Since I posted the first ANIMORPHS review last week, this site has seen a (comparatively) huge spike in traffic. We got over 100 views that day for the first time (we used to average about 10 views a day, 40 that time I talked about Girl Meets World) and since then, we’ve gotten at least 30 views a day. I’m mostly blaming Reddit for this. Also, people are still finding this blog by searching dog with a blog porno, which is unsettling. Anyway, I wrote this, now read it with your eyes.
Since we only covered a third of the first book last time, Jake is still our narrator. We catch up to him still walking down the same street from the beginning of episode one, voice-overing about how the Yeerks could be anyone—even a lawnmower man.
As Jake passes by random people on the street, the camera flips the fuck out at each of them to exemplify his paranoia. It comes across as pretty hokey, because these people look more than unassuming—they look silly, and throwing the camera at their skulls doesn’t make them spooky.
When he’s done having an episode, Jake stops by the abandoned construction site. It’s been covered in police officers and haz-mat goons. Secret Agent Jake infiltrates the area in his least-suspicious morph: a gawky teenager named Jake. This is the first instance of a huge reoccurring problem on the show: because CGI is expensive and scenes focused around animals are difficult to film, the Animorphs often don’t morph at all, and just blunder around in their secret identities for no reason. Jake sees Chapman yelling about Andalite bandits or whatever and gets the fuck out.
Fuck yeah, a llama!
We get a bunch of animal shots with some deer and what I think might be a caribou and, finally, a horse. Tobias/Wolf is staring at the horse, being a creep as usual.
In the book-TV conversion, Tobias suffers pretty hard. On the bright side, he gets more screen-time than in the first book. Unfortunately, it’s mostly used on him standing around being a weirdo, staring at people and randomly disappearing, and everyone kind of thinks he’s a creep. Book-Tobias had a lot of angst, but he was also a pretty optimistic kid who was fucking psyched to transform into birds and shit so he could fly away from his problems. TV Tobias freaks me the fuck out.
It turns out we’re at the Wildlife Preserve run by Cassie’s parents. Mama Cassie shows up and is like, “Hey weird kid, are you looking for my daughter? Because I’ll call the cops.” Tobias is too busy eye-fucking the hawk she’s carrying around to answer. Marco and Rachel show up and are all, “It’s chill, this is Tobias, we don’t have any proof yet that he’s killed anyone.”
Mama Cassie brings them into the barn, which is full of animals, and Tobias is still freaking out over his hawk. It turns out the hawk’s mother was killed by a poacher. Tobias and Marco sympthasize with that, which certainly can’t be an important character detail for later.
Jake shows up, too, looking for Cassie, and her mom peaces out to find her. Jake calls a secret meeting of the Animorphs in the AniBarn, but Tobias just starts petting the damn bird. Jake tells Marco and Rachel about his visit to the crash site, and they deduce that the Yeerks have infiltrated the police. Jake yells at Tobias to stop fucking around and tell him about the disk he dropped. Tobias gets super pissy about that. Jake suggests they all head back to the crash site as animals to look for it. Then Cassie shows up as a horse. We learn that the show has decided to add a terrible filter (similar to Visser Three’s) whenever the Animorphs communicate telepathically (or in “thought-speak”). It sucks. Moving on. Cassie demorphs back to human and they’re really, really trying here.
Cassie has a huge boner for being a horse, and she’s kind of a shitty actress this week. Rachel wants to chase that same high. She morphs a barn cat, but I think she turns out more like a Bratz doll.
Being a cat turns Rachel into a bitch, but no one notices much of a difference. Jake is like, “Your turn, Marco,” and Marco says fuck that. Jake tries to apply more peer pressure, but Marco goes off on him about the mortal peril they’re all engaged in. Then he says, “You don’t even know what reality is,” and oh, it’s time for Sad Moment. Turns out that Marco’s mom is dead.
Marco doesn’t want to be involved in this shit, because if something happens to him, his dad will have nothing left. This is a major part of Marco’s character, but it really comes out of left field in this scene. It passes just as quick; Cassie brings up the valid point that Marco is more likely to survive if he can transform into a gorilla and beat the shit out of everyone than as a teenage boy in a big orange coat who won’t stop bitching about having superpowers. So he turns into a rat. At least, he tries to. Since he doesn’t believe in himself or the heart of the Animorphs, he gets stuck halfway through and turns out like this.
He tries again and gets it, so whatever. Then Cat-Rachel tries to eat him. She claims to be overcome by the animal instinct, but I think she’s just sick of his shit. Everyone declares the afternoon a shitty disaster and they all become humans again. Jake is all, “Well, we all did it, let’s go eat a pizza or something,” and then they realize they’ve all forgotten Tobias. They also didn’t notice him leaving. Friends forever.
