Whiskey Ginger Arm Flab
Whiskey Ginger Arm Flab
I told myself several things as I began the process of watching the old PDW episodes. I said that I would not seek out external information. I was going to take the episodes and watch them—judge them for myself. But as the number of remaining episodes dwindled, I grew weak and crept to Wikipedia. I had to know. And my worst fears were confirmed. The show was never finished.
The revelation, I will admit, took the wind from my sails. Like the dark water which threatened at every turn to waylay our protagonists’ vessel, the spoiler, once succumbed to, sucked the life from my quest—Ever the Quest. The last four episodes are not demonstrably worse, on average, than the other recent episodes. They are riddled with the same heterogeneous mix of good ideas and goofy executions—intriguing turns, and hackneyed solutions. Alas, knowing that no true conclusion loomed on the horizon, I was unable to recap each in turn. I will summarize, and turn back at turning forward to think at what could have been yet to come…
What’s going on PDW? Are you okay? Is everything alright? I’ve been seeing the title of this episode coming up for a while now, and was very excited to see what came of it. I love games. I love the idea of Wren and crew discovering some new outlandish destination where some great game intercedes in their ability to get the next Rool Jewel. Maybe playing a game to secure the next one! Could it be?
The answer is no. We open as we always do, with Bloth hot on the heels of Wren’s boat. “Why doesn’t he ever give up?” Wren yells in frustration. Yes why??? The audience cries back in even greater frustration. Or why, when it was revealed last episode that you can just sneak aboard whenever you want—why don’t you DO SOMETHING about Bloth? SUDDENLY, both ships are wrung by giant stone teeth, then lifted out of the water on great pillars of moving rock, and then presented with a new mountain rising out of the sea…GET READY TO PLAY THE GAME YOU FRIGGIN’ PIRATES!!!!!
From “Ghost Pirates” last episode to Dagron Island this time, the streak of adventure-of-the-week episodes continues. Wren at least uses the compass this time around, and there’s talk of finding a Rool Jewel, but these plans are quickly frustrated. I’m beginning to have some concerns. My childhood memory of this show was that it was quite good, but that its overarching plot seemed never-ending…or doomed for incompletion. Now, we’re nearing the end of the season. There are 6 Rool Jewels left to recover…and only 5 episodes. Are we slated for failure, tragedy, ellipsis? Or will a swooping deus ex machina accelerate the end-game in the remaining episodes?
Speculation aside, “The Dagron Master” is, like “Panacea” or “The Collection” before it—a pretty standard thwart the random villain plot. We open, of course, with Bloth in hot pursuit of our heroes through a lightning storm, when Wren decides the best way to keep them on course is to act like a dumb-ass:
As far as plot goes, there’s not a ton to say about “The Ghost Pirates.” In short, Eyeoz meets a mysterious old man who tempts him with tales of treasure on a mysterious boat, this leads him to jump aboard the shimmery ship that emerges from the fog—hungry for treasure—when captured by the ghost crew of the ship, Wren and Tula must spend the rest of the episode working to free him and keep him from becoming a ghost (oh and Bloth is there too).
What feels MOST strange about this episode to me is that it is arguably the MOST “episodic” episode yet. There’s no real mention of dark water, no discussion of rool jewels, no use of the compass, no flashback to primus, no machinations of the Final Boss Wiggler. Coming so close on the heels of the last two episodes, which put us in such intimate contact with the Stakes of the Quest, this episode, no matter what you think about the action of it, can’t help be anything but FILLER.
"The Dark Disciples" has me thinking back to beginning of the series. For one, this episode is more directly connected to the previous episode, and this type of running continuity between episodes hasn’t really been used since the opening five. Second, in this episode the characters return to Octapon, Wren’s home, and for the first time since seeing his father die, Wren confronts his past. There are a lot of good ideas in this episode, and a lot of cool details (like many of those early episodes), but there’s also a carelessness to them (also like the early episodes) that has them fit together awkwardly. Even small details, like Wren finding half of a photograph? painting? image of his old guardian Jenna in the ruins of the lighthouse…later when Jenna herself shows up she holds out the other half of the picture…except she’s holding the half that Wren found…WOOPS.
Simple continuity aside, there are a number of other…let’s call them GAPS…that hold this episode back from being A-grade. Though all in all, its heart is in the right place.
