When i stated in my Season One retrospective that the series’ best days were ahead of it i was talking about Season Two. Clocking in at 10 episodes it is shorter than the previous season’s 12 but the quality is over all much higher. Filler episodes are the exception as opposed to the rule in Season Two, and along with the better writing comes a much more urgent tone than what came before. Mainframe is under constant threat and danger from the first episode on until the end of the series, and it all begins here with Episode 1: Infected.
After season one had ended the writers were faced with a unique problem given their ideas on where to take ReBoot next, that being the main bad guy had just finished playing guitar at Enzo’s first birthday. Megabyte was characterised as a bad guy and the writers needed him to be more than that, Megabyte needed to be evil. He needed to be feared and hated if we’re to buy into him ruining the lives of Mainframers and laugh while doing it. So, much like how Wizards, Warriors, and a Word From our Sponsor locked the heroes in a game for an entire episode, Infected locks the heroes in a room with Megabyte for an entire episode and reestablishes him as someone you really wouldn’t want to be stuck in the same room with.
Throughout Season One Megabyte always threatened Bob and company with his strength and ruthlessness, here in this episode he actually brutalises Phong multiple times for information or for pleasure. Mainframe is also put in the type of imminent danger that hasn’t been seen since The Medusa Bug in Season One, and it isn’t the last time it will be either. It also (to my knowledge) introduces the 5 note theme of sadness that will be heard throughout the rest of the series, and subtly hints at the new direction that the show is taking. Infected as a result of all this easily ranks in the top 3 best ReBoot episodes as it ushers in the dark days ahead of the Mainframers and paints Megabyte as the virus who’s going to be bringing them in.
As i had mentioned earlier filler episodes are in short supply in the second season then they are in the first, and fortunately the show gets them out of the way quickly while riding the high of Infected. Highcode and When Games Collide do some interesting things but ultimately don’t amount to anything much later on. In fact they feel more like episodes that were moved from season one, as Highcode brings in the very interesting character of Lens and opens up the equally interesting new mythos of the Codemasters, neither of which ever come up again in the series’ run. When Games Collide’s focus is a gimmick where two games merge with one another and while being a very cool concept (imagine if you could do that in real life!) it ultimately doesn’t amount to anything either.
Fortunately the season kicks it into high gear with a great forth episode Bad Bob. Starting with Megabyte going on an unprecedented all out assault on the principle office to steal Mainframe’s energy, only to end up in an awesome Road Warrioresqe game where Bob has to beat the user and foil Megabyte’s latest scheme simultaneously; this episode is as good as the series ever got in being a pure action cartoon. It’s also notable that Bad Bob represents the last of time the episodic format of the series was used, as all of the other episodes in the series had to be watched in order from here on out.
Painted Windows a Hexidecimal centric outing serves as the prelude for quite literally the rest of the series. As the set up for the web creature bursting out of her mirror in NullZilla is presented here. The episode itself is Hexidecimal’s best single episode, and is the last of the series’ shows to really emphasise that ReBoot is taking place within a computer; by having her run amok with its paint program. It also gives more than subtle hints at her bizarre crush on Bob that will play in much later in the series.
Interesting new characters are introduced and reintroduced throughout the mid part of the season. AndrAIa being the former and Mouse being the latter, both of which will play extremely important roles to Enzo and Dot respectively in later seasons. The bottom end of the season is also home to the biggest threats that Mainframe has ever faced, NullZilla, Gigabyte, and Web World Wars come literally one after the other and all are packed with assaults on Mainframe’s continued existence. All of this further emphasises how much things have changed since season one ended, there’s no time at all for planning something as easy as a birthday party, and games are now serious obstructions instead of excursions from the problems affecting Mainframe.
The season’s closing two episodes Trust no One and Web World Wars blow Season One’s two parter Identity Crisis out of the water. It shows the strength and effectiveness of the new serialised story structure that the series has taken, by building upon and paying off the hints and story beats scattered throughout episodes 5 through 8. The web creature’s threat is shown to be a new and terrible one that paves the way for the show’s first and biggest shake up, that being the shocking removal of Bob. I’ll tell you i was horrified by Bob’s removal, it was a signal that things were going to drastically change in ReBoot from here on out and they were certainly not for the best.
Along with the improved writing the series benefited from improved animation as well. While image and lighting fidelity is identical to the previous season, gone is the stilted puppet like movement of the characters. Moments like Megabyte catching a heavy metal lid with no effort, or Dot’s exo-skeleton and Gigabyte’s frankly menacing walks all have the all have the appropriate weight and feeling behind them that increases their impact. Indeed, this is as good as the series would ever look and move before it received a much needed update in Season Three.
Season Two is ultimately a relentless ride, and is a dramatic shift from the breezy episodes in Season One. While there are moments of humour and brevity to be had here, episode after episode has Bob fighting to not only stop Megabyte’s latest scheme but also to assure the continued existence of Mainframe itself. Those simple days of playing a game and heading back to Dot’s Diner are long gone by the end of this season, and it paves the way for the enormity of the suffering to be had by all in the dark days ahead.
TOP 3 EPISODES
It is genuinely hard to pick out three episodes that give the best representation of Season Two, as it is uniformly excellent throughout. Also the season’s latter half is characterised by a serialised structure that eliminates the stand alone format, and makes all of the episodes reliant on one another to a degree. So leaving out a great episode like Bad Bob only because its episodic in nature isn’t really fair, and Gigabyte can’t stand on its own without Nullzilla behind it. Be that as it may here is my recommendation for the best the 2nd season of ReBoot has to offer.
Episode 1: Infected
A crown jewel of the series really, as it reestablishes Megabyte as the de facto threat to Mainframe and sets up the coming season’s tone all in a tight 22 minutes. I never get tired of watching it.
Episode 4: Bad Bob
The last of its kind really, you can pop it into season one anywhere and wouldn’t know the difference. What makes it a uniquely 2nd season episode is how once again Mainframe’s existence is under serious threat, and games stack the deck up higher than before. Apart from that, its structure is based on two large scale action sequences and pulls them off without a hitch.
Episode’s 9 & 10: Trust No One and Web World Wars
Had to cheat a little here as the season closer is a two parter in all but name. The build up of the last three episodes is paid off with the single largest story beat “ReBoot” has to offer. From this episode on everything has changed for the worst, and remains that way for a very long time.