, but it still stood out enough that I took immediate notice of it.

Iago comments that the palace is a place he’d “like to live someday.” We’ve seen him sleeping at Aladdin’s place before, and while I can gather as much that they probably didn’t have Aladdin sleeping under Jasmine’s roof out of fear of protesting parents, I’m at a loss for why Iago is stuck with Aladdin. I guess it’s just in case he tries to steal something, but why would he need to steal anything if he’s a resident of the palace? Maybe they decided he was Aladdin’s responsibility since it was Aladdin’s idea to give him another chance to begin with. Maybe I’m rambling.

I’m talking a lot about the little details and neglecting to discuss the bigger picture, but that’s because the bigger picture just isn’t that interesting. There was potential once the mirror’s riddle came up with the mirror-verse of Agrabah, but it’s all bizarrely unexciting in execution, with a resolution that lacks any kind of punch.

Grade: C

Episode 47 - Smells Like Trouble
Summary: Cheese-loving lizards with breath that leaves its victims petrified and ill invade Odiferus.

Review: Getting the question on everyone’s mind out of the way: how did Uncouthma and his wife birth a child who’s already at the age of walking and talking? Answer: a) they found and adopted him or b) Odiferus-born people have ludicrous growth spurts. As more reasonable as answer A may be, I kind of love the idea B presents that the people of Odiferus are ridiculously burly from the onset. I guess that does pose the question of why Runta grew up to be so small in stature, but he may have been born outside of the city and taken in or it’s regarded as a birth defect by the citizens, which would explain why they have little awareness of how much the physical builds of the likes of Aladdin’s and Jasmine’s can take. Man, I’m thinking a lot about this.

We’re already back in Odiferus, and the time spent here isn’t quite as fun as the time in “Stinker Belle.” This is partly because of a thinner, less involving plot, and partly because the child of Uncouthma and Brawnhilda is a bit of annoying. While clearly written to be so, the child’s broken vocabulary grates, and he has the addition of Elizabeth Daily’s Tommy Pickles voice that I found to be endlessly distracting and too overtly cutesy for my liking. Still, the reactions Aladdin provides when dealing with the physical affection from these giants are pretty priceless, and I liked that the episode recognized Aladdin’s real talent lies in his brains, not his brawn, and put it to use throughout.

Grade: B-

Episode 48 - The Way We War
Summary: Nefir orchestrates a war between Agrabah and Odiferus in hopes of getting rich.

Review: A war in which the enemy is attacking with cheese shouldn’t be boring, but it is. The characters, even the most grounded ones, treat it as a legitimate threat, which could possibly be funny in and of itself if the episode itself didn’t frame it as a serious threat. Frustrating lack of reasoning between characters, uninteresting dynamics, and a low-stakes plot that sells itself as a high-stakes one make this an absolute bore to sit through.

Yet it has one of the best exchanges in the entire series:
Nefir: You mean [Iago] wouldn’t volunteer to defend [his] mother country?!
Genie: He wouldn’t volunteer to defend his mother.

Grade: D-

Episode 49 - Night of the Living Mud
Summary: Aladdin’s been exhausted from all his adventures, and the gang agrees he needs a well-deserved night off. However, one of the mud beasts has gotten into the palace, and Genie is determined to fend it off without disturbing Aladdin’s peace.

Review: It’s another drag of an episode. There’s a couple adorable moments between Aladdin and Jasmine at the beginning of the episode, but once the focus shifts to Genie and the rest of the gang it’s all downhill from there. The infuriating source of conflict (Genie’s adamant refusal to cut Aladdin’s night short and ask for help doesn’t even have time to register as admirably compassionate before it becomes apparent it only serves to pad out the episode length) and predictable outcome (Aladdin eventually learns about what’s going on, Genie saves the day) suck out any possible excitement. Give the first few minutes a look and then skip it.

Grade: D

Episode 50 - Egg-stra Protection
Summary: Aladdin gets ahold of a griffin egg stolen by Abis Mal, but bruises a few ribs in the process of getting it. Stubbornly determined to return the egg to its mother, Jasmine and Genie agree to let Aladdin go on his quest, provided they keep a close eye on him and prevent him from doing anything drastic.

Review: Simple and enjoyable, with some genuinely funny moments (namely Genie’s visualized “warning” to Aladdin) sprinkled throughout. It’s not a stand-out episode, but it delivers what it can.

Grade: B-
Tags: aladdin
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