Marco calls Tobias a dickhead and fears that the weirdo’s gonna crack and sell them out to the Yeerks. Jake defends him while Tobias lurks behind a tree like the kind of kid who steals underwear from his classmates with they’re at cheerleading practice.
This is A) a pretty shitty interpretation of Tobias’s character and B) pretty unnecessary drama. We’re twelve minutes into Episode 2 and we still haven’t covered half of the first book’s material, so the choice to pad out the run-time with making Tobias look sketchy is really bizarre to me. The kids keep arguing about it, and Rachel mentions that Tobias “said he doesn’t have parents.” They force Jake to make an executive decision on their next action, and he decides they need to get Elfangor’s disk back, although that was already the plan like five minutes ago.
Later, at Rachel’s house, our favorite Marco-murderer is gifting her little sister with a necklace she previously banned the child from touching. She hugs her sister tight before going off on Operation Find the Plot Device. This is a nice little character moment, especially since Rachel has been given few qualities so far beyond “girl” and “wants the Tobias D.” A+, Animorphs.
At Marco’s house, Marco makes dinner for his depressed-as-shit dad. Jake shows up to drag Marco along on the mission. Marco grabs a paper bag full of mystery and a boom box and lies to his dad about going on a scavenger hunt. His dad wants him to stay, under guise of “I can’t program the VCR,” but Marco has to go. As he’s checking his hair in the mirror, his dad tells him, “Don’t worry about it. You’re beautiful.” This is cute as shit and another solid, character-building scene. Marco leaves and his dad eats some sad spaghetti.
Rachel and Cassie wait at the crash site while Chapman orders some mooks to clean up the wreckage evidence. Jake and Marco show up and the plan goes into action, with Rachel morphing (totally off-screen) into a cat. She surveys the site, spots the disk, and reports back.
The kids enact their plan.
Step 1: Marco plays some alien sound-effects on his boom box while waving flares around and shouting, “Help, help, they’re landing.” Then he runs away.
Step 2: Cassie morphs into a horse, paints her legs blue (who did that? Jake? So quickly?) and walks behind a truck, looking like an Andalite to the Controllers. This begs the question of why the fake Andalite cobbled together by some kids looks way better than the real Andalites from last week.
Step 3: Chapman sends literally every single one of his men to chase the Andalite.
Step 4: Jake, as Dog, digs up the disk. He finds it just before Chapman spots him and Cat-Rachel, who is just hanging out I guess. They escape, with Jake in the lead…and he gets them trapped in a goddamn pipe again!
Without Homer to show up and save them this time, the kids are trapped fur real. Then a hawk shows up and punches Chapman in the head, allowing them to escape. The kids reconvene in the woods and are totally psyched about their new toy.
The rescue hawk shows up and turns back into Tobias.
The gang are all glad he saved the day, and that he just wanted to BE the barn hawk, not flay it alive or hide it under his pillow. They all agree that he can be their friend as long as he stops stealing Rachel’s underwear. Then there’s a weird bit where Marco freaks out and asks, “Where’s the disk?” even though Jake literally just showed it to him. They stare at it and wonder about its purpose. Is it a weapon? Is it secret war info? Is it a stupid fucking plot device that will go nowhere and become one of the show’s frustrating elements?
This episode was worse than the first. I really appreciated the nice bits with Marco and Rachel’s families, but otherwise, not much happened. Jake stared at a lawnmower man, dicked around at the crash site, they all turned into random barn animals, then they stole the disk back. Their plan to grab the disk was inventive I guess, but pretty weird. Why did the distraction need to be Marco, in his recognizable civilian identity, waving lights and yelling about aliens? If Jake was off being a dog, Marco was running away, and Rachel was a cat, who painted Horse-Cassie’s legs blue? The stuff with Tobias was pretty weird, and rendered a non-issue when he shows up at the end and becomes their buddy. The episode covered almost nothing from the book, other than introducing Marco’s family background, alluding to Tobias’s, and having a scene where they practice morphing. The next episode continues to cover Book #1, dealing with its climax, which should be way more interesting than anything on display here. Not sure what they were doing with this one.
Adaptation Rating: 2/5. Very little from the book was covered; it was almost all original content. I’m trying to reserve 1/5 ratings for when the show absolutely bastardizes a book plot; this episode just kind of ignored and stretched it out.
Special Effects: 3/5. I don’t know, sure. The morphing still looked silly, but there were no stupid-ass aliens—they made a wise choice to only deal with human controllers in a plot where there would reasonably be no alien presence. The fake Andalite-Horse-Cassie looked better than Elfangor.
Character Development: Tobias fucking loves birds. Rachel is nice to her sister. Marco has a dead mom and his dad is a suicide risk.
’90s Bullshit: Dads who can’t program the VCR. Kids getting stuck in pipes.
Overall Rating: 3/5. Not offensive, but not that engaging. Middle of the road.
Next Week: Maybe we’ll finally finish the first book.