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 8: To Prey in Darkness
P: In the process of breaking up a gang of masked criminals, the Mantis takes a bullet that does not harm him but does hurt the exoskeleton—you know, like always. Running low on power, he gets sloppy, first popping out the giant hole the gang blew in the wall, alerting an on-the-scene TV crew to his presence and making them gasp.
Rather than get away, though, he runs to the roof, allowing the camerawoman to regroup. This enables the crew to catch the first visual evidence of the Mantis’s existence: him leaping between roofs breaking the record for the longest jump by a human being on record.
It turns out the raid was for Solomon Box (played this time by Andrew Robinson, chasing Jack Palance’s performance of a very similar character in TANGO & CASH), the show’s Lex Luthor making his first appearance since episode 1, and Box has had just about enough of the Mantis’s interference. Despite us not seeing Hawkins and Co. interrupting Box business since in 7 episodes, the Mantis has apparently become quite the thorn in the paw of our shady businessman/criminal mastermind.
As he contemplate how to deal with the issue, the Federal government apparently arrives in Port Columbia—via an organization that is a lot like the FBI but called the CIC—looking to get into the Mantis hunting business. The assigned agent, Raymond Geary (John D'Aquino) sounds weirdly like one of the masked gang members that got away. But that couldn’t be…could it?!?!
(Yes, yes it could.)
Geary proceeds to be a jerk to everyone, including Lieutenant Maxwell and Dr. Hawkins. So committed to being an obnoxious human being is Geary that he breaks into Hawkins house later than evening. Rather than intimidating our protagonist though, it is a move that merely earns him the patented Hawkins’ glare. Even accusing Hawkins of bankrolling the Mantis seems not to rattle the doctor, although Geary is, of course, even more right than he knows. Not getting anywhere, the agent knocks some stuff over just to reinforce all signs that he’s a rotten human being and heads on his way.
Stonebrake suggests burning down the operation in response and just walking away, thus protecting them and letting Hawkins continue to save the world through his genius and money. Like Bruce Wayne before him though, Hawkins would a.) rather just get more ripped and b.) not let go of the relatively small impact wearing a suit to conceal one’s identity and acting as a vigilante makes. Instead, Hawkins goes lateral and decides to fake his death.
The plan is pretty extensive and involves doctored videos and offering up the bike messenger as bait—something I am always in favor of. Agent Geary and his partner take the fake trail and find bike messenger which leads to well, take a look…
Pure TV poetry. Anyway, bike messenger is a consummate professional even after attempted vehicular homicide and triggers the second half the plan which culminates in Geary and Maxwell cornering the Mantis is a warehouse. Geary came prepared with a massive gun, one that is suspiciously similar to one utilized in the attempted heist that started this episode, the one that blew a hole in the wall allowing a few of the gang to escape. You don’t suppose that might mean?!?!?!?
(Again, yes it does.)
Geary makes no effort to arrest the Mantis, simply blasting away instead. Eventually he does manage to hit his target and our exoskeleton wearing hero appears to be reduced to green smoke in human shape. Seriously, it is like when a Looney Tunes character runs so quickly that the cloud of dust they leave behind becomes their dirt doppleganger. But in green.
Everyone seems convinced that the Phantom…
…of Port Columbia…
…is dead. That everyone includes Solomon Box who, wouldn’t you know it, is paying Geary to kill or capture the Mantis. Shocking I know. Box is a little annoyed Geary went the kill route by gives the cool mil over anyway. Second twist alert though: Geary knows the death was faked and is planning to double dip by really killing the Mantis and selling the tech on the black market.
Geary kidnaps Maxwell, a TV reporter, and bike messenger, eventually, to draw the Mantis out, which works. Geary even manages to draw the vigilante into a trap, a blue electric cage, and seems to have the upper hand for good.
However, the bad guy cannot resist taunting the Mantis and, in short order, the rest of the plan goes pear shaped and Geary ends up dead by Maxwell’s gun.
Victorious, the Mantis can’t resist stopping by Box’s office and heckling him a bit.
O: It is a shame that once again the show offs a villain in a single episode as Geary is the first criminal who seems to be anywhere near as smart as our hero (and way smarter than the cops). It would’ve been nice to have him around longer to, perhaps, be a wild card in the Box v. Mantis battle that, I assume, will define the rest of the show’s run. Although given this is only Box’s second appearance in 8 episodes, I could be very wrong about that.
On the other hand, Geary is such an unambiguous ass, if you can excuse my profanity, that I’m not sure you could have him as an ongoing presence. The fact that everyone in the police department does not immediately suspect him of not being who he says he is is a bit tough to swallow. The fact that it takes him abducting and holding her against her will to get Maxwell to realize it seems impossible. While I like how he could have been, D’Aguino’s is so unsubtle I must now admit he never could have occupied that role that I am imagining. I’ve completely talked myself out of the idea.
Still though, I did like the episode. It was nice to see a baddie foil Hawkins and Co.’s plans at a few different moments and manage to put them a bit on their heels, however briefly. I also appreciated the return of Box and that the show continues to at least play lip service to the idea that the exoskeleton might be a curse as well as a blessing for Hawkins and the power of it might be holding a stronger sway on the doctor than he cares to acknowledge.
W: A teenager has a “Fire in the Heart” that he’s using to make Port Columbia burn. But is he doing it on his own or is he being manipulated? The Mantis must discover the truth before his city is nothing more than a pile of ash.