For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come (Captain Power: Pariah)

The more astute among you may have noticed that it’s been about a year since my last Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future post. More than two years since my last episode review. Those of you who pay very close attention may suspect that it might have something to do with the fact that my review of episode 4 was published on December 10, 2011, and my son was born on December 12, 2011. I’ve been otherwise disposed.

Of course, now my son is old enough to want to watch Captain Power, only not the vaguely sci-fi-rapey episodes. In retrospect, I don’t know what I was thinking. But he likes pointing the Power Jet at the screen and “Shooting the bad guys”, even if I never did manage to get the jet to work with the DVDs (I suspect the sensor in the jet is shot, since it won’t register shooting itself in room-mode if you point it at a mirror either.)

But even more than the fact that watching TV with a toddler is distracting, I just really couldn’t find an angle on this one. Over the past four episodes, we’ve had the misfortune of magic sci-fi-rape, some really awkward gender role stuff, tortured Vietnam metaphors, and, well, Kasko. Then we get to Pariah, the original pilot for the series, the one meant to sell the Captain Power experience and it’s… Fine. Okay. I mean, it’s a good, serviceable workman-like business-as-usual episode. But it really lacks… Well, anything noteworthy, really. It adds very little to the ongoing story of Lord Dread’s convoluted multi-stage plan, no one does anything really aggressively sexist, at least not enough that you could distinguish it from any other show of its period.

So this kind of episode is hard to find an angle on. I mean, if I walk you though the salient points of the plot, I am done by the end of this paragraph: Hawk spends the better part of twenty minutes talking to a slang-talking teenage orphan while slowly falling asleep, occasionally punctuated by a short exchange of gunfire with robots.

Yeah. It’s another Hawk character-focus episode. The rest of the regular cast is largely absent — they do get a fight with Soaron, which I suppose is interesting because it’s the only time that we don’t do the obligatory Sauron vs Hawk fight, but really, nothing they do advances the plot. Actually, nothing much advances the plot; everyone just sort of mills about until they reach the appointed time, then moves on to the next part of the story. The major hurdle of the episode is “Will the team make it to Hawk in time?” and the answer is “Yes, as it turns out, they will,” in a way that feels very much like if you made a heist movie where the only real conflict was “Will the getaway driver find a good parking spot?”

Which I guess speaks to what I’ve said before about this show feeling atimes awfully perfunctory. Things often don’t feel like they happen for any satisfying diagetic reason so much as “because we are now seventeen minutes in, so it’s time for a fight scene.” And indeed, the final fight scene here feels like Hawk basically just says “Okay, I’m kinda bored with this now,” stands up, powers on, and walks out to have a fight. There’s more to it than that, sure, but the only reason that this time, it leads to a big fight and all the other times it didn’t is because we’re at the eighteen minute mark.

I mean, sure, there’s a big reveal about the kid and Lord Dread’s evil plans, but it’s telegraphed so obviously that you yourself have probably figured it out already even though I’ve basically only said one sentence about it.

Because, of course, the plot of this episode isn’t the point of this episode. The point of this episode is for Hawk to react to this kid, whose name I’m told is Mitch, and be all heartfelt and suchlike because Mitch reminds Hawk of his own (presumed deceased) son.

Which is all well and good, but this is still a 22-minute show which also has to serve as a toy commercial. When you peel back the outer layers, there’s just nothing to it. There are certainly ways to get 22 minutes of compelling drama out of a parent’s grief at the loss of a child, but “Let’s get Peter MacNeill to gurn at the camera for a bit and tell this very 80s kid of the future that he reminds him of his dead son,” isn’t it. Peter McNeill GurningEven if Peter MacNeill is fantastic at pained gurning.

Moustachio'd Nazi of the WeekSo anyway, the long and short of the episode is that Cap’n’company are investigating a series of towns being struck by a disease that renders everyone comatose for convenient digitization. Hawk gets separated from the others, meets a skittish orphan boy on the run from another of Dread’s Bling-wearing Nazis, and they hole up for a bit. Hawk slowly earns the boy’s trust as he succumbs to the disease, because, and you really should have worked it out by now, the kid is an immune carrier. This shocking reveal for some reason necessitates a final fight scene, which Hawk abandons halfway through by passing out, but fortunately Mitch Mitch throws himself on Hawk, leaving only Hawk's area visible.throws himself on Hawk’s prone body, protecting him from Soaron (Who has orders not to harm Dread’s Typhoid Mary) for nearly five seconds while the rest of the cast shows up. The disease is cured off-screen when we come back from commercial and they all live happily ever after.

Like I said, all those years ago now, there’s a reason that half-hour drama is not a format you see a lot of. I don’t mean to give the impression that this episode was bad — it’s fine, really. But there’s just not much to it.

Of course, in production order, Pariah would have come before Wardogs — Pariah is set about a month in real time after Shattered, and Wardogs more properly fits two months later, after A Fire in the Dark. So if we’d watched these in the order the creative team intended, this would have been the first time we’d mentioned Hawk’s family. Maybe it would have been more impactful that way (In Original 1987 TV Audience Time, Wardogs is even later, having originally aired five weeks after Pariah). And I guess that’s it: how good an episode this is hangs in its entirety on the reveal that Hawk has lost a child. If, like me, you watched Wardogs first, you already know that, so this one’s just spinning the wheels.

Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe the fact that the moral center of this episode is Hawk grieving over his dead son just makes this an episode that Now-A-Daddy-Me didn’t want to think too long and hard about… Hm.

It’s actually gotten kind of hard for me to enjoy my eschatons since I became a parent. I’ve never been able to find a way to move on from the question, “What does one do with a toddler during the end of days?” I mean, I’ve found some answers. Just not ones that I want to think about. Maybe next week will be better.

2 thoughts on “For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come (Captain Power: Pariah)

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