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 14: Faces in the Mask
P: With a crackle of lightning, Edward Pascal (Peter Frechette) awakens, trussed up, and is greeted by a man in a metal mask. The man in the mask intones in a giggly but gravelly tone that suggests the slasher movies that had overstayed their welcome 5 years before and/or predicts the rise of SCREAM two years after this episode. He clearly knows Pascal although Pascal does not seem to know him and he mocks his abductee with this knowledge.
In addition to the metal face, our masked villain (?) also wields electricity via grounds on his fingers and has the ability to “steal” faces, becoming Pascal’s “mirror” to further the mockery. Eventually, Mask Face grows tired of the game and releases Pascal, chasing him to the roof and forces him over the edge in a homemade cardboard plane. Kill completed, Mask Face returns to his low grade version evidence dungeon (copyright, Stuart Wellington, Flophouse Podcast) which I’m calling his “kill table” and turns down Pascal’s photo.
Pascal is an executive and founder of Micropower, a massive software company that began from humble beginnings (but in no way based on Microsoft!) and the remaining execs are sweating it. And it seems they are right to. After all, they are the faces in the framed photos on Mask Face’s kill table.
In particular, Philip Stern (Ron Halder) is taking it hard. He’s worried about some crime the group committed years earlier, the murder of the other founder of their company. He heads to the bathroom to perform his shameful freak out and begins to hear a mocking voice. A mocking voice that sounds an awful lot like Pascal, his deceased friend and partner. Angered into finally acting instead of whining, Phil bursts into the stall next to him to find…PASCAL! Actually, it is Mask Face, who gained access to the building while “wearing” the face of a building inspector. He sends Phil out the window (what window, I’m not sure. This is a high rise with sealed windows and they’re in a bathroom so…).
Due to the presence of electricity scorches, Maxwell, with great reluctance and betrayal born anger, consults with Hawkins.
Hawkins does not figure out what is going on fast enough and another Micropower exec pays the price, electrocuted by Mask Face in a confess booth. The Mantis is on the scene but it is too little too late to do anything but chase off our metallic visage killer.
Down to one victim, Hawkins & Co put bike messenger on him as a bodyguard and wait. Of course, Mask Face can steal faces so he just steals bike messenger’s, drugs the cops, and gets to his last target. Unsurprisingly, he reveals himself to be the supposedly murdered colleague that Phil was guilty about in the beginning of the episode. His plane did go down and he was horribly scarred (hence the mask) but a tribe found him and save his life. He, being the true brain behind Micropower, returns to the US and spends the intervening developing his electricity device, his face stealing machine, and plotting his revenge.
Unfortunately for him, he did not count on the Mantis who reaches the roof in time to interfere with Mask Face’s final kill. They engage in a force lightning fight that the Mantis wins because of a new magnetic invention in his gloves and the attempted murderer is saved. Victory?
O: Mask Face is an interesting (if cheap) visual in search of a good character. Too manic and silly to be scary, too poorly written to be funny (he threatens to make someone a “lightning butt” for goodness sake!), the episode can never really take off.
Also, in general, the ratcheting of the “Ten Little Indians” tension is nearly nonexistent. Things happen too quickly for us to worry or care about Mask Face’s targets. Phil is whiny, confessional guy drinks, and the last standing is arrogant and kind of a jerk. That’s all the characterization we have room for.
On the positive side, the face morph effects are decent, especially for the time (although why when he changes faces his clothes automatically change is not even referenced, nevermind explained) and the force lightning fight is similarly ok. After a few episodes of really weak effects, this was a nice change.
W: “The Sea Wasp” sets her sights on Dr. Hawkins and seeks to bend him to her will with her powerful pheromones. How dangerous can she be with a super hero in her back pocket?