Just when I am ready to give up on PDW’s quality (cough cough “The Little Leviathan”) it comes out and delivers an episode like this. This, ladies and gentlemen, is an episode of some friggin’ pirates of friggin’ dark-ass water. First off, a few episodes ago (“The Collection”) when I was spoutin’ off about the team having collected 7 treasures, and the halfway point and all that—well it was bollocks. Because I’m bad at counting (and I forgot that there’s no treasure in “The Beast and The Bell”), I got ahead of myself. But in this episode’s opening, the team is pulled up in a friendly cove about to throw themselves a friggin’ party:
"The seventh treasure is more than just the halfway mark, Wren. It’s the last one your father hid. And if that isn’t cause for a celebration, I don’t know what is." —Tula
And while I’ll admit that this episode doesn’t fully shake-off the trappings of PDW cliché (the first plot point is Wren taking evasive maneuvers fleeing Bloth, Bloth and his crew are shown to be incompetent) the way it handles these familiar turns feels more adept than the average episode. And MOST importantly, it allows Wren to struggle. To question his decisions. To weigh risk and reward, responsibility and desire. And in the end, it gives the audience a feeling of stakes.
Just over a week ago my dog (a Terrier-mix pulled from a shelter less than 6 months ago) flipped out and bit a random passerby. So it was that the same day that I began a rigorous obedience training course with him (the fucker) that I also watched “The Little Leviathan.” This episode revolves almost entirely around “Baby” a juvenile leviathan that is “too young to be communicated with through ecomancy” but nonetheless follows all of Wren’s spoken commands without hesitation—catching ropes, giving him rides, raising and lowering his head, being quiet. As I deal in the other part of my life with the stark reality of what struggles come from bending a wild animal to one’s will, I am disinclined to view this magical friendly-beast episode with much generosity. This episode, in short, stinks.
My distaste for the central character/device aside, this episode suffers by being arguably the most cliché and derivative PDW yet. It begins with the team fleeing Bloth, ducking into some natural feature where they discover something unexpected (episodes 2, 6, 9, 10), whereafter Wren gives some character the over-generous benefit of the doubt (3, 7, 9), after which Bloth’s pirates manage to capture Wren by accident (3), attempt to feed him to the constrictus (1, 4), and finally a Rool Jewel just happens to be nearby (3, 6). We’re past the halfway point, and honestly, PDW is spinning its wheels.
We’re halfway through Pirates of Dark Water, and “The Collection” feels like an attempt to acknowledge this. We’re back in Jonda Town. We get to see Redbeard King Triton again. And there are no Rool Jewels in this episode. Earlier on, when Wren met up with his Father’s former advisor in the bowels of the Maelstrom (episode 4?), her flashback exposition contained a curious detail: before being captured by Bloth, Primus had secured 7 of the 13 Rool Jewels. He sent these off with an assortment of advisors in order to keep them out of Bloth’s hands. When we learn this, it seems like a pretty arbitrary number, and a pretty meaningless detail. What are we meant to make of the fact that Primus had partially completed his own quest, or that his advisors are involved? It seems like we might have a hint of an answer. By my count, we’re at 7 Rool Jewels recovered at this point (episodes 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). Are we meant to think that these have been the “easy” jewels, the one’s secreted away by Primus’ friends? Are we meant to think that the next 6 will be harder to find? These are the ones not even Primus could reach? These remaining 6 are fallen where Corruptus distributed them years ago at the freeing of Dark Water and the Final Boss Wiggler?
The Collection is a caesura, then. Eyeoz’ past, Jonda Town politics, and the dangerous geography of Myr’s oceans all come into play as we’re reminded (once again) that there are dangers other than Bloth. There are goals other than the Rool Jewels. And there’s no way to predict what will come next.
As should be obvious from the title of this episode, the plot of “King Niddler” relies on a pretty recognizable trope. I’m having a hard time citing a specific example, but let me sketch its shape and maybe you’ll recognize it:
1) a group of heroes is traveling together
2) they arrive in a new land, populated by strange people, who instantly capture them
3) they discover that the weakest, oddest, outsider member of their group is the prophesied leader of these strange people
4) thus ensues a brief bizarro role reversal where the “new king” enjoys their relative status over their companions
5) it is eventually revealed that being king also comes with some dangerous responsibility; the true cowardice of the “new king” is revealed
6) some kind of conclusion is reached, often redeeming a) the “new king” b) the rest of the crew, and ALWAYS promoting one of the strange people as their own leader based on merit, not prophecy.
If that sounds familiar, then you know what happens in this episode.