I had to stop writing a summary as i noticed and frankly didn’t want to summarise the entirety of the 3rd Season as i had done with the Season Two retrospective as there were other things i wanted to talk about before i lost readers.
Check out Dot’s scream and Megabyte’s chilling laughter at the end of Episode 4: Game Over:
That coupled with machete wielding Rastafarian buskers, train station perverts, increased violence, increased sex appeal, and even bondage jokes certainly display how much darker the series has gotten over time. Free from the oppressive BS&P practices of ABC, the tone shifts to being relentlessly oppressive as soon as Episode 1: To Mend and Defend. As Season Three picks up immediately where Season Two left off, with Megabyte having disposed of Bob and in the midst of his most devastating assault on Mainframe. Megabyte even provides the opening monologue only adding to the seriousness of the situation.
However darker the series has become it thankfully doesn’t only rely on its new sexed up image to move it along; as narratively it is the strongest season in the show’s run. Using the classic three act structure Season Three features a solid beginning, middle, and end that follows Enzo from ineffectual young guardian to an anger fueled renegade looking to get back home.
The beginning arc of season one’s run starts with episode’s 1-4 and paints a desperate picture of Mainframe under siege by Megabyte. Enzo, thrust from a supporting role is now called upon to fulfill his guardian mandate of mending and defending, not only must he do this against the viral threat he must also come up against Dot’s initial reluctance and trepidation. The victories against Megabyte are small and hard fought, but by Episode 4: Game Over the Mainframer’s have secured a fragile peace and Enzo has triumphed over Megabyte’s attempts at character assassination and gains independence by winning his sister’s trust. Which of course makes his failure to win the game at the end of Game Over all the more devastating and shocking a loss.
The middle arc that stretches from episode’s 5-12 drastically alters and grows the ReBoot universe by having a grown Enzo, AndrAIa, and Frisket exploring the various systems of The Net by hitching rides on the games. It is here where i will say the only three filler episodes of the season reside in the way of: Episode 5: Icons, Episode 6: Where No Sprite has Gone Before, and Episode 7: Number 7. Strangely enough these episodes are almost episodic as they deal with the status quo of Enzo, AndrAIa, and Frisket’s lives up until then.
Icons and Where no Sprite has Gone Before have the duty of introducing the new grown and roided up character of Enzo, who is now as strong as Megabyte and has a temper to match. Throughout this AndrAIa and Frisket function as static characters, that are there for emotional support and moral grounding to the new Enzo. Number 7 is a bizarre episode based on copying the 60’s television show The Prisoner, that puts the series in its greatest danger of jumping the shark. It avoids this by becoming an effective character study of Enzo, showing him to be consumed with bitterness, rage, and a growing hopelessness at his situation. While the metaphors are obvious and a bit ham handed, i can at least commend that they found an interesting way in showing the reasons for a change of attitude in Enzo, instead of the It’s a Wonderful Life approach in Identity Crisis for a similar effect.
Episode 8: The Episode With no Name is the start of the show’s final arc, with Enzo and Co. finding a system that will enable them to travel directly to Mainframe, and episodes 8-16 all leading straight to one another. Troubling news however awaits them in the set up to further season’s when they learn that the Guardians are now terrorizing and policing instead of mending and defending The Net. That is thankfully put aside for the more important matter of finding Bob and returning to Mainframe.
The ending to Season Three, i can perhaps attribute to my fascination with the ending of stories. The last four episodes: Megaframe, Showdown, System Crash, and End Prog are near text book examples of how to give a satisfying conclusion to a story. Once again, the series takes on an even darker tone in Megaframe the ruination of the once bright and shining Mainframe exceeds everyone’s expectations, as the city has been turned into a gloomy war zone complete with barbed wire, poverty, and hopelessness. That sense of desperation is only equaled by the sense of triumph that comes when Megabyte is finally beaten in Showdown, that ranks as easily one of the best episodes of the series.
However the good times are short lived by the time System Crash and End Prog come along to literally bring the end times to our heroes. The difference in tone from Season One to Season Three is illustrated quite nicely, as the last time the citizens of Mainframe took shelter in the principle office they were roasting weenies and playing instruments. Now they’re waiting in line for portapotties so long they are soiling themselves, and dealing with the deaths of loved ones. When the ending does come in End Prog, the dark tone of the past season is washed away in the brightest looking episode to date. End Prog, ending with a musical summary of the entire season it does double duty as suitable ending and also functions as a love letter to long time fans.
Despite being home to the show’s best writing there are some nagging issues that bother me when i return to watch it. I’m of the mind that the pop culture references got a bit out of hand in this season, the use of Evil Dead 2 in To Mend and Defend is perhaps the most forgivable as it’s given a proper context, however its so glaring and obvious a reference that it makes the episode feel like a derivative work and not the intended homage. Between a Racoon and a Hard Place makes the game Enzo and AndrAIa find themselves in feel like a saturday morning cartoon show instead of an interactive game, as the creators try and ape Bugs Bunny so hard it comes at the expense of staying within the universe they’ve created.
Others are just bizarre like the aforementioned Number 7. Or pointless, superfluous, and unnecessary like the Star Trek references in Where no Sprite has Gone Before, James Bond-esque theme song in Episode 3: Firewall, and the prolonged shoot out in The Episode With no Name. While pop culture references are nothing new to the series (Bad Bob and Nullzilla being the first that come to mind), they are at least used interestingly and don’t come off as overly derivative works as they inject enough of the series’ own flair to be able to stand up on their own. Here, in Season Three they seem to be thrown around haphazardly and on a whim.
I do also want to mention that ReBoot has got be home to some of the best voice acting put to television, the show illustrates how much characterisation can come from a voice alone. Again, just listen to that scream Kathleen Barr gives Dot; the place you got to go in order to make a sound like that is on par with anything on the silver screen. Megabyte wouldn’t be half as intimidating if it weren’t for Tony Jay’s (sadly passed away) deep and sophisticated voice, nor would Hexadecimal be as seductive or charming without Shirley Millner’s raspy delivery. Bob again, wouldn’t have his immediately likable nice guy persona without Michael Benyaer’s and Ian James Corlett’s work in seasons one, two, and three respectively.
On top of great voice acting and good writing, ReBoot has never looked better before or since. As much as it improved in Season Two over Season One, it’s improved ten fold here in Season Three. The colour palette and lighting quality is what is most noticeably changed, gone is the washed out feel of the previous two seasons and in its place we have a gorgeous Technicolor world that is filled with atmosphere. Subtle little animations like Dot’s shoulders tensing up when the computer pronounces game over, as well as her friend’s shocked expressions make the animation on display here head and shoulders better than what came before.
When you look at ReBoot’s original three season run, a story about the loss of innocence is ultimately revealed to be the point of the story. Bit by bit, the sunny days of Season One are stripped away, only to be replaced with conflict and suffering. Enzo is the most affected by the events of the series, his transformation from wide eyed kid to a bitter one eyed renegade is a direct outcome of his world being torn inside out by bad people and events outside of his control. Dot and Bob are also victims to the same circumstances; with Dot losing her family and her life piece by piece by having to put Mainframe’s well being above her own pursuits, while Bob needs to physically change his body in order to return to a destroyed place he called home.
However when the ending is revealed as a shining new day, it’s clear that innocence when lost can never be truly regained. As once again it is Enzo that suffers the most, being quite literally replaced by the system reboot and not reverted back to his previous state. What he regained in a home is still tainted by what he went through, and that loss of time and sense of self is something that will remain with him always.
Although in the following season larger and more grave events would drive the plot, ultimately Season Three tells the best story; it’s thematically strong, well written, well animated, and acted and it remains the height of the series. It’s doubtful that whatever comes down the line will be able to top it, although it’s welcome to try.
TOP 3 EPISODES
Man, if i thought picking episodes for Season Two was hard it’s got nothing on Season Three. Game Over packs its hefty punch because its shocking turn of events builds upon the struggles and hopeful outcome of the previous 3 episodes. Web Riders on the Storm and Mousetrap are great episodes because they all build on one another and pay off the entire season and indeed the entire series in a meaningful way. I suppose i will have to look at it like picking my favorite scenes from a movie, what moments stick out the most and provide the most emotional punch in regards to the work as a whole.
With that in mind i suppose the best of Season Three would be:
Episode 4: Game Over
Wow, just wow. The episode itself is fairly innocuous with Megabyte contained and things starting to look up. However the rug is pulled out from everyone’s feet in a plot twist that was as shocking as it was brutal.
Episode 14: Showdown
This is it. Megabyte and Enzo face off to decide the fate of a ruined Mainframe, it’s the culmination and climax of the hero’s struggles against Megabyte since the beginning of the series and it doesn’t disappoint.
Episode 16: End Prog
I got a thing for endings, and this one happens to be one of my favorites. It’s a happy almost sappy one, but what makes it good is that it’s an outcome that has been built up to and wished for by all of the characters and myself as a viewer. It isn’t cheap because all of the events occur naturally, and even when Deus Ex Machina happens it’s because the god of Mainframe itself has willed it.