March M.A.N.T.I.S. is taking you one by one through every episode of the ’94-’95 superhero FOX series M.A.N.T.I.S. throughout the month of March (natch). Using the POW (Plot, Opinion, What’s Next?) format, I am watching each installment and sharing with all of my feelings and observations regarding each episode.
So strap on your exoskeleton, settle into your hovercraft, and load up on paralysis darts. But most importantly? Enjoy
Today’s Episode: Episode 3: Days of Rage
P: A group of college students led by a long-haired Barry Peppers and including one guy insufferably, repeatedly quoting the poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” enjoy engaging in 90’s approved extreme behaviors like bungee jumping and, as we later find out, using an experimental drug to boost their brain power.
The wonder drug, ACTH3, however, has consequences. It is highly addictive and makes its users super angry and impulsive. Hence why the users have nicknamed it Rage.
Dr. Atkins (John Curtis and no, he’s not that Dr. Atkins) notices the problems and wants to rework ACTH3 but his boss Bryan Chase (David Groh) intimidates him into keeping his mouth shut so the drug can get FDA approval and Chase’s pharmaceutical can finally start profiting off of it.
Despite the subterfuge, Hawkins figures out what is going on, thanks in part to Taylor (you know, the bike messenger) having a prior relationship with an ACTH3 addict who is going through withdrawal. Hawkins tries to shut it down and help the other addicts get the drug out of their system but their resistance coupled with Chase’s attempt to kill the test subjects leads to the addicts escaping and forcing Taylor to take a heavy dose of Rage. Rage faced shenanigans ensue until the subjects run out ACTH3. That’s when things turn deadly.
O: This is far and away my favorite episode since the pilot. I’m a sucker for small groups of people trapped by circumstances turning on one another and saying crazy, intimidating stuff to one another. Even when the dialogue is lesser, as it is when Taylor and Jason Dirks (Pepper) face off, there’s something about those scenarios that always draw me in.
I am also a fan of the “forced drug ingestion” plotline that leads a character we know to act erratically. I have been pretty vocal about my dislike of the bike messenger, but here, babbling binary code one minute and irrationally wielding a gun the next, he is much better.
Unfortunately, the climax once again ends up being anti-climactic. It is not that the idea itself is not sound: Hawkins talks down a strung out, gun toting Taylor as the messenger tries desperately to force Hawkins and Stonebrake into making more of the drug. The problem is that it begins and ends so quickly that there is no time to fear for our heroes, either for the sober ones getting killed or badly injured or for Taylor crossing a line and pulling the trigger. Instead it is rushed through and all the tension and drama never has the chance to sink in.
W: An ex of Hawkins comes to town but it appears she may have a target on her back. Can the Mantis encourage a team of assassins to “Cease Fire” or is the former lover doomed? Probably the former. You know, if I had to guess.