March M.A.N.T.I.S.- Episode 12: Through the Dark Circle

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 12: Through the Dark Circle

P: One afternoon bike messenger and a lady friend are biking through the woods when they come upon a sign that subtly warns them away from a segment of the forest.

 See? SUPER subtle.

See? SUPER subtle.

Bike messenger’s companion assures him “the killers are the other side” which interests him. I assume she means something like there are some boss hills on the other side and not actual murderers, but I don’t. Maybe that’s just bike messenger’s jam these days. After being in the Mantis’s orbit for so long, the old thrills just don’t do it for him the same way. Or something.

 Tell me I'm wrong.

Tell me I'm wrong.

On the other side, before the killers, they find the bunker from RETURN OF THE JEDI. Or a government facility of some kind. Or both. (Don’t forget, the Star Wars movies took place a long time ago). Figuring they already violated property laws, why not go all out, they let themselves in and explore, discovering a sculpture of some kind. A sculpture that quickly revs to life and spits out some dark suit wearing, dark sunglass wearing, pale faced fellas. They’re the Men in Black. But not those Men in Black. Different ones. Ones that don’t make this look good.

 They do look like they belong on an album cover though.

They do look like they belong on an album cover though.

 I have no joke here.

I have no joke here.

Bike messenger and lady friend cannot escape fast enough and are seized. Bike messenger awakens to having his brain scanned. The fellas like the look of this Mantis guy bike messenger has memories of so they decide they’d like to bring him by. Presumably for a chat, some tea or coffee, and, then, world domination.

Back at Hawkins house, Maxwell stops by and makes our hero feel guilty but declines to arrest him. Before the doctor can worry too much about it, Stonebrake gets a call from bike messenger. But something seems not quite right. Nonetheless, they go off to investigate.

After finding bike messenger’s home, trailer by the docks, burned to the ground and a local homeless drunk tells them of men in sunglasses who drive purple lighted cars, the duo end up tracking bike messenger’s signal to the forest.

 That's bike messenger's home. It's almost enough to make me feel bad for how I talk about him.

That's bike messenger's home. It's almost enough to make me feel bad for how I talk about him.

Stonebrake investigates and gets snagged. They nearly get Hawkins too, but the police arrive just in time. As Maxwell and Hawkins look over the bunker, they make amends and start being all cute with each other once more. RELIEF!

Meanwhile Stonebrake awakens in…wherever? It looks kind of like this part of the KidCity, a very cool “museum” for kids that I take my daughter to, with all these backlit crystals and such.

 They must have bought up their local Spencer's Gifts.

They must have bought up their local Spencer's Gifts.

There are also glass pseudo-coffins with bike messenger and lady friend.

 So. Much. Neon.

So. Much. Neon.

A floating head tells Stonebrake to, amongst other instructions, “Touch it!” and does not take no for answer. If I’m that Limey’s legal counsel, I’m telling him to go sexual harassment lawsuit in a BIG way.

Maxwell is seized while she’s driving around this time as well and the Men in Black (but not those Men in Black)…

 The galaxy defenders who won't let you remember are nowhere to be found.

The galaxy defenders who won't let you remember are nowhere to be found.

…use Hawkins’ increasingly high number of capture friends to convince him to throw on the exoskeleton and visit the bunker. They predictably force him under the brain scan machine but the exoskeleton will not let itself be removed. Not to be dissuaded, the Men create a dream that they hope will convince Hawkins to willingly un-Mantis.

It is a subtle dream.

 So very subtle.

So very subtle.

In addition to Maxwell looking like…that (seriously, is it supposed to be sexy? Is it sexy? I’m confused) Hawkins also can walk and, in a fairly hilarious moment, run with arms wide open.

Anyway, despite the idea being to lure Hawkins into trusting them and thus dis-exoskeleton-ing, they load the dream with super creepy images like a dazzle of Men in Black (there’s a double joke here. Look it up. I’m hilarious.) coming out of the forest…

 Well, that's not so bad...

Well, that's not so bad...

and, well, this.

 DEAR GOD!!!!!!!!

DEAR GOD!!!!!!!!

Sorry about the nightmare fuel.

Anyway, Hawkins reacts as you’d expect in that he freaks the Hell out, snaps out of the forced R.E.M. cycle, and breaks stuff real good. He discovers his friends in pseudo-coffins, makes like newly dressed Darth Vader, and take the fight to the chalk-faced humanoids.

 "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" No, seriously, that's what he's screaming here.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" No, seriously, that's what he's screaming here.

Long story short, he breaks more stuff, Stonebrake activates the Stargate sculpture, and Mantis breaks more stuff to make sure the Men in Black stop coming through.

O: Oof.

This is terrible. Terrible!

The resolution of the Maxwell/Hawkins tension comes too quick and without reason. She’s angry as can be at his house. She gives him hell for lying to her while in the building. And then in what can’t be more than two minutes later, she’s making jokes and giving him sly smiles? WHAT?!

The villains are uninteresting. Visually, they’re ok and their largely mute first appearances carry some spookiness. The moment they open their mouths though…laughable. Not even the late in the game revelations about their eye sockets can overcome the way they sound.

The sets and effects are cheesy. At one point there is an ENORMOUS explosion that Mantis causes that looks as though it should’ve erased him and anyone with 30 feet of him from any and all planes of existence. No one is even slightly singed by it. And what’s the deal with the Mantis being able to fire all manner of laser? Did they not have enough bad effects shots already?

They should’ve burst out of the blocks after “Thou Shall Not Kill” and “Revelation” and instead we get this tepid disaster. So disappointing.

Worst of all though? The sculpture is not a circle. There is no Dark Circle!

W: We hope you have “The Eyes Beyond” because Mantis is going time hopping!