Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be really amazing… by season two.
I mean, Guardians have basically two things going for it. It has the entire Marvel Universe to work with, particularly the more outlandish, intergalactic aspects (at the very least, to use them outside of the usual “Haha, remember THIS?” kind of fanservice), which could create some really fun, creative stories. It also has the most entertaining batch of heroic reprobates this side of the universe–a batch of lost, come-what-may, out-sized personalities barely working together to deal with whatever random batch of nonsense comes their way. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a show with a cast of characters that so fundamentally function on different wavelengths that half the fun is watching them bicker their way into actual action. (When was the last time we had that? Firefly? Some might say Justice League, but on the whole, the characters generally had the same goal–save the day–but just argued on how best to do that.)
That being said, that is a lot of canon, and Disney XD has a very specific demographic they’re aiming for, which leaves “Road to Knowhere/Knowhere to Run” somewhat clunky and awkward, but brimming with potential and leaves you eager for more. The two-part pilot is simultaneously complicated and simplistic, struggling to give the story and its characters due weight while forcing some unnecessary exposition and comic beats that even the show feels embarrassed by. But when it works, it works (particularly in the second half), and those small moments make the show worthwhile.
Don’t get me wrong: the movie was crazy entertaining, but it ended with a question that the film never really cared about: why would Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot even bother answering to Peter Quill, AKA Starlord? (He wasn’t exactly leadership material, and the movie ending with him suddenly in charge was unearned.) The show–which is based on the film but is continuing in a completely different direction than the sequel–basically answers that question: they don’t. Starlord comes off like an over-enthusiastic teenager, trying to force a bond or a camaraderie between four people who just aren’t having it. Peter comes off a little overwrought here, but it kind of feels like not even the writers are all that thrilled with it, forcing a exposition heavy intro get through the character introductions (and a not great visual gag) as fast as possible to get to the action.
What follows is a fun set of misleads, tricks, double-crosses, secrets, twists, betrayals, and surprises, including the reappearance of Yondu, who looks to be a semi-regular, which only means more double-crosses and secrets. It all revolves around the typical McGuffin that Marvel lives by–this time, a box that is DNA-coded to a species of alien called Spartax. When it’s revealed that only Peter can open the box, we learn that he’s part Spartax, thus giving Quill solid stakes in the overall story. The rest of the cast, at least early on, feels a bit under-developed and somewhat out of character. Rocket and Groot are fairly on point, but Gamora’s weirdly over-confident, and it seems like the writers don’t know what to do with Drax. Still, they are provided with distinct, individual objectives, allowing an intriguing amount of internal strife among the cast.
“Road to Nowhere” has to work through a lot of exposition, re-introducing everyone and their individual agendas, and while it’s a bit heavy-handed, it looks pretty good, with firm, solid characters that look ripped from the comics themselves, tense, exciting action sequences, and some nifty, dynamic framing. The basic story leads the cast back to Knowhere with said box, which causes the giant Celestial head to come alive. It’s a crazy moment, and the moment that really jump-starts the two-parter into the kind of action-driven, balls-to-the-wall insanity that a show based on Guardians of the Galaxy should have.
“Nowhere to Run” is a more confident, exciting half-hour, starting with the Guardians battle against the Celestial arms and an out-of-control Groot. With the core exposition out of the way (as well as the forced fart/piss gags), Guardians of the Galaxy can get down to the good stuff. What it lacks in twists and double-crosses it makes up in pure action, with Gamora the battle-ready standout–leaping everywhere, cutting up shit, skating on ice, and mostly being the voice of reason. The other characters have their moments, too: while Rocket mostly stays his angry, annoyed-at-everything self, at the very least we get to see Drax try and fight (and fail against) Thanos. The writers still seem to struggle with the Destroyer (Drax’s lack of character is his character, and outside of his inability to understand colloquialisms–which the show never comically utilizes–he’s mostly a blank slate), but his blind stubbornness does lead to an awesome Groot-rescue scene. And Quill gets to have his own moments of greatness (controlling the Celestial) as well as his moment of depth (his contemplation of his past and its connection to his future).
“So are we heroes, or are we outlaws?” Rocket asks early in “Road to Nowhere,” and it’s the kind of question that doesn’t need an answer. Guardians should work along the line between good and evil, and while they definitely should on the side of good, it’s going to be great to see its characters do whatever the hell they want to achieve their goals. The two-parter ends with the cast heading to planet Sparta, but still individually focused on their own goals. And with Peter discovering the box–the “Cosmic Seed”–is some kind of map can only lead to more drama, especially since he’s not exactly telling the rest of his crew this information. Starlord wants to call his crew The Guardians of the Galaxy and really wants to have a battle cry, but they need to be a team first, and they’re a long ways from that.
- Apologies if this review seems a bit lacking, I’m not by a DVR so I can’t give it a proper re-watch.
- Revealing that Peter was part Spartax was a way smoother way to introduce Quill’s half-human/half-alien nature than the awkward mentioning of it during Yondu’s rescue.
- Surprised the show managed to get real songs for the show, and not cheap knockoffs!
- I’m gonna be honest, I really would love to do episodic reviews of this show, but it’s up to you guys. So let us